The word ‘apothecary’ is derived from apotheca, meaning a place where wine, spices and herbs were stored.1
In medieval Europe individuals who sold these wines, spices, and herbs would prepare medicines and sell them to physicians and those who were ill. They would even give medical advice.
Apothecaries originally started out in the grocery business and later created guilds. A guild is a group of people with similar interests and skills who would make and sell products together. Sometimes they would join up with doctors but their main job was to supply remedies to the doctors.
By the mid-sixteenth century apothecaries had become the equivalent of today’s community pharmacists, dealing mainly with the preparation and sale of substances for medicinal purposes.2
Apothecaries were very common back then but began to decline in the 1800’s and early 1900’s as chemist’s shops began to replace them. The chemist’s shops were then replaced by drug companies who produce medicine in laboratories.
Herbalist: a person who grows, sells, or uses herbs to treat illness3
I’ve noticed that “apothecary” is not a commonly used word anymore. Modern-day apothecaries are often called “herbalists” now.
[Herbalists] include native healers, scientists, naturopaths, holistic medical doctors, researchers, writers, herbal pharmacists, medicine makers, wild crafters, harvesters and herbal farmers…4
Those who use plants for therapy, including aromatherapists, acupuncturists, midwives and more, can also be considered herbalists if they wish.
Herbalism and Apothecary are often associated with witchcraft and other supernatural means. Though both may use some of the same herbs to creating medicine or performing rituals, both are completely different. Herbalism is based on science and research and does not involve any supernatural rituals to treat illnesses, though the two crafts may be combined for the same objective.
There are different types of herbal practices over the centuries. There’s Traditional Western Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Traditional Ayurvedic Medicine. You can learn more about them here.
Herbalism is constantly changing. The use of plants for treating illnesses has been around since the dawn of man. It’s starting to make a comeback but can be hard to practice due to government regulations. However, herbalism should not be a complete replacement for medical care. It is very important to consult with medical professionals before starting something new.