In the field of apothecary, elixirs are sweetened aromatic substances, based on alcohol or water, containing medicinal substances. The word was adopted in Medieval Latin from the Arabic al iksir, used mainly for alchemical procedures. The best known kind is the Elixir of Life that the alchemist attempted to produce in order to gain immortality. In the 16th century elixirs were strong tonics or even universal drugs and in the 17th century the name was given to many fake miraculous medicines, due to its historical associations.
The Visceral Elixir is a bitter, digestive tonic, first prepared by Friedrich Hoffmann (1660-1742), a German doctor known for his medicine and chemistry courses at the newly founded University of Halle. Also known as Hoffmann’s Elixir, the product contains extract of Cnicus Benedictus, orange peel, chamomile, cinnamon, wormwood, and potassium carbonate, left to macerate in wine for 36 hours (Malaga, Jerez, and Tokai wines were recommended). As the name of the elixir indicates, it was meant to ease one’s digestion.
The glass jar in the History of Pharmacy Collection of Cluj is dated to the end of the 18th century and was preserved in the old St. George’s pharmacy in Cluj (in this very location). It is part of a series of jars for liquids with similar Baroque decoration (crown, volutes, and circular cartouche). The restored signature contains the inscription in black and red letters against a white background. The item was produced in Transylvania.