The Meaning behind Pharmacy symbols

Published by Fabrice Humura
On 26 April 2017 saa 03:56
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They made some people wonder when it comes to real meaning others are curiously willing to know the original background, these are the famous symbols or logo frequently found on community pharmacies and other pharmaceutical products.

A pharmacist is a health care professional licensed to prepare, compound, and dispense drugs upon written order known as Prescription. A pharmacist as well cooperates with, consults with, and sometimes advises the licensed practitioner concerning drugs.

As other various careers most especially those ones which fall into medical profile, they do possess significant logos representing specific type of career with a reasonable meaning. This applies to pharmacy symbols seen on relevant pharmaceutical products.

Pharmacy symbols alternate from one country to another. In USA, for instance, the green cross is used. This symbol is also used in France, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain but also in Argentina, India and many other countries.

The cross is the symbol of rescue and of military and civil protection. This cross, also called the “Greek cross”, has four equal arms and it has become a symbol of Christianity over time. Originally this famous cross was red. The pharmacists borrowed this symbol from the international organization of the Red Cross, an organization created in the late 19th century.

The emblem had been adopted by many pharmaceutical manufacturers who added it to their packaging. Pharmacists followed the movement by making their emblem of this Red Cross. However, in 1913, the Geneva Convention prohibited the use of the Red Cross to pharmacists who, finally, adopted the green cross.

Some people mention the vegetal origin of many medications, others evoke the World War I as to why the cross is green. Indeed, at that time, doctors and pharmacists had to have the same uniform as officers, the only variable being the badges on the collar. It was then decided that doctors had to wear a crimson velvet collar and pharmacists a dark green collar.

The pharmaceutical caduceus, a symbol with a snake hugging a cup, standing with a head bowing down into the cup. Influx of this symbol can be found in Rwanda for instance and countries such as as Netherlands and others.

According to university of Arizona Health Sciences, in Greek mythology, Hygeia was the daughter and assistant of Aesculapius (sometimes spelled Asclepius), the son of Apollo, grandson of Zeus, and the god of medicine and healing.

Legend has it that Zeus was worried that Aesculapius would make mankind immortal because of his healing power. Out of fear, he killed Aesculapius with a lightning bolt. Temples were built for Aesculapius, and seemingly dead serpents were found inside.
When these serpents were picked up and dropped, however, they slithered away. The people believed the serpents were brought back to life by the healing powers of Aesculapius, which ultimately caused them to be associated with healing.

Hygeia tended to these temples, so her classical symbol became a bowl containing a medicinal potion, with the serpent of Wisdom drinking from it. The serpent is symbolic of resurrection, and the bowl health and medicine. Interestingly, this same serpent is found on the so-called Staff of Aesculapius and on the Caduceus, both widely recognizable symbols of medicine.

The serpent of Epidaurus hugging a cup appears, from 1222, in apothecaries of Padua (Italy) as a distinctive symbol of the pharmacy used as the main pattern of their banner. The serpent symbolizes the healing art, fertility and life.

Mortar and pestle with the Rx symbol:

This symbol is widely used in the Anglo-Saxon culture. It refers to a medical prescription but is also used as a symbol of pharmacy. Rx is an abbreviation of prescription, from the Latinrecipe, it means « recipe take thou » which means “take it in the name of god”. It also symbolizes the prayer to the God of medicine, Jupiter.

The mortar and pestle are two tools used since ancient times by the apothecaries and pharmacy technicians to grind various products of the pharmacopoeia for pharmaceutical preparations and compounded products. It is one of the most frequent symbol of compounding worldwide.

The red stylized letter A:

This symbol is used by all pharmacies in Austria and Germany. It is also sometimes found in their European neighboring countries. This Gothic letter A on white background is just the first letter of the word “Apotheke” or “Apotheker” synonym of Pharmacy and Pharmacist respectively.

By Fabrice Humura

The writer is a Pharmacy student at the University of Rwanda in the College of Medicine and Health sciences

Twitter @fhumura