chapter  10
14 Pages

From Mithridatium to Potio Sancti Pauli: The Idea of a Medicine from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Drugs can be considered a certain incarnation of the illness itself: the drug may become equal, in a metaphoric sense, to the illness against which it is prescribed, and instead of naming the infirmity we can use the name of the remedy. For example, we can say ‘Aspirin’ or ‘antibiotic’ and it is clear we are talking of fever or inflammation; or we can say ‘Prozac’, ‘Viagra’ and so on. The proverbial use of hellebore was well known for naming madness in ancient times: one could be declared as mad, or that they needed hellebore – the message was the same.1