Pharmacy Symbols and Their Meanings

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The mortar and pestle has long been used as a pharmaceutical symbol. Pharmacists would use the mortar and pestle to crush and mix ingredients to cure diseases. The mortar and pestle are tools of traditional pharmacy, an easily recognizable visual motif.

Rx is a symbol meaning “prescription”. According to most sources, it’s an abbreviation of the Latin word “recipere” and appears at the start of prescriptions. Literally, the word recipe means simply “Take…” as prescribed and compounded by the apothecary.

The bowl with a snake coiled around it is called the ‘Bowl of Hygieia’ with the serpent of Epidaurus and is the internationally recognized symbol of pharmacy (the profession). Hygieia was the daughter of Aesculapius, one of the Greek gods of medicine, and was herself the Greek Goddess of Good Health. Her symbol was a serpent drinking from a bowl, the snake being wisdom, immortality and healing.