This is a question I often ponder to myself. Why don’t pharmaceutic preparations use herbs anymore?

Is it that they have forgotten about their efficacy?

Is it that they find the cost too prohibitive?

Is it because they believe that their compounded chemical preparations are superior to the herbal form of compounding?

Is it because they don’t want us to be reminded of our pharmaceutical history?

Most medicinal discoveries were made inside Apothecary walls. Compounding and extraction was done by experienced Apothecaries and it was only in the 19th centuary that Apothecary’s separated frmm those practicing the more extreme version of medicine and the influence of pharmaceutical industries took rise to replace the herbal preparations with the ‘superior forms’ of chemical compounds. This was as close as 100 years ago!

A week ago I had a coughing client, with a dry irritating cough that was impenetrating the silence of the workshop as I was making her herbal preparations. She had not come to me for her cough, and it only started up as she was about to leave. “Would you like some Liquoricen for the cough?” I asked her. I started to pour a dollop of Liquorice into a cup and proceeded to give her the preparation as she tried to suppress the next chest spasm, she took the cup of Liquorice tincture and breathed a sigh of relief. The ability to breath without sending a reflex to the chest was obvious straight away as the Liquorice soothed and coated the mucous membranes of the throat and oesophagus and then the effects shot towards the lungs, soothing the reflex that caused the spasm. Needless to say she then bought a bottle of Liquorice for her ‘workmates’ so they didn’t have to listen to her coughing all day!

I found an old Pharmaceutical text from the year 1898sams web photos 151 sams web photos 152in which Liquorice extract featured highly in the Galenical formulations. In fact most of the preparations are a mixture of chemical and herbal remedies. Here is an example:

Potass. nitrate     3ij.   {potassium nitrate}

Aq rosae              3vj.   {rose water}

Chlorodyni           3ij.   {preparation of chloroform and morphine}

Ext. glycrrh. liq.   3iv.    {extract of liquorice root}

Liq. papav. alb.    3iv.   {liquor of papaverine from poppy}

Oxymel. scillae    3xl.   {vinegar and honey infusion of scillae}

It seems that the pharmaceutical industry has indeed forgotten its {Liquorice} roots.

Simone Reddington is the founder of the Apothecary, a Medical Herbalist and thinker. She holds a degree in Psychology and is a professional member of the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists.