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Oxymel (from Latin, meaning 'acid and honey', from Ancient Greek ὀξύς, meaning 'acid', and μέλι, meaning 'honey') is a mixture of honey and vinegar, used as a medicine.

Its name is often found in Renaissance (and later) pharmacopoeiae in Late Latin form as either a countable or uncountable noun. As a countable noun, it is spelled variously as (singular) oxymellus[citation needed] and oxymellis,[1] and plural oxymeli[2] and oxymelli.[3][4]

Etymology and recipe

Cato the Elder describes it thus:

Oxymelli. Fit vinum ex aceto & melle quod oxymel vocaverunt voce Graecanica. Nam (?) dicitur Graecis acetu & μίλ mel. Fit autem oxymel hoc modo. Mellis decem librae cum aceti heminis quinque, haec decies subserve faciunt atque ita sinunt inveterare. Themison summus autor damnavit oxymel & hydromel. Est autem hydromel vinum ex aquae & melle confectum, unde & nome. Celebrant autores ex omphacomel, quod fit ex uvae semiacerbae succo & melle fortiter trite unde & nome: Graec enim όμφας dicitur uvae acerbae, & όμφαφκας vocant uvas & fructus immaturus. Hinc omphalicium oleum dictum, quod ex olivis acerbis quas δίγρας(?) vocant, fit: & omphacium ex uva, quod vulgo agreste nominitant.

— Cato, reproduced by Columella, De Re Rustica[4]
A wine made from vinegar and honey, which in Greece was called oxymel, (from Ancient Greek oξύ, meaning 'acetu ', and μίλ, meaning 'mel', hence [Latin] "oxymel"). It is made thus. Ten pounds of honey with five heminas[5] of vinegar, which will be subsumed. Themison confused oxymel and hydromel. But hydromel wine is made from water and honey, hence the name. Its name recalls the creation of omphacomel, which is made from semi-dry [i.e. sharp] grapes and sweet honey, hence the name, from Ancient Greek όμφας, meaning 'uvae acerbae, Sour grapes ', and όμφαφκας, meaning 'fructus immaturus, unripe fruit'. Hence what is called omphalicium oleum ["omphalic oil"], from sour olives which in Greek is called δίγρας(?), and omphacium from grapes, commonly called agreste.


In the 1593 work Enchiridion chirurgicum, oxymel was recommended as part of a treatment for ophthalmia.[6]

Because Latin was (and is) still used widely in medical prescriptions, it was still known by this name in Victorian times:

Form. 206. Haustus cum Plumbi Acetate

: Plumbi Acetatis. gr. j. Solve in Aquae Rosae, 3j. et adde Oxymellis Simplicis 3j.; Tinct. Opii, ?v.; Tinct. Digitalis. ♏x. Fiat Haustus, quartis vel sextis horis sumendus.

— James Copland, A Dictionary of Practical Medicine (1855)[7]
Formula 206. Drink with lead(II) acetate
Prescription: Lead acetate one grain. Dissolve in rose water, three parts, and add undiluted oxymel, 3 parts, tincture of opium, ?five parts, tincture of digitalis. To be taken every four to six hours.

See also


  1. ^ Ettmüller, Michael (1690). "De Febribus". Operum omnium medico-phisicorum (in Latin). 1. Thomas Amaulry. p. 197. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  2. ^ Claudius Galenus (1643). Laguna, Andrés (ed.). Epitome Galeni operum, in quatuor partes digesta, pulcherrima methodo [Galenus' works condensed, in four digests, the best methods] (in Latin). John Caffin & Francis Plaignard. p. 116. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  3. ^ Pliny the Younger (1853). Naturalis historiae (in Latin). xxxvii. p. 271. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  4. ^ a b Columella (1536). De Re Rustica. Ii. 17. p. .ca. 95, 780. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  5. ^ One hemina = 273 ml See: Ancient Roman units of measurement
  6. ^ Antoine Chaumette (1593). Enchiridion chirurgicum (in Latin). p. 64. Retrieved 16 November 2015. Cum Ophthalmia oritur a materia frigida: victus ratio praescribeda juxta humoris naturam, revulsiones, tum venae sectione, tum cucurbitulis, alisque modis faciendae: humor praeparandus syrupis acetosi biyantiis de duablo & quinque rad. melle rof. syrupo de hysopo, de staech & oxymel. syllitico cum aquis foenic. euphrafie, hyssopi, betonic & alris [...]
  7. ^ Copland, James (1855). A Dictionary of Practical Medicine. Harper & Brothers. Retrieved 16 November 2015.