The lipid fractions of residues from historical pharmaceutical ointments were analysed by reversed-phase liquid chromatography coupled with atmospheric pressure chemical ionization and mass spectrometer detection. The residues were contained in a series of historical apothecary jars, dating from the eighteenth century and conserved at the "Aboca Museum" in Sansepolcro (Arezzo, Italy) and at the pharmacy of the "Real Cartuja de Valldemossa" in Palma de Majorca (Spain). The analytical protocol was set up using a comparative study based on the evaluation of triacylglycerol (TAG) compositions in raw natural lipid materials and in laboratory-reproduced ointments. These ointments were prepared following pharmaceutical recipes reported in historical treatises and used as reference materials. The reference materials were also subjected to stress treatments in order to evaluate the modification occurring in the TAG profiles as an effect of ageing. TAGs were successfully detected in the reproduced formulations even in mixtures of up to ten ingredients and after harsh degradative treatments, and also in real historical samples. No particular interferences were detected from other non-lipid ingredients of the formulations. The TAG compositions detected in the historical ointments indicated a predominant use of olive oil and pig adipose material as lipid ingredients. The detection of a high level of tristearine and myristyl-palmitoyl-stearyl glycerol in two of the samples suggested the presence of a fatty material of a different origin (maybe a ruminant). On the basis of the positional isomer ratio, sn-PPO/sn-POP, it was possible to hypothesize an exclusive use of pig fat in one sample. We also evaluated the application of principal component analysis of TAG profiles as an approach for the multivariate statistical comparison of the reference and historical ointments.
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