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A dodecapharmacum is a medicine of twelve ingredients.[1]

The best known was the Apostles' Ointment (Latin: Apostolorum unguentum), or Ointment of Venus (Latin: unguentum Veneris) which was an ointment attributed to Avicenna (d.1037) made of twelve ingredients. The ingredients were turpentine, wax, gum ammoniac, birthwort roots, olibanum, bdellium, myrrh and galbanum, opoponax, verdigris, litharge, plus olive oil, and vinegar.[2][3]

Avicenna describes the ingredients and proportions of such a recipe in Qanun V.1.11. Some later writers have questioned whether the title of the recipe "Ointment of the Apostles," or "Ointment of Venus" were used by Avicenna himself,[4] however when an Arabic version of the Canon of Medicine (القانون في الطب) was first printed in 1593 in Rome, recipe no. 442 (Arabic ٤٤٢) was entitled "ointment of the Apostles" (Arabic: مرهم الرسل marham ur rusul).[5] The name "Ointment of the Apostles" for the 12-ingredient recipe appears in the works of the Dominican priest Teodorico Borgognoni (1267)[6] and the Inventarium sive chirugia magna of Guy de Chauliac (1330s).[7] Renaissance pharmacy texts such as the Antidotarium Romanum (Rome, 1590) also include the recipe as Unguentem Apostolorum.[8] The Arabic equivalent of the Latin Unguentum Apostolorum is found in later Arabic medical texts such as the translations into Arabic of the Nestorian Christian physician David of Antioch (d.1596).[9][10][11][12]

Naming of the ointment of the Apostles as ointment of Venus occurs in the works of Jehan Yperman (c.1260-c.1330). [13] However many remedies were called "..of Venus" and also widely known in antiquity was an eye-salve called "the plaster of Isis" distinct from later "Ointment of Venus."[14]

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (Urdu 1899) claimed that this ointment was known as the "Ointment of Jesus" (Arabic: مرهم عيسى marham-i-Isa) and had helped Jesus recover from the wounds of crucifixion, in support of his claim that Jesus did not die upon the Cross and was saved. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi.[15]


  1. ^ Robley Dunglison Medical Lexicon 1857 "An ancient name given to all medicines which consisted of 12 ingredients"
  2. ^ The London encyclopaedia: or Universal dictionary of science, art, ... Volume 2 1829 - Page 507 "It was invented by Avicenna, and is also called unguentum veneris. The ingredients are turpentine, wax, gum ammoniac, birthwort roots, olibanum, bdellium, myrrh and galbanum, opoponax, verdigris, litharge, oil of olives, and vinegar."
  3. ^ Denis Diderot, Benard Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et ... 1778 - Page 47 "L'onguent des apôtres, en Pharmacie, est une espece d'onguent qui déterge ou netoie : il est composé de douze drogues; c'est la raison pourquoi il est nommé l'onguent des apôtres. Voyez ONGUENT. Avicenne en fut l'inventeur."
  4. ^ Société de médecine de Gand - 1854 "Il est peu probable que l'Arabe Avicenne ait appelé cet onguent l'onguent de Vénus ou des douze apôtres. Cet onguent sera introduit dans la plaie.."
  5. ^ Rome printed edition 1593 online at American Embassy of Beirut entry No.442 at head of page
  6. ^ The surgery of Theodoric: ca. A.D. 1267 - Volume 2 - Page 15 Teodorico (dei Borgognoni) - 1960 "Avicenna says, "And the root of hart's tongue has already been tested, for when a fistula is filled with this, it heals it. ... There are also: The ointment of Venus, which is called the ointment of the twelve apostles, which Avicenna applies. Also"
  7. ^ fr:Guy de Chauliac (1298-1368) Inventarium sive chirugia magna Volume 14,Part 2 ed. M. Michael Rogers McVaugh - 1997 - Page 177 "Avicenna describes unguentum apostolorum et est apostolicon in Canon V.1. 11 (533va), "rectificans cum facilitate fistulas difficiles": "Rx terebentine cere albe et resine omnium ana dr. 14; oppoponaci et floris eris amborum ana 2 ammoniaci pon. dr. 14; aristo. longe et thuris masculi amborum ana dr. 6.; myrrhe et galbani amborum ana dr. 4; bdellii pon. dr. 6; lithargyrii pond. dr. 9.; infundatur bdellium in aceto vini et decoquatur in estate cum duabus lib. olei et in hyeme cum lib. 3." Dino, Compilatio, [154]va, explains "dicitur unguentum apostolorum quia in eo sunt 12 medicine"; his ingredients are those of the Canon except that he leaves out terebentina — something obviously had to be omitted if he was to end with twelve rather than thirteen."
  8. ^ Antidotarium Romanum: seu modus componendi medicamenta 1590 p93 "Recipe terebentinae.." p94 "Resinae. Ammoniaci an drach quatordecim."
  9. ^ Dawud al-Antaki, Tadhkirat uli al-albab wa-l-jami’li-lil-ajab al-ujjab. Cairo, reprint 1935.
  10. ^ al-'Attar Haruni Minhaj al-dukkan wa-dustur al-a'yan 1992 "مرهم الرسل، وهو مرهم لعفنة ا . الخبيثة المزمنة المتطاولة، وينس بالعيراني الرسل،٠ يدمل الجراحا٢ ثا ٠ ثلقعرنأيلبئئكئرما يؤخذ شمع أبيض البواسير ويحلل بقايا الخنازير ويك لد ونيإ ستة د اهم مرداسنج تسعة دراهم، ٠ . ٠ ٠ ا . ر ، ٠ وراتينهم وزراوند طويل وكندر .."
  11. ^ Abu Bakr ibn Badr al-Din Baytar, ʻAbd al-Raḥmān Ibrīq Kamil al-sanaàtayn fi al-baytarah wa-al-zardaqah 1993 "... شاء التم تعالى ج صفة مرهم الرسل النافع لجميع الجراحات ويدمل الجراحات ؛ يؤخذ شمع، ومرتك، وراتينج بالسوية، وجاوشير، وقنة، وهر، وزنجار، من كل واحد رع جزء ا يدق الجميع وينحإ ويذاب بالزيت ويستعمل ٠ صضة مرهم الداخلون النافع لجميع الأورام في الاعضاء، ..."
  12. ^ Louis Robert Effler My scrapbook of medicine: a series of squibs in prose and verse 1937 Page 36 "We must not confuse truly scientific attempts at medicine-making with such pseudo-scientific efforts as "the ointment of the twelve apostles." This, as may be supposed, contained twelve ingredients and ranked with such of our modern nostrums as "Father John's Remedy" and others. Such a religious aroma has been well calculated to snare the unwary from the earliest times to the present."
  13. ^ Jan Yperman, Leonard D. Rosenman The surgery of Master Jehan Yperman (1260?-1330?) 2002 Page 131 "Afterwards, dress the wound with lint from an old linen cloth coated with the ointment of the Twelve Apostles, which Avicenna first made and named it unguentum veneris duodecim apostolorum." The ointment is useful in fistulas (ie chronic) ..."
  14. ^ The American Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Ophthalmology (1916) cited in Jean-Paul Wayenborgh, Saiichi Mishima, C. Richard Keeler IBBO: A-K - Page 407 - 2001 "Long and widely known in antiquity was the eye-salve called "the plaster of Isis." Isis would, in fact, appear to have been, among the gods, "a general practitioner, paying especial attention to diseases of the eye."
  15. ^ Yohanan Friedmann The Messianic Claim of Ghulam Ahmad in Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco ed. Peter Schäfer, Mark R. Cohen, Brill 1998 p299-310 p306: "Jesus was therefore taken down from the cross, cured of his wounds with a special ointment known as "the ointment of Jesus" (marham-i-Isa), went to India to look for the lost tribes of Israel... Having proven to his own satisfaction that the crucifixion attempt was a failure and that Jesus died a natural death, Ghulam Ahmad was now ready to address the issue of his second coming. ... This person is Ghulam Ahmad himself, whom God transformed into Jesus and sent to silence the Christians,..."