When you fall ill, you take some tablets, pills, injections or apply some ointments to get well. All these are collectively known as medicines. Some time you may use some parts of plants or some preparations made from herbs, minerals, animals, etc. All these substances used for the treatment or prevention of diseases, can also be called medicines.

Medicines contain a single chemical or a number of chemicals in different amounts to have the desired effect.

Early man used several plants or parts of plants to cure diseases, without knowing of the chemical components responsible for it. For example, bark of willow tree was used for relieving pain (as analgesic). Later, it was found that its bark contained 2-hydroxy benzoic acid, which is closely related to acetyl salicylic acid (also known as aspirin). Parts of a plant Rauwolfia serpentina (Hindi name, sarpagandha) have been used in Ayurvedic drugs for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure). Later on it was discovered that a compound called reserpine was responsible for reducing blood pressure. Thus, reserpine became the first modern medicine to control blood pressure.

Classification of Medicines

The number of medicines is very large therefore medicines are classified according to their action or use.

  • Antipyretics reduce body temperature
  • Analgesics Reduce pain
  • Antimalarials Used for treatment of malaria
  • Germicides Kill germs
  • Antiseptics Kill germs (can be safely used on living tissue)
  • Disinfectant Kill germs (cannot be used on living tissue)
  • Antacids Reduce acidity in stomach
  • Anaesthetics Loss of sensation
  • Antimicrobials, Sulpha drugs and Antibiotics Kill microorganisms
  • Tranquilizers and hypnotics Reduce anxiety and bring calmness
  • Birth Control Medicines are used for Birth control