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Apothecary: Then and Now

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

The apothecary has gone through a few transitions since early Egyptians mummified their dead. Plants and herbs were considered for their usefulness, and their beauty may well have been considered curative too. An apothecary was a medicinal practitioner, a doctor of sort (physician or surgeon), who diagnosed, prepared meds, and treated the patient. He usually made house calls.

One thing the apothecary then and now has in common is the natural state of the medicines. Fresh or dried herbs are so very natural in the advertising of products today. A better result of usage today is that there is a more precise measurement of the herbal strength in herbal cures, and modern doctors are more willing to acknowledge and prescribe them.

Gardens were a huge part of the apothecaries of old. Eventually native applications were transferred from Europe to the Americas and vice versa. During colonial times in the US, many of the plants were from England. The actual place where the apothecary kept the measurement instruments, apothecary jars, apothecary cabinets, and remedy stocks was called a still room. The still room was kept ready for the preservation of essential herbs (processed into oils), the infusion of herbs, distillation, and brewing of liquors and teas, too. The home apothecary or still room was a room that was part infirmary, part laboratory, and sometimes part kitchen.
apothecary jars
apothecary cabinet
apothecary herbs

Another common tool from the apothecary then and now is the pestle and mortar. It is still used to compound herbs and plants for medicinal and other uses. It has been made from all sorts of materials; wood, stone, glass, porcelain, and iron, to mention some.

The typical apothecary then was a male, and now, the typical physician is male, although females are growing in the profession. For example, pharmacists are a growing field, and many are women. The pharmacist is the modern apothecary. The evolution from apothecary to pharmacist dropped the pharmacist from the diagnostic and treatment part of the apothecary of old. Now pharmacists prepare and sell the medicines. It's an interesting thing to keep in mind when traveling to countries with apothecaries. Instead of being intrigued with the possibility of the herbal potions being shown in a seventeenth century manner, what you get is a drugstore, with a pharmacy. There are apothecary museums around the world so you can get the real feel of a storeroom that has never really disappeared from the healing world.

Crabtree and Evelyn is a business inspired from the home apothecary. They specialize in the use of fruit, flower, and plant essences in their wonderful products. Oils like rosemary, lavender, avocado, almond) and aromatherapy distillations are in their collections. It's easy for us to find natural products now, especially online. This one transition has helped to re-popularize the apothecary.
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