Pharmacology is the science that deals with the action of medicines and other chemicals on animals and man. It is different from pharmacy, which is the preparing and mixing of medicines of known action.
Pharmacology is a young science. It recently has become important not only to doctors and druggists but also to research biologists studying newly-produced chemicals.
Many nineteenth century biochemists helped build this science of drug action. Two of the most prominent contributors were Francis Magendie and Otto Schmiederberg.
In ancient times and until the 19th century, knowledge of how DRUGS cure disease was unreliable. The sciences of biology and chemistry were still undeveloped. Superstition and magic influenced early alchemists and herb collectors. They wrote thick-"books of medicines" called pharmacopoeias, and these books recommended many drugs that were either worthless or harmful, when examined by the standards of modern pharmacology. For example, powdered dandelion root was listed in pharmacopoeia books, and was claimed "to cure colds, kidney stones, and deep fevers."
On the other hand such medicinal plants as the medieval herb-extract of foxglove plants, called DIGITALIS, has been shown to contain the curative chemical digitalin; and this purified drug is now prescribed for certain, heart ailments. A similar backing up of the use of an old herb discovery of the South American Indians—the bark of the cinchona tree containing quinine—has led to the modern use of purified quinine to treat malaria. Quinine has been further studied by pharmacologists, and a successful man-made drug, atabrine, has been created which is even better that quinine for treating malaria.