You are here

The Art of Being Healthy

Nope, not for smoking! (Met Museum Collection)

I spent part of the weekend strolling through the endless rooms and halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (a favorite thing to do on cold, rainy, gray winter days -- which it was) and happened upon a collection of antique medicine bottles, droppers and spoons, some of which were dated back to the 3rd century, from the Middle East.

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down... (Met Museum Collection)

Some were glass, others clay, even various metals, but all were intricately etched and designed, so much so that they equal parts works of art and functional medicine dispensers. The spoons were immense—exactly how much of this stuff were they taking?!—and very ornate. Most were owned by the wealthiest people in the town, as they were the only ones who could afford medical treatment when they fell ill. The poorer peasants were left to fend for themselves (surely they would have been a fan of Obama's healthcare reforms...). Got me thinking about our orange-colored plastic safety cap bottles that we get every time we pick up a prescription at the local pharmacy. Bland, generic, uninspiring. I mean, I get it. Handblown Venetian glass every time you stop in to CVS for a refill can get...expensive. It just struck me, as I examined these precious little hand-carved wonders, how much care and thought went into creating a medical product. And maybe with that, a kind of reverence for the pills and potions themselves, and their powers to heal.