Rod of Asclepius
The rod of Asclepius also known as the asklepian, is an ancient symbol associated with astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

, the Greek
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

Asclepius is the God of Medicine and Healing in ancient Greek religion. Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are Hygieia , Iaso , Aceso , Aglæa/Ægle , and Panacea...

, and with medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 and healing
Physiological healing is the restoration of damaged living tissue, organs and biological system to normal function. It is the process by which the cells in the body regenerate and repair to reduce the size of a damaged or necrotic area....

. It consists of a serpent
Serpent (symbolism)
Serpent in Latin means: Rory Collins :&, in turn, from the Biblical Hebrew word of: "saraf" with root letters of: which refers to something burning-as, the pain of poisonous snake's bite was likened to internal burning.This word is commonly used in a specifically mythic or religious context,...

 entwined around a staff. The name of the symbol derives from its early and widespread association with Asclepius
Asclepius is the God of Medicine and Healing in ancient Greek religion. Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are Hygieia , Iaso , Aceso , Aglæa/Ægle , and Panacea...

, the son of Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

, who was a practitioner of medicine in ancient Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

. His attributes, the snake and the staff, sometimes depicted separately in antiquity, are combined in this symbol. Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

 himself was a worshipper of Asclepius.


Various sources of the symbol have been suggested: Snakes as a symbol of rejuvenation, treatment of snakebite, and winding Guinea worms on a stick to remove them from the body.


The serpent and the staff appear to have been separate symbols that were combined at some point in the development of the Asclepian cult. The significance of the serpent has been interpreted in many ways; sometimes the shedding of skin and renewal is emphasized as symbolizing rejuvenation, while other assessments center on the serpent as a symbol that unites and expresses the dual nature of the work of the physician, who deals with life and death, sickness and health. The ambiguity of the serpent as a symbol, and the contradictions it is thought to represent, reflect the ambiguity of the use of drugs, which can help or harm, as reflected in the meaning of the term pharmakon, which meant "drug", "medicine" and "poison" in ancient Greek. Products deriving from the bodies of snakes
Snake oil
Snake oil is a topical preparation made from the Chinese Water Snake , which is used to treat joint pain. However, the most common usage of the phrase is as a derogatory term for quack medicine...

 were known to have medicinal properties in ancient times, and in ancient Greece, at least some were aware that snake venom that might be fatal if it entered the bloodstream could often be imbibed. Snake venom appears to have been 'prescribed' in some cases as a form of therapy.

The staff has also been variously interpreted. One view is that it, like the serpent, "conveyed notions of resurrection and healing", while another (not necessarily incompatible) is that the staff was a walking stick associated with itinerant physicians. Cornutus
Lucius Annaeus Cornutus
Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, , a Stoic philosopher, flourished in the reign of Nero , when his house in Rome was a school of philosophy.-Life:He was a native of Leptis Magna in Libya, but resided for the most part in Rome...

, a philosopher probably active in the first century CE, in the Theologiae Graecae Compendium (Ch. 33) offers a view of the significance of both snake and staff:
In any case the two symbols certainly merged in antiquity as representations of the snake coiled about the staff are common. It has been claimed that the snake wrapped around the staff was a species of rat snake, Elaphe longissima.


A similar symbol, Nehushtan
The Nehushtan , in the Hebrew Bible, was a sacred object in the form of a snake of brass upon a pole.The priestly source of the Torah says that Moses used a 'fiery serpent' to cure the Israelites from snakebites...

, is mentioned in the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 in the Book of Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 (Numbers 21:6-9).

Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.


A direct representation of ancient traditional treatment of Dracunculus medinensis
Dracunculus medinensis
Dracunculus medinensis is a nematode that causes dracunculiasis.Dracunculiasis, also known as Guinea worm disease, is caused by the large female nematode, Dracunculus medinensis, which is among the longest nematodes infecting humans. The adult female is primarily larger than the adult male. The...

, the Guinea worm. The worm peeks out of disablingly painful ulcerous blisters to lay eggs, primarily when the wound is placed in water to cool and soothe it. The practitioner would pull the worm out slowly by winding it around a stick.

Professional usage

A number of organizations and services use the rod of Asclepius as their logo, or part of their logo. These include:
  • American Academy of Physician Assistants
    American Academy of Physician Assistants
    The American Academy of Physician Assistants is the largest professional organization of physician assistants in the United States of America. It was founded in 1968 and currently has approximately 39,000 members in all 50 states, District of Columbia, US Virgin Islands and Northern Marianas...

  • Academy of Medicine of Malaysia
  • American Osteopathic Association
    American Osteopathic Association
    The American Osteopathic Association is the representative member organization for the over 78,000 osteopathic medical physicians in the United States...

  • American Medical Association
    American Medical Association
    The American Medical Association , founded in 1847 and incorporated in 1897, is the largest association of medical doctors and medical students in the United States.-Scope and operations:...

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
    American Academy of Family Physicians
    The American Academy of Family Physicians was founded in 1947 to promote the science and art of family medicine. It is one of the largest medical organizations in the United States, with over 100,000 members...

  • American College of Osteopathic Internists
    American College of Osteopathic Internists
    The American College of Osteopathic Internists is one of two medical associations in the United States for Internal medicine physicians, the other being the American College of Physicians....

  • American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
  • American Hippocratic Registry
  • American Medical Student Association
    American Medical Student Association
    The American Medical Student Association , founded in 1950 and based in Washington, D.C., is the oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training in the United States. AMSA is a student-governed, national organization...

  • American Veterinary Medical Association
    American Veterinary Medical Association
    The American Veterinary Medical Association , founded in 1863, is a not-for-profit association representing more than 81,500 U.S. veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia, and uniformed services....

  • Army Medical Department of the U.S. Army (AMEDD)
  • Australian Medical Association
    Australian Medical Association
    The Australian Medical Association is a professional association for Australian doctors and medical students.The AMA uses a representative structure involving state branches and committees to work with members to promote and protect the interests of doctors.The mechanisms that allow this include:*...

  • Australian Veterinary Association
  • British Royal Army Medical Corps
    Royal Army Medical Corps
    The Royal Army Medical Corps is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all British Army personnel and their families in war and in peace...

  • Canadian Association of Physician Assistants
  • Canadian Medical Association
    Canadian Medical Association
    The Canadian Medical Association , with more than 70,000 members, is the largest association of doctors in Canada and works to represent their interests nationally. It formed in 1867, three months after Confederation...

  • Canadian Forces Medical Service
    Canadian Forces Medical Service
    The Canadian Forces Medical Service provides medical support for the Canadian Forces both at home and abroad. It is also a personnel branch of the CF...

  • International Medical University, Malaysia
    International Medical University
    The International Medical University is a private international medical university in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It offers courses such as Medicine, Pharmacy, and Nursing as well as postgraduate studies...

  • Pakistan Army Medical Corps
    Pakistan Army Medical Corps
    The Pakistan Army Medical Corps, Urdu: ﺁرمى مڈيكل كور; Army medical Core, abbreviated as the AMC, is a military administrative non-combatant staff corps, and a primary military medical command of the Pakistan Army. Initially part of the Indian Army Medical Corps, it was born in 1947 and served...

  • Royal Australian Army Medical Corps
    Royal Australian Army Medical Corps
    The Royal Australian Army Medical Corps is the branch of the Australian Army responsible for providing medical care to Army personnel. The AAMC was formed in 1902 and has participated in every Australian Army operation...

  • Malaysian Medical Council
  • Medical Council of India
    Medical Council of India
    The Medical Council of India was the statutory body for maintenance of uniform and high standards of medical education in India. The Council grants recognition of medical qualifications, gives accreditation to medical colleges, grants registration to medical practitioners, and monitors medical...

  • MedicAlert
    The MedicAlert Foundation, a non-profit company founded in 1956 and headquartered in Turlock, California, maintains a database of members' medical information that is made available to medical authorities in the event of an emergency. Members supply critical medical data to the organization and...

  • Spanish National Council of Medical Student's Association (CEEM)
  • Student Osteopathic Medical Association
  • Star of Life
    Star of Life
    The Star of Life is a blue, six-pointed star, outlined with a white border which features the Rod of Asclepius in the center, originally designed and governed by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration...

    , symbol of emergency medical services
    Emergency medical services
    Emergency medical services are a type of emergency service dedicated to providing out-of-hospital acute medical care and/or transport to definitive care, to patients with illnesses and injuries which the patient, or the medical practitioner, believes constitutes a medical emergency...

  • United States Navy Hospital Corps
  • United States Air Force Medical Corps
  • World Health Organization
    World Health Organization
    The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

Standard representation

The rod of Asclepius has a representation on the Miscellaneous Symbols
Miscellaneous Symbols
The Miscellaneous Symbols Unicode block contains various glyphs representing things from a variety of categories: Astrological, Astronomical, Chess, Dice, Ideological symbols, Musical notation, Political symbols, Recycling, Religious symbols, Trigrams, Warning signs and Weather.-Tables:Note: These...

table of the Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

 Standard at U+2695 .

See also

  • Kundalini
    Kundalini literally means coiled. In yoga, a "corporeal energy" - an unconscious, instinctive or libidinal force or Shakti, lies coiled at the base of the spine. It is envisioned either as a goddess or else as a sleeping serpent, hence a number of English renderings of the term such as 'serpent...

  • Aaron's rod
    Aaron's rod
    Aaron's rod refers to any of the staves carried by Moses' brother, Aaron, in the Old Testament of the Bible. The Bible tells how, along with Moses' rod, Aaron's rod was endowed with miraculous power during the Plagues of Egypt which preceded the Exodus...

  • Bowl of Hygieia
    Bowl of Hygieia
    Bowl of Hygieia is one of the symbols of pharmacy. Hygieia was the Greek goddess of health.- Usage of symbol by pharmaceutical associations :...

  • Nehushtan
    The Nehushtan , in the Hebrew Bible, was a sacred object in the form of a snake of brass upon a pole.The priestly source of the Torah says that Moses used a 'fiery serpent' to cure the Israelites from snakebites...

  • Phurba
    The kīla is a three-sided peg, stake, knife, or nail like ritual implement traditionally associated with Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Bön, and Indian Vedic traditions. The kīla is associated with the meditational deity The kīla (Sanskrit Devanagari: कील; IAST: kīla; , pronunciation between pur-ba and...

  • Asklepian Circle
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