Manual The Apothecary (Colonial People)

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Brunschwig knew this all too well from personal experience. As an apothecary running his own shop near the fish market, maintaining a stock of efficacious remedies was his chief responsibility and expertise. Twice a year, they would send round a committee of medical experts to all apothecary shops, to ensure that no perished goods were stocked, and to throw away any that had gone off. While the heavenly spheres were characterised by material perfection and changelessness, all matter on earth was made up of the four elements air, water,fire, earth and subject to their constant permutations.

They were doomed to endless cycles of generation, change, and decay. As well as pointing to the instability of all earthly matter, the language of seasons and their cold, hot, dry or moist qualities was associated with early modern ideas about the stages of human life. Youth, health, reproduction, decline and death were analogous with the annual cycle of flourishing and decay in nature — a relationship which is richly illustrated in a set of anonymous seventeenth-century engravings see here for an interactive digital reproduction.

The idea of changing seasons was emblematic of an early modern view of the material world which was characterised by instability. Faced with such difficulties, Brunschwig and others turned to a branch of knowledge with a longstanding commitment to imitating and manipulating natural processes underlying the transformations of matter: alchemy.

They still have some of the elemental qualities of the original herb, and are ultimately perishable. In the early modern world of matter, the seasons symbolised cycles of change and decay which spelled trouble for healers and makers of medicines. In some of the earliest vernacular works on pharmacy, Brunschwig describes distillation as a powerful tool for defying the material corruption of seasonal changes.

Anyone who has walked in a European city at night will be familiar with the glow of them: a vivid and snakelike green, slightly eerie when encountered on a lonely street, beautiful in the rain. They were once neon; now most are arrays of ultra-bright Chinese LEDs that blink on and off in intricate patterns. The glowing emerald cross of the pharmacy is among the most familiar symbols in Europe. When I moved to Lisbon in , however, I was interested to find that the pharmacy on my street bore a striking variation on the iconic green cross.

Alerts In Effect

In Portugal, the green crosses of many farmacias contain a small palm tree with a snake wrapped around it, or inside of it. The Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in London glosses the symbol as simply representing the vegetable, animal and mineral kingdoms. As with many things in Lisbon, when we peel back a century or two, we find something surprising. The snake and the palm tree were frequent motifs in early modern Portuguese depictions of African and indigenous American medical practices.

To a Christian reader, the combination called to mind the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, thereby flagging the supposedly Satanic origins of cures from the non-Christian world. But it also functioned as a proxy for the exotic and the tropical, showing up in places like the frontispiece illustrations of early scientific works about Brazil and the religious manuals of Catholic monks in Africa.

Whenever early modern Europeans wanted to signify that a place was heathen, tropical and exotic, the trusty serpent and palm could be counted on.

A Colonial Drugstore: Philipsburg Manor’s Herb Garden

Figure 3. To be sure, there were many, many ways of symbolizing the exotic and the colonial in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: alligators, dragons, Chinese maidens toting parasols, and mustachioed Turks with enormous turbans, to name a few. My personal favorite is the moose skull, seashell and pineapple combo that adorns this fanciful anonymous painting of an apothecary shop from early eighteenth century France.

But the snake and palm showed real longevity in the field of medicine and pharmacy, emerging as a common motif for the ceramic jars used to store drugs. Since at least the late medieval period, these jars had functioned as a form of advertising to display the wealth and judicious taste of the apothecary who dispensed drugs out of them: a shop with a full set of colorful Italian-made Maiolica jars, or with the more austere but beautiful blue-and-white Delftware jars favored in England and the Low Countries, promised to be a well-run establishment.

The introduction of new design motifs into drug jars was thus far from a random process. It was guided by the commercial needs of the drug merchant: how do I advertise the purity and potency of the drugs I have for sale?


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How do I broadcast my links to the Indies, where the most expensive drugs come from? The commercial pathways that carried medicinal drugs and recipes from the non-European cultures of Amazonia, Brazil and Africa also carried symbols.

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Can the palm and serpent motif of Portuguese pharmacies be directly attributed to this colonial-era transfer of materials and ideas between Europe and the tropical world? It certainly seems that way to me, although I acknowledge that the link is largely circumstantial. What is more certain is that the larger culture of drug use in Portugal and its colonies was strongly shaped by indigenous American and African influences. Although today the contents of a pharmacy are divided from the domain of recreational drug use by formidable cultural and legal boundaries, this was not the case in the seventeenth century.

This was a time when apothecaries freely dispensed opium, tobacco, alcohol and even cannabis alongside more familiar remedies like chamomile tea. And it is here, in the etymologies of three familiar words associated with recreational drugs, that the influence of the colonies upon Portuguese drug culture is most apparent. Unlike other speakers of Romance languages, who typically puff on tubos or pipes , Lusophones smoke from cachimbos , a term derived from the word kixima in the Kimbundu language of West Central Africa.

This is an especially intriguing etymological origin because pipes are typically thought of as being introduced to Europeans via indigenous Americans, not Africans.

From colonial times to the present, at least some of those who used cachimbos were filling them not with tobacco but with maconha , i. Rubia tinctorium madder , one of the many plants that was both materia medica and materia pictoria The latter appears to have been an attempt to subtly elevate the status of the visual and decorative arts by paralleling the materia pictoriae to the materia medica. A surgeon treating an abdominal wound. Detailed woodcut images of distillation apparatus and instructions for its use.

Brunschwig, Liber de arte distillandi de simplicibus Strasbourg, The modern pharmacist also colloquially referred to as a chemist in British English has taken over this role.


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  7. In some languages and regions, the word "apothecary" is still used to refer to a retail pharmacy or a pharmacist who owns one. Apothecaries' investigation of herbal and chemical ingredients was a precursor to the modern sciences of chemistry and pharmacology.

    Drug Production in the Seventeenth Century

    In addition to dispensing herbs and medicine, the apothecary offered general medical advice and a range of services that are now performed by other specialist practitioners, such as surgeons and obstetricians. The word in Indonesian is apotek [11] , which was borrowed from the Dutch apotheek [12]. Use of the term "apothecary" in the names of businesses varies with time and location. It is generally an americanism, though some areas of the United States use it to invoke an experience of nostalgic revival and it has been used for a wide variety of businesses, while in other areas such as California its use is restricted to licensed pharmacies.

    Colonial Williamsburg Apothecary Shop, 2011 Trip

    Clay tablets were found with medical texts recording symptoms, the prescriptions, and the directions for compounding it. It mentions over different drugs. The Shen-nung pen ts'ao ching , a Chinese book on agriculture and medicinal plants 3rd century CE , [16] [14] [17] is considered a foundational material for Chinese medicine and herbalism and became an important source for Chinese apothecaries.

    It had treatments which came from minerals, roots and grass, and animals. According to Sharif Kaf al-Ghazal, [20] and S.

    The Apothecary by Christine Petersen

    Hadzovic, [21] apothecary shops existed during the Middle Ages in Baghdad , [20] operated by Islamic pharmacists in during the Abbasid Caliphate , or Islamic Golden Age. By the end of the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer — was mentioning an English apothecary in the Canterbury Tales , specifically " The Nun's Priest's Tale " as Pertelote speaks to Chauntecleer lines — :. Though in this toun is noon apothecarie, I shal myself to herbes techen yow, That shul been for youre hele and for youre prow. In Renaissance Italy , Italian Nuns became a prominent source for medicinal needs. At first they used their knowledge in non-curative uses in the convents to solidify the sanctity of religion among their sisters.

    As they progressed in skill they started to expand their field to create profit. This profit they used towards their charitable goals. Because of their eventual spread to urban society, these religious women gained "roles of public significance beyond the spiritual realm Strocchia From the 15th century to the 16th century, the apothecary gained the status of a skilled practitioner. In England, the apothecaries merited their own livery company , the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries , founded in However, there were ongoing tensions between apothecaries and other medical professions, as is illustrated by the experiences of Susan Reeve Lyon and other women apothecaries in 17th century London.

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    In German speaking countries, such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, pharmacies or chemist stores are still called apothecaries or in German Apotheken. The Apotheke "store" is legally obligated to be run at all times by at least one Apotheker male or Apothekerin female , who actually has an academic degree as a pharmacist —— in German Pharmazeut male or Pharmazeutin female — and has obtained the professional title Apotheker by either working in the field for numerous years — usually working in a pharmacy store — or taking additional exams.

    Thus a Pharmazeut is not always an Apotheker. Apothecaries used their own measurement system, the apothecaries' system , to provide precise weighing of small quantities. Protective methods to prevent accidental ingestion of poisons included the use of specially shaped containers for potentially poisonous substances such as laudanum. Apothecary businesses were typically family-run, and wives or other women of the family worked alongside their husbands in the shops, learning the trade themselves. Women were still not allowed to train and be educated in universities so this allowed them a chance to be trained in medical knowledge and healing.

    Previously, women had some influence in other women's healthcare, such as serving as midwives and other feminine care in a setting that was not considered appropriate for males. Though physicians gave medical advice, they did not make medicine, so they typically sent their patients to particular independent apothecaries, who did also provide some medical advice in particular remedies and healing. Many recipes included herbs, minerals, and pieces of animals meats, fats, skins that were ingested, made into paste for external use, or used as aromatherapy. Some of these are similar to natural remedies used today, including catnip , [35] chamomile , fennel , mint , garlic and witch hazel.


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    For instance, it was known that drinking coffee could help cure headaches, but the existence and properties of caffeine itself was still a mystery. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the film, see Apothecary film. Medical portal. Organisational capacity building in health systems. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Retrieved 13 December Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate.