Lancaster researcher talks about the history of medicinal drugs for museum podcast
The use of medicinal drugs derived from plants is the topic of a podcast by Lancaster University researcher Dr Karen Wright as part of a series of local history podcasts and exhibitions to mark a hundred years of Lancaster City Museums.
To mark the centenary milestone, a hundred objects housed across the city’s museums will be featured in weekly podcasts featuring local people, experts and museum staff.
Dr Wright from Biomedical and Life Sciences in the Faculty of Health and Medicine chose as her object an ophthalmic case for containing plant-derived powders used for eye conditions.
The case contains small glass phials with a stopper which would have contained various drugs such as cocaine or morphine.
She said: “This little case was used by GPs making home visits to treat eye conditions. Cocaine and morphine would have been used to numb the eye before any medical procedure likely to cause pain. In hospital this would be injected into the eye for pain relief or at home they would be used in an eye dropper.
“The key thing is that they were in extremely small doses and they were used specifically for the action desired at a particular site. When drugs are abused, it is much more about dose and how people are taking those drugs in a way which is not beneficial.”
Dr Wright said a knowledge of plants formed the basis of medicine before attempts were made in the 18th century to extract the relevant active compounds. And plant based medicine is still used in many medicines today such as cocaine and morphine from the poppy as well as the medicinal use of cannabis.
“it’s important to understand what a particular plant extract does and how we can modify this for use as a medicine to make it more useful or to make it a cleaner molecule for medicinal use.”
Dr Wright’s research looks at how plant derived medicines affects the body and how this can be manipulated to improve treatment. She focuses on cannabinoids and how they may be used in healthcare for example for pain relief and to reduce epileptic seizures in children. She is currently researching the use of CBD in sport and whether this can help athletes recover more quickly.
The celebration year will culminate in November 2023 enabling local people to vote for their favourite objects, which will result in a ‘100 favourite objects’ exhibition.
You can find the podcasts either here https://onehundredyearsonehundredobjects.podbean.com/ here https://visitlancaster.org.uk/museums/100-years-100-objects-a-century-of-lancaster-city-museums-podcast/ or on Spotify, Audible, etc.Back to News