Monday, February 16, 2009

Old City Remedies & The Oldest Drug Store

There are plenty of reasons to visit St. Augustine if you are in Florida, but if you are an herb-lover then you won't want to miss "The Oldest Drug Store." For those of you who are not familiar with St. Augustine, it is the oldest city founded by Europeans in North America. St. Augustine's most famous land mark is the Castillo de San Marcos built by the Spanish in 1672. Interestingly the castle never fell, but only changed hands via treaties to French or English. The city of St. Augustine is full of old world charm with narrow alley ways, art galleries, pubs, coffee shops, and restaurants. Last week I discovered a new attraction, "The Old Drugstore", which is a free museum and also houses a modern herbal gift shop, Old City Remedies owned by Myra Schafeffer.

The Old Drugstore sits at the corner of Orange and Cordova Street where it has been since 1739, built by Antonio Gomaas. The Gomaas family sold liquor, tobacco, medicine and Native American remedies until 1872, when the building was purchased by T.W. Speissegger, pharmacist. Speissegger had previously established his pharmacy in St. Augustine in 1872 in a different location. The Oldest Drugstore is now Owned by the Harris Foundation, which preserves and maintains its collection of medications & tools from the 1700's an onward. In the museum collection you will find countless bottles of castor oil, lavender preparations, a suppository mold maker, old time soaps, tincture bottles, and much more. One interesting item which is pictured to the left was tincture of Asafoetida. That was a new one for me. The Physiomedical Dispensatory, by William Cook, M.D., indicates the preparation and usage for tincture of Asafoetida, a member of the family Umbelliferae "Four ounces of asafoetida macerated for two weeks in a quart of alcohol, and then filtered, forms the officinal tincture. It is sometimes used by the stomach in urgent cases, when a very quick action is needed; but is oftener employed by enema. Dose, a fluid drachm or more." Another purgative! It was near the castor oil, so maybe that was a laxative section! Also near the soap.. another coincidence?


Fortunately for modern herbal shoppers, the Oldest Drug Store now is the home for more than a collection of odd purgatives and antiquarian pharmaceutical preparations. Old City Remedies, a modern herbal shop, is housed within the museum. In this lovely little herb shop you will find a collection of beautiful herbs and teas including simples like the antimicrobial, antiviral flower buds of Lonicera japonica (AKA honeysuckle or jin yin hua) and nourishing, anticancer flowers of Trifolium pratens (AKA Red clover), as well as a variety of interesting formulations. On such formula is called "Happy Man," which includes the following organic herbs: Siberian Ginseng, Dandelion root, Nettle, Marshmallow root, Burdock rook, Hawthorn berry, Saw Palmetto, Fennel, Oatsraw, and Stevia. The herbs that I looked closely at were high quality, organic and dried in a way such that the natural colors were retained, for example bright yellow honeysuckle and bright pink clover.
I'm sure I will be returning to the Old Drug Store as often as I have a chance to visit St. Augustine. If you love herbs, then I hope you will have a chance to do the same.
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