Friday, November 27, 2015

The Pharmacy of the Bible 1872


See also Folk Medicine, Alternative Remedies & Herbal Cures - 100 Books on DVDrom andAlternative Medicine & Spiritual Healing - 175 Books on DVDrom

For a list of all of my digital books and disks click here

An interesting paper on this subject was lately rend before the Manchester (England) Chemists and Druggists' Association, by Mr. J. T. Slugg, which we would print entire if our limits permitted. As it is, we believe that an abstract of the main points in tho essay will be of interest to all our readers. Although there are frequent references in the Bible to the diseases that afflicted mankind in those early days, it is difficult to ascertain much concerning the nature of the remedies employed, or the healing art in general. We read of physicians and of apothecaries, and of the "many medicines of the Egyptians;" and Solomon, who wrote, we are told, on natural history, seems to have had some knowledge of the medicinal use of various plants, but the results of his study are lost to the world. The drug known as "balm of Gilead" was supposed to have a medicinal virtue. We meet with a very popular remedy of the present day, prescribed by the prophet for a boil from which King Hezekiah was suffering, namely, a plaster of jigs, which cured him. We learn something of what we may call a domestic remedy for a wound, in the time of the Saviour, in the parable of the good Samaritan, who, finding the wounded man, bound up his wound, pouring in oil and wine. Though, poisons are frequently mentioned in the Bible, there is no direct reference to vegetable or mineral poisons as a means of destroying life; those mentioned being the poisons of animals, as of serpents, asps, and dragons. In the list of the evil practices of the day given by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians, occurs the word "witchcraft." The Greek word for this is "pharmakeia," from which our word pharmacy is derived. It has been suggested that poisoning is meant. No doubt it either means that, or, what is more probable, the preparation of magical potions and philtres.

We read of eye-salve in Revelation, but have no means of ascertaining its composition. It is worthy of note, that there is an occasional trace of chemical knowledge in the earliest times; for instance, the calcination of gold by Moses, the action of vinegar on natron, and of the cleansing properties of soap. We find also a direct reference to the business of a druggist, in the Song of Solomon, where, in connection with perfumes, we read of "the powders of the merchant." In Exodus (xxx. 23) we have a regular Hebrew prescription, commencing with the orthodox, "Take of so and so, so much." In the Bible we have either direct or probable reference to forty-five drugs, namely: —

Aloes. Fig. Natron.
Aniseed. Garlick. Olive oil.
Almonds. Gall. Onycha.
Antimon. sulph. Galbamim. Palm.
Balm of Gilead. Honey. Pomegranate.
Brimstone. Hyssop. Bicinus.
Bdellium. Hemlock. Saffron.
Calamus. Lign Aloe. Sponge.
Camphire. Lime. Stacte.
Cassia. Hallows. Spikenard.
Cummin. Manna. Soap.
Coriander. Millet. Vermilion.
Colocyuth. Mint Vinegar.
Cinnamon. Mustard seed. Wax.
Frankincense. Myrrh. Wormwood.

Besides these, we read of anointing oil, perfumery, plaster, mortars and pestles, scales and weights. Mortars and pestles we meet with as early as the time of Moses, for we learn that the Israelites in the wilderness used them for the purpose of grinding or beating the manna which they gathered. Egyptian sculptures exhibit the figures of men pounding in mortars with large pestles. The allusion in Proverbs to braying the fool in the mortar is too familiar to need quoting. The scales that appear in paintings and sculptures of the Egyptians as ancient as the time of Moses, were doubtless similar to those used by the Jews, and much resemble the hand scales in use among ourselves.

Ointments are frequently mentioned in the Bible, showing their use in very early times. In the book of Job, we read, "He maketh the sea to boil like a pot; he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment." There is also a remarkable reference to ointment in Ecclesiastes, indicating that the apothecary then was as much troubled with flies in his business as the druggist of today, for they got into his ointments and spoiled them. The ointments in use amongst the Jews were to a great extent vehicles for perfume; hence the word in the Song of Solomon, "Because of the savor of thy good ointment, thy name is as good ointment poured forth." Among the Jews the use of ointments was fourfold; for cosmetic, funereal, medicinal, and ritual or religious purposes. The practice of anointing the head and clothes on festive occasions prevailed among the Jews. Ointments were also used to anoint dead bodies, and the clothes in which they were wrapt. This explains our Saviour's saying, "Against the day of my burying hath she done this." In Exodus, Moses is commanded to make a holy ointment to he used only for sacred purposes, compounded of myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia, and olive oil. Of the dry ingredients, 60 pounds were to be used to 12 1/2 pounds of olive oil. It is difficult to understand how so little oil could form the other ingredients into an ointment. Maimonides says that the powdered ingredients were infused in water till all the virtue was extracted, and then the infusion poured into the oil and boiled till the water was evaporated. The ointment was to be "compounded after the art of the apothecary." In the margin we have the word "perfumer" for "apothecary," which is a better rendering of the word. The business of a perfumer was not distinguished from that of an apothecary in the time of the translators. Whether the Jews in Bible times understood the nature and use of drugs as medicinal agents or not, they certainly understood the art of perfumery. They perfumed their persons, their clothes, and their beds. The principal fragrant substances employed by them were cassia, cinnamon, calamus, camphire, frankincense, lign aloe, myrrh, saffron, spikenard. These articles were either used dry, or their perfume was extracted and embodied in the form of an ointment.

Cassia and Cinnamon are no doubt the barks of the trees known by those names at the present day. Cinnamon is mentioned, as we have seen, by Moses, which shows that even in the earliest times the products of one country found their way by means of foreign trade into distant lands. Cinnamon was not grown nearer to Egypt than India and Ceylon.

Calamus is generally supposed to be the Calamus aromaticus, or sweet flag; but some refer it to the lemon grass of India and Arabia.

Camphire is an incorrect rendering of the word copher. In both places where it is mentioned, the marginal reading is "cypress." The substance really denoted is the henna plant, or Lawsonia alba. It was used as a dye for the nails, giving them a deep yellow or orange tinge, which was greatly admired.

Frankincense. — The epithet frank or free was applied to incense because of the freeness with which it gives out its odors and burns. It is not the gum thus, but that known as olibanum, a gum produced by the Boswellia serrata, or B. thurifera. It was imported from Arabia.

Lign Aloe is the eaglewood of India, and has no connection with the drug known as aloes, the name being a corruption of the Arabic allowat. Of all perfumes, this was most highly prized by Eastern nations; the Jews believed it grew in the garden of Eden.

Myrrh is mentioned in our English Bibles as a part of the present sent by Jacob to Joseph, and also as one of the spices which the Ishmaelite merchants were carrying into Egypt. The original word here is "lot"; whereas tho word which is rendered "myrrh" in every other part of Scripture is "mor". The article called lot was not myrrh, but most probably gum laudanum. Myrrh was not produced in Palestine, as the passages in Genesis speak of it as being exported from Gilead into Egypt. It was among the gifts brought by the wise men to the infant Jesus, and was highly valued by the ancients.

Saffron is doubtless the correct rendering of the Hebrew word. From the earliest times it has been in high repute as a perfume.

Spikenard. — We read that "Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus." One of the disciples referred to its value as "300 pence" or about forty-seven dollars. There is much difference of opinion as to what the plant really was which is rendered "spikenard." Sir William Jones, one of the most learned Oriental scholars, said of this famous perfume, "I am not of opinion that the nardum of the Romans was merely the essential oil of the plant, but am strongly inclined to believe that it was a generic word, meaning what we now call attar or otto of some plant; or the mixed perfume called abir, of which the principal ingredients were yellow sandal, violets, orange flowers, wood of aloes, rose, musk, and true spikenard." The true spikenard, the Nardus lndica, was highly esteemed as a perfume and as a stimulant medicine.

By Aloes we are, of course, not to understand the medical drug of that name, but either the Lign aloe, or, what is quite probable, some kind of odoriferous cedar.

Aniseed is mentioned in connection with mint and cummin, which are represented as three of the smallest and most insignificant plants. No doubt mint and cummin are rightly translated, but the word translated anise Dr. Royle thinks should be called dill, as the anethum is more especially a genus of Eastern cultivation than the other plant. There is also an allusion to cummin in Isaiah, where the mode of separating the seeds from the plant is mentioned as being accomplished, not with a cart wheel turned on them, but by beating with a rod.

The Almond tree, being a native of Asia, was well known to the Jews. "Luz," translated hazel in Genesis, was another word for almond, and should have been so rendered.

For a list of all of my digital books and disks click here

No comments:

Post a Comment