Slate just reported on this amazing map of ‘Herbal Cures’ from 1932 of the medicinal plants in common use among pharmacists and the public back then. The map itself states under the heading ‘The Service of Pharmacy’:
“It is important that the public does not lose sight of the fact that the professions of Pharmacy, Medicine, and Dentistry, each give an essential service, which must not be impaired or destroyed by commercial trends. The public and the professions whill suffer equally if these services are allowed to deteriorate. In pharmacy the public should understand something of the breadth of knowledge required of the pharmacist. Few people realize the extent to which plants and minerals enter into the practice of pharmacy, and how vital they are to the maintenance of the public health. It has been stated that upwards of 70 percent of all medicines employed are plant products.”
Flash forward 80 years and we have a medical system which relies almost entirely on patented chemicals and/or biologicals that are far removed from anything resembling the ‘back yard farmacy’ of yesteryear. The FDA’s very definition of a drug now precludes the use of natural substances, and drug-based medicine has become a form of human sacrifice, on a scale that may exceed previous civilizations sacrifice of their population for ostensibly religious reasons. This map should be shared far and wide and hopefully will shed light on the massive, emergent database of natural substances (there are about 1700 indexed on our website alone) that can be used to treat a staggeringly wide range of health conditions (over 3,000 indexed on our site alone).
Note: Amazingly, you will find the much demonized Cannabis Sativa listed as a medicinal plant used on the Druggist’s map! Consider that in modern times this plant alone has been used to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of citizens simply for possessing, using and/or trading it as a commodity!
This map of medicinal plants depicts one or two important species that grew in each state in 1932, identifying the plant as native or cultivated and describing its medical uses. A few species of seaweeds float in the map’s Atlantic Ocean, and the border identifies important medicinal plants from around the world.
The map, printed by the National Wholesale Druggists’ Association for use of pharmacists during a promotional campaign called Pharmacy Week, was intended to boost the image of the profession. At a time when companies were increasingly compounding new pharmaceuticals in labs, pharmacists wanted to emphasize their ability to understand and manipulate the familiar medicinal plants that yielded reliable “vegetable drugs.” “Intense scientific study, expert knowledge, extreme care and accuracy are applied by the pharmacist to medicinal plants and drugs,” the box of text in the map’s lower left-hand corner reads, “from the point of origin through the intricate chemical, botanical, and pharmaceutical processes employed in preparing medicine.”
As historians Arthur Daemmrich and Mary Ellen Bowden write, the early 1930s were a turning point in the pharmaceutical industry. In the previous decades, chemists working for large companies had begun to systematically invent new medicines for the first time, developing synthesized aspirin and vaccines for diseases like tetanus and diphtheria. The 1938 Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act would bring a heightened level of federal regulation to the production of new medicines. And in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, researchers would go on to invent a flood of new antibiotics, psychotropics, antihistamines, and vaccines, increasingly relying on synthetic chemistry to do so. The pharmacist’s direct relationship to the preparation of medicine would diminish accordingly.
Click on the image below to reach a zoomable version, or visit the map’s page on the David Rumsey Map Collection website.