The apothecary was a source of many, many substances used either alone or in combination. Typical medical materials were herbs familiar to the modern seeker of comfort, such as chamomile, garlic, mint, or witch hazel. Less familiar as medicinal sources were dung, urine, animal fats, and even saliva. All these might be used in the production of materia medica, medicine.
Apothecary shops existed thousands of years before Chaucer, who wrote in The Canterbury Tales:Though in this toun is noon apothecarie,
I shal myself to herbes techen yow,
That shul been for youre hele and for youre prow.
[Though in this town there is no apothecary,
I myself shall teach you herbs
That shall be for your health and for your pride.]
Apothecaries became more and more respected over time, and finally gained their own livery company, the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, in 1617. That was not their first time in a guild, however: in 1617, they broke away from their original guild, the 12th century Guild of Pepperers. I'll tell you about them tomorrow.