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What Is The History Of Medicine?

What is medicine? The answer that most of you will give would be quiet different from the answer that our ancient ancestors gave about medicine.

Today, we all see medicine as the science, art and practice of keeping us healthy via drugs and surgery. If you have asked this question many moons ago, then the definition of medicine would have been quite different and today also in some cultures across the world it is different.

So, let's see how medicine actually originated.

What is its Origin?

From where do we begin and how exactly did the medicine even originate? Actually, there is no easy or direct answer to this thing because our ancestors did not leave behind any written accounts or any visuals of this topic.

If suppose they have left then till now none have survived. So, only scientists and historians are the best people who can find what all happened.

Many studies show that early humans firstly thought that diseases are not serious ones. They are just the part of natural existence and they even thought that there is no need to treat them at all.

This was because the native tribe except western civilization thought that diarrhoea is perfectly a normal condition. But later on, they came to know from westerners that this is not at all normal. It happens due to parasites.

At later stages, many people viewed the diseases as being supernatural in origin. Like many people used to think that if the person is ill that means he or she has insulted God that's why he has fallen sick.

But, as soon as humans were able to give the reason behind it then naturally they must have experimented and explored with nature to see how it could be profitable to them.

Things including vegetables, herbs, roots and so on may have simply tested by trial and error method to find whether it is useful or not. This use of natural substances for healing and treating purposes is till now used.

If you talk about early medicine then magic, incantations and witch doctors played their role very well.

But, with the advancement of technology and with more experimentation of medicine that evolved from the shrugs of the shoulders and now the medicine is totally seen differently.

Which medicine was first invented?

Can you guess the name of the medicine that was first invented? Before doing detailed research I was thinking some other name. But was surprised to know the whole story.

Many people have been utilizing different plants and animals to treat many diseases for thousands of years. But, in ancient times it was more to do with the religion than science and doctors in ancient Egypt, China and India did utilise early versions of laboratories to mix all of them.

Though many of these powders, creams didn't really work and even some were so poisonous that it killed many people also. But, others contained useful ingredients that are still used during the preparation of medicines.

For example- The plant milkweed- A traditional treatment to treat tumours is still now used to treat skin cancer.

If you talk about the 1500s and 1600s people in Europe they all started using opium(which was a milky sap from the plant) and it was used to treat the body pain and even many people in Europe in earlier times used the Laudanum(a mixture made of Opium, alcohol and herbs) to treat cough and diarrhoea.

But, unfortunately, these medicines were so addictive. Over the next 150 years, scientists learnt a lot about biology and chemistry that they invented the first modern pharmaceutical medicine in the year 1804 and it was invented by Friedrich Serturner (German scientist).

The thing that he exactly did was that in his laboratory, he extracted the main active chemical from opium and he named it as Morphine and till now doctors use morphine to treat the patients suffering from body pains.

After that, quinine was invented in the year 1820 and this medicine helped the patients to cure of malaria and many medicines after this was invented like Paracetamol was invented in 1877 which we all till now use it.

After this thousands of new remedies have been prepared in laboratories. In the year 2020 more and more medicines are being produced by utilising exciting biotechnology and we would keep on seeing the new inventions as the technology is becoming advance day by day.

Why it is important to know the history of medicine?

The history of medicine actually shows how societies have changed their approach to illnesses and different diseases from ancient times to the present and it is important to be aware of all these things.

There are many reasons like why a person should be aware of the history of medicines. It includes:

  1. History actually tells you that how we came to know the things that we know today, how important the research part is and why execution is more difficult than doing research.

  2. It teaches you so many numbers of lessons on what can go wrong in medicine and ethics and even make you aware of the relationship between society and medicine.

  3. It teaches you humility because there were hell number of dead ends and the mistakes in the past that involved really bright people.

  4. It teaches you how the whole world has got where it is today. Even if you want to change the health care system it would be impossible to change if you don't know the history of medicine.

  5. It also shows you how errors lead to great insights and why it is so necessary to address the research questions by falsification rather than just by sitting and collecting the facts to avoid being misled.

So, these are five reasons that show how important is to know the history of medicine.


With the advancement of technology, many kinds of research are going on to develop new medicines. The history of medicine is replete with so many examples that show you that failure is always followed by success.

In earlier times, people used plants and animals as their medicine but now it is synthetically prepared in laboratories by scientists. So, times have changed a lot.

Thanks for reading it till the end. Hope you find this post useful.

If you liked it then do leave your valuable thoughts in the comment section below.



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