Dr. Brender Sharma
D.H.M.S (Gold medalist),
B.H.M.S (Gold medalist),M.D(Hom)
M.A(Public administration),Punjab University,Chd.
Central Homoeopathic Drug Store,
Dte. of ISM & Homoeopathy
Govt of NCT of Delhi
Central Homoeopathic Drug Store
Delhi Govt Dispensary Building,
IInd Floor,30-Extra Block,
It is pertinent for healthcare professionals to use their logo so as to mark presence of their logo so as to mark
presence of their services. But the great dilemma is, which symbol to use, in fact many doctors do not know that
some commonly used symbol can lend them in trouble. Here are few commonly used ones.
Rod of Asclepius
This is widely used symbol in India by doctors, chemist, hospital
and various health care professionals. It is taken for granted.
That Red Cross means hospital or first aid or doctor. But very few know, using a red cross, other than Indian red
cross society means breaching the law and it is punishable offence.
The Indian law regulating the use of the emblem is called is called the Geneva Conventions Act and it become a
law in 1960.
According to sections 12 and 13 (under chapter IV) of the Act, the misuse of the Red Cross is a punishable offence.
Mumbai state has issued government resolution in 2011 warning hospitals and medical bodies not to use the Red
Cross symbol as this patent of the humanitarian body Indian red Cross Society (IRCS).
Ancient Aspect of Cross Symbol
The emblem of IRCS is derived from Swiss national flag.
In Italy 1859 during the Franco-Austrian war Young Swiss businessmen; Jean Henery Dunant
was appalled by the condition of the wounded he happened to see in the battle field of
He immediately arranged relief services with the help of the local community. After the war
he wrote the book „Memory of Solferino‟ suggesting that a neutral organization be established
to aid the wounded soldiers in times of war, just a year after the release of this book, an
international conference was convened in Geneva to consider the suggestions of Henery
dunant and thus the Red Cross Movement was born.
International Red Cross Movement was established by Geneva Convention. The name and the
emblem of the movement are derived from the reversal of the Swiss national flag, to honor
the country in which Red Cross was founded.
In 1863 an international conference met in Geneva to try and find means of remedying this
ineffectiveness, it adopted a Red Cross on white background as a distinctive sign for relief
societies for wounded soldiers- the future National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
In the First Geneva Convention, the Red Cross on white background was officially
recognized as the distinctive sign of medical services of armed sources.
• Other common symbol to denote health and medical services in the
caduceus, a figure that comprises a winged staff rod with two serpents
curled around it facing each other.
• In Roman iconography it was often depicted being carried in the left hand
of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, guide of the dead and protector of
merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars and thieves.
• By extension of its association with Mercury/Hermes, the caduceus is also
a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which
balanced exchange and reciprocity are recognized as ideals.
• The caduceus is sometimes mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine and/
or medical practice, because of widespread confusion with the traditional
medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no
• Myth associated with it suggests that Hermes (or Mercury) saw two
serpents entwined in mortal combat. Separating them with his want he
brought about peace between them, and as a result the wand with two
serpents came to be seen as a sign of peace.
Myth associated with it suggests that Hermes (or Mercury) saw two serpents
entwined in mortal combat. Separating them with his want he brought about
peace between them, and as a result the wand with two serpents came to be
seen as a sign of peace.
The initial errors leading to its adoption and the continuing confusion it
generates are well known to medical historians. The long-standing and
abundantly attested historical associations of the caduceus with commerce,
theft, deception, and death are considered by many to be inappropriate in a
symbol used by those engaged in the healing arts. This has occasioned
significant criticism of the use of the caduceus in a medical context.
As god of the high-road and the market-place Hermes was perhaps above all
else the petron of commerce and the fat purse: as a corollary, he was the special
protector of the traveling salesman.
As spokesman for the gods, he not only brought peace on earth (occasionally
even the peace of death), but his silver-tongued eloquence could always make
the worse appear the better cause. From this letter point of view, would not his
symbol be suitable for certain Congressmen, all medical quacks, book agents
and purveyors of vacuum cleaners, rather than for the straight-thinking,
straight-speaking therapeutist. As conductor of the dead to their subterranean
adobe, his emblem would seem more appropriate on a hearse than on a
The words caduity & caduceus imply temporality, perishableness and senility,
while the medical profession espouses renewal, vitality and health.
Why caduceus is used as medical
• The link between hermes and his caduceus and medicine seems to have
arisen by Hermes links with alchemy. Alchemists were referred to as
the sons of Hermes, as Hermetists and as “practitioners of the hermetic
• Occult hermetic Connection:- An occult description of the Caduceus
of Hermes (Mercury) is that the serpents may represent positive and
negative kundalini as around the spine (the staff) to the head where it
communicates with mind by intellection, the domain of Mercury
[wings]. There are amazing claims that a Caduceus Power Wand has
zero impedance and infinite resonance.
• However major reason for the current popularity of the caduceus as a
medical symbol was its ill-informed official adaptation as the insignia
for the Medical.
Rod of Asclepius
Asclepius was a skilled physician who practiced in Greece around 1200BC (and
described in Homer‟s Iliad). Eventually through myth and legend he came to be
worshipped as Asclepius, the (Greek) god of Healing.
History: Medical schools developed, which were usually connected to temples or
shrines called Asclepions. The Asclepion became very important in Greek society.
Patients believed they could be cured by sleeping in them. They would visit,
offering gifts and sacrifices to the god, and be treated by priest healers (called the
The worship of Asclepius spread to Rome and continued as late as the sixth century.
The Asclepiadae were a large order of priest physicians who controlled the sacred
secrets of healing, which were passed from father to son. Harmless Aesculapian
snakes were kept in the combination hospital-temples built by the ancient Greeks
and later, by the Romans in honor of the god.
The snakes are found not only in their original range of southern Europe, but also in
the various places in Germany and Austria where Roman temples had been
established. Smooth, glossy and slender, snake has a uniformly brown back with a
streak of darker color behind the eyes.
The snake‟s belly is yellowish or whitish and has ridged scales that catch easily on
rough surfaces, making it especially adapted for climbing trees.
The Myth: Asclepius is the god of healing. He is the son of Apollo and the nymph,
Coronis. While pregnant with Asclepius, Coronis secretly took a second, mortal
lover. When Apollo found out, he sent Artemis to kill her. While burning on the
funeral pyre, Apollo felt pity and rescued the unborn child from the corpse.
Asclepius was taught about medicine and healing by the wise centaur, Cheiron, and
become so skilled in it that he succeeded in bringing one of his patients back from
the dead. Zeus felt that the immortality of the Gods was threatened and killed the
healer with a thunderbolt. At Apollo‟s request, Asclepius was placed among the
stars as Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer.
Meditrine, Hygeia and Panacea: the children of Asclepius included his daughters
Meditrina, Hygeia and Panacea who were symbols of medicine, hygiene and
healing (literally, “all healing”) respectively.
The probable medical origin of the single serpent around a rod
In ancient times infection by parasitic worms was common. The filarial worm
Dracunculus-medinensis aka “the fiery serpent”, aka “the dragon of Medina” aka
“the guinea worm” crawled around the victim‟s body, just under the skin.
Physicians treated this infection by cutting a slit in the patient‟s skin, just in front of
the worm‟s path. As the worm crawled out the cut, the physician carefully wound
the pest around a stick until the entire animal had been removed. It is believed that
because this type of infection was so common, physicians advertised their services
by displaying a sign with the worm on a stick.
The rod of Asclepius is the dominant symbol for healthcare professionals and
associations in the United States. However, one survey found that 62% of health
care professionals used the rod of Asclepius, while 76% of commercial healthcare
organizations used the caduceus.
Authorized to use
Unauthorized to use
It is an offence.
Only Red Cross Movement Member & Army Medical
Care can use it.
Ref 1. Geneva Conventions act vide section 12 & 13 (Under Chapter IV of the act.)
Ref 2- International conference in 1863 at Geneva at it’s extracts as Red Cross Movement members and army medical care
Ref 3- Engraved from an original in the Museum Pio Clemens in Rome
Ref 4- Asclepius 1200BC in Homer’s Iliad illustrations.