Zam-Buk the Magnificent

Toronto Telegram 1923 Zam-Buk

They still make this stuff that sounds like a 1950s gladiator movie, look! And it even has its own website. It hasn’t got a lot of content on there but then it is only a jar of ointment. I don’t suppose that its miraculous attributes include writing blog posts, really.

I kind of wish it did, because then it could come sit on my desk here and whisper helpful ideas. It is Monday morning – ah, but you knew that already! – and I’m thinking about where to take Kitchen Retro in the coming months – things to write about, mixing things up a bit. I have some really good ads I’m saving up though – i can’t wait to post them. And there are some strange recipes lurking on the shelves. Also, I want to write more about retro stuff from the 1960s and 1970s that I remember and can’t get out of my head.

But Zam-Buk calls! Zam-Buk awaits my post and will not be happy if it does not get written. Do not make Zam-Buk displeased. Zam-Buk has a mighty temper and will unleash a few thunderbolts from his mighty mountaintop. And give you an itchy skin rash too!

Anyway, Zam-Buk.  It is made in the UK by the Rose Apothocary Co., here. It is made up of several herbal oils (eucalyptus and thyme especially) mixed with beeswax and a couple of other things (I know I am being lazy, but if you really, absolutely are desperate to know the couple of other things in Zam-Buk, the Rose people are very happy to tell you. Sorry, need more coffee over here!)

This site suggests that the name comes from a South African town called Zambuk. Why the Roman senator in the ad – and why the ad implies that this stuff was made in ancient Rome – I have no idea.  

Zam-Buk ointment – oh sorry, embrocation! – was made starting about 1903 in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. This ad is from a Canadian newspaper – the Toronto Telegram, in 1923.

An embrocation, by the way, is a fancy word for something medicinal that is rubbed into the skin. In other words, cream or ointment. I really like this word – it sounds like a cross between an altercation and a convocation. I guess if you had an altercation (say, with the valedictorian) this is just the sort of thing you would need.

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4 thoughts on “Zam-Buk the Magnificent

  1. I can’t wait until Zam-Buk hits the big screen. I know it will star Yule Brynner – he seems like the kind of guy who would use such an “embrocation”. Can’t you just picture him saying “Use Zab-buk and live!”

  2. I LOVE old ads like this, they really show that back then society was really into the natural herbal healings and anything and everything medicinal that could and would work. They sure had some weird stuff though. As for your blog, I’ve had those dilemmas a few times now to the point where I changed the name and moved it twice, it depends on what you’re into, what you want to convey to your audience and above all what floats YOUR boat.

  3. I’m content. My day has been filled to the brim. I have learned a new word: embrocation.
    It’s a lovely word, and I can’t wait to engineer or sabotage a conversation tomorrow so that I can use it in a sentence.

    By the way, did you know that the skin is the largest organ in the human body? Well, now you know, so you can sleep happily, too.
    I burned my largest organ at the beach last weekend, and I have a feeling it will start peeling in a couple of days. But don’t think about that while you sleep, or you may have nightmares.

  4. Kathryn – Yes, Yul Brynner will be ideal for the movie!

    Amy – Yes, I am also amazed at how much mainstream medicine in the Victorian era WAS herbal and homeopathic…As for the naming of blogs, it is indeed what floats your boat! I might think about it more in the fall, I will probably have a perkier brain then (I hope)!

    Bill – I sympathize with your sunburn, it is what I did at the beach all through the 60s and 70s. And I am also going to try and use the word embrocation sometime soon, I am not sure how but am damn well going to try.

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