1 : a mixture of many drugs and honey formerly held to be an antidote to poison
*2 : cure-all
“Chicken soup may not really be a theriac,” said Helen, sniffling between spoonfuls, “but there certainly is something comforting about eating it when you’re feeling sick.”
Did you know?
There really is no such thing as a single remedy for all that ails us.
But that hasn’t kept English speakers from creating, not just a single word, but several words, that mean “cure-all”: “catholicon,” “elixir,” “nostrum,” “panacea,” and today’s word, “theriac.” When we first used “theriac,” it meant “an antidote for poison” — for any and all poisons, that is. That’s how our Roman and Greek forebears used their “theriaca” and “thēriakē,” which derive ultimately from the Greek word for “wild animal.” The first theriac was supposedly created by the first-century Greek physician Andromachus, whose concoction consisted of some 70 drugs pulverized with honey. Medieval physicians created even more elaborate theriacs to dose a plague-dreading populace, for whom the possibility of a cure-all didn’t seem too wild a notion at all.