Monday, 27 December 2010

Ellimans Universal Embrocation

It seems I've moved away from the 'Gay slant' bra packaging to Elliman's Embrocation. I still love the bra packaging but it wasn't leading me anywhere. So I visited the Museum again, and I was drawn to this display. I was attracted by the name 'embrocation' because it sounds so deliciously old-fashioned. (It is defined as the act or process of moistening and rubbing a part of the body with a liniment or lotion).

I was then amused by the fact that the same formulation was marketed for both humans and horses, only the packaging was changed. And finally amazed that despite the recipe remaining essentially the same (a mixture of eggs, turpentine and vinegar) Ellimans Universal Embrocation is still available today for £3.49 for symptomatic relief from rheumatic and muscular pain; stiffness including backache.

Does it really have any effect? Isn't turpentine hazardous? Who buys it? Isn't it just a crack-pot patent medicine? Yet it can't be or it wouldn't still be on sale today, and in fact on the Chemist Direct website someone reviewed it on 19 November 2010 and said "A friend recommended Elliman's Embrocation to me almost 30 years ago and I have found it to be the best rub I have tried... others can be sticky or make skin itchy but this product is easy to use and very effective..." I have yet to buy it and try it myself. I think I should - especially after the aches and pains of taking my children ice skating for the first time today.

Where am I going with this? I think I want to question the trust that we place in medical or cosmetic preparations. How much do we really know or understand about what we put on or in ourselves. How often are we seduced by packaging and advertising alone?


  1. Regarding the trust that we place in medical preparations - this must've been even more true prior to the introduction of the Medicines Act in 1971!

  2. Thanks for that comment. I shall go and research it further - what the situation was before and how it was after.

  3. Such interesting questions! Can't wait to see how you approach them visually.


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