writing on the history/philosophy of pharmaceuticals?
November 9, 2020 5:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in understanding the historical paradigms of thought around pharmacology and the concept of medicine - not medical practice in general, but specifically ingesting various substances to produce healing.

I'm finding that starting with the greek pharmakon quickly leads away from ingestible substances, strictly speaking.

Academic work, historical overviews, herbalists, non-western approaches, interesting passages from writing with a broader scope, etc. are all welcome! Just trying to find entry points down the citation rabbit hole, with a narrow focus on medicine as ingestible substance.
posted by funeralcult to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s Tastes of Paradise is canonical on cultural history of drugs and spices in the human past—ingesting substances to produce if not healing, then definitely effects. (or at least it was when I was doing this at uni years ago)
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:48 PM on November 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Section in "The Greatest Benefit to Mankind" by Roy Porter on Paracelsus and medical chemistry may be a good place to look. I think in Western medicine, Paracelsus gets credit for moving people closer to a modern idea of treating specific illnesses with chemical drugs.
posted by vogon_poet at 5:55 PM on November 9, 2020

Ingesting various substances to promote healing? Look into Chinese medicine. I can't speak of any particular book, but a professor I had in undergrad studied this, Judith Farquhar. I know she's written on the thinking/philosophies behind Chinese medicine extensively.
posted by astapasta24 at 6:22 PM on November 9, 2020

Wikipedia's page on history of pharmacy includes highlights of several eras starting at 'prehistoric' and has many references.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:31 PM on November 9, 2020

The History of Medicine course of the Faculty of the Philosophy and History of Medicine of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries has its 2020 reading list online.

There's a section specifically on pharmacy:


A Brief History of Pharmacy: Humanity’s Search for Wellness Zebroski, R. (2016) New York: Routledge.

The School of Pharmacy, University of London: Medicines, Science and Society, 1842-2012 Hudson, B with Boylan, M (2013) London: Academic Press.

Making Medicines: A Brief History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals Anderson, S.C. (ed.) (2005) London: Pharmaceutical Press.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain 1841 to 1991: A Political and Social History Holloway, SWF (1991), London: Pharmaceutical Press.
posted by Jahaza at 8:15 PM on November 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

"Historical sources relevant for study of medicinal plants' use" section of Historical review of medicinal plants’ usage article, which begins "The oldest written evidence of medicinal plants’ usage for preparation of drugs has been found on a Sumerian clay slab from Nagpur, approximately 5000 years old...."
[Petrovska B. B. (2012). Historical review of medicinal plants' usage. Pharmacognosy reviews, 6(11), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.95849]
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:24 PM on November 9, 2020

Mike Jay - High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture
posted by turkeyphant at 5:15 PM on November 10, 2020

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