A drachm (or dram) is equal to sixty grains or, more helpfully, one teaspoon.
Borax (sodium borate) is a mineral additive for boosting the power of your laundry soap, best known as the brand 20 Mule Team Borax. You can find some fun facts and historic video clips about Borax on the website: http://www.20muleteamlaundry.com. Borax had other uses in history, such as in glass-making, ceramics glazing, and goldsmithing.
Roman alum (hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate) is essentially the same alum you may have in your spice cabinet. It was used in Roman times for water filtration. Alum is still used as a styptic (to stop bleeding from shaving cuts) and has antiperspirant and anti-bacterial qualities. You may have seen it sold as an all-natural underarm deodorant in a “crystal” form.
Strongly aromatic camphor is a pitch derived from certain trees of the Laurel family, mostly in Asia. Camphor emits fumes and is absorbed by the skin, producing a cooling effect similar to menthol when used topically. It can be ingested in small quantities (such as in Indian candies) but is toxic in larger doses. The FDA has set a limit of 11% pure camphor for consumer goods. White camphor essential oil has minuscule amounts of pure camphor.
Sugar candy is simple hard candy of your choice, crushed to dissolve more readily. Maybe it’s purpose is for visual or aromatic pleasantness? Maybe to compensate for the next ingredient:
Ox-gall is the bile of the ox or other cattle, often mixed with alcohol and used as a wetting agent. This aids other liquids (such as paints) in spreading evenly.
Got your ingredients assembled? Stir for 10 minutes 3-4 times a day for two weeks. When is goes clear, it is considered ready to be filtered through blotter paper and bottled.
So, you’ve got a sunburn remedy that takes two weeks to prepare. When was the last time you scheduled yourself a sunburn? Maybe this recipe was marked on the calendar to be made each year on May 15 or so, in order to be ready when needed.
This is a great example of how much more planning ahead was going on in the households of the 1800’s.
Cassell. Cassell’s Household Guide. London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin and Co., 1885. Print.