Research background: the following information has
been compiled from British Pharmacopoeias in the Wellcome Library
The Medical Act of 1858 gave rise to the formation of
the General Medical Council in Great Britain and of the production of the first
British Pharmacopoeia in 1864. This single pharmacopoeia replaced those of
London, Dublin and Edinburgh.
The 1864 first Edition had many imperfections and half of the 28,000 copies were destroyed. However, it was the prototype. From then onwards the General Medical Council published a volume containing a list of medicines and compounds and the manner of preparing them called ‘The British Pharmacopoeia’. This was altered and amended at intervals. Over a period of 126 years, 15 editions of the British Pharmacopoeia were published and the last pharmacopoeia in this form was published in 1993. In the intervening years since 1864, some plant species were added to the original list but overall there has been a systematic deletion of herbs and formulations and replacement by synthetic molecules. (Around 40 plant species were added at various times but it wasn’t the remit of this research to investigate them).
By investigating BP 1864, I have compiled a list of all plant species used as herbs or formulations of herbs as shown in Table I. The number of entries is around 450 which includes 140 plant species and 310 main formulations of them. This represents 60% of all entries. These 140 plant species are from around the world and from this list I have extracted those plants that are native British i.e. have been used traditionally by herbalists and healers since ancient times (Table II).
The main formulations of plants from Table I are shown
III. This shows a marked similarity to classical
formulations still used by herbalists. The main non-plant entries include
inorganic salts, acid and ammonium preparations, solutions, mineral
preparations, liquors and unguents.
It is this species list in Table I that I used as the starting point to research the deletion of plant species and formulations from the British Pharmacopoeia. I surveyed the plant deletions listed in each subsequent pharmacopoeia as shown in Table IV (species names chronological) and Table V (species name alphabetical). The number of deletions in each subsequent BP can be seen in Table VI. Lastly, Table VII shows the remaining plant formulations in BP 1993 – 51 species entries (31 of which are common to the 1864 list).