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Back then, most drugs came from South Africa, even by coach and horses. Even up to the 1960’s they were of course nearly all herbal drugs being tinctures, liquors, extracts both liquid and solid, decoctions, powders and oils and fats. There were very few chemicals but a number of minerals ranging from kaolin to chalk and virtually everything was handmade. A script was written by ingredients, or by the name of a known formula. Quantities were measured in the Imperial system of grains, scruples, drachms and ounces or, for liquid measure in minims, fluid drachms and fluid ounces. Metric measure was hardly known. Tablets were rare and mostly for aspirin, digitalis leaf, thyroid gland, colocynth and hyoscyamus, podophyllin and cascara.

Pills were known but had to be made by hand. One popular method of administering a dry drug was as a powder, individually wrapped. One could make up to three prescriptions in one day each calling for a hundred individual powders! Eye drops were used but made up with tap water. There were a few interesting dangerous drugs. These included morphine, cocaine and heroin, also cannabis for masking corn paint, not for smoking. Hydrocycanic acid was used as a 2% solution in certain cough mixtures. Plant extracts like  Nux Vomica containing strychnine acted as a very good tonic and opium as superficial pain killer. Percentage solutions were a nightmare, for instance; a fluid ounce of water measuring 480 minims weighed 437.5 grains. This meant that a percentage instead of being 10/10 was in fact 11/10 or 480/437.5. This calculation was done many times a day in the dispensary