From London's Ghost Acres

Lead is used in building construction, lead-acid batteries, bullets and shot, weights, as part of solders, pewters, fusible alloys, and as a radiation shield. It was also used to create ceramics.

Includes Lead Ore and Lead Pig in the database.

Despite the warning in the Compendium of the poisonous qualities of lead, lead is included in a large number of remedies in the Pharmacopeia, notably appearing in many recipes for Plasters and Ointments. Internal medicine that include lead are also listed, including Goulard’s Extract, and Sugar of Lead (listed in the Compendium alongside a strong warning).

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Lead Plumbum

List of preparations found on page 245, under the heading of Oxide of Lead

Preparations of Lead

Digitalin / Digitalinum [1]

  • Digitalis leaf, in coarse powder (40 oz), (all other ingredients are to be added as needed) rectified spirit, distilled water, acetic acid, purified animal charcoal, solution of ammonia, tannic acid, oxide of lead, in a fine powder, pure ether
  • “In porous mammillated masses or small scales, with, inodorous, and intensely bitter; readily soluble in spirit, but almost insoluble in water and in pure ether; dissolves in acids, but does not form with them neutral compounds…”

“dose: 1/60-1/30 grain

Soap Cerate Plaster / Emplasterum Cerati Saponis[2]

  • hard soap, in powder (10 oz), yellow wax (12 ½ oz), olive oil (1 pint), oxide of lead (15 ox), vinegar (1 gallon)

Chalybeate Plaster / Emplasterum Ferri [3]

  • hydrated peroxide of iron, in fin powder (1 oz), burgundy pitch (2 oz), lead plaster (8 oz)

Galbanum Plaster / Emplastrum Galbani [4]

  • galbanum (1 oz), ammoniacum (1 oz), yellow wax (1 oz), lead plaster (8 oz)

Mercurial Plaster / Emplastrum Hydrargyri[5]

  • Mercury (3 oz), olive oil (1 fl drachm), sublimed sulphur (8 grains), lead plaster (6 oz)

Lead Plaster / Emplastrum Plumbi[6]

  • oxide of lead, in fine powder (4 lbs), olive oil (1 gallon), water (3 ½ pinys)
  • used in the preparations of: Emplastrum Ferri, Emplastrum Galbani, Emplasterum Hydrargyri, Empastrum Resinae, Emplastrum Saponis

Iodine of Lead Plaster / Emplastrum Plumbi Iodidi[7]

  • Iodine of Lead (1 oz), soap plaster (4 oz), resin plaster (4 oz)

Resin Plaster / Emplastrum Resinae[8]

  • resin (4 oz), lead plaster (2 lbs), hard soap (2 oz)
  • used in the preparations of Emplastrum Belladonnae, Emplastrum Calefaciens, Emplasterum Opii, Emplastrum Plumbi Iodini

Soap Plaster / Emplasterum Saponis [9]

  • hard soap (6 oz), lead plaster (2 ¼ oz), resin (1 oz)
  • used in the preparations of: Emplastrum Calefaciens, Emplastrum Plumbi Iodini

Solution of Subacetate of Lead / Liquor Plumbi Subacetatis[10]

  • “subacetate of lead… dissolved in water”
  • acetate of lead (5 oz), oxide of lead, in powder (3 ½ oz), distilled water (1 pint, or as needed)
  • “a dense clear colourless liquid, with alkaline reaction and sweet astringent taste, becoming turbid by exposure to the air…”
  • used in the preparations of: Liquor Plumbi Subacetatis dilutus, Unguentum Plumbi Subacetatis compositum

Diluted Solution of Subacetate of Lead / Liquor Plumbi Subacetatis Dilutus[11]

  • solution of subacetate of lead (2 fl drachms), rectified spirit (2 fl drachms), distilled water (19 ½ fl oz)

Pill of Lead and Opium / Pilula Plumbi cum Opio[12]

  • acetate of lead, in fine powder (36 grains), opium, in powder (6 grains), confection of roses (6 grains)
  • dose: 3-5 grains

Acetate of Lead / Plumbi Acetas[13]

  • oxide of lead, in a fine powder (24 oz), acetic acid (2 pints, or a sufficiency), distilled water (1 pint)
  • “In white crystalline masses, slightly efflorescent, having an acetous odour, and a sweet astringent taste.”
  • dose: 1-4 grains
  • used in preparations of
  • Liquor Plumbi Subacetatis
  • Pilula Plumbi cum Opio
  • Suppositoria Plumbi composita
  • Unguentum Plumbi Acetatis

Carbonate of Lead / Plumbi Carbonas[14]

  • “a soft heady white powder, blackened by sulphurretted hydrogen, insoluble in water, soluble with effervescence in diluted acetic acid without leaving any residue…”
  • used in preparations of: Unguentum Plumbi Carbonatis

Iodine of Lead / Plumbi Iodidum[15]

  • nitrate of lead (4 oz), iodine of potassium (4 oz), distilled water (as needed)
  • used in preparations of : Emplastrum Plumbi Iodidi, Unguentum Plumbi Iodidi

Nitrate of Lead / Plumbi Nitras[16]

  • “In colourless octahedral crystals which are nearly opaque, permanent in the air, of a sweetish astringent taste, soluble in water and in alcohol.”
  • used preparations of: plumbi Iodidium

Oxide of Lead / Plumbi Oxidum[17]

  • syn: Lithargyrum, 1864
  • In heady scales of a pale brick-red colour, completely soluble without effervescence in diluted nitric acid and acetic acids…”
  • used in preparations of: Emplastrum Cerati Saponis, Emplastrum Plumbi, Liquor Plumbi Subacetatis, Plumbi Acetas

Strychnia / Strychnia[18]

  • “an alkaloid prepared from Nux Vomica”
  • nux vomica (1 pound), acetate of lead (180 grains), solution of ammonia (as needed), rectified spirit (as needed), distilled water (as needed)
  • “In right square octahedrons or prisms, colourless and inodorous; sparingly soluble in water, but communicating to it its intensely bitter taste; soluble in boiling rectified spirit, and in chloroform, but not in absolute alcohol or in ether.”
  • dose: 1/30 to 1/12 grains
  • used in the preparations of: Liquor Strychniae

Compound Lead Suppositories / Suppositoria Plumbi Composita[19]

  • acetate of lead (36), opium, in powder (12 grains), benzoated lard (42 grains), white wax (10 grains), oil of Theobroma (80 grains)

Ointment of Acetate of Lead / Unguentum Plumbi Acetatis [20]

  • acetate of lead, in fine powder (12 grains), benzoated lard (1 oz)

Ointment of Carbonate of Lead / Unguentum Plumbi Carbonatis[21]

  • carbonate of lead, in fine powder (62 grains), simple ointment (1 oz)

Ointment of Iodine of Lead / Unguentum Plumbi Iodidi [22]

  • Iodine of Lead, in fine powder (62 grains), simple ointment (1 oz)

Compound Ointment of Subacetate of Lead / Unguentum Plumbi Subacetatis Compositum [23]

  • solution of subacetate of lead (6 fl oz), camphor (60 grains), white wax (8 oz), oil of almonds

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Acetate of lead is listed by Savory as being an Astringent (Remedies Which Check Bleeding or Excessive Secretions). Sugar of lead is also one of the medicines listed by Savory, however it is not provided with a classification. [24]

Lead is listed as a mineral poison by Savory (he singles out Sugar of lead, Goulard’s extract, red lead, and white lead). If poisoning does occur from ingesting these leads, or if their ingestion does not result in full vomiting, Savory indicates that an emetic of sulphate of zinc should be used. “Epsom of Glauber salts, or magnesia, dissolved in mucilaginous drinks, should be taken every five or ten minutes; opiates, to allay the spasms of the bowels, the warm bath, castor oil, and purgative clysters, composed infusion of colocynth, aloes, or senna and salts, are also requisite.”[25]

Goulard’s Extract is a lead product.

Remedies Containing or to be used with Lead

  • Sugar of Lead: astringent, “and must be used with great caution internally.” Combined with opium to stop pulmonary and uterine haemorrhages, and diarrhoea that lasts longer than two weeks (protracted). Externally it can be applied for the same treatments as Goulard Water.[26]

Diseases Treated with Lead

General Diseases

  • Burns and Scalds: powdered lead mixed with powdered myrrh and lard makes an ointments that is to be applied should the earlier liniment of goulard’s extract, olive oil, and rose water produce too much pus. [27]
  • Cholera Morbus: Dr. Graves uses and strongly recommends acetate of lead combined with morphia “to check the profuse watery evacuations”[28]
  • Vomiting of Blood: astringents like sugar of lead, digitalis, or acetate of zinc are to be given if haemorrhages continue past initial treatments.[29]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 101-02
  2. GMCGB, 106
  3. GMCGB, 106-07
  4. GMCGB, 107
  5. GMCGB, 107
  6. GMCGB, 108
  7. GMCGB, 109
  8. GMCGB, 109
  9. GMCGB, 109
  10. GMCGB, 193
  11. GMCGB, 193-94
  12. GMCGB, 239
  13. GMCGB, 242-43
  14. GMCGB, 243
  15. GMCGB, 244
  16. GMCGB, 244
  17. GMCGB, 244-45
  18. GMCGB, 301-02
  19. GMCGB, 308
  20. GMCGB, 358
  21. GMCGB, 358
  22. GMCGB, 358
  23. GMCGB, 358
  24. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 391.
  25. Savory, 178
  26. Savory, 146
  27. Savory, 210
  28. Savory, 221
  29. Savory, 259

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