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Crude medicine

Crude medicine (simplified Chinese: 药材; traditional Chinese: 藥材; pinyin: yàocái), also known as crude drug, in Chinese materia medica, is bulk drugs of Chinese materia medica with basic processing and treatment.

Crude Drug (Overview)

  Crude Drug[1] is any naturally occurring unrefined substance derived from organic or inorganic sources such as plant, animal, bacteria, organs or whole organisms intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals.

A crude drug or crude drugs[2] are unrefined medications in their raw or natural forms. Prior to the 1950’s every pharmacy student learned about crude drugs in pharmacognosy class. Pharmacognosy is the study of the proper horticulture, harvesting and uses of the raw medications found in nature.

Raising, harvesting and selling of crude drugs were the ways many of the giant pharmaceutical companies started out. Companies like Eli Lilly [3]sold crude drugs to pharmacists to save them time and money… but the early pharmacy graduate would know how to raise their own crude drugs if need be.

History of Crude Drugs

In times past, of the hunter-gatherer community kept knowledge about the medicinal properties of various plants, molds, fungi, yeasts, bacteria, minerals and animals. (The aforementioned are considered crude drugs.) This drug knowledge would include vast amounts of information like what time of the year to look for specimens, where to look, and what part of the plant to use or how to grind a mineral.

 As cultures developed specialization, a person would take on the combined role of physician, pharmacist and priest or minister. These specialized people, called shaman or medicine men, would be in charge of the community’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The shaman would use various items from nature to produce a mixture that would be burned, applied, manipulated or ingested in some fashion to cure the ailing patient.

Eventually, the use of crude drugs reach a zenith in the early 1900’s and eventually gave way to the use of purified active ingredients from the natural source. Currently the use and exploration of crude drugs has again gained prominence in the medical community. The realization that many completely unknown substances are yet to be discovered from crude drugs has created a new interest in pharmacognosy and has led to many medical breakthroughs.

In 1907 the Pure Food and Drug Act was implemented and standardizing of the crude drugs took place. Often the USP would specify what percentage of active ingredient was needed to claim a crude drug met USP standards. An example of standardization would be as follows from the United States Pharmacopeia[4]:

Opium is the air-dried milky exudate obtained by incising the unripe capsules of Papaver somniferum Linne or its variety album De Candolle (Fam. Papaveraceae). Opium in its normal air-dried condition yields not less than 9.5 percent of anhydrous morphine.


  1. ^ Soderlund Pharmacy Museum; Soderlund Pharmacy Museum
  2. ^ United States Dispensatory 1907
  3. ^ Eli Lilly Artifact 1916
  4. ^ 2007 USP
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Crude_medicine". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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