Arnica Pharmaceutical Jar


Can you help the Archivists at Boots Nottingham to identify the figure on the lid of this beautiful pharmaceutical jar?

Some officers of the British Society for the History of Medicine recently visited the Boots Archives in association with the Annual meeting of the British Society for the History of Pharmacy. We were shown this beautiful Arnica pharmaceutical jar. Discussion ensued regarding the figure on the lid of the jar. Several suggestions were made. We agreed to ask members for the British Society for the History of Medicine for their opinions.

Mike Collins

Posted in Uncategorized.


  1. Thank you Andreas for your information about the jar in the “Deutsches Apothekenmuseum” in Heidelberg. As you imply this jar and that posted on the website have exactly the same design raising the possibility that one is a replica. Why do you think that the jar in Heidelberg is the original? The other alternative is that the jar design was generic and that the jars were used to store different preparations. This would explain the different contents of the two jars.

    Further suggestions are invited. Can anyone explain the animal-like figure on the lid of the jar? Could it be a leopard? Does it have any significance?

  2. Dear Michael, i am convinced that your jar is a replica, no pharmacist would have stored “Arnica” in such a jar like this one. The original one(s) you will find at Heidelberg, made in the 18th century. The knob, thats not a Leopard, this is a Lion, maybe jars like this belonged to a pharmacy named “Löwenapotheke” (Lion Pharmacy). If you get in touch with Elisabeth Huwer, Manager of Apothekenmuseum Heidelberg, she will help you to solve this riddle.

  3. Also curious about this jar I put Arnica Montana into a simple on-line search and discovered that it’s also known as “wolf’s bane and “leopards’s bane”; now to my eyes that animal’s head could be a leopard [as you suggest Michael], so I’m wondering if this traditional name was incorporated into the jar’s design as a way to use this version to add strength/value to the word “arnica”, thus reassuring customers of its authenticity. Perhaps the name can be traced back to the Doctrine of Signatures and some beliefs about leopards [or wolves for “wolf’s bane]? I associate arnica with treatment for bruising [as recommended by my midwife many years ago!]. Was this the use of arnica then? If so, did they associate these animals with bruising because of their speed, or thoughts of rough and tumble or being mal-treated by wild animals? Although wolves were common-place, how many ordinary folk in Europe would have seen a leopard back then? Like you Michael, I’m wondering why the Heidelberg jar is considered the original; without analysis of the ceramics to ascertain age, it’s an assumption surely? Look forward to hearing if the riddle is solved!

  4. Thank you Andreas and Carolyn. I will ask Elisabeth Huwer of the Apothekenmuseum Heidelberg for her help!

  5. Dr Claudia Sachsse of the Deutsches Apotheken-Museum in Heidelberg has kindly replied. She explains that the pharmaceutical jar in the Boots archive is a replica of jars that originated from Switzerland from the late 18th or early 19th century. Replica jars were made by pharmaceutical companies and given as gifts to customers. The style and decoration of the jar was not specific to the contents and several similar original jars can be seen at the Heidelberg museum each with labels indicating different contents.
    Finally, Dr Sachsse agrees with Andreas Winkler’s opinion that the figure on the lid of the jar is a representation of a lion and relates to a Lion Pharmacy.

    So the riddle of the jar and the identity of the figure on the lid have been explained by the expert. Thank you to Dr Sachsse and to those who participated in the discussion. Congratulations to Dr Andreas Winkler whose opinion was correct. And of course thank you to Sophie at Boots Archives Nottingham for allowing us to show photographs of the ‘mystery object’.

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