What is a Medicine?

Cheryl Powers
Cate School
Carpinteria, CA
cpowerae@ix.netcom.com

In this introductory activity, students will brainstorm their ideas about what makes a substance a "medicine" to determine their preconceptions about medicines and to develop a conceptual framework to guide them through the rest of the unit.

Students will evaluate whether certain substances should be defined as "medicines' and will examine various systems of medicine in cooperative groups. This activity will provide a systematic approach to the fascinating history and use of medicines in today's society.


Timeframe

2 class periods


Student Objectives

By the end of this activity, students should be able to:


Overview

Our everyday world is full of reminders that medicines are part of society: TV commercials, newspapers, and magazine advertisements surround us with suggestions about what medicines are best for us. Whole stores are devoted to selling medicines and pharmacies can be found in many grocery stores today; even convenience stores carry a stock of medicines available whenever we think we need them.


Materials Needed

Display items such as:


Preparation/Procedure

A few days before you start this lesson, ask students to bring in a list of all the medicines in their home as a preparation for the discussion. On the day of the activity, set out display items mentioned above on the front desk or lab tables.


Day 1
  1. When students come in the room, have them examine the items that you have left out for display and classify items. You may tell them to divide materials into 2 groups -- "medicines" and "not medicines" -- or allow them to create their own classifications.

  2. In a class discussion, have students share their lists. Ask students to explain why they classified a certain substance as a "medicine" or "not a medicine." In this discussion, guide students to discuss how the following considerations affect their classification of an item as a medicine:

    • Use of the term "medicine" in the popular press
    • How or in what form a substance is used (vitamin C from a tablet or an orange)
    • Where the substance comes from (natural or synthetic)
    • Whether food can be considered a medicine
    • Whether it is available over-the-counter or only by prescription
    • Whether it is generic or name-brand
    • What system of medicine it is associated with: Western, Chinese, Ayurvedic, Native American, homeopathic, etc.

  3. After the discussion, ask each student to write down a definition for the word "medicine". Share the following definitions with students and have them compare and contrast these with their definitions.

    Any small molecule that when introduced to the body, alters the body's function by interactions at the molecular level (Katzung, 1992).

    A substance or preparation affecting well being, used in the maintenance of health and prevention, alleviation or cure of disease (Webster's Dictionary).

    Any drug or remedy involved in treatment of disease or the maintenance of health (Dorland's Medical Dictionary).

    Anything which will help men function as long as feasible, and if possible, happily in all his endeavors (Dubois Man, Medicine, and Environment)

  4. Have students draw concept maps of medicines based on the brainstorming session on the first day


Day 2

  1. Break students into cooperative groups, assigning each student to a specifictask, such as Leader, Recorder, Class Liaison, Time Keeper. Assign each group the task of collecting and/or reading information on one system of medicine (see the Exhibit Connections screen for this unit). If you have a computer with CD-ROM available, allow groups of students to do research on Medicines: The Inside Story CD-ROM.

    If you have more time, you might consider allowing students additional time to do research in the school or public library. Have each group answer questions regarding their system of medicine (see Systems of Medicine" worksheet in Supplemential Materials). Alternatively, you might want to have students prepare an outline to hand out to the rest of the class describing their system of medicine.

  2. Have each group of students give a presentation to the class on the system of medicine researched. Encourage other students to take notes on the presentation, as they will need this information to complete the following exercise.

  3. For homework, have students prepare a concept map on the various systems of medicine.


Teacher Tips

To save time, it may be helpful to provide students with an assortment of research material in the classroom. A different approach could be to begin the activity with empty folders for each system representing the information base students will assemble. In this analogy, students are researchers and the knowledge base on each of these topics will grow as more students conduct the search and provide articles, medicine samples, charts, and pictures for the resource folders.

When supplying the definitions of the word Medicine," students may ask about the word "Drug." Discuss the differences between medicines or legal "drugs" and "illegal drugs."

To reduce materials costs and provide transition into future activities, select examples of herbs and extracts that can be used for both this lab and the unit "Herbs that Heal."

Caution: Remind students that only qualified medical personnel should prescribe medicine and they should never consume anything medicinal without checking with a qualified health care professional.


Follow-Up

Have students write down questions that they have about medicine. They might come up with some of the questions listed below. Challenge students to answer some of the following questions:


Extension Activities


Curricular Connections

BIOLOGY
Nutrition: use this activity to teach about how food and vitamins contribute to good health.

CHEMISTRY
General: Use this activity to reinforce the following concepts in chemistry: natural vs. synthetic chemicals, chemical interactions, biochemistry, enzymes, coenzymes, scientific method and serendipity in science.

ACROSS THE CURRICULUM:
History: Use this activity to teach evolution of systems of medicine, history of development and use of medicine, information searching, critical thinking.

MULTICULTURAL:
Use this activity to allow students to see how other cultures view human health and disease.


Selected Bibliography:

Gerson, Scott, Ayurveda, The Ancient Indian Healing Art. Element, Inc., Rockport, MA, 1993.

Hutchens, Alma R., Indian Herbalogy of North America. Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, MA, 1973.

Huard, Pierre and Wong, Ming3 Chinese Medicine. World University Library, McGraw-Hili Book Company, New York, NY, 1968.

Monte, Tom and Editors of EastWest Natural Health, World Medicine. The East West Guide to Healing Your Body. The Putnam Publishing Group, New York, NY, 1993.

Ullman, Dana, Homeopathy. Medicine for the 21st Century, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1988


Student Handout


Overview

In this activity, you will explore a variety of views about medicine.


Objectives

By the end of this activity, you should be able to:


Background

Our everyday world is full of reminders that medicines are part of society: TV commercials, newspapers, and magazine advertisements surround us with suggestions about what medicines are best for us. Whole stores are devoted to selling medicines and pharmacies can be found in many grocery stores today; even convenience stores carry a stock of medicines available whenever we think we need them. What are these medicines and what information do we need to make informed choices about the use of medicines? This introductory activity will provide a systematic approach to the fascinating history and use of medicines in today's society.


Procedures

Day 1

  1. Examine the materials on display. Determine some kind of classification for the materials.

  2. Discuss the results. Take notes on the definitions of "medicine" and "drug."

  3. After discussing your results with classmates, draw a concept map around the idea of Medicines."

Day 2

  1. Read, discuss and prepare a report to give the class on your assigned system of medicine. Using this information, fill in the "Systems of Medicine" Handout to guide your presentation.

  2. When all groups have presented their material draw a concept map around the idea of "systems of medicine."


Follow-Up

  1. Why is it difficult to clearly define "What is a Medicine?"
    
    
    
    
  2. Before the age of modern science, how did different cultures develop effective responses to disease?
    
    
    
    
  3. Write down below a list of questions that you would like answered about medicines.
    
    
    
    
  4. Write down your definition of the word medicine. Explain why you chose this definition.




Student Handout
Chinese Medicine



Gypsum Gypsum fibrosum shigao
Cinnabar Red mercuric sulfide zhusha
Deer antlers Cervus nippon lurong
Dragon bones Fossilized bones of
dinosaurs and reptiles
longgu
Garlic Allium sativum dasuan
Ginko Ginko biloba yinxing
Ginseng Panx ginseng renshen
Honey Apis mellifera fengmi
Join fir Ephera sinica mahuang
Chinese licorice Glycyrrhiza uralensis gancao
Cinnamon tree Cinnamomum cassia guizhi
Chines jujuba Ziziphus jujuba suanzaoren
Oyster shells Ostrea rivularis muli
Barbaosor curacao aloe Aloe baradensi luhui



Related activity by Cheryl Powers on Access Excellence:
Herbal Medicines
Find out more about Cheryl Powers


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