Why is the pharmacy symbol a green cross with a snake inside?

If I told you “pharmacy” probably many of you would first think of the shaped sign green cross with inside a snake…but where does this symbol come from? Let’s look at it briefly.

Why is the pharmacy sign in the shape of a green cross?

The origin from the pharmacy cross it seems to be linked toMilitary and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem In the 14th century: his knights as they looked on sick people And pilgrims they were actually wearing one cross green on white background.

flag of the order of san lazzaro

From that moment on this symbol began to become popular throughout Europe, enough to still be used Today. In reality, alongside the historical motivation, it is also right to point out how the colour green remember the hope, healing and the nature, giving those who look at it positive emotions.

We also remind you that pharmacies are required by law to display a green cross outside of the business (art. 5 of Legislative Decree 153/2009 And art. 25 of the pharmacist’s code of ethics) so as to be recognizable to the public – which is why no other type of business can exhibit it. At the same time, some pharmacies with older signs can report again red and white crosses.
And the blue crosses Instead? In this case they are those reserved for parapharmacies, who unlike their “big sisters” cannot sell drugs that require doctor’s prescription.

pharmacy blue cross

Why is there a snake in the pharmacy symbol?

We close with the explanation of snakean element that in reality is not always present in pharmacy signs.
The choice of this animal should not surprise us: the same word “pharmacy” comes from Greek “pharmakon“, which means both medicinal That snake venom! In fact, this substance, in small doses, was used in the past as a medicine and was precisely the task of the pharmacist give it to the patient in the correct dosage to avoid problems. This ambiguity in language is still maintained today in the English language for example, where “drug” is used to indicate both drugs and drugs.

Returning to the snakes in the insignia, however, we must also say that they are often wrapped around something. In the first case we have a couple of snakes around a winged stick which, according to tradition, belonged to the Roman divinity Hermes and which takes the name of caduceus. According to a rather widespread interpretation, the two snakes represent the therapeutic dose of a given substance and the toxic dose. This symbol should not be confused with the Staff of Asclepius: the latter is the symbol of medicine (in general) and is usually a simple wooden rod with a single snake around it.

pharmacy sticks snakes

Alternatively the snake it can also be wrapped around one cup. Again according to tradition, this would have belonged to Hygieia, daughter of Asclepius and Greek goddess of health.