Apothecary Tools


An apothecary was the pharmacist of colonial times. They prescribed medications, performed surgery, served as midwives and provided medical treatment. They would see patients in a clinic, make house calls and practice traditional and non-traditional treatments using medication, herbs and essential oils.

Weights and Scales

  • An apothecary commonly used weights and scales to accurately measure ingredients, herbs, oils and medications. Apothecaries used the Troy method of weighing medications, based on the weight of a grain of wheat. Apothecaries used the wheat grain since it was the smallest unit of weight that apothecaries could find. One Troy ounce is equal to 480 grains and one Troy pound is equal to 5,760 grains.

Mortar and Pestle

  • A mortar and pestle are tools used by an apothecary to grind and crush medications, herbs and other substances. The mortar, typically wood or ceramic, is a bowl. The pestle, shaped like a baseball bat, is used by the hand to press substances into the mortar. Mortar and pestles are popular in pharmaceutical and food service industries.


  • After crushing and preparing medications, herbs and essential oils, they must be stored properly. An apothecary uses mason jars or other jars that have proper seals to keep out moisture, heat and/or light. The jars used by an apothecary consisted of different sizes and glass colors for the different needs of mixed medication products.

Surgical Instruments

  • During early American colonial times, some apothecaries preformed surgeries in addition to their pharmaceutical duties. As with any surgeon, there are tools that are required to perform a typical surgery. These surgical tools included different sized knives, scalpels, tongue scrapers, tooth extractors, adhesive bandages, adhesive tapes, sterilizing equipment and stitching needles.

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