Thank the Greeks

The Father of Modern Medicine, Hippocrates, was Greek. So is it that surprising that some of the most commonly used and familiar symbols in the healthcare field are also Greek? In this week’s newsletter, we’ll take a look at these popular symbols and why we use them. You’ll find that they all have one legless, reptilian friend in common! In the past, this animal symbolized good things, which is a drastic change from how we view it today.

asclepius, caduceus and bowl of hygieia necklace

Rod of Asclepius

Asclepius was the god of health and healing back in ancient Greece. His rod, the Rod of Asclepius (surprise, surprise), is a stick with a snake entwined around it. Why the snake? Perhaps it was the way a snake shed its old skin and crawls out brand new and “healed” on the other end. Why the rod? Some think this represented the walking stick that many physicians used as they traveled from patient to patient.
Another theory as to the inspiration for this symbol was the guinea worm. These parasitic worms must be wound around a stick, slowly, day by day, before they can be fully removed from the body. And finally, there are Biblical ties to snakes wound around a rod and healing powers from God. Whatever story you prefer about the Rod of Asclepius, it’s important to remember that this symbol only has one snake, never two.

Bowl of Hygieia

Hygieia was the goddess of health and hygiene. And yes, the goddess’ name is where that word comes from! She is the daughter of Asclepius, the god of health and healing. It’s no wonder that the Bowl of Hygieia, a mortar with a snake entwined around it, is an almost universal symbol for “pharmacy”. You’ll see this symbol in many countries, but in the United States, the snake is taken out and replaced with a pestle instead.


There’s something about the snakes that confuses people, because poor Caduceus’ staff is often confused for the Rod of Asclepius. This staff with two snakes on it belonged to Hermes, the god of heralds. This is why there are two wings at the top of the caduceus that match the wings on the heels of Hermes. In actuality, it would be more appropriate for businesses, especially those with a lot of traveling sales people, to use the Caduceus as their symbol.

Get a Bowl and Rod

Because symbols are so powerful, we created all three of these symbols that are associated with the healthcare field and science. Sure, Caduceus may only be here because people were confused, but that doesn’t make that symbol any less powerful. Head over to our online store to check out the Rod of Asclepius necklace, the Bowl of Hygieia necklace, and the Caduceus necklace. Purchase these for yourself or for a friend. They also make great gifts for healthcare professionals, confused healthcare professionals, pharmacists, and marketing specialists.

written by Science with Evie


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