The present volume Hamdard Pharmacopoeia of Eastern Medicine includes a preface. Survey of Drugs
(List of Medicinal Plants Used in Eastern Medicine), Pharmacopoeia as standardized by Hamdard,
Pharmaccutical Codex of Eastern Medicine. The volume is profusely illustrated.
To rescue man from the clutches of disease is a duty, sacred and obligatory, from time immemorial.
To achieve this there are several systems of medicine practised in the world, every system with
its own basis, philosophy and therapeutics, but with one common object – alleviation of disease.
These systems, basically differing from each other, cannot be discounted as obsolete. They are as
scientific as modern medicine it one to find out and work on them without prejudice.
The Eastern system of medicine practised in Pakistan comprises of three systems – Chinese,
Ayurvedic and Greco – Arabic, having its roots in drugs of vegetable, animal and mineral origin.
Public interest for some special reasons is at present focused on indigenous herbs and their
research. Men of science and medicine are investigating the natural kingdoms for cures of
diseases, and we are encouraged to believe from the results obtained so far, that they will be
It was this revival of interest in natural cures that encouraged us to conduct a survey to examine
their therapeutic uses and describe the nature of research carried out in this sub-continent for
the information of those engaged in research and particularly for those who wish to make this
system of medicine the subject of their research activity. The book is divided into four parts,
the first comprising a survey of drugs and list of medicinal plants used in Eastern medicine, the
second being a pharmacopoeia as standardized by Hamdard, the third being a pharmaceutical code of
Eastern medicine and the fourth, selected papers indicating the extent nad scope of drug research.
The knowledge of drugs goes back to prehistoric times. Man as savage must have known by experience
how to relieve his sufferings by the use of herbs growing about him. Records of ancient
civilizations show that a considerable number of drugs used by modern medicine were already in use
in ancient times. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and people of the sub –
continent of India and Pakistan, all developed their respective characteristic material medica.
Modern medicine traces its origin to the its enrichment with Chinese and Indian medicine, it was
taken over by modern Europe. The Muslim rulers introduced it into India and incorporated with it
the native Ayurvedic medicine; this mixture is now known as Unani medicine or broadly
speaking Eastern medicine. A brief account of the progress in the knowledge of drags is given
Egyptian Materia Medica
The famous Ebers Papyrus believed to be written about 1,500 B.C. contains a collection of
prescriptions and formulae covering a wide range of uses. The following drugs mentioned in it have
Oil, wine, beer, yeast, vinegar, turpentine, figs, castor oil, myrrh, mastic, frnakinscense,
wormwood, aloes, opium, cumin, peppermint, anise, fennel, saffron, lotus flowers, linseed, juniper
berries, henbane, mandragora, poppy, gentian, colchicum, squill, cedar, elder berries, honey,
grapes, onion, garlic, acacia and date blossoms.
Among the mineral and metallic substances used by the Egyptians were: iron, lead, bitumen,
manganese, nitre, vermillion, copper sulphate, while lead, crude sodium carbonate, and salt.
Precious stones were employed in a finely divided condition.
Assyrian and Babylonian Pharmacy
In the library of Sardana-palus or Ashurbanipal which dates from 650 B.C. have been found clay
tablets belonging to Assyrians and Babylonians, relating to medical and pharmaceutical subjects.
Their list of drugs resembles the lists of the Egyptians. Two hundred and fifty herbs and 120
stones or minerals among which are cassia, cinnamon, costus, orris root, anise, jasmine, oleander,
allamander, cathartica, mint, hendane, liquorice, alcohol, fats, oils, wax, turpentine, bitumen,
alum, beer, are mentioned.
There is a pharmacopoeia – like compilation in Chinese called Pen Tsao or the Great Herbal
consisting of 40 volumes containing several thousand prescriptions. The origin is attributed to
the mythical god of medicine believed to have flourished about 2735 B.C. The Chinese were the
earliest to employ goose greases, the adeps anserinus of later pharmacopoeiae, as a preferable fat
for inunction. Modern scientific research applied to various fats is determine their penetrating
powers, place goose grease at the top of the list. The Chinese employed as medicine iodine as
seaweed, rhubarb, aconites, cannabis, iron, sulfur, mercury, alum, musk, camphor, ephedrine –
containing substances, toad’s eyelids, earthworms, etc. In the Herbal, 265 drugs are mentioned, of
which 240 are vegetable substances.
The sources of Indian medicine are derived from Rig – Veda believed to have been compiled between
4500-1600 B.C. and Ayurveda 2500-600 B.C. Charaka and Subshruta are considered highest
authorities. Charaka gives fifty (50) groups of herbs each, which he thinks are enough for the
purpose of an ordinary physician, and Sushruta has arranged 760 herbs in 37 sets.
The origin of Greek, medicine is traced to Aesculapius who was probably a historical personage
subsequently deified following the example of Egyptians and other ancient people. The history of
medicine and pharmacy begins from Hippocrates, Father of Medicine, born on the island of Cos, 460
B.C. and said to be a descendant of Aesculapius. In his writings nearly 400 simples are named as
medicinal substances. Theophrastus (370-287 B.C.) who received as a legacy the herb garden of
Aristotle, wrote “On the History of Plants” in which he mentions 500 drugs, and another book “On
the Classes of Plants”. The most significant pharmacologic treatise of the Greeks was, however,
the authoritative text of Dioscorides who flourished about 60 A.D. He is said to have become a
surgeon in Nero’s army so that he would be able to study the flora and fauna of different
countries. In the course of his army career, he traveled in Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Spain and
France, and collected a vast number of botanical, mineralogical, and biological specimens.
Whenever circumstances permitted, Dioscorides questioned the natives concerning the medicinal
virtues and used of the specimens he had gathered, His famous treatise on material medica was
first published in Greek at Venice in 1499 and was the pharmacologic vade mecum for approximately
1,600 years. It was arranged upon an alphabetic basis. Among drugs mentioned by him are: acacia,
aconite, brine, aloes, ammoniacal substances, old boiled oil, starch, dill, anise, bitter almond,
urine, juniper, rose –oil, arsenic, soot, licorice, wine, bitumen, balsam, wormwood, lichens,
gentian, pennyroyal, elaterium, hemlock, mint, vinegar, fish glue, bitumen, balsam, wormwood,
lichens, gentian, pennyroyal, elaterium, hemlock, mint, vinegar, fish glue, cardamom, cumin,
buckthorn, an alcoholic extract of root of mandrake as a soporific in surgery, also poppy as a
soporific, lead, calamine, and a number of metallic oxides, sulphates and sulphides. This book
was translated into Arabic and some European languages and is often quoted in the works of Arab
Pliny the elder (c.A.D. 23-79) wrote his “Natural History” in 37 books, of which books 20-27 treat
of medical botany or the medicines derived from plants, and books 28-32 deal with material medica
other than botanica, i.e. medicines derived from the bodies of man and other land animals. He was
contemporaneous with Dioscorides.
Galan was born at Pergamum in A.D. 130 and is supposed to have died in Sicily. He is said to have
kept a pharmacy for time in Rome and he originated so many preparations of vegetable drugs that
such preparations are called “galenicals”. He said to have maintained: “It is the business of
pharmacology to combine drugs in such a manner – according to their elementary qualities of heat,
cold, moisture, and dryness – as shall render them effective in combating or overcoming the
conditions which exist in different diseases” – (A. Buck, “Growth of Medicine” New Haven, Yale
University Press 1917, p. 317.)
Galen is credited with same 30 books on pharmacology. One of these, in which the items were
discussed in alphabetical order, enjoyed great popularity in Latin translation under the title “De
simplicibus”. His works were translated into Arabic. He became physician to Commodus. When he
traveled he devoted a great deal of his time to the collection drugs so that he would be sure to
have the choicest types at his disposal. In the written as well as spoken word he always stressed
the importance of pure drugs and the careful handing of them. He advised his readers: “In order to
know drugs, inspect them not once or twice but frequently, for though twins look alike to
strangers, they are easily distinguished by friends”.
After the time of Galen, medicine declined in Rome, the texts of the earlier Greek physicians were
forsaken, and the works of Galen gradually assumed the position of greatest authority in medicine.
Greek medicine found its votaries among Arabs who caused as much literature as could be found to
be translated into Arabic. Among the famous names are those of:
Rhazes (Abu Bakr Mohammad bin Zakaria Razi), died 932 A.D., credited with having written nearly
250 works some of which were upon pharmaceutical subjects. Garrison, in his History of Medicine,
classes Rhazes with Hippocrates in his influence upon medicine. Among his contemporaries he was
known as Galen of his time. His most famous work is “Alhavi Kabeer” or Continens of Rhazes.
Avicenna (Sheikh Bu Ali Sina) known among Unani physicians simply as “Sheikh” (980-1037 A.D.) was
the world renowned author of the “Canon of Avicenna was by far the most popular textbook in
medicine in Europe, and it was most frequently quoted by later writers. Indeed, Avicenna’s works
were considered authoritative and used by the Universities of Europe till as late as 1650. It is
his likeness that adorns the diploma of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. He is the
first authority to describe one of the parasitic infestations of the body (the guinea worm), and
also the first to note the sweet taste of he urine of parasitic infestations of the body (the
guinea worm), and also the first to note the sweet taste of the urine of diabetics. He introduced
the gilding and silvering of pills. The second volume of Canon describes 719 drugs.
Al- Idrisi known as “Sharif” (1100-1166) was born in Sevta and educated in Spain. He was one of
the persons renowned for the collection of herbs. Along with him was associated the name of
Rashiduddin Suri who toured the hills and forests of his country, Syria, in search of medicinal
plants. The reference to his work is found in the famous book “Al-Aqaqir” in which the author (Ibn
al-Baitar) has described 1,400 drugs and has given the references of more than 150 Arab and Syrian
physicians which had been concerned with the collection of the information about these drugs. Out
of these 150 physicians, the name of Al – Idrish has been referred to as “Sharif” more than 200
times according to which he was an authority on the drugs of animal and plant origin of North
Africa. Previously the exact period in which he wrote the Materia Medica was not known. It is only
recently that Professor Helmut Ritter (while searching the manuscript on this topic in mosques and
libraries of Constantinople) has announced the presence of the book “Al-Aqaqir”. Which is like the
lost book of Al-Idrisi. Further Dr. Max Meyerhof has published his paper where he has confirmed
that this book is the same book by Al-Idrisi which was previously deemed lost. The manuscript of
“Al-Aqaqir” is kept in the library of History of Medicine, Istambul, on which no date is written.
Great contributions have been made by the Arab physicians on the medicinal properties of plants.
Though their publications are based on the Materia Medica of Dioscorides and Galen, their
“Qarabadins”, have added a lot of new materials. For example, there is abundance of references of
the book like “Almalikki” of Ali Ibn Abbas. Few years back Peter Paul Sbath, a Syrian priest and
Arabic scholar has published an article in Arabic on “Qarabodin”, the book written by Al-Dasturul
Bimarastani, a popular physician who was practicing medicine in A.D. 1161-1240 at Cairo.
Ibn al-Baitar (Ziauddeen Abu Mohammed Abdullah ibn-i-Ahmad-al-Maliki, 1197-1241 A.D.) was chief
botanist in the court of Egypt. He traveled through North Africa, Spain Greece and Italy, Syria
and Asia Minor, visited the botanists of every country and the herbs in their native growth and
investigated their properties experimentally. He wrote a monumental work, “Jame-ul-Mufradat”, in
which he collected the remarks of Dioscorides, Galen, Rhazes, Avicenna and others on drugs. It
deals with 2000 drugs of which 1,700 are herbs. An Egyptian edition of the book is available.
Parts of the work were printed at various times in Latin under the name of “Simplica”. A French
translation by Leclerc is also available as “Notices et extraits des manuscript de la
Bibiliotheque Nationale” Vol: 23, P. 1, vol, 25, pt, 1. Paris, 1817, 1822 Another book written by
him on material medica is known as
Kitabul Mughni fi-al-Adwiya-al-Mufarrada.
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