December 9, 2018

Written By: Momina Ishtiaq (University College of Pharmacy, Punjab University)

When a student enters the pharmacy school or gets indulged in the field of pharmacy, he or she encounters Bowl of Hygeia as a symbol of the Pharmacy profession. It is said that a pharmacist has the power to participate in the creation of many medicines of finished form of drugs with the help of Bowl of Hygeia! It is an internationally recognized symbol. A pharmacy student must know the history and its importance.

Use as Symbol in History:

  • The Bowl of Hygeia has been used as a symbol of the pharmaceutical profession for over 200 years, at least since 1796 when it was used on a coin minted for the Parisian society of pharmacy.
  • It was later been adopted by a number of national pharmacy associations, including those of the US, Canada, Australia and Pakistan, as well as the International Pharmaceutical Federation.
  • The classic symbol of Hygeia is a bowl containing medicinal potion with the serpent of wisdom guarding it.
  • The pharmacy scales are a more recent symbol of pharmacy and healing.
  • The bowl of Hygeia, the Serpent of wisdom and the pharmacy scales combine to provide a symbol that depicts a balanced and unwavering understanding of healing through medications.


Meaning of the Symbol:-

  • Hygeia was the Greek goodness of Health hygiene, and the associate, wife or daughter of Asclepius.
  • Asclepius’ symbol is his rod, with snake twined around it; correspondingly, Hygeia’s symbol is a cup or chalice with a snake twined around its stem and poised above it.
  • Statues of Hygeia were created, but there is no clear description of what they looked like. She was often depicted as a young woman feeding a large snake that was wrapped around her body, or drinking from a bowl, that she carried.
  • Zeus killed Asclepius because he feared that he might use the healing power to render all men immortal.
  • After the death of Asclepius, harmless serpents or snakes were found inside temples built in his honor. These serpents appeared dead, but when picked up and they dropped and slithered away.
  • People believed that the serpents were brought back to life by the healing powers of Asclepius and they became a symbol of healing.
  • Hygeia tended to the temples containing these snakes and so is depicted with a serpent around her arm and a bowl of medicinal potion in her hand.
  • The bowl and serpent have become separated from Hygeia and have become an internationally recognized symbol of pharmacy.
  • The Bowl of Hygeia Award in the US is considered one of the profession’s most prestigious prizes.

Importance of Bowl of Hygeia:-

  • The Bowl of Hygeia symbolizes the healing art, fertility and life.
  • The Bowl of Hygeia Award is an award given by state, provincial, and national pharmacist associations in the United States and Canada to recognize living pharmacists who “possess outstanding records of civic leadership in their communities,” while “encouraging pharmacists to take active roles in their communities”. The award was established in 1958 and was first presented by the Iowa Pharmaceutical Association at its annual convention.
  • The Bowl of Hygeia combine to provide a symbol that depicts a balanced and unwavering understanding of healing through medications.