Alum Hematoxylin

Böhmer's formula is the original alum hematoxylin solution for nuclear staining. It is included for educational and historical reasons as the solution has little use in modern histotechnology.

Solution A Var 1 Var 2 Function
Hematoxylin 3.5 g 8 g Dye
100% ethanol 100 mL 100 mL Solvent
Solution B Var 1 Var 2 Function
Ammonium alum 0.3 g 0.3 g Mordant
Distilled water 100 mL 100 mL Solvent


Compounding procedure
Var 1 is taken from the Microtomist's Formulary and Guide, and Var 2 from the Microtomist's Vade-Mecum. The difference in concentration of the hematoxylin may be due to converting an alcoholic logwood extract to grams of dye. In any case, the way it is used makes the differences irrelevant.

Originally solution A would have been made by soaking logwood chips in ethanol until a suitable concentration of dye was obtained. The solution would then have been allowed to ripen for a long time until it was distinctly deep brown, and filtered before it was used. In a modern variation, simply dissolve the dye in ethanol and leave to ripen, or add a small amount of sodium iodate.

The original called for a few drops of solution A to be added to a small quantity of solution B in a watch glass until the depth of colour was judged to be correct. For today's use, perhaps 5 mL solution A added to 45 mL solution B, more or less, would be satisfactory.


  1. Place a small amount of staining solution into a watch glass.
  2. Place frozen sections into the staining solution for an appropriate time.
  3. Transfer sections through at least two changes of clean water.
  4. Mount onto slides.
  5. Dehydrate in ethanol, clear in xylene and mount with a resinous medium


  1. Bring sections to water via xylene and ethanol.
  2. Place into the staining solution for an appropriate time.
  3. Rinse with water and blue.
  4. Rinse well with water.
  5. Counterstain if desired.
  6. Dehydrate with ethanol, clear with xylene and mount with a resinous medium.

Expected results


  1. The appropriate time should be determined by trial, but 10-20 minutes should suffice. The time will depend on the amount of solution A added to solution B. Smaller amounts are likely to take longer to stain with a paler final colouration.
  2. Blueing is done with alkaline solutions such as hard tap water, Scott’s tap water substitute, 0.1% ammonia water, 1% aqueous sodium acetate, 0.5% aqueous lithium carbonate etc.

Gray, Peter. (1954)
The Microtomist's Formulary and Guide.
Originally published by:– The Blakiston Co.
Republished by:– Robert E. Krieger Publishing Co.

Bolles Lee, A.. Edited by Gatenby, J.B. and Beams, H.W., (1950)
The Microtomist's Vade-Mecum. 11 ed.,
Churchill, London, UK.



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