top of page

FERRANTIA - book review


FOSSILS AS DRUGS: pharmaceutical palaeontology

by Christopher J. Duffin



“Fossils as drugs” was already published in 2008 as part of the Ferrantia series of monographic works representing the scientific endeavours in life and earth sciences related to the Musée national d’histoire naturelle de Luxembourg. 


Although the subject might trouble some as “strange science”, it turns out to be a carefully written, easy to read and well documented as well as lavishly illustrated, scientific publication. Pharmaceutical palaeontology is quite a new study and the author gives an interisting introduction to the history of medecine examining mostly Mediaeval and Rennaissance sources and focussing on Anglo-Saxon literature.


The main subjects are Lapis lincis, the lynx stone, Lapis judaicus, toad stones and amber – the latter being presented in human and veterinary indications.


Quoting the author one may argue that : “all four fossil materials have a long pedigree of medicinal use extending from classical times through to the late 18th century. It was only as the theory of lapidifying juices and lapides sui generis were replaced with a generally accepted, coherent explanation of “formed stones” as the petrified remains of once living creatures that fossils vanished completely from the physician’s materia medica.”


One might add to these considerations that even today fossil products like, among others, “fossile coral-calcium” find an important market and are commercialized at very high prices : this is one of the legacies of Bruce Halstead of “metabolic cancer therapy – fame” who committed one of his later works on this  subject : “Fossil stony coral minerals and their nutritional application”. This kind of product is under investigation by the FDA for deceptive marketing and false and unsubstantial claims.



Marc J. Bruck


bottom of page