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Perez 1 Miriam Perez Instructor Cox ENGL 2326.

I01 1 May 2012 Doctors of Colonial America In this day and age, there are doctors for every kind of illness and injury. There are specialists for everything, from infectious illnesses to skin diseases to mental disorders. In the eighteenth century, however, medicine was more generalized, lacking much of the technology and education that people take for granted. While some were called doctors, others were apothecaries. Apothecaries have existed since early civilization began. Apothecaries were those who mixed medicines, oils, perfumes, and ointments while the physicians were the ones who took care of sick people (History, par. 2). In Europe, apothecaries were at one point associated with spicers and grocers due to their selling and usage of herbs. They remained that way until 1617, when apothecaries in London broke away from this classification, and then Paris followed suit in 1777 (Apothecaries, par. 1). However, often the practitioners of these two occupations were indeed one and the same. This is especially true in the Colonies, for there were few doctors and most poorly trained (Colonial Medicine, par. 3). Due to their general lack of knowledge, such doctors would guess at the patients illness and submit them to an unorthodox procedure, such as using leeches to correct the imbalance of humors or hanging person up by their feet to stop them from drowning. (Apothecary/Medicine I, par. 3). The more educated apothecaries did a much better job than those who were apothecaries only in name and not by skill. They gave medical treatment and

Perez 2 prescribed medicines. They did surgery and acted as male midwives (More than a Druggist, par. 1). Apothecaries performed duties that were a blend of that of a herbalist and a doctor. Apothecaries were very useful when well trained. Unlike a doctor, apothecaries were paid only for their medicine and not for their advice. If it was only a consultation, there was no charge for the information imparted. Apothecaries were typically herb-wise, and true apothecaries were well taught. Common remedies were passed down the family, but apothecaries could make an unbelievable number of prescriptions. An example of this comes from ancient Babylon, which produced the Eber scroll that contains over 800 medicines as cure for 700 illnesses (History, par. 3). Conversely, it was not the apothecaries themselves that made all these brilliant discoveries. Scientists in the fields of pharmacopoeia and botany would make discoveries that the apothecaries would follow up to get their medicines (Apothecaries, par. 5 & 6). Medical attention was expensive under some situations, to which most families avoided doctors and used domestic medical book in order to diagnose themselves and produce a remedy using the herbs sold by the apothecary (Apothecary/Medicine II, par. 1). To be an apothecary, one had to possess certain skills or traits. For one, an apothecary could not be squeamish about blood. The apprentice had to quickly become proficient in mixing herbs and diagnosing patients soon after they entered the room (Apothecary/Medicine I, par. 5). It also required a three to six year apprenticeship, starting when the child was 15 years old, in which herb mixing was just one of the many things learned. Apprentices were taught anatomy, osyeology, compounding of medicine, surgery, and the writings of Hippocrates, according to one source. (Apothecary/Medicine I, par. 6, 7). These apothecaries were always male, but women could serve as a nurse or assistant.

Perez 3 Illness abounded in the Colonies due to their lack of sanitation and basic hygiene. At first, there were no doctors or any kind of healthcare provider when the first colonies were formed. One of these was Jamestown. Although apothecaries were available in England at the time, not one of these doctors or their medicines made the initial trip across the Atlantic Ocean (Apothecaries/Medicine I, par. 9). Only later, once apothecaries came to the New World, were the sicknesses examined and treated by trial and error as well as from the experiences of the veteran colonists. They had whatever plants they took with them from England, but that wouldnt last long. Apothecaries had to keep herb gardens as well as find the local equivalent of the plant. They would also find other plants with medicinal qualities that they had not seen before. Examples of these would be Indian hemp, which was similar to hashish, and Indian poke, which acted as a stimulant and diuretic as well as assisting the circulatory system (Apothecary/Medicine I, illustration 2). An interesting facet connecting colonial medicine to that used today is the way it was prescribed. Modern day prescriptions seem to be written in code, in an archaic language of which only doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are privy to. It is medical shorthand writing comprised of abbreviations, initials, and Latin derivatives to ensure the patient is dumbstruck and the medicinal ingredients stay a pharmacological secret. In a similar manner, apothecaries of Colonial times created an inclusive written language to use when prescribing or chronicling medicine. What appeared to be a string of words intermixed with several nonsense signs could, in fact, be translated to say something like, Stir sugar in water while adding vinegar, or some personal remedy. Each ingredient had a symbol to represent it (Apothecary/Medicine I, illustration 3). The apothecaries transition from the Colonial era to the 21st century is interesting to note. Although many would argue that apothecary is a thing of the past, that is not so. On the contrary, it

Perez 4 is on the rise. Much of the medication used today is derived from the plants apothecaries used or from practices they applied. Case in point, calamine was, and still is, used for skin irritations. In the past, a remedy for heartburn was chalk, a basic substance to soothe stomach acidity (More than a Druggist, par. 4). Today, basics are also prescribed to combat acidity, in medicines such as Alka-Seltzer and Tums. People are also turning to the holistic care and natural remedies of curanderos rather than going to the hospital. These natural-cure doctors offer people yet another alternative to popular medicine: the medical style of the past with the innovation and advancement of today. In short, the medical practice of the 1800s has not been replaced, only refined in terms of safety.

Perez 5 Works Cited Apothecary: More than a druggist. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 29 April 2012. <> C, Amber & G, Jessica. Apothecary/Medicine, Article I. Montgomery County Public Schools Maryland. 29 April 2012. < %20pages/academics/social%20studies/colonisl%20times/Apothecary.html> C, Alyssa; H, Ginny; & W, Susan. Apothecary/Medicine, Article II. Montgomery County Public Schools Maryland. 29 April 2012. < %20studies/colonisl%20times/Apothecary.html> Cowen, David L. Apothecaries. Europe 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 30 April 2012. <> Yarden & Steven. Colonial Medicine. Solomon Schechter Day School. 30April 2012. <> Zennie, Laura. History of the Apothecary. 30 April 2012. <>