Dia - Dialthaea


University of Wolverhampton



Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl

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'Dia - Dialthaea', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 (2007). URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=58739 Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Dia was used in medicine as a prefix to denote 'made or consisting of'. There are a number of examples in the Dictionary Archive; common ones found throughout the period being DIACHYLON, DIAGRYDIUM, DIALTHAEA and DIAPENTE. Many more may be found elsewhere with useful lists given in the OED along with an extended discussion of changes in form. Many of the terms became so changed and abbreviated in practice over the centuries, that it is sometimes difficult to be sure of their true form and hence of their meaning. A number of these have also been noted in the Dictionary Archive including DIANTHOS, SYRUP DIAPALTINA, and DIARALISTROS. By and large the use of this prefix, along with the DRUGS that were named by combining it with the chief ingredient, died out during the eighteenth century and replaced by alternative names. For example, in Pemberton's Pharmacopoeia of 1746 'Diacassia cum manna' had been renamed Electarium e casia', in English 'Electary of casia', and Diascordium had become 'Electarium e scordio' or Electary of scordium' [Pemberton (1746)].

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746).


[diacalamith; diacalaminth]

According to Coles, this is a POWDER of mountain CALAMINT, presumably, given the prefix DIA, for medicinal use [Coles (1676, facs. 1973)]. Bailey gave more detail, with a recipe taken from GALEN and another from NICOLAUS. Each contained, besides CALAMINT, PARSLEY seed, THYME and PEPPER. Bailey compared its properties and use with DIATRION PIPERION at some length. Whereas this was preferred for action only on the stomach and could be taken frequently, diacalaminthe was more effective when 'crude humors are heaped in the inner veines, and in the habit of the body'. He added that 'this medicine is not vnpleasant to be taken, if a good proportion of honie be boiled with it' [Bailey (1558, facs. 1972)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as COMPLEX, SIMPLE, SPECIES
Found in units of OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Bailey (1558, facs. 1972), Coles (1676, facs. 1973).



Neither the correct form of this term is clear, nor its meaning. The prefix DIA indicates a medicinal preparation, the rest may be derived from CHALCANTH, an old name for both BLUE VITRIOL and occasionally for GREEN VITRIOL. However, since COPPER derivatives do not seem to have been used in medicine unlike most of the other common metals, the former seems unlikely. The latter remains a possibility, as does 'Chalcidæ' the name of a family of lizards.

Randle Holme listed 'Emplastrum Diachalcichos' among the PLASTERs usually found in a SURGEONS CHEST. This is presumably the same noted in the Dictionary Archive [Randle Holme (2000)]. The unit of measurement noted in the Dictionary Archive suggests a plaster rather than medicine to be taken orally, which were much more often kept by apothecaries in smaller quantities.

Found in units of LB

See also DIA.
Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Randle Holme (2000).


[diacatholl; diacathalis; dia catholican]

From the Greek, meaning a medicinal preparation composed of general or universal ingredients or of general usefulness. It was an ELECTUARY 'much used by Physicians' supposed to be capable of evacuating all humours; hence a universal remedy or prophylactic, 'serving as a gentle purge for all homors' [Blount (1656, facs 1972)]. The recipe quoted in the OED shows that it included a large number of products with laxative properties including SENNA, CASSIA, TAMARIND, RHUBARB, LIQUORICE and ANISEED.

OED earliest date of use: 1562

Found described as an ELECTUARY
Found in units of LB, OZ

See also DIA.
Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).
References: Blount (1656, facs 1972).


[dyacolom; dyacollon; diaculum; diaculon; diacklum; diack; diacholon]

Originally, it was the name of a kind of OINTMENT composed of vegetable juices, though later LEAD became an important ingredient. In this form it was described in one of the OED's earliest references under 'Diachylon', though with the addition of the juice of MUSTARD SEED [Lanfranc (1400), Cirurg. 238 quoted by the OED]. This would seem to be similar to what Pemberton called 'the COMMON PLASTER or EMPLASTRUM COMMUNE [Recipes (Pemberton)], with the exception of the mustard. According to the OED, diachylon actually became the common name for LEAD plaster, emplastrum plumbi, the preparation Pemberton described [Pemberton (1746)].

It has been noted sold in a ROLL both with and without the addition of GUM by one of the fashionable London apothecaries in the 1740s [Tradecards (1740s)]. Different forms of diachylon are to be found in the shops, usually only distinguished from each other by the addition of an extra ingredient, as DIACHYLON MELILOT and DIACHYLON E SAPONE.

OED earliest date of use: 1313

Found described as SIMPLE, WHITE
Found in units of LB, OZ

See also DIA.
Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Tradecards.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Diachylon e sapone

[diachylon de sapone]

Almost certainly similar to, or identical with, the 'Emplastrum e sapone' given by Pemberton. If this was the case, it would have consisted essentially of EMPLASTRUM COMMUNE with the addition of HARD SOAP. It apparently involved some skill in rolling out into a PLASTER as the pasty mass broke up if not done quickly [Pemberton (1746)].

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Pemberton (1746).

Diachylon melilot

[diacklum milelot; diack m.]

The medicinal PLASTER, DIACHYLON, probably in its earlier form, but possibly one containing LEAD with the addition of MELILOT. If the latter, it was distinct from EMPLASTRUM MELILOT, which had a different base. Diachylon melilot has been noted as 'cum Gumis', that is containing GUM and cum 'diamina', that is in more correct Latin 'e minio' or with RED LEAD [Inventories (1670)].

Melilot went out of favour with the Physicians during the eighteenth century because it was 'of no significancy towards the use of the plaster', and 'of a very disagreeable scent'. This form of diachylon was therefore probably replaced by EMPLASTRUM E MINIO [Pemberton (1746)].

Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Pemberton (1746).


[dyacordyam; diacordiu; diacod; dia cordyam]

A concoction of the dried seed heads of the WHITE POPPY without the seeds, made palatable with the addition of DOUBLE REFINED - WHITE SUGAR. According to Pemberton it was 'a medicine of such importance, that it ought to be made, as near as possible, always to one and the same standard'. He gave as an alternative name 'SYRUP e MECONIO' [Pemberton (1746)].

Presumably apothecaries were not always so careful with the prescription as the Pharmacopoeia required. Martha Bradley poured scorn on what was available when she wrote that the apothecaries 'usually burn the Poppies to the Pan, and make the Syrup with coarse Sugar; so that it is always better for the Family to make it for their own use' [Bradley (1756 facs.1996-8)].

OED earliest date of use: 1565-78

Found in units of LB

See also DIA.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Bradley (1756, facs. 1996-8), Pemberton (1746).



A medicinal preparation of which RED CORAL was a principal ingredient.

OED earliest date of use: 1741

Found in units of OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


A medicinal preparation of which TURMERIC is an ingredient.

OED earliest date of use: 1617 for curcuma only

Found described as SPECIE
Found in units of OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


[diasitonion; diacidoniu'; diacidon; dia citoniton; dia citonitan]

A CONFECTION of QUINCE, it was originally a medical preparation found in the pharmacopoeias. However, by the mid-seventeenth century it had become the province of confectioners, by whom it was called MARMALADE [Recipes (Culpeper)].

Found described as SPECIE Found made with the addition of SPICES
Found in units of LB

See also DIA, QUINCE.
Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Recipes.


[dia galinga]

A CONFECTION of GALINGALE and hot SPICES, helpful 'for the wind-cholick &c' [Coles (1676, facs. 1973)] One entry in the Dictionary Archive indicates that the term could also be applied to a SPIRIT [Inventories (1665)], of which the main ingredient was GALANGA.

Not as such in the OED, but as separate entities DIA and GALANGA are

Found described as SPECIE Found used to make SPIRIT
Found in units of DR

See also DIA, GALANGA.
Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Coles (1676, facs. 1973).


[dyagredium; diagryd; diagredium; diagredin; diagred; dia gredij]

A preparation of SCAMMONY, used in pharmacy. In the list of rates for 1657 and subsequently, the two were given as synonymous [Rates (1657)]. To judge by the Books of Rates, diagrydium was the only medicinal preparation with the prefix DIA, out of many that bore this prefix, that was imported. However, its inclusion in the Books of Rates may indicate only that scammony was imported under this name rather than the preparation itself. Scammony was exceedingly bitter, and the taste was disguised to some extent by the addition of more palatable ingredients such as aromatic SPICES like CARAWAY and SUGAR or HONEY. Pemberton used similar ingredients in his ELECTUARY of scammony [Pemberton (1746)].

OED earliest date of use: 1436

Found in units of OZ Found listed under DRUGS, rated by the POUND

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Pemberton (1746).


A CONFECTION of the gum lacca, or GUM LAC [Coles (1676, facs. 1973)]

Found described as SPECIES
Found in units of Oz

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Coles (1676, facs. 1973).


[dialthea; dialthae; dialth]

A medicinal preparation of which the MARSH MALLOW (i.e. Althaea officinalis) was a principal ingredient. Nicholas Culpeper indicated that all parts of the plant were used, the roots in particular. These produce a soft sweet mucilage (that is, OIL OF MUCILAGES) that could readily be transformed into a SYRUP or an UNGUENT [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)]. Randle Holme included 'Unguentum Dialthea' as one of the standard preparations that might be found in an apothecary's UNGUENT BOX [Holme (2000)].

Not found in the OED

Found used to make SYRUP, UNGUENT Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.), Holme (2000).