History

From The Archives: Sphagnol Peat Ointment

Museum of the Order of St John Judi McGinley, Museum Assistant
ALT="bar of brown soap with label reading 'Sphagnol toilet and nursery antiseptic soap'"
© Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images

While looking through a 1939 edition of the St John Ambulance ‘First Aid’ magazine, we noticed an advertisement for a product called Sphagnol Peat Ointment, entitled “For Difficult Cases”.

“………….. We have on record a case in which a patient, in addition to the V.D. for which he was attending a clinic, had a long standing eczema of the arm. Sphagnol Ointment cured the eczema in a week.”

Sphagnol Ointment was produced by a British company called Sphagnol Peat Products Ltd which was in existence from 1899 until 1969. The “active” ingredient Sphagnol, was believed to be a distillate of peat although it seems that a discrete veil was drawn over the actual chemical composition of the ointment.

Worryingly, the company also produced Sphagnol veterinary products which took the form of soaps and ointments aimed at eradicating “Mange, Eczema, Canker, Cuts, Bruises and poor condition of coat and skin”. These products were regularly advertised in the Crufts Dog Show catalogue throughout the 1930s.


A cake of Sphagnol Soap from circa 1945 – 1960
Image credit: Science Museum, London, Wellcome Images, wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/1f/0e/2173b4be86a8255e2c89698507a6.jpg via Wikimedia Commons.
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