14. A Real Bezoar Stone

Bezoar stone in a gold filigree case, 17th century, Part of the Wellcome Collection, which is cared for by the Science Museum © The Board of the Trustees of the Science Museum, London

In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the sixth book in the series, Ron Weasley unknowingly drinks mead that has been poisoned. Luckily, Harry, remembering a first year potions lesson, grabs a bezoar stone and feeds it to Ron, saving his life. In real life, bezoar stones were actually believed to be an antidote to poison. The word bezoar is a corruption of the Persian word “pādzahar” which roughly means “to expel poison.” They were first introduced to medieval Europe by Arab physicians. Wealthy owners often carried their stones in elaborate cases like the one above which can be seen on display in the exhibit. A bezoar stone is a mass of undigested fiber that forms in the stomach of certain animals, mostly commonly goats. Though they have also been found in cows and elephants, goat bezoars were believed to be have best medicinal qualities.