The Staff of Asclepius vs the Caduceus

Medical organizations or groups often utilize the symbols above to link or relate with the practice of medicine. But what is really the ideal symbol for medical. Read the facts below.


Asclepius (an ancient greek physician deified as the god of medicine) is traditionally depicted as a bearded man wearing a robe that leaves his chest uncovered and holding a staff with his sacred single serpent coiled around it, (example right) symbolizing renewal of youth as the serpent casts off its skin. The single serpent staff also appears on a Sumerian vase of c. 2000 B.C. representing the healing god Ningishita, the prototype of the Greek Asklepios. 


Caduceus is a winged staff with two snakes wrapped around it. It was an ancient astrological symbol of commerce and is associated with the Greek god Hermes, the messenger for the gods, conductor of the dead and protector of merchants and thieves.

From the description alone it is obvious that the ideal symbol for medical should be rod or staff of Asclepius.  

Professional and patient centered organizations around the world including the World Health Organization use the "correct" and traditional symbol of medicine, the staff of Asclepius with a single serpent encircling a staff, classically a rough-hewn knotty tree limb.

On the biblical side:   

 Numbers 21:8
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”

 Numbers 21:9
So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
Clearly the bible depicts a single snake, not two.  

It is relatively common, especially in the United States, to find the caduceus, with its two snakes and wings, used as a symbol of medicine instead of the correct Rod of Asclepius, with only a single snake. This usage is erroneous, popularised largely as a result of the adoption of the caduceus as its insignia by the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1902.

However, whatever symbol you are using, what is important are the actions that you do to save the lives of many and to educate people the art of saving lives...

star of life, medical symbol, rod of asclepius, caduceus, medical patch, logo, ems

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