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July 10, 1915


JAMA. 1915;LXV(2):170-171. doi:10.1001/jama.1915.02580020036016

One of the stock figures of ancient and primitive medicine is the herb gatherer, the ρ̀ιζοτόμος (rhizotomus) of the Greeks and Romans, who made his living by wandering about through forest and meadow, collecting medicinal roots and herbs and selling them. The herbal medicine of primitive man was, in fact, the origin of our therapeutics, and was frequently delegated to the so-called "wise women." These beldames, as the old dramatists show, would sometimes enlarge the sphere of their activities to embrace the triple functions of fortune teller, procuress and abortionist. The word "drug" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon verb drigan, to dry, referring to the dried collections of simples which were for a long time a medical commodity. The herbalists and drug sellers were naturally concerned to monopolize their business, and in order to frighten away the ignorant from collecting such plants for themselves, they encouraged and even invented superstitions

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