January 20, 1923


Author Affiliations


JAMA. 1923;80(3):151-158. doi:10.1001/jama.1923.02640300001001

The origin of the belief of mankind in the efficacy of drugs in the treatment of disease is a most interesting subject for speculation. The use of drugs antedates written accounts. Certainly the most primitive people on the earth today employ drugs as curative agents, and the earliest written records tell of the uses of drugs and poisons. We know that at certain periods disease was looked on as evidence of displeasure of the supreme being or beings, and that it was in the nature of a punishment visited upon man.

The view has been expressed that, since many of the materials used as remedies are disagreeable, either in odor, taste, texture or their origin, the taking of the medicine was of the nature of a sacrifice to appease the gods. The fact that not all of the materials used by primitive people are abhorrent is opposed to this view.

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