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Almost every part of the world has made contributions to the store of psychotropic medicines, and like all precious things, the knowledge of such drugs was hoarded, traded, often stolen and passed on.
Mithridates VI, king of Pontus, was so afraid of being poisoned that he was obsessed with the search for a universal antidote. To this end, the crowned head regularly immersed himself in vats of toxins in order to develop an immunity. When he died in 64 B.C., among the various formulae and prescriptions found on his body was one for a panacea, supposedly an antidote to every poison, humbly called "mithridatum." Diosco rides, physician to Nero, refined the monarch's recipe, which called for a generous amount of op i u in spiced with some 50 other ingredients, and renamed it "theriaea." Similar opium preparations under the same name were in popular use until late in the eighteenth century, and during Civil War days in the United States, "Thor iak i" was
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both the brand name of an opium addiction cure and the title of a magazine devoted to drug addiction. There is, indeed, nothing new under the sun.
Ilioscorides' Materia Medico, written in 80 ax>., is tlie definitive guide to ancient use of plant drugs. The book describes about 1,000 substances, including hemp and opium, and in each case I lie ding is identified by its names, sources and appearances; its preparation, actions, applications and toxicity are all discussed. This work remained a standard for over 1,500 years. Consider the directives drawn up for English apothecaries in the days of Henry VIII: "His garden must be at hand, with plenty of herbs, seeds and roots. He must read Dioscorides ... "
Another first-century Roman, Scribonius Largus, was the first to describe preparations of opium, which he recommended for sleep and relief of pain. About 100 years later, the physician Galen added another ZOOdrugs to Dioscorides' directory and widely prescribed wine, opium, hyoscyamus and turpentine. Perhaps he was the original Dr. Feelgood.
So extensive was the influence of Dioscorides that the eighth-century.. 1 Arabians, who started what is generally called "alchemy," were well versed in the Materia Medica. Besides coming up with highly re Coed alcohol in the quest for the elixir of life (if wine gives vitality, the essence of wine should be the essence of life), these experimenters developed chemical and procedural' techniques that greatly influenced pharmacology in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Hemp and the belladonna alkaloids were popular medications in the Middle Ages, as was the anesthetic Spongia somnifeia.
Although European physicians of the Middle Ages blended and dispensed their own drugs, pharmacy and doctoring have almost always been recognized as separate disciplines. Ancient Egypt had two classes of medical men, those who made house visits and those who made drugs, as did the Greeks and Romans. Greek mythology, in fact, tells us that Asclepius, god of the healing art, never prepared his own remedies but used Hygeia as his pharmacist. . This blending of roles was spotty and temporary where it did exist, however, as is shown by the 1683 law passed by the city
council of Binges, Belgium, which forbade physicians from compounding medicines for iheir own paljenls. This separalion occurred even eailier in England; ihe earliest record of an apothecary shop in London reaches back to 1345.
One of the prevailing theories of Middle Ages and Renaissance medicine was the Doctrine of Signatures. Probably borrowed from the ancient Chinese, this doctrine is based on the belief that nature provides cures for all the diseases and ills of man-if he can only recognize them. Natural objects (plants, minerals, animals) are thus thought to exhibit clues to their medical use, resembling either the disease or the part of the body afflicted. According to this doctrine, convoluted walnuts cause positive effects on the brain, yellow saffron should cure jaundice, kidney beans lone up the kidneys and a well-hung ginseng root isjusl the tiling for a dandy erection.
While this doctrine really came down to basic trial and error, at least it was somewhat systematic.
Paracelsus (1493-1541) was one of the later adherents to the doctrine, but he is most remembered for compounding laudanum, an alcoholic tincture containing about 10 percent opium. Laudanum was actually the first medicinal form of opium, and extremely popular medicine it was. Afl^er producing it sometime in the late 1520s, Paracelsus wrote: "I possess a secret remedy which I call, 'laudanum' and which is superior to all other heroic remedies.'1 An instant success with Renaissance men and women, it was sold without prescription right up through the nineteenth century, when it addicted such luminaries as Poe, Coleridge, Swinburne and De Quincey.
By 1618, English law had established two classes of drug dispensers: grocers who sold only in bulk and apothecaries who had retail operations. Physicians were prohibited from selling drugs, but on the other hand they were empowered to search any apothecary shops of London and destroy any shoddy or impure drugs. England's first pharmacopoeia was published this same year, although it was mainly a compilation of the lists of Nicholas of Salerno and Mesue of Arabia. Among the wide variety of traditional drugs in the 1618 pharmacopoeia were unicorn horn, spider webs, virgin's blood and several compounds of excrement... It wasn't until the sixth edition of the
London Pharmacopoeia iaj 178R that the ancient opium ionics mithridatum and theriaca were excluded,
The seventeenth century was, as it turas out, the link between ancient dn\£ lore and the modera i pharmacology that began to emerge in the eighteenth century. The first real drug factory was established in England in 1626 by the Company of A pothc carie s, w 110 manu fact ured pi iann ace 111 i cal s only for company members. Foreign exploration and exploitation during this century brought wonderful new drugs to European shores-ipecac root for diarrhea and dysentery, cinchona bark (source of quinine) for the relief of fever and the mysterious coffee, tea, tobacco and cocoa for imparting novel sensations to the mind and body.
In 1732 Thomas Dover, the adventurous English physician who rescued Alexander Selkirk (Defoe's model for Robinson Crusoe), introduced an opium
and ipecac preparation, which he recommended for gout and the prevention of colds. This "Dover's powder" remained the most popular opium preparation in America until the end of the licit poppy era. Sir Humphry Davy ushered in the progressive nineteenth century by discovering the anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide in 1799.
Modem pharmacology is said to have begun in 1806 when a German chemist, Friedrich W. Serturner, isolated the morphine alkaloid from opium. Serturners * wife died of an overdose of his discovery. The importance of this extraction is that Seiiurner's basic techniq ue was copied and applied to all sorts of crude pharmaceuticals, leading to the synthesis and isolation of most of the active principals of drug plants. This research was done in an effort to standardize drugs in terms of potency and purity, to the benefit of both patients and future research.
Fried rkh Se ri timer
Sir Humphry Davy's ¿as machine
Fried rkh Se ri timer
Sir Humphry Davy's ¿as machine
James Simpson's dmner-party experiment with ehJoro/orrn
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