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Definition from the Era

(The information in this section is from the 1771 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Please do not make edits to this section. Content is presented in its original form as to spelling and grammar use. This is what an educated person of Aubrey and Maturin's time would have known)

Tincture of opium or liquid laudanum otherwise called the thebaic tincture is made as follows: Take of prepared opium two ounces; of cinnamon and cloves, each one drachm; of white-wine, one pint; infuse them a week without heat, and then filter it through paper.

Opium at present is in great esteem, and is one of the most valuable of all the simple medicines. Applied externally, it is emollient, relaxing, and discutient, and greatly promotes suppuration: if long kept, upon the skin, it takes off hair, and always occasions an itching; sometimes it exulcerates it, and raises little blisters, if applied to a tender part: sometimes, on external application, it allays pain, and even occasions sleep: but it must by no means be applied to the head, especially to the sutures of the skull; for it has been known to have the most terrible effects in this application, and even bring death itself. Opium taken internally removes melancholy, eases pain, and disposes of sleep; in many cases removes hemorrhages, provokes sweating.

A moderate dose is commonly under a grain; though according to the circumstances, two grains, or even three may be within the limits of the denomination: but custom will make people bear a dram or more; though in this case nature is vitiated, and nothing is to be hence judged in regard to others. (M-Z pg416 under opium)

Additional information

See also

In the Canon

In Surgeon's Mate, laudanum is described as, "a powerful opiate whose abuse in time of emotional stress had very nearly put an end to Stephen's career, but which he still considered the most valuable substance in the pharmacopeia."[1] According to the WikiPOBia Lexicon entry on laudanum, the most references to laudanum can be found in The Letter of Marque, although no study indicates whether this also represents the peak of Stephen's abuse.

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