1676 CE
Thomas Sydenham invents a new recipe for laudanum

English physician Thomas Sydenham popularized laudanum and standardized the recipe: two ounces of opium in a pint of strong red wine or port, spiced with saffron, cloves and cinnamon. For the next two centuries pharmacy jars filled with this rust-coloured liquid would be decorated in gold leaf with the motto Laudanum Sydenhamii.

Like Paracelsus, Sydenham was convinced that there were powerful new remedies waiting to be discovered in nature. For him, the queen of medicines was opium, revered since antiquity, unequalled in the relief of pain, the suppression of coughs and respiratory ailments, the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery and the provision of deep and refreshing sleep. With his standardization of laudanum, Sydenham promoted the ideals of purity and standardized doses. But he also maintained a healthy skepticism about the limits of drugs. The best thing a physician could do for his patients in many cases, he wrote, was “nothing at all.”

Source: Hogshire, J. (2009). Opium for the Masses: Harvesting Nature's Best Pain Medication. Feral House.

Drugs: Opium (morphine, heroin, opioids)
Regions: UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
Topics: Medicinal use of drugs