Skip to Content


« Back to Glossary Index

**Historical Background**:
– Apothecaries have a long history dating back to ancient civilizations such as Babylon, India, Egypt, and China.
– The term “apothecary” has varied usage across different regions and time periods.
– In medieval Baghdad and Renaissance Italy, apothecaries played significant roles in providing medicinal services.
– The evolution of the profession saw the emergence of women apothecaries and the formation of professional societies like the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in England.

**Role and Practices**:
– Apothecaries provided medical advice, dispensed medicines, and investigated herbal and chemical ingredients.
– They controlled the trade of substances like tobacco and sold ingredients wholesale to medical practitioners.
– Apothecaries used unique measurement systems and dispensed remedies in vials.
– Traditional methods included using herbs, minerals, and animal parts to create remedies.
– Protective measures were taken, such as using specially-shaped containers for poisons.

**Contributions and Knowledge**:
– Various historical texts and figures like Al-Razi and the Divine Husbandman Shen Nung have contributed to the field of pharmacy.
– Arab-Islamic science made valuable contributions to pharmacy practices.
– The history of medicinal herbs and their uses has been well-documented.
– Traditional knowledge, including texts like the yellow emperor’s canon of medicine, has influenced pharmacy practices.

**Literature and Publications**:
– Numerous books and articles discuss the history of pharmacy and the role of apothecaries.
– Works like ‘The Herbal Apothecary’ detail the uses of medicinal herbs.
– The role of women in pharmacy and the historical background of societies like the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries have been documented in publications.
– Historical reviews of drug containers, labels, and the evolution of pharmaceutical compounding are explored in literature.

**Resources and External Links**:
– Additional resources, definitions, and historical texts related to apothecaries can be found online.
– ‘On Keeping Shop: A Guidebook for Preparing Orders’ from 1260 provides insights into the art of being an apothecary.
– The term “apothecary” can be further explored on platforms like Wiktionary for in-depth information.

Apothecary (Wikipedia)

Apothecary (/əˈpɒθəkəri/) is an archaic English term for a medical professional who formulates and dispenses materia medica (medicine) to physicians, surgeons and patients. The modern terms 'pharmacist' and 'chemist' (British English) have taken over this role.

An apothecary in the 15th century

In some languages and regions, "apothecary" is not archaic and has become those languages' term for "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.

In addition to dispensing herbs and medicine, apothecaries offered general medical advice and a range of services that are now performed by other specialist practitioners, such as surgeons and obstetricians. Apothecary shops sold ingredients and the medicines they prepared wholesale to other medical practitioners, as well as dispensing them to patients. In 17th-century England, they also controlled the trade in tobacco which was imported as a medicine.

« Back to Glossary Index