Pharmacopoeias

A pharmacopoeia is a handbook of medicines. The seventeenth century texts I’m perusing at the moment for a very specific cure-all are deeply underwhelming although strangely fascinating. Remedies includes the “turds” of geese, goats, hens, swallows and a peacock . One requires millipedes. Another lists amongst its ingredients discarded nail clippings. If you weren’t ill before you certainly would have been afterwards.

Many of the more exotic ingredients would have come from the mediterranean and beyond. And as navigators explored further and colonialisation took hold the ingredients of the pharmacopoeias did become more exotic – rhinoceros brain anyone?

The Pharmacopoeia Londinensis was published on the orders of James I and it effectively created a list of all official drugs – frogs lungs…if the goods you wanted to sell to an apothecary and then on to a physician were not on the Royal College of Physicians list then quite simply it wasn’t a cure. The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries was created in 1618 so now regulation was ensured. Little old ladies with herbal connections might find themselves in real bother and so could a male apothecary not following the guild’s rules. The College of Physicians which had controlled the apothecaries retained the right to license them in London but not to prevent them from dispensing medicines or treating people and the pharmacopoeia was a way of the physicians maintaining some kind of control because they dictated what was admissible to the list.

The Pharmacopoeia Londinensis continued to be published until 1854 when a new British listing was produced. By that time goat’s urine had been removed from the list.

https://history.rcplondon.ac.uk/blog/weapon-dressed-book-pharmacopoeia-londinensis

3 thoughts on “Pharmacopoeias

  1. Fun and interesting post. In the first century, the word pharmakeia could be translated as “witchcraft” because some of the same ingredients mentioned above were used in potions related to charms and incantations.

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