As the pharmaceutical industry develops new medicines, we often forget that new drugs would be hard to create without the old.
Online pharmacy and trusted NHS healthcare provider, Chemist4u explores the world’s most popular medicines, focusing on their evolution across centuries. You can take a look at the entire World’s Oldest Medicines here.
Some of the key points revealed in the research include:
Cannabis sativa was one of the oldest medicines, dating back to 2,700 BCE.
Mandragora officinarum, discovered in the 3rd millennium BCE, is used to treat pesticide poisonings, morning sickness and postoperative nausea.
Paracetamol has been around for nearly 150 years.
The oldest medicines to date
Year of discovery
Name of drug
3rd millennium BCE
1s millennium BCE
1st millennium BC
6-11th century CE
11th century CE
16th century CE
Erythroxylon coca (containing cocaine)
James O’Loan, pharmacist and CEO at Chemist4U, comments: ‘It’s no surprise that medicines have been around for an extended period, but to go back to the 1st millennium or even BCE is a fantastic story in itself. Some of the most popular medicines used every day worldwide are hundreds of years old, yet I feel as though they were founded this side of the 20th century.’
‘The world of medicine continues to amaze the public with how it’s able to treat a wide range of conditions and illnesses, but should we be more amazed at their longevity? We’re still here using the same medicines to treat the same problems all these years later.’