Edinburgh is a city full of history, full of stories told and untold. Most of our old town has been around for centuries, providing shelter and solace to the people of Auld Reekie. While many generations have come and gone over the years, there are a number of local businesses that still stand strong to this day, having survived even the toughest of times. Napiers is one of them, making it the oldest apothecary in Edinburgh at 163 years old.
Napiers the Herbalists is a local apothecary located on Bristo Place and has remained in the same space since May of 1860. Nowadays, the shop specialises in remedies and skincare based on a combination of the original formulas that were used in the 19th century.
It all began with Duncan Napier, who founded a herbal shop in the heart of Edinburgh’s old town. However, Duncan did not come from an easy life. Abandoned at birth and raised by a foster family who treated him with violence and cruelty. He then became an apprentice at a baker’s at the young age of 9, where Duncan developed a chronic cough caused by the flour dust.
Young Duncan then went on a journey of education and self-healing, developing his famous Lobelia Cough Syrup that would later change the lives of many. Soon after, people were queuing outside to get their hands on Napier’s remedies and receive some much-needed advice. Duncan used local herbs and plants for his remedies that he collected on his weekend walks in the Scottish hills.
Duncan Napier was a well-known name among the Medical Reformers of England and the British Pharmaceutical Society, and his products were even sold in New York. Napiers later became a family business run by his sons and grandsons, expanding to Bathgate and Glasgow.
Nowadays, people can still make the most of the tried and tested herbal remedies at Napiers, with some produced at “traditional practitioner-strength levels”. What is more, the apothecary also offers herbal consultations and has a clinic next door, with various treatments available. And for those looking for some natural skincare, there are plenty of creams, sprays, soaps and body washes available. By the way, we’re obsessed with the hydrosol sprays!
Thus, Napiers the Herbalists is not only a place selling fancy soaps. It is a place that has not only supported the local community for almost two centuries now, but also became the saving gracing for a local family, setting a legacy remembered for generations.