Folio 186r

Here begins the book of medicinal simples according to Platearius, called Circa Instans.

Credit: Serapio, Senior: Practica Io. Serapionis dicta breuiarium, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Circa instans

Our intent is to consider simple medicines. A simple, moreover, is a medicine of the sort which is produced by nature — like cloves, nutmeg and the like – or which has been modified a bit by artifice, but not mixed with other medicines — like tamarind, which is crushed to bits by artifice with its shell removed, and aloe, which is made by artifice from the cooked juice of the plant.

A not-pointless question might be asked, however, why composite medicines will be invented, when every virtue which is in composites can be found in simples. Medicine is said to have been invented on account of the underlying causes of sickness, for every cause of illness arises from an abundance of humor or a lack of it, from a flux, or from a weakness of abilities, or some alteration of qualities or the loosening of continuities. A simple medicine is found that dissolves an overabundance of a humor, restores a lack, restricts a flux, strengthens a weakness, stabilizes alteration, releases consolidations.

The multiplex cause of sickness is the answer to composited medicines, that is the violence of the sickness, the contrariety of illnesses, the contrary dispositions of body parts, the nobility of a body part, the violence of medicines. For the violence of a disease like leprosy, stroke, epilepsy, is scarcely ever or never cured by simples alone. It is necessary, then, that there are composites, so that their strength, augmented by simples, can more readily cure severe disease. With contrary diseases running in the same body, like dropsy with fever,[1] a medicine compounded from both the warm and the cold is necessary, so that one may counter contrary symptoms with these contrary properties, for one and the same simple medicine cannot be found effective for contrary qualities. Indeed, for parts of the body afflicted by contrary qualities, like a cold stomach and a warm liver, composite medicines are necessary, so that with their opposing qualities it is also possible to alter the contrary qualities of the body parts. And for a noble body part, like a liver affected by sclerosis, composite medicines are necessary, since dissolution of the excess humor comes about through heat, and strenghening of the vital organ occurs through contraction. For by relaxing the noble part, a warm <medicine> only weakens it, if it is not strengthened by a styptic. Also, a violent medicine like scammony, hellebore and the like should not be given by itself, unless something else, tempering its violence, be mixed in.

In a treatment of each simple medicine, its temperament[2] must first be considered, then whether it is a tree or a shrub, a plant, root, flower, or seed or leaf, if it is a rock, or a juice or something other. After that, how many kinds of it there are, and how they come to be, and in what place they are found, which sort is the better, how they are counterfeited, and how counterfeits are recognized, and how things are able to be preserved, and what effect they have, and how they ought to be offered. And the treatment of each sort will be completed in alphabetical order.

[1] Dropsy was believed to stem from cold phlegmatic humors, while fever was from a hot cause.

[2] I.e., whether it is warm or cool, dry or moist, and to what degree.

A (f. 186r)
  1. De aloe Aloe
  2. De ligno aloes Lignum aloe
  3. De auro Gold
  4. De assa fetida Asafetida
  5. De argento vivo Quick silver
  6. De agno casto Agnus castus
  7. De alumine Alum
  8. De apio Celery
  9. De amido Starch
  10. De antimonio Antimony
  11. De acacia Acacia
  12. De agarico Agaric
  13. De aneto Dill
  14. De affodillo Asphodel
  15. De allio Garlic
  16. De acoro Yellow flag
  17. De amoniaco Gum ammoniac
  18. De aniso Anise
  19. De absintio Absinthe
  20. De anacardo Cashew
  21. De amigdalis amaris Bitter almond
  22. De aristologia Aristolochia
  23. De ambra Ambergris
  24. De artemisia Mugwort
  25. De aceto Vinegar
  26. De alcanna Alkanet
  27. De auropigmento Orpiment
  28. De aspalto Bitumen/pitch
  29. De arnoglossa Plaintain
  30. De avena Oat
  31. De abrotana Southernwood
  32. De assaro Hazelwort
  33. De ameos Bishop’s weed
  34. De aaron Arum
  35. De anagalidos Seed of myrtle
  36. De apio cerfo Chervil

Chap 1 (f. 186r): Concerning Aloe

Socotrine Aloe (Aloe perryi)

Aloe is of hot and dry constitution in the second degree.[1] Aloe comes from the juice of an herb which is called aloe. This herb does not only grow in India, Persia, and Greece, but it can also be found in Apulia. There are three sorts of aloe: Socotrine[2], hepatic aloe, and horse aloe.[3] Aloe is prepared in this way: the plant is crushed, juice is produced. It is placed on a fire until it boils, and after it has boiled it is exposed to the sun and dried. And as some say—whose opinion is false — that which is collected from the upmost is purer, and is called Socotrine, that which is in the middle is less pure and is called hepatic, and that which is at the bottom and full of dregs is horse aloe. We say, however, that they are different plants, not in type but in efficacy, from which those three kinds of aloe come; just like there are three grapes differing not in plant but in goodness. For which reason there are different wines.

The best aloe is the Socotrine aloe. It is discerned from its yellow or reddish hue and, especially when it is crushed, its powder looks like the powder of a saffron crocus,[4] and of a bright substance. When crushed into the tiniest fragments, it has a substance both pure and subtle and also as if dried out. And when lightly crushed what exudes from it is not fetid or very bitter, and sometimes gummy and sometimes brittle.

The hepatic variety is likened to the color of liver or it has the color of liver, but almost black, and here and there it has foramina like the mouths of veins. It has an opaque substance, not clear, and other characteristics similar to the aforesaid which it has are more moderate, especially color.

Horse aloe is, however, black and opaque, and has a murky substance, not clear. It offers up an extremely bitter and dreadful odor, since it is especially malodorous. Horse aloe is counterfeited so that it may seem like the Socotrine or hepatic sort. We have written about the counterfeit of this and other sorts at the request of colleagues; we did this for the sake of avoiding counterfeits and the deceptions of those making and selling them, not so that it may be committed by anyone, but so that fraudulent deception may be avoided. For virtue cherishes itself and spurns the opposite, and vice cannot be avoided unless it is recognized.

Aloe, moreover, is counterfeited in his way: let vinegar boil with ground saffron added, and a pinch of ground nutmeg or of another fragrant sort. Let horse aloe divided into small fragments be bound with string and lowered into the vinegar, and lifted at once, dried a little, dipped again and this be done ten times or more so that color and odor be changed, so that it may seem to be the hepatic or the Socotrine sort. And let it be allowed to dry a little and it will scarcely be discerned that it is not. Nevertheless, it is discernible, since when it is crushed and rubbed between the fingers, at once the most malodorous stench is perceived, which is not in the hepatic or the Socotrine.

Aloe vera, cross section From Wikimedia commons

And note that everything which is aromatic by nature is the more efficacious the more aromatic it is, and everything that is bitter in its own nature, the bitterer the better, except aloe; and everything which is stinky by nature is more efficacious when smellier, except aloe. And everything which ought to have flavor is better when its flavor is more intense, except aloe, since although it is naturally bitter, the less bitter, the more praiseworthy.

But aloe has the power to purge choler and phlegm and it cleanses out melancholy. It also has the power of soothing cramped limbs. It avails against a superabundance of cold humors contained in the stomach. And it comforts the stomach itself. It relieves the head from the pain which arises from belching, that is from flatulence of the stomach. It clarifies the sight and opens an obstruction of the spleen and of the liver. It provokes menstruation and cleanses superfluities (discharges) about the genitals if they are from a cold cause. It even cures itches. It restores color to a discolored body if it has been discolored from a preceding illness. It avails against alopecia, that is hair loss.

If phlegmatic and melancholic humors have abounded in the stomach, and are owed to indigestion, 3 drams of aloe with 1 dram of mastic cleanses the stomach and soothes it when weakened and cold. Note that the aloe and the mastic should be ground and cooked in white wine. For the same purpose, a grain of aloe avails when offered with honey, if because of revulsion (nausea) it cannot be accepted another way; it cleanses the stomach and aids digestion. And note that the aloe and mastic should be ground and cooked and given with white wine. For the same purpose, let the tongue be extracted from the mouth and then 2 grains of aloe injected into the esophagus, for although aloe may be bitter to the mouth it is yet sweet to the stomach, whence it is called “glicostoma,” that is bitter to the mouth[5], “pitoglostomaticon”, that is sweet to the stomach.

If taken often, aloe may excoriate the internal organs. Whence it is right that either tragacanth or bdellium gum be mixed in with it.

Aloe has the property of mending recent wounds, and of drying and cleaning them.

Aloe when tempered with honey takes away the blackness which is under the eyes.

Ground aloe cleans the injury to the foreskin which occurs from bathing.[6]

Aloe soothes itching of the eyes if it has been tempered with wine.

Note that aloe is kept for nine years. It is also known as gligostoma, as bitter to the mouth,  phitogloco mastic, that is sweet to the stomach. Whence it is called dragiale stophigdo stonco.[7]

Note that the powder of the best aloe, dispensed with white wine and rose water, avails much against itching of the eyes.

Hiera pigra[8] also works for pain of the stomach and of the head and for clarifying vision.

The hiera pigra which is called “Constantine’s” into which this is put best avails for clarifying vision; also for clarifying vision aloe alone may simply be given, or with pitted and crushed mirobalanum[9] added in, 2 scruples, and 1 scruple of mastic or tragacanth, and with syrup and rose water added it is well proven for clarifying vision.

Against obstruction of the liver and spleen, let aloe be taken with the warm juice of apium or fennel or thus: let aloe be placed in a decoction of radish, fennel, apium, parsley, butcher’s broom, and asparagus, 2 scruples of aloe and 4 of honey, 1 and a half scruples of mastic, and let it be administered 2 or 3 times a week.

And such a decoction promotes menstruation. A suppository made from trifera magna[10], the powder of aloe, and mastic promotes menstruation, but with the suppository formed from trifera magna, a powder ay be sprinkled on.

Against discolorations of the body which arise from a cold stomach, either stemming from a long illness or from an obstruction of the liver, let 1 scruple of aloe and 5 of mastic with 5 ounces of absinthe juice be given in the morning and twice in a week.

This also protects the body from dropsy. In the beginning it cures it, as we have already proven.

Its powder when given with honey kills worms. When instilled into the ears with the juice of peachwort it kills worms.

Against alopecia, that is hair loss, let the root of an old olive tree be boiled in the strongest vinegar, and afterward strained, and placed in the strainer two parts of bitter lupine and three of aloe and likewise let it be prepared and let powdered wild raisins be added to this and the head anointed among the discriminalia.[11]

Against gout let it be given with the juice of burdock.

Against fetid discharge or putrefaction of the genitals and itching of the fingers from [itch mites?] aloe prepared with vinegar and rubbed on avails.

Against an irritation from salty phlegm an unguent is made from quicklime and powdered aloe and common oil has been proven.

Against discharges of the gums or the ears, let this herb be cut up and cumin be placed within and after let it be roasted a little under a fire and taken out hot and applied. It is of marvelous benefit.

Note that the best aloe prepared with white wine and rose water and used to cover the eyes takes away itching of the eyes entirely.


[1] Lynn Thorndike, p. 533, says that degrees are defined “as the measure of distemperance of each quality, and the number of degrees is stated as four.” See Thorndike under Resources tab.

[2] There are many species of Aloe, Aloe vera being the best known today. There is also a species of aloe known as Socotrine aloe (aloe socotrina, today Aloe perryi = cicotrinum =Socotrine), which was imported into Europe beginning in the 1st c. A.D.: see Nicholas Everett ed., The Alphabet of Galen, (Toronto 2012) p. 73.

[3] Motherby lists these three aloes in his Medical Dictionary (see under the Resources tab). He calls the hepatic aloe “Aloe perfoliatum,” and goes on to say that the uses of the three varieties are similar but vary in the quality of the product and intensity of curative properties. But since A. perfoliata is a South African species, he must mean something other than the medieval hepatic aloe. Tony Hunt (p. 17) provides the further information that “aloes epatyk is for medicines; aloes caballinum for plaistres only.”

[4] The outer layer of an aloe leaf exudes a bitter yellow latex containing anthraquinone barbaloin, a strong laxative. The core of the leaf has the colorless gum used for lotions and salves.

Folio 186v

Credit: Serapio, Senior: Practica Io. Serapionis dicta breuiarium, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

For the same purpose, let the tongue be extracted from the mouth and then 2 grains of aloe injected into the esophagus, for although aloe may be bitter to the mouth it is yet sweet to the stomach, whence it is called “glicostoma,” that is bitter to the mouth[5], “pitoglostomaticon”, that is sweet to the stomach.

If taken often, aloe may excoriate the internal organs. Whence it is right that either tragacanth or bdellium gum be mixed in with it.

Aloe has the property of mending recent wounds, and of drying and cleaning them.

Aloe when tempered with honey takes away the blackness which is under the eyes.

Ground aloe cleans the injury to the foreskin which occurs from bathing.[6]

Aloe soothes itching of the eyes if it has been tempered with wine.

Note that aloe is kept for nine years. It is also known as gligostoma, as bitter to the mouth,  phitogloco mastic, that is sweet to the stomach. Whence it is called dragiale stophigdo stonco.[7]

Note that the powder of the best aloe, dispensed with white wine and rose water, avails much against itching of the eyes.

Hiera pigra[8] also works for pain of the stomach and of the head and for clarifying vision.

The hiera pigra which is called “Constantine’s” into which this is put best avails for clarifying vision; also for clarifying vision aloe alone may simply be given, or with pitted and crushed mirobalanum[9] added in, 2 scruples, and 1 scruple of mastic or tragacanth, and with syrup and rose water added it is well proven for clarifying vision.

Against obstruction of the liver and spleen, let aloe be taken with the warm juice of apium or fennel or thus: let aloe be placed in a decoction of radish, fennel, apium, parsley, butcher’s broom, and asparagus, 2 scruples of aloe and 4 of honey, 1 and a half scruples of mastic, and let it be administered 2 or 3 times a week.

And such a decoction promotes menstruation. A suppository made from trifera magna[10], the powder of aloe, and mastic promotes menstruation, but with the suppository formed from trifera magna, a powder may be sprinkled on.

Against discolorations of the body which arise from a cold stomach, either stemming from a long illness or from an obstruction of the liver, let 1 scruple of aloe and 5 of mastic with 5 ounces of absinthe juice be given in the morning and twice in a week.

This also protects the body from dropsy. In the beginning it cures it, as we have already proven.

Its powder when given with honey kills worms. When instilled into the ears with the juice of peachwort it kills worms.

Against alopecia, that is hair loss, let the root of an old olive tree be boiled in the strongest vinegar, and afterward strained, and placed in the strainer two parts of bitter lupine and three of aloe and likewise let it be prepared and let powdered wild raisins be added to this and the head anointed among the discriminalia.[11]

Against gout let it be given with the juice of burdock.

Against fetid discharge or putrefaction of the genitals and itching of the fingers from [itch mites?] aloe prepared with vinegar and rubbed on avails.

Against an irritation from salty phlegm an unguent is made from quicklime and powdered aloe and common oil has been proven.

Against discharges of the gums or the ears, let this herb be cut up and cumin be placed within and after let it be roasted a little under a fire and taken out hot and applied. It is of marvelous benefit.

Note that the best aloe prepared with white wine and rose water and used to cover the eyes takes away itching of the eyes entirely.


[5] Glicostoma ought to mean sweet to the mouth, not bitter. The scribe was undoubtedly confused by the Greek terminology here. “Pitoglostomaticon” in Wölfel’s ed. is not attested anywhere, but the first syllable should be phyto-, making it a neologism meaning something like “plant sweet to stomach.” The 1497 ed. spells these “gligostoma” and “phitogloto masticon” which may be closer to the author’s intent, but equally unattested.                                    

[6] The text actually reads “iavaro” here for “bathing”; it may be a misinterpretation of lavaro, with the sense of a basin used for bathing or perhaps ritual circumcision.

[7] This is obviously obscure; the 1939 ed. simply omits it, but the 1532 ed. makes the final word “stomacho”. “Dragiale” may be a corruption of tracheal.

[8] “Hiera pigra[8] of Galen [is used] to clarify vision and also Hiera Constantini into which the best aloe is put” occurs here 1939 ed. Norri defines this Hiera pigra of Galen in this way, p. 520: “Purgative electuary attributed to Galen, containing e.g. aloes, cinnamon, saffron, cassia tree bark, balsam wood, balsam fruit, violet, wormwood, roses, colocynth, mastic, honey; also used against maladies of e.g. head, eyes, ears, liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, womb.” Hiera Constantini was Constantinus Africanus’s variant; a number of other types were known, but Hiera pigra simply refers to Galen’s.

[9]There are a number of plants that were known as “myrobalanum.” Is this perhaps cherry plum or ben-nut?

[10] “Electuary used as an emmenagogue, diaphoretic, and soporific; also against uterine and stomach disorders; contains many herbs (e.g. mandrake, henbane), juice of opium poppy, and spices, all mixed with honey.”  Norri, p. 1118. See under Resources.

[11] Discriminalia are defined as ornaments worn in the hair to preserve a part or hair clasps.

Chap. 2 (f. 186v): Concerning Aloe Wood

Aloes Lignum[1] Aloe wood, Aquilaria agallocha (syn. malaccensis)

Aloes Lignum[1] Aloe wood, Aquilaria agallocha (syn. malaccensis)

Aloes lignum is hot and dry in the second grade. It is found along the great river of upper Babylon, to which is joined the River of Paradise, whence some say that the force of the river in its thrust is united by the earthly trees of paradise. For it is said that no one has seen the origin of this tree, and others say that this wood is born on the peaks of desert mountain places existing around the aforementioned spot, that it falls into the river by means of the force of the wind and of time, in old age, and those living around the river far from these mountains intercept the wood by means of nets immersed in the river.

There are three sorts of lignum aloe, as Constantinus says in the book of Degrees. For one is the sort which is found on the island called Cumear and is the more praiseworthy of all. And there is another which is found on the island which is called Cumanum and is less praiseworthy. There is, moreover, a third which is found on the island which is called Same Damascene and that is worst of all.[1]

The first is then that which is good. It is recognized from this, that it is heavy in its type, and that which is knotty is better, and that which is aromatic and slightly bitter of taste; of color almost black or reddish and not entirely resisting the bite of the teeth. While it is being chewed its fragrant odor seems to reach the brain and to fill it in some way.

The second type is less weighty, not very bitter or fragrant, and mediocre in these.

The third sort is whitish and especially lightweight, not bitter, but rather as if of no taste nor aromatic. This it is adapted by artifice and this is called foculeum.

It is counterfeited thus, then: in the mountains of Almasia[2] is found some wood very like aloes lignum, heavy and knotty and mildly aromatic, which is called by some wild lignum aloes. Let this be rubbed with lead or tin so that its color changes with an abundance of gold, so that it may be made bitter and a little reddish. Afterwards it is put into wine of a decoction of the best aloes lignum powder with a bit of musk added so that it may become aromatic. And so it becomes so that it is rarely or never distinguished from the best. Nevertheless, it is discerned since it is extremely hard and entirely resists a bite of the teeth, and because inside when it is chewed it is not entirely bitter.

Lignum aloes soothes the stomach, aids digestion, and avails against weakness of the heart and brain, against an affection or a syncope of the heart, against menstrual retention, and against all affections and debilities of the heart stemming from a cold humor.

Wine of a decoction of lignum aloes aids digestion and warms a chilled stomach.

And if it is not nauseating, let a little bit[3] of lignum aloes be put into wine a whole night. In the morning let the wine be offered.

For the same purpose, a decoction of lignum aloes, of gillyflower[4], and of mastic aids digestion and comforts the stomach and especially the head for delicate people [fit]. Let it be done in this way: let 2 scruples of aloe wood and gillyflower be taken and put them into wine overnight, finish the wine with rose water, and you will be able to keep such a wine for a long time, for the wine will be altered a good deal by the lignum aloes.

A syrup made of rose water may be given, in which powder of lignum aloes and the bone of a stag’s heart[5] has been cooked, with sugar and gillyflower and rose added, or the powder of the aforementioned may be given with rose water, and sugar added; it avails against syncope and against debility of the mind.  


[1] The 1939 ed, lists the names of these islands as Cume, Camearum, and Rame.

[2] 1939 ed. reads Amalfie.

[3] 1939: 2 scruples.

[4] Gillyflower could be either carnation or stock; both are highly fragrant; although some variety of Dianthus like carnation seems more likely.

[5] The Circa instans has a separate entry for “os cordis cervi,” which is described there as a “cartilage” found on the left side of the heart. It was a commonly used substance in medieval pharmacy, along with ox’s heart.

Chap. 3 (f. 186v): Concerning Gold

Gold dust, from Wikipedia

Gold is more moderative than any other metal you like. It is, moreover, hot and dry, but since its degree of heat departs little from the average, it is not assigned to a grade.

Gold comes out of a vein in the earth by decoction; and what is superfluous to it is separated from it by decoction. This is called a cachimia or a spume of gold.[1] We will skip over how many and what sort the varied types are and how they are recognized, since this is not our business. It has the power of comforting and of purging, whence it avails even against leprosy, heart palpitations, failure of the spleen, and chilling of the stomach.

Filings of gold given in food or drink avail against leprosy by purifying and cleansing out an excess of humor. And it can also be given against this affection with hiera logodion or theodoricum[2] with a confection of cashew nut[3] once or twice a week in food or drink.

And gold filings avail universally when offered for their preservation to those fearing leprosy, with the juice of borage and with the powder of os de corde cervi and sugar; for [organ] failures it aids with a syrup of borage juice and sugar, and gold filings may be applied with the powder of os de corde cervi and such a syrup, and if you do not have this one, it can be given with some other syrup.

Wine in which leaves of shining gold have been dipped[4] assists the splenetic, but if this cannot be obtained, let it be from a spume of gold.

Against a chill of the stomach, its shavings may likewise be given in wine or in food.

When cauterizations must be performed, they are better done with a gold instrument than from any other metal, since they do not cause gangrene or erysipelas[5].

Gold dust in the manner of a salve placed alone on the eyes dissolves ulcers of the eyes. But one might ask whether gold strengthens, since it is neither assimilated nor does it nourish bodily members.

[1] Cachimia = cathimia or cadmia, a spume of gold or silver.

[2] A purgative.  Norri, 1094: ‘“God-given” purgative electuary, containing various gums, spices, herbs, honey.’

[3] What we call “cashew nut” today is a new world species, hence not known during the Middle Ages. An Indian nut species, Semecarpus anacardium (= marking nut), was known as a cashew then; it is related to the modern cashew.

[4] Dissolved?

[5] I.e. a skin infection caused by staph.

Folio 187r

Credit: Serapio, Senior: Practica Io. Serapionis dicta breuiarium, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

To which we respond that, of those things which strengthen, some strengthen members by repairing only spirits, like the aromatic; some by restoring members, like food and drink; some by relaxing, like laxative medicines; some by tightening a limp member, like a plaster made of mastic; some by altering a disordered quality of an injured member, like dyaterascos[1], that is a plaster of storax placed on a stomach made weak by cold; some strengthen by purifying an overabundance which debilitates by weighing down the member, like a laxative medicine, and many other purifying agents. But gold strengthens in this way: by its harshness it cleanses what is superfluous.

[1] Norri, 299: “Plaster containing pitch, beeswax, vinegar, wine, aromatic gums.”

Chap. 4 (f. 187r) : Concerning Asafetida


            Ferula asafoetida

Asafetida is warm and dry in the fourth degree. It is of a very tall tree growing beyond the sea. It is collected in the summertime and since it is very smelly, it is called assa fetida. It may be kept without decay for a long time. It ought to be kept in a moderately dry location, as well. It has the virtue of dissolving, gathering, and of consuming, and the smellier it is, the better.

Five little pills formed solely from asafetida either offered late with egg sop, or given with syrup of violets, with a preceding purge, are of advantage to asthmatics struggling from a humid cause.

Note that any powerful solvent, whether especially dry or even emetic, should not be given to patients on their breast, unless first mixed with an ointment containing marsh mallow or butter.

Against quotidian or quartan[2] fever, however, with a preceding purge, let five scruples of asafetida be cooked in wine in an earthen vessel or a hollowed cyclamen root, and give the strained liquid with honey or sugar added to patients with quartan or quotidian fever before the hour of its onset.

A suppository made of asafetida and galbanum[3] or of asafetida and serapion[4] and sal ammoniac or of only asafetida dipped first in oil or honey or butter, lest it damage the interior, provokes menstruation in a marvelous way and brings out the afterbirth.

A salve made of asafetida and sal ammoniac, wax and honey soothes the spleen.

And it dissolves milk coagulated on/in the breasts.

Asafetida inserted into a cavity in a tooth soothes pain.

A gargle made of vinegar and water and of a decoction of asafetida and rose dries out a swollen uvula.

Against paralysis and gout of the joints and epilepsy and every fault from a cold cause take asafetida and mineral oil together, let them be melted at a fire, and in such liquid be placed the powder of a beaver’s testicle,[5] of euphorbia, of quick sulfur, and with wax added, let a wax plaster be put on the sore spot, or let an unguent be made and put on the sore spot. If epilepsy occurs from a fault of the head let it be placed about the shoulder blades and neck, and also the head. If from fault of the stomach let that part be anointed. If from a fault of the lower regions let them be anointed.

Against other sicknesses let the suffering places be anointed.

[1] Asafoetida is a plant gum from one of several types of Ferula species; the gum is dried and powdered for medicinal use. Platearius seems to think it is the product of a tree, rather than the root of a plant.

[2] Quartan fever is one recurring every third day.

[3] Galbanum is another species of Ferula, in this case Ferula galbaniflua, a giant fennel. It’s resin is still used in essential oils and pharmaceuticals.

[4] A terrestrial orchid.

[5] “Castoreum is obtained from an internal gland located near the testicles” of a beaver; see The Alphabet of Galen, p. 183, n. 1 under Castoreum.

Chap. 5 (f. 187r): Concerning Quicksilver

Quicksilver. From Wikipedia

Quicksilver is warm and moist in the 4th degree. In some books, however, it is discovered that it is cold in the 4th degree. And this is proven to be from its effect: because it dissolves, cuts, and penetrates; but since it actually cold, it is judged according to this by authorities.

For some say that quicksilver comes from a vein of earth by extraction, which is however false, since it is most readily rarefied into a fume by the action of fire. When generated in such earth, moreover, it looks like flowing water is produced. It may be kept for a long time or preserved in a solid vessel in a cool place. It has the power of dissolving, penetrating, consuming, and cleansing.

Let a meal of bitter lupine be cooked in the strongest vinegar until it is very thick and, with 5 ounces of extinct quicksilver[1] added, let the mixture be applied to the head of someone suffering from an abundance of lice, among the parts in the hair.

It is moreover “extinguished” with saliva and rubbed with ash and saliva either in the hair or on the head with the dust of cuttlefish bone and saliva, which is better. It is called “extinct” when it can be mixed with other things, for if it is not extinguished there can be no mixture of it with anything else. Note that quicksilver can’t be placed in something actually hot, since it will be evaporated into smoke, and the smoke of quicksilver is dangerous to those present, since it causes paralysis by weakening the nerves. When taken by mouth or put into the ears it kills by wasting body members.

If, however, it has been taken in the mouth, let goat’s milk be given in great quantity and the patient be kept in motion, or give wine in a decoction of hyssop and absinthe, these are the antidotes for safety.

Against scabies, mix a little vinegar with warm nut oil, but then if let litharge[2] or pulverized white lead if you have an equal quantity be boiled to the thickness of honey, and put quicksilver in this when cold and mix together, and keep it to use.

For face cloths after birth, prepare quicksilver and lead with chicken far and the face, anointed with this, will be clarified and whitened.

Or thus: take sea-snails[3], rose oil, white lead and chicken fat melted on a fire, and place the strained drink on the aforesaid; and last, mix extinguished quicksilver with ash and spit and reserve for use.


[1] “Extinct quicksilver” is defined in Latham as a mercury salt.

[2] Lead monoxide.

[3] I.e. “bellicos marinos” are alternately described as sea snails or pebbles in the shape of navels.

Chap. 6 (f. 187r): Concerning Agnus Castus

Vitex agnus-castus from Wikimedia Commons

Agnus castus[1] is warm and dry in the 4th degree. It is a shrub whose leaves are suited for medicinal purposes, and not its roots — its flowers even more. The flower is called agnus castus, yet commonly it is called marine willow by some. The (whole) plant is called agnus castus; whenever you find agnus castus by itself in a source, you may understand the flowers.[2] Agnus castus can be found in the green at every season, but more in wet places, less in dry. Its flowers are collected in spring and can be preserved for a year, no longer, in great efficacy.

But agnus castus is of the greater efficacy in the green than dried, since it renders man chaste as a lamb by repressing lust.

A bed made from it suppresses lust: the genitals can be warmed by a concoction of it and water. Let its juice be drunk, as well.

Let a pinch of beaver’s testicle be cooked in its juice and given as a drink.

Against vaginal discharge[3], let its flowers and leaves be cooked in vinegar and add beaver’s testicle if you like; this may be smeared on the genitals.

Note that some substances extinguish lust by thickening sperm, like lettuce seed, fleabane, seed of watermelon, of melon, of cucumber, of bryony, of purslane, of escarole, vinegar, verjuice, sumac, camphor, and the like.[4]

Others (work) by banishing spirits and expending the sperm, like rue, marjoram, cumin, calamint, anise. For these are warm and aperient and they dispel and relieve windiness.

Let 3 drams of fennel seed and 3 scruples of spurge be cooked in the juice of agnus castus. Give it strained in the morning with warm wine, for dropsy.

For wine in a mixture with agnus castus flower is very soothing for this.

Let agnus castus be put in oil lees so that it decays, and a decoction be made with strong wine added. With the addition of wax and oil, an unguent is made, which softens hardness of spleen when applied.

A poultice from the liquid of the matrix of agnus castus dries out discharges and constricts their source.

For stimulating menstruation, let a poultice of the liquid of this decoction and clary be made.

Against lethargy, take agnus castus and apium and sage and make a decoction in salt water, and let this be rubbed vigorously on the back of the head.

[1] Agnus castus, a shrubby small tree native to the Mediterranean, is known commonly as chasteberry or monk’s pepper. It is tolerant of salt and can be found close to the shore.

[2] I.e., as opposed to other parts of the plant.

[3] The 1939 ed. reads “gonorream” here, but the early editions have “gomoream”, inflammatory secretions from the urethra or vagina. See Norri, p. 467.

[4] Some of the plant names are in the genitive in this list: presumably their seed is meant.

Chap. 7 (f. 187r): Concerning Alum

Alum crystal, from Wikipedia

Alum is warm and dry in the fourth degree. Alum is a type of earth, according to some, but according to others, it is said to be a vein of earth[1] which, when subjected to high heat, is turned into a white color and becomes alum. It is produced especially in warm countries, and particularly in sulfurous, fiery places. That which is white, sharp, and mixed in with salt is better; that which is dirty and earthen is impure. It can be kept for a long time without corruption. It has the power of drying and of consuming most vigorously.[2]

Against canker: a powder of alum and of marine flesh[3], prepared with worms found in rich soil, is effective when applied.

A wick dipped in such a mixture soothes when placed in the opening of a fistula, or a covering of honey may be laid over a sprinkling of alum powder. But first wash the wound with vinegar.

It heals swellings of the gums when the mouth is rinsed first with vinegar, and afterwards it is rubbed with vinegar and alum. First, however, there must be an application of cupping glasses about the neck and shoulders, with scarifying.

Or thus: first scarify the back portion of the head.

Folio 187v

Credit: Serapio, Senior: Practica Io. Serapionis dicta breuiarium, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

On the third day after the scarring, place blood suckers on the gums themselves. Then wash the mouth with vinegar. Let the mouth be washed twice with a decoction of alum, gall-nut, and rose water, three or four times a day from that vinegar. And wash in this way up to four days, and it will help greatly.

Against scabies: boil quick sulfur and litharge and alum in vinegar, or take, if you want, sulfur with nut oil added, add it to a bath. Wash the afflicted part with warm water, and cover it afterwards.

A bath of alum water is useful for the dropsical, the scabious, and those with aching joints. If however, it isn’t found naturally, a substitute is made thus: let salt and alum boil in water, and with hot stones put into the bottom of a tub, let the stones be sprinkled with warm water and let the patient sweat, sitting in the middle of the tub, and then be washed with water.

Some say that powdered alum is the same as lye. It eats away the superfluous flesh of the eyelids and of any other member; it checks the very worst wounds, that is of farcy buds[1], so that they don’t spread around the body.

Mixed with vinegar and honey it strengthens infirm teeth and checks blood flowing from the mouth.

It heals pustules and scabies if they are rubbed with it, or if they are washed with water in which it has been poured.

Mixed with vinegar and gall-nut, it is effective for checking farcy buds, lest they affect healthy areas.


[1] This is glanders, a disease of horses that is communicable to humans. It causes nodules in various parts of the body. Glanders causes the swelling of the eyelids mentioned here.

Chap. 8 (f. 187v): Celery

Apium graveolescens from Wikipedia

Common celery is warm at the beginning of the third grade and dry in the middle of the same.[2] The plant is sufficiently common: its seed is of the greater efficacy, secondarily the root, third, the plant itself. When, moreover, apium simply is found in a medical formula, the seed is meant.

The seed itself is called selim.[3] It has a diuretic force.

The juice of apium in which saxifrage is cooked relieves strangury and difficulty urinating, also stoppage of urine. Let you give it when it is strained, in the morning. Or this:

Let saxifrage, gromwell, filipendula[4], lapis lincis[5] be cooked in the juice of apium in a strainer, and when the syrup is made, with sugar added, may be given in the morning with warm water.

Likewise, the juice of apium with a decoction of tamarisk dissolves an obstruction and hardness of the spleen and liver, but more properly of the spleen.

Another, likewise: let a decoction of apium root, fennel, and parsley be taken.

Against jaundice let a syrup be made from the juice of apium and of escarole and let it be given with warm water.

Against dropsy let apium root and fennel root boil in the juice of fumitory and let a syrup be made from the water of the decoction with sugar added; it consumes phlegm[6] in a miraculous way.

Let that also be done for the dropsical and for those suffering from Hyposarca.[7] Rx.: of apium juice 1 pound, of escarole 5 pounds, of mastic 1 ounce; with the decoction prepared let it be strained and afterwards, with sugar added, it becomes a syrup. But about the end of the decoction, let 3 drams of powdered spurge be added and 5 ounces of rhubarb powder, and let it be offered in the morning with warm water.

Against madness, let the juice of apium and verjuice or vinegar and oil of violets or roses, 3 pounds, be mixed and boiled in a glass vessel at a fire, and the head anointed with this hot oil, but let it be shaved first.

Against a daily or quotidian fever from a cold cause,[8] let a purging come first. Afterward, let agaric be cooked in a colocynth[9] apple or a hollowed cyclamen root and such a decoction given to the patient.

Note that apium is harmful to pregnant women, since it dissolves the container of the fetus[10] by means of its potency. Whence Galen: when apium is repeatedly necessary for pregnant women, putrid abscesses and putrid wounds are born in the body of the infant.

Likewise let lactating women abstain from apium, lest the infant either be mentally handicapped or epileptic.

It harms epileptics, since it loosens and provokes matter to action and moves upwards.

But it is harmful to children, for this age, on account of an abundance of humidity and debility of strength and constriction of the limbs, is prone to epilepsy.

There are also several types of apium[11]: that is, frog or kidney apium, and apium risus, and apium of hemorrhoids (= pilewort).

Pilewort or Ranunculus ficaria.[12]

Frog’s apium[13], moreover, when cooked in wine and oil and applied as a poultice, assists the kidneys and chest. It relieves the kidneys of pain and mitigates strangury. For this reason, it is called kidney apium, since it assists the kidneys, or frog apium, since it is especially found in places that frogs inhabit, like watery places. The aforementioned poultice soothes pain in the intestines.

Against tenasmus,[14] let a strainer of that [apium] cooked in water of bran be injected through an enema. From its juice, with both oil and wax, let an ointment be made against a disorder of the spleen, and applied as a poultice.

Let apium risus[15] decay in wine and oil; let it be cooked and afterward strained through a cloth, and with wax added it becomes an unguent. It sooths the splenetic greatly, hence it is called apium risus, since it purges the superabounding melancholic humor, from the excess of which comes sadness. Therefore, from a lack of this the contrary effect follows, that is mirth, and then laughter, whence it is said that the spleen causes laughter, since it cleanses the cause of sadness, that is melancholy humors.

Apium risus cooked in water or wine avails against painful urination, inability to urinate, and especially against a stone. Let this decoction be given by itself. Let litontripon[16] be given in the same decoction, as well. They say, as well, that this taken internally slays a man by means of laughter.

For inducing menstruation let fumes or a weak solution be injected. Note that apium should not be administered by mouth, since in some regions it is found most destructive, and if it is taken it is the cause of death.

Against hemorrhoids: apium of hemorrhoids cooked in wine and poulticed on the buttocks dries out moist hemorrhoids. Care must be taken lest this be done with them oozing; if there is pain without oozing, with swelling, if from bulging of those veins, it may soothe this and relieve the swelling.

The powder of this apium, charred, mixed in honey and used as a suppository dries hemorrhoids and on account of this is called apium of hemorrhoids.

AKG and MP

[1] Apium is a genus of herbs in the carrot family (Umbellifers) like parsley and celery. There was little effort to distinguish members of the genus in early texts, at least by name.

[2] Lynn Thorndike comments on degrees where the humors are concerned: “Another definition of degree is an excess or deficiency from the best combination perceptible to sense. There are four degrees: first, third, second, and fourth. The first degree is that dominium which is perceptible to sense, and sense dominates over it, and furthermore it can be perceived without injury. The second is that dominium which equals sense, more than which cannot be perceived without injury. The third is that dominium which injures sense, ” ad quod non nisi virtus accedit. Quartus vero dominium quod est infra primum si quod sit sensu non potest dis- cretum,” and what is beyond the fourth degree sense cannot comprehend, since the dominium of the fourth degree destroys the sense, wherefore the medici have said that there are only four degrees. Each degree has three parts : beginning, middle, and end. The beginning of the first degree is that which starts to equal sense ; its end is fully equal to sense, its mean between them both; and similarly with the third and fourth degrees. Perhaps the ancients could have gone on dividing degrees ad infinitum , but to escape the ridicule of the sophist and not confuse their readers, they left the doctrine of degrees as has been stated. A grain of pepper and drop of water are too small to be destructive. Some bodies are called hot or cold, dry or moist absolutely, some relatively to the human complexio, as Galen says in Tegni.” See “Three texts on degrees of medicines,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 38, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 1964) p. 536, under Resources.

[3] I.e. selinon or selinum.

[4] This may be dropwort, or Oenanthe, a fellow member of the Apiaceae, rather than our modern filipendula.

[5] This was supposed to be the solidified urine of a lynx.

[6] As one of the four bodily humors, phlegm was not understood to be just congestion of the lungs, but any watery fluid associated with swelling of the body.

[7] A type of dropsy as well. An edema of subcutaneous fluid.

[8] I.e. causation by an excess of a cold humor.

[9] Colocynth is a gourd known as bitter apple colloquially; it is used as a purgative.

[10] Presumably the amniotic sac.

[11] The Alphita (p. 11-12) mentions five in particular: Apium risus, apium ranarum, apium emoroidarum, apium silvestrum, and apium domesticum. Tony Hunt identifies apium risum and apium ranarum, p. 29; see under Resources.

[12] A number of plants which could be used to soothe hemorrhoids were called pilewort, but the one that seems to have been known in Europe was this ranunculus.  It is obviously not related to apium in our modern understanding, but belongs to the family Ranunculaceae.

[13] The sources for this are unclear on its modern identity, but fumewort (corydalis or a relative) is a possibility.

[14] The painful urge to defecate continually, caused by illness.

[15] This may be wild smallage (i.e. celery), the species Apium graveolescens, pictured above.

Chap. 9 (f. 187v): Concerning Starch

Wheat starch grains     Photo from Scimat

Starch[1] is moderately warm and humid, which is prepared in this way: put the grain in cold water and let it stay there for a day and a night. Refresh the water every day, up to the point that it seems to be entirely rotted. Afterwards, with the water removed, it can be ground the best. And it can be prepared thus with water added, squeezed through a cloth, and exposed to the sun until the absorption of the water.  Let the water be refreshed frequently, that is up until its bleaching. What remains can then be allowed to dry in the bottom of the vessel and be hardened in the sun. And this is called amilum or amidum because it is prepared without milling; it can be made from cleansed barley in a similar way. 

Starch avails against respiratory inflammation and a cough, when it is cooked with barley water and seasoned with almond milk, and with barley sugar added.

Barely starch, from

AKG and MP

[1] The passage begins, “Amidum vel amilum temperate calidum est,” in Latin, but the spelling attested in Latham is amylum. The Alphita defines it as “medulla frumenti sine mola facti.”

Chap. 10 (f. 187v): Concerning Antimony

Antimony, from Wikipedia

Antimony is hot and dry in the fourth degree. It is a vein of earth, and very similar to the metal tin. It is differentiated from a metal since antimony can be pulverized, a metal cannot, metal can be melted, antimony burns. The brighter antimony is, the better. It has the power of dissolving and of greatly reducing (swellings), and of drying most thoroughly.

A powder of antimony can be prepared with soap of spatarensis[1] or Gallic soap,[2] and a wick coated with this may be inserted at the opening of an ulcer.

Its powder, placed on a consuming cancer[3] or on a fleshy growth, is the best remedy.

Against a polyp, an Apostle’s plaster or a ring plaster can be shaped and, with a dusting of antimony, inserted into the nostrils.

Let a powder of antimony be prepared with powdered myrobalanum nut, in equal weight, and rose-water added, or apply zinc oxide[4] if you have it, with powder of antimony, and this is especially effective against an ulcer of the eye.

Against a nosebleed, a bit of silk dipped in in the juice of sanguinaria[5] and powder of antimony can be inserted into the nostrils.

Let powder of antimony be prepared with the juice of mullein, and a bit of silk dipped into this may be applied for drying out hemorrhoids.

Another thing for hemorrhoids: first put on a little bit through a clyster, and after, if there is anything on the outside, dust it over top. If there is anything inside, the dust can be inserted with a reed placed in the inflated bladder. Powdered black hellebore is effective in this proven way to treat hemorrhoids, as much of it as dust of a

[1] This is probably “sapo Saracenus,” defined by Norri as a “hard grey soap, used for making suppositories.”

[2] Norri, 951: “Soft light-coloured soap”.

[3] Norri (158) remarks that “canker” was not clearly defined in medieval medicine: it could be cancer, a canker sore, or even gangrene or leprosy.

[4] The Latin here is de tutia. Tutia is tutty, or an impure oxide of zinc.

[5] This is perhaps knot-grass.

Chap. 11 (f. 187v): Concerning Acacia

Acacia, or the Shittah tree, from Alamy

Acacia is cold and dry in the third degree. Acacia is, moreover, the juice of immature little plums. It comes about thus: the little plums are collected before they are ripe, and their juice is extracted (cont.)

Folio 188r

Credit: Serapio, Senior: Practica Io. Serapionis dicta breuiarium, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

and afterward well-dried in the sun. Juice of this sort dried out is called acacia. It has constrictive and strengthening virtue. It can be kept for a year.

It is effective against bilious vomiting from a weakness of the power to restrain. Take acacia, mummy[1], and tragacanth or gum Arabic. Let these be blended with egg white and a plaster made on the collar bones. Or make cakes of them in a frying pan and be given, when steeped in rainwater or rose water, to drink.

The same can be done against a menstrual flux.

Against diarrhea: take acacia, hematite stone, hypoquistidos[2] and rose or rainwater. Prepare them and administer.

Against nosebleed or menstrual flux: Make a suppository of acacia and sanguinaria[3] juice for menstrual flux; tansy is added to the aforesaid.

Another: mix tansy, acacia, into plantain juice and make a suppository.

A plaster can also be made against vomiting and diarrhea from acacia, dragon’s blood,[4] mastic, rose oil, and egg white.

Against hot inflammation: acacia steeped with plantain or bindweed juice, or that of any cold herb is effective in the beginning.


[1] Mummy could be anyone of several substances prepared from mummies: powdered mummy, a bituminous substance, etc., although modern scholarship suggests that it was a mineral compound found naturally and not associated with mummies. See below, f. 202v.

[2] This is defined as “the juice of the fungus that grows at the base of the dog rose.” See Alphita, 86.

[3] Pliny remarks that “the Greeks call this polygonum,” which would make it knotweed.

[4] Defined in Alphita as “the gum of some tree growing in India and Persia.” P. 162.

Chap. 12 (f.188r): Concerning Agaric

Agaricus campestris, Field mushroom[1]

Agaric is warm in the second degree, dry in the third. Agaric is like a mushroom, and it grows around the root of the silver fir tree[2], and especially in Lombardy. There are moreover two species: one is feminine and the other masculine. The feminine sort is better and has a rounded form; when it is dried, it becomes a very pure white. The masculine type has an oblong form and is not so white. The white feminine type is light and fragile, and it has certain swellings within, and certain bits within, as though divided up. The masculine does not have these, but is continuous, and it is not so fragile or white, but its lightness can be either from its soundness or from its decay. If it is light from corruption, when it is handled by hand it is easily pulverized and the hand is left dusty from it. If it is sound, it isn’t. It can be preserved for 5 years in great efficacy. Primarily it purges phlegm, but secondarily melancholy.

Against a quotidian fever arising from natural phlegm[3]: agaric may be placed in some decoction which is given to the feverish patient with some other kinds, as with lemon grass.

Or else: after a purgation of the matter has been done, if a fever still persists, take one ounce of agaric, one ounce of fennel[4] juice, and an ounce of fumitory juice, and let them be mixed together. This may be given to the patient prior to the third hour of onset. Many have been relieved by this attempt alone.

Against an obstruction of the intestines: this works in the same way, or otherwise the patient may be given a softening clyster before and after. The clyster may be made thus: take one ounce of agaric and prepare it with oil and honey and some sort of mitigative water, like mallow water, and let this be injected by means of a clyster.

Against painful urination: take saxifrage and cook it well in wine, and strain it, and put five ounces of agaric in the strainings, and give it to the patient.

Against a fistula: take toasted salt, tartar, agaric, and when a very fine powder is made, prepare it with honey, and anoint and apply a pledget. It draws out broken bones, eats away bad flesh, and heals the fistula.

Against hemorrhoids: take the finest powder of agaric and prepare it with cyclamen juice and oil, and warm it at a fire, and it can be applied with a bit of silk dipped into it.

Against a skin disorder: take the aforesaid powder, that is toasted salt, agaric, tartar, and when the skin has been scarified, sprinkle it with the powder.

A decoction of agaric, beaver’s testicle, camel’s grass[5], senna soothes a headache arising from an abundance of phlegm. It also soothes the stomach, or if pills are made of them and mixed with fennel juice or absinthe, they work the same way.


[1] There are many species of agaric mushrooms. The Field mushroom is one that is 1. White, 2. Edible, but Platearius may well be writing about some other type, or no one in particular.

[2] This should be Abies alba.

[3] “Natural phlegm” is in contrast to “unnatural or naughty phlegm,” which arises from corruption by another humor.

[4] Ed. 1: fenum, ed. 2: foenicum, ed. 3 feniculum. Hay or fennel.

[5] Cymbopogon schoenanthus, also know as lemon grass.

Chap. 13 (f. 188r): Concerning Dill

Anethum graveolens, Dill

Dill is warm and dry in the second degree. Dill is an herb whose seed is principally suited for medicinal use, secondarily its root, and thirdly the plant; whence when dill is found in recipes, it should be known that this is the seed. It should be collected in the Spring and dried on the plant itself. It can be kept for three years with great efficacy, but it is better if it is renewed annually. Its dried root, moreover, is either of little or no use, but the plant is a diuretic.

A decoction of it is effective for painful or stopped urination; it is effective for this when given with litontropon.[1]

A syrup made from a decoction of it works for the same condition in the delicate; it may be given in the morning with sugar, with a decoction of dill.

But for children let a plaster be made about the hair of the pubes, from dill cooked in oil.

Against a pain of the uterus: two bunches of dill can be boiled in wine and plastered on, or dill sprouts can boil in wine and be made a suppository. It thus cleanses cold menstrual superfluities and draws out the afterbirth and the menses.

Against a disorder of the chest from the cold: five dried figs or four may be placed in dill juice overnight and, in the morning, a bit of wine added. Let this be well boiled and the strained liquid be administered.

Against hemorrhoids: take powdered nettle and powdered dill and prepare it with honey and rub it on the hemorrhoids. Or thus: dill, acanthus, (i) the seed of nettle, dried, pulverized and, when made into a plaster, put it on. If the hemorrhoids are flowing, apply the powder alone, for it contracts them a good deal. If the veins are not bleeding, but they appear inflated on the outside, steep the powder of dill with honey and egg white and apply it.

This is also effective against a fig-shaped hemorrhoid if it is inside the anus when made into a suppository.

A decoction of dill and mastic is effective against vomiting from a cold cause.

It also avails against hiccups arising from the same cause when placed on the nostrils, or when chewed, or cooked with meat, or drunk, for it comforts the head and the stomach.

Dill assuages severe pains and flatulence; it stops ordinary vomiting caused by food. Cooked in oil and plastered on, it stops hiccupping caused by fullness.

It provokes slumber and matures soft inflammations yet impairs the accustomed vision.

The flower of dill takes away headache when cooked in wine and applied. It also alleviates pain in struggling intestines and bellies.


[1] Norri, p. 607: “Electuary against urinary stones, containing herbs, roots, spices, and various seeds mixed with honey.”

Chap. 14 (f. 188r): Concerning Asphodel[1]

White Asphodel, from Wikimedia Commons

Asphodel is the same plant as one hundred-headed albutium,[2] It is warm and dry in the second degree. Its leaves are similar to the leaves of a leek. The root is better suited to medicine than the leaves. It is better in the green than dried. It has a diuretic force: it is effective for consuming, attracting, and drying. It is effective for the aforesaid, and in the same manner as dill, except that it is effective for sickness of the skin and alopecia in this way: take charred bees and mix a powder of them with asphodel juice, and this will be a fitting ointment against the aforesaid.

Against strangury and the stoppage of urine: in three ounces of asphodel juice, dissolve 1 ounce of powdered saxifrage and 1 ounce of gromwell and let them boil up to the consumption of two-thirds, and give the patient the strained fluid with sugar.

Against dropsy: let the mid-bark of dwarf-elder and 3 drams of dropwort [an] boil in 4 ounces of asphodel juice, and this may be given especially against white dropsy.[3]

Against an ulcer or any other affliction of the eyes: take 5 ounces of saffron and 5 ounces of myrrh and boil them in 5 pounds of good red wine and five pounds of asphodel juice up to reduction by half, and put it in the sun for many days so that it is reduced by half. It should be placed in a brazen vessel. It is marvelously effective if the eyes are daubed with such a salve.

It is also good against impetigo, as it was described for alopecia.


[1] There is a great deal of confusion about the meaning of “affodillus” in glossaries; identifications range from daffodil to garlic and sweet woodruff. Modern asphodel is a member of the Asphodelaceae.

[2] Again, this identification is circular: albutium is either asphodel or crow’s garlic; either will have a flower head or stalk composed of many flowers. Here, the 1587 ed. has the preferred reading: centum capita albutium, while the 1497 ed. reads cecum capita albutiam.

[3] Leucofleuma is “Dropsy stemming from phlegmatic humours, affecting entire body and making skin white.” Norri, 594.

Chap. 15 (f. 188r): Concerning Garlic

Garden Garlic (Allium sativum)  from Wikimedia commons

Wild garlic or scordeon (Allium vineale), from Wikimedia Commons

Garlic is warm and dry in the middle of the fourth grade. Some garlic is domestic, some is wild, that which is called scordeon. The latter, however, is less dry and warm than cultivated garlic, but we do not have a determination by how much in the authorities. It works moderately, however, whence the wild form should be used in medicinal recipes rather than the domestic, which works more violently. The former, however, does not.

We use the flowers of the wild garlic; this should be collected at the end of spring, hung in a shady place, and dried. They can be preserved with much efficacy for two years, but it is better if they are refreshed annually.

We use the heads of domestic garlic. It has the power of dissolving, consuming, and of expelling poison.

Against the bite of venomous animals: take crushed garlic and plaster it on.

Folio 188v

Credit: Serapio, Senior: Practica Io. Serapionis dicta breuiarium, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Against worms: take garlic, pepper, pellitory, parsley, the juice of mint, and vinegar, and after making a relish of them, it is put on food and eaten.

For opening the passages of the liver and the urinary passages, make a relish in a similar way, and let it be blended with wine and the juice of a diuretic herb and administered.

Against strangury, dysuria, and pain of the groin: crush garlic and cook it in oil. When a plaster is made from this, place it on the chest and around the penis. And it will soothe the painful areas well.

For stimulating menstruation: a clove of garlic may be peeled and, well-cleaned, placed into the opening of the womb. This stimulates menstruation, as Constantinus says.

Or thus: garlic may be cooked in water, and the woman may sit in the water up to her navel. And garlic may be boiled in oil and a suppository made from it.

The area where there is morphea can be scarified and afterward rubbed and plastered with crushed garlic.

Against gangrene[1]: take the head and leaves of garlic and grind them with pepper and make a plaster; this consumes the foul matter.

Garlic is injurious to vision, since it dries and moves humors to the eyes themselves; it even harms the whole body if it is eaten above moderation, since it causes leprosy and many other ailments, like stroke, mania, etc.

The flowers of wild garlic are diuretic. And in syrup or wine or some other beverage they prevail against strangury and dysuria.

It should be noted that domestic garlic is seldom or never found in medicines in books of antidotes; wild garlic is found more often because of its more moderate qualities.

Garlic does not harm the bilious; it quickly generates red bile and benefits the phlegmatic and paralytic.

AKG and MP

[1] Text reads “erpeten estiomenum,” which Norri (p. 505) spells “herpere estiomene” and defines as “gangrene, esp. most severe of three types (cancrena, -ene; aschachilos; (herpes) estiomenus); said to destroy affected limb.”

Chap. 16 (f. 188v): Concerning Sweet Flag

Acorus calamus from Wikimedia Commons

            Sweet flag is hot and dry in the second degree. Acorus is the root of a gladiolus[2] which is not found only in wet places, but it also grows near the coast and in dry places. Sweet flag ought to be collected at the beginning of summer and divided into four parts, with the unnecessary outer parts removed, with a small knife, and dried thus in the sun, in such a way that it does not rot quickly, preserving its own moisture. But it can be kept with great efficacy for three years.[3] It has the virtue of dissolving, both aperitive and diuretic.

For hardness of the spleen and the liver, take a pound of sweet flag root, crushed a little, and let it be steeped for three days in vinegar, the same number of nights. Afterward, let it be cooked to half the quantity of vinegar. Strain afterward and add honey to the strained liquid. And let it be cooked again until the vinegar is consumed. Let that oxymel be given to the patient daily in the morning with a decoction of sweet flag.

For the same purpose, take a pound and a half of sweet flag juice, an ounce and a half of oil, a half a pound of vinegar, 2 ounces of armoniac[4], 1 ounce of serapinum,[5] and allow them likewise to lie in vinegar for one night. In the morning cook until reduced by half. Then add the powder of this same sweet flag and anoint the spleen and liver with this unguent by softening it with the hands. And if you wish to make an ointment, add beeswax to the decoction and anoint with this ointment, or let it be applied in the form of a plaster.

A wine of this decoction is effective for the same purpose, but do not give it to the feverish.

Against jaundice: the root of sweet flag may be cooked in water and strained, and in the strained liquid cook red chickpeas and give it to the patient. This is the highest remedy if there is no fever. If there is a slow fever[6], make a bath with the root of sweet flag if you are able to. Or if you do not have enough of it, put some powdered sweet flag in the bath in a little sack,or cook sweet flag in great quantity in water and put the patient in the water, well covered with toweling so that he may sweat, since a thorough sweating best purges red bile.

Against an opaque blemish on the eye: put the juice of sweet flag and of fennel in a vessel and expose it to the sun, so that the moisture be consumed. Afterward add powdered aloe and let them boil a little at a fire and strain it through a cloth. After this, put it in a brazen vessel, and when the work is done, it can be placed in the eyes with a quill.

This is also effective for the opacity of the eye which is called webbing.

It cools the air in this way: its leaves can be scattered on the floor, and it cools the air marvelously with a real coolness.

A decoction of sweet flag is effective against pain in the side, the liver, and the chest.

The juice of its root cleanses the eyes.

AKG and MP

[1][1] Acorus is variously identified as sweet flag (Acorus calamus, not an iris) and yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus). Since it is primarily the root which was used medicinally, both were probably in circulation under the same name. It is also called “gladiolus,” a different species today.

[2] Not our modern gladiolus.

[3] Here, the Wölfel edition gives “for three years,” while the earlier editions have “for two years.”

[4] Tony Hunt identifies armoniaca as wild mustard, also spelled armoracia. The description that Circa instans itself provides under armoniac sounds more like Ferula marmarica, or Ammoniacum, as identified by Everett in The Alphabet of Galen, however.

[5] Serapinum is not precisely identified, although Gerarde suggests that it is rose water. See Mowat, Alphita, p. 153, n. 15.

[6] This seems to mean a fever with wasting.There are at least two early modern works on “febre lenta” listed in WorldCat. The first, Adversaria de febre lenta nervosa rheumatismo et hydrope, by Christian Gottlob Demiani (1777), associates it with watery humors. The second, Dissertatio inauguralis medica de febre marasmode vulgo lenta …, by Samuel Schaffner (1707), specifically associates a slow fever with wasting.

Chap. 17 (f. 188v): Concerning gum ammoniac

Dorema ammoniacum, from Dave’s Garden

Gum ammoniac[1] is warm in the third degree and dry in the second. It is the gum of some tree which is called by a similar name, whose branches are divided minutely on the surface in summer days. The liquid exuded from it is hardened and called armoniac.[2] That which is whiter and purer should be chosen, and with which earth is not mingled. The good sort, moreover, is similar in whiteness to a cooked egg. It has the virtue of dissolving and of relaxing.

Against any moist cough and asthma from thick and viscous phlegm: three drops of ammoniac can be put in a soft-boiled egg or diluted with honey and administered to the patient. Or make little pills of it with honey and administer them, when the chest has been softened first with a marsh mallow ointment or butter or linseed oil or bear’s foot[3].

Against scrofula[4] in early stages: take ammoniac, rock salt, lye, horehound juice, and wax, dilute it with vinegar, and anoint.

 Against a malady of the spleen: take ammoniac with an equal weight of galbanum[5], dissolve it in vinegar and leave it overnight, dissolving until morning when, with wax and a powder of costmary[6] and absinthe; use as an unguent or ointment.[7]

One scruple of ammoniac drunk with an oxymel cures splenetics.

A plaster made from it and vinegar and rubbed on a hardness of the spleen and the liver soon cures the hardness.

Against worms: let ammoniac be given with the juice of absinthe and persicaria, with honey added.

It cleanses white lesions of the eyes and softens roughness of the eyelids, with an equal measure of hard resin mixed in.

For stimulating menstruation: make a suppository or suffumigation of ammoniac alone, or a suppository of it, of galbanum, and asafetida.

For children to whom nothing should be given, take ammoniac, the juice of absinthe, and persicaria, make a plaster, and put it about the navel.


[1] Armoniac or ammoniac is another plant identified in different ways in glossaries, but Platearius does seem to be describing the ferny foliage of a Ferula species, rather than a “tree.” There are three varieties known today: one from Cyrenaica, one from Persia which is used commercially today, and one from Morocco. The scientific name is Ferula ammoniacum, also know as Dorema ammoniacum. It is used both as an incense and an adhesive.

[2] Platearius interchanges the spellings armoniac and ammoniac freely.

[3] Helleborus foetidus.

[4] “Hard swelling or lump occurring in clusters esp. in neck (also armpits and groin); sickness so marked; compared to a pig’s wattle or a bunch of grapes; in some texts said to lead to ulceration; inflammation or tuberculosis of lymph nodes (in neck, scrofula) are likely identifications.” Norri, p. 962.

[5] Another Ferula, in this case Ferula galbaniflua, acc. to Everett, p. 237.

[6] Tanacetum balsamita.

[7] The two Latin terms here are unguentum and cerotum. A cerotum is specifically an ointment containing beeswax.

Chap. 18 (f. 188v): Concerning anise

Pimpinella Anisum, Wikipedia

Anise is warm and dry in the fourth degree. It is called sweet cumin by another name. It is the seed of an herb which is called by a like name. It has the power of dissolving and consuming.

Against windy indigestion and acidic belching: let wine of a decoction of anise, fennel, and mastic be given, or wine of a decoction of anise, costus root, mastic, or most of these with a powder of cinammon and mastic added.

This avails against indigestion and pain in the bowels from a cold cause, or some electuary which aids digestion may be given with such a mixture.

It avails against pain that comes from gas, warm with pellitory.

Against earache, especially from a moist humor: let a decoction of it be made with leek juice and oil on the surface of chives and dripped into the ears.

Against a defect of the womb from a cold cause: give trifera magna[1] with a decoction of anise.

A decoction of anise with other diuretic herbs dissolves an obstruction of the spleen and liver.

Against bruising from a blow and especially if it is on the face and about the eye, anise may be ground with cumin and placed on it with melted wax.

For increasing milk and sperm, powdered anise taken with food or drink is effective; and it accomplishes this by opening ducts as much for milk as for sperm, by its heat.


[1] Norri (1118) describes this as “an electuary used as an emmenagogue … <which> contains many herbs (e.g. mandrake, henbane), juice of opium poppy, and spices, all mixed with honey.”

Chap. 19 (f. 188v): Concerning absinthe[1]

Wormwood or artemisia from Etsy

Absinthe is warm in the first degree and dry in the second. There are two sorts of absinthe, one which is called Pontic,[2] whether because it is found on sea islands or because it has a sea-water taste. It has a green color, a very bitter flavor. It is collected at the end of spring. When it is dried in a shady place, it may be kept for a year. However, when it is found whitish and less bitter, thus it is of lesser effect.

Absinthe is said to have 2 contrary properties: that is, laxative and constrictive. It has a constrictive effect from thickness and brininess of substance, and it has a laxative from its warmth and bitterness. It is said to have a heavy substance on account of brininess and bitterness, for the bitter and the briny are said to have a heavy substance.

[1] 1497: Chap. 19, f. 188v; 1582: c. 19, f. 157.

[2] Acc. to Alphita, “some call pontic absinthe centonica.” Latham identifies centonica as “santonica”, or wormwood. Santonion is a variety of wormwood identified by Dioscorides. The Alphabet of Galen more types: Santonic, Gallic, and Marine or Pontic.

Folio 189r

Credit: Serapio, Senior: Practica Io. Serapionis dicta breuiarium, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

(Absinthe, cont.) For this reason, if it is taken internally when there is compacted matter there, it renders this matter more compact by its own heaviness, and with its warmth (it works) on that which is moist in it by dissolution.[1] And thus it renders that matter less suitable for digestion. And so it works with contraries. For this reason it should not be given unless there is digested matter present so that it may dissolve the matter and expel the dissolved matter by mean of its constricting brininess.

Against worms living in the lower intestines, let the juice of absinthe be administered with powdered betony, centaurea, persicaria, or peach pits or leaves.[2]

Against an obstruction of the spleen: let its juice be given with the powder of costus.[3] This same avails against an obstruction of the liver from a cold origin.

Against an obstruction of the liver or jaundice: let its juice and endive’s be given or a syrup of these be made and given with warm water.

For stimulating the menses let its juices be used as a pessary, or let a suppository be made from it and artemisia cooked in common oil or oil of violets or or of mustellinon, which is better.

Against head pain from an affliction(?)[4] of the stomach, that is, from a corrupt humor of the stomach, let its juice be given with sugar and warm water.

Against drunkenness, let its juice be given with honey and warm water.

When apoplexy is suspected it is the supreme remedy for the loss of speech.

Against corruption from a cold humor, it may be given with vinegar and warm water, or with dittany powder.

Against choking/suffocation by fungus[5], it may be given with vinegar and warm water.

Against hardening of the spleen, absinthe cooked in oil can be plastered on; or it may be anointed with an unguent made from its juice with vinegar and ammoniac, from wax and oil in sunlight, or by softening it with the hands at a fire.

Against pain and bruising of the limbs from a blow, a plaster can be made from the juice of absinthe, powdered cumin, and honey.

Against earworms[6], let its juice be dropped in.

When drunk, its juice clarifies vision, and when placed on the eyes, it eliminates redness and ulceration[7] of the eyes.

It keeps books and clothing safe from mice, as Dioscorides and Macrobius testify.

A syrup made from it supports the stomach and the liver.

When cooked with oil and wax and oil are mixed in, it soothes the stomach as an ointment, and drives out distress.

It stimulates the appetite and wards off drunkenness and cures jaundice.

When drunk with hartwort[8] or spikenard, it alleviates distress of the stomach and intestines which arises from excessive wind and moisture.

A dusting of it plastered on dissolves hardness.

When dropped in the ears, its juice drives out moisture running from them.

When rubbed with bull’s bile and instilled into the ears, it soothes them and drives out ringing from them.

[1] The Latin in this rather confusing passage reads “eam grossitie sua compactiorem redderet suaque caliditate quod humiditatis inerat (inerrat?) dissolvendo ab ea.”

[2] Nucleorum persicorum et foliorum can be interpreted in different ways; a second possibility is walnuts and their leaves …

[3] Costus or costum is identified in various ways. The OLD defines it as “an aromatic plant, Sassurea lappa, or its root.” The species Sassurea costus is still used as a medicinal plant.

[4] This word is presented differently in all of the editions: anatumasi, enatumasi, or anathimiasi, chronologically. There is undoubtedly a corruption in the manuscript sources.

[5] Is this poisoning?

[6] Medieval doctors attributed earaches to worms.

[7] Pannus oculorum is defined as a “White opaque blemish upon cornea, resulting from ocular inflammation or ulceration.”  Norri, 787.

[8] Tordylium apulum, a member of the carrot family and thus related to dill and fennel.

Chap. 20 (f. 189r): Concerning Cashew Nut[1]

Semecarpus anacardium or the marking nut or cashew of medieval apothecaries[2]

Cashews are warm in the third degree and dry in the fourth. They are, moreover, the fruit of some tree growing in India. Some say they are the little feet of an elephant, but this is false. Those that are weightier and moister are better. They can be kept for a long time, that is for 30 years, unless they are stored in too dry or too moist a place.

When consumed on their own, cashews cause leprosy or death.[3]

Against forgetfulness, let beaver’s testicle be cooked in strong vinegar, and after that put in the gum of cashew with its exterior part discarded, then let the back of the head be anointed with it, with scarring first.

Against ringworm and impetigo: prepare orpiment with cashew juice, and when the part of the sufferer has cleansed with warm water, apply this unguent. Take care it isn’t left too long, however, since this can cause too great an incision, but after removing it, wash it again with water, then apply again, and thus you may continue many times, applying and washing.

Against morphea[4]: prepare sage, absinthe, and the ground pith of bitter gourd with the juice of cashew, or this: let a decoction of those things be made with vinegar, and from these make a plaster.

The “God-given” electuary of cashew avails against forgetfulness and cures leprosy.[5]


[1] Anacardus means cashew nut in Latin, but this cannot be what we think of today as cashews (Anacardium occidentale), which are a new world crop.

[2] Semecarpus anacardium is used today in Ayurvedic medicine, but the nut is indeed poisonous unless processed. It is used as an abortifacient.

[3] Acc. to Wikipedia, the oil from marking nuts can give blisters or painful wounds, although the assertion is not sourced. “Lepra”, of course, could refer to any number of skin complaints in the M.A.

[4] Norri, p. 694: “Skin sickness involving local patches of darker or lighter colour; esp. the lighter variety is said to involve loss of body hair.”

[5] Norri, p. 1094: ”’God-given’ electuary, containing marking nut (Semecarpus anacardium), gums, spices, herbs, honey; used against sicknesses of the head due to excess or morbid humours, paleness, amenorrhea.”

Chap. 21 (f. 189r): Concerning Bitter Almond

Prunus amygdalus va. Amara, bitter almond[1]

Bitter almonds are warm and dry in the second degree. The bitter sort are suited for medicine, the sweet for eating.

Against asthma and coughing from a cold cause: bitter almonds may be ground and made into a porridge, with sugar added to suppress the bad flavor.

Against deafness: let it be ground and placed between two leaves under glowing ashes, then pressed. The oil which flows out may be dropped into the ears when something moist interferes with the hearing or when corrupt matter emerges.

Against worms: let a dish of it be made with some oil and the flour of bitter lupin, or a plaster can be made from this and applied around the navel of children.


[1] Bitter almond is superficially very similar to the sweet or edible variety, but it contains highly toxic substances (amygdalin and cyanide) which make it inedible. It is occasionally used medicinally in very small doses.

Chap. 22 (f. 189r): Concerning Aristolochia

Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort

There are different species of aristolochia, the long and the round. Each is warm and dry in the second degree, and some say dry in the third degree. The round is better suited to medicine, but the root rather than the leaves. When the root is collected in the autumn and dried, it can be kept for two years with considerable efficacy. And note that all plants whose roots are suited for medicine ought to be collected when flowers are present, since then moisture is gathered around the roots, but leaves when flowers are in bud, for then the moisture is drawn to the surface.

The leaves with the flowers have the power of digesting and expelling venom, and this may be kept for two years.

Against the bite of poisonous animals: let a powder of it be given with the juice of mint.

Its powder eats away dead flesh a little bit, whether on a wound[1] or on an ulcer. Let a wick be formed according to its depth and, when honey has been applied, let it be dusted with aristolochia powder and introduced into the wound afterwards.

For expelling a dead fetus, even a beast, let its root be cooked in wine and oil and a foment be made near the femur.

Against moist asthma: two parts of powdered aristolochia and half of gentian may be prepared with honey and such an electuary given.

Against epilepsy: aristolochia, rose, euphorbia, beavers’ testicle, and quick sulfur may be made into a decoction in parsley oil or nutmeg oil or at least olive oil, and let the spine be anointed from the neck downward.

This same powder, mixed with vinegar, also cures the skin of scabs and oozing.

Dioscorides says that a weight of aristolochia given with wine to drink avails against venom.

Likewise it soothes a bellyache.

When drunk with pepper and myrrh, it cleanses the unclean matter of childbirth and stimulates menstruation.

When drunk with water, they say that the round sort provides relief for epileptics, the gout-ridden, and those having a convulsion.

It avails for a breathing difficulty or hiccups, and it benefits those having a hardened spleen.

It cuts short a feverish chill or pain in the side if it is drunk with water.


[1] Here the 1582 edition reads “pulvere”, which seems to be a less appropriate reading than “vulnere,” as it appears in the earlier edition.

Chap. 23 (f.189r): Concerning Ambergris

Ambergris from Wikipedia

Ambergris is warm and dry in the second degree. Ambergris is said to be the sperm of a whale. Some say that it is the afterbirth, but this is false, since that is impure and has a red color. Ambergris, however, is white, and if it is found of a gray color it is better. The black is of no use. It has the power to fortify.

It may be counterfeited with a powder of lignum aloe and calamite gum[1] and dispersed with laudanum, with the addition of musk dissolved in rose water and a small amount of ambergris applied. The counterfeit can be recognized since it can be softened with the hands like wax; true ambergris cannot. It has the power of preserving and of invigorating; it can be kept for a long time.

Against fainting: make little pills of 1 scruple of ambergris, 1 scruple of lignum aloe, and 2 scruples of bone of stag’s heart; when crushed, these can be dissolved in rose water and little pills can be made thence.

Against epilepsy: put ambergris, bone of stag’s heart, and hartshorn[2] in a glass vessel, and the patient my receive its fumes through the nostrils and mouth; it is very effective.

Against suffocation: the ground product can be put likewise in a glass vessel (cont.)

Folio 189v

with other aromatics or alone, and the fumes received through the opening of the womb[3], but fetid matter brought close to the nostrils, as with a lighted wick, dipped and anointed with oil, brought close to the nostrils. Only with such a wick dampened in oil, extinguished, and applied to the nostrils, did John Platerarius’s mother deliver some noblewoman.

Note that against a collapsed uterus, fetid things should be placed below, aromatic above; against suffocation the fetid above, the aromatic below.


[1] Referring to styrax, a gum from either a Liquidamber or Altingia tree: “Another variety, formerly called styrax calamita, from the circumstance, it is supposed, that it was brought wrapped in the leaves of a kind of reed, consisted of dry and brittle masses, formed of yellowish agglutinated tears, in the interstices of which was a brown or reddish matter.”

[2] Ground antler, formerly used as a source of ammonia for leavening and medicinal use.

[3] One definition of suffocation, acc. to Norri (1052) is a “disorder attributed to the upward movement of the womb, with compression of heart and lungs.” Lesley Dean Jones, in ‘Medicine: the “Proof” of Anatomy,’ in Women in the Classical World, ed. Elaine Fantham et al. (Oxford, 1994), p. 189, puts it thus, acc. to Hippocrates in Diseases of Women: if a womb is displaced a method of drawing it back “was to use seet and foul-smelling substances at either end of a woman – sweet to entice the womb in the direction it should go, foul to drive it from the place it had lodged.”

Chap. 24 (f. 189v): Concerning Mugwort[1]

 Artemisia vulgaris, from NCIIH website

The Artemisia which is called the mother of herbs is warm and dry in the fourth degree. Its leaves are better suited to medicinal use than its roots, green rather than dried.

Mugwort is effective against sterility caused by moistness; for if sterility is from dryness, mugwort is harmful. It can be determined well enough from the circumference of a woman whether she is fat or thin. Mugwort should be pulverized with the juice of the herb which is called “bistort”[2] and with nutmeg; they should be in the same quantities, moreover. This powder should be prepared with honey or with simple syrup[3] in the manner of an electuary and given morning and evening with wine of a decocotion of arthemisia.

It is neverthless more effective if she is bathed in water in which artemisia and laurel leaves were cooked; or if the womb is fomented with such a water, artemisia is effective cooked in common or nut oil.

For provoking menstruation: make a pessary of these and let such a decoction be adminstered as a pessary.

Against tenasmus from a cold cause: let the patient receive the fumes of colophony, placed on coals, through the anus; then warm artemisia on a tile, and when warm, it can be put on a millstone and the infirm person may sit on this; this is effective.

Against the little cysts which arise near the anus: first scarify about them, afterwards apply a powder of mugwort and horehound.

Against migraine and headache[4]: let some opiate be given with warm water, or with wine of a decoction of mugwort.


[1] The common name Mugwort is applied to several different types of Artemisia, but most commonly to Artemisia vulgaris.

[2] Knotgrass.

[3] I.e., sugar and water.

[4] Specifically a headache all over the head.

Chap. 25 (f. 189v): Concerning Vinegar

Various vinegars, Wikipedia

Vinegar is cold and dry in the second degree. It has a penetrative effect, and it is divisive[1] by means of its substance and constrictive[2] by means of its own qualities.

Vinegar is made in this way: let good wine be put in a vessel so that it is only half full, and left uncovered, and so vinegar is made. Or is you wish to do it more swiftly, warm up a piece of steel or pebbles and put them in the wine, with the mouth of the vessel remaining uncovered. Or the vessel with the wine can be put in the sun for 2 or 3 days. You may test it in this way: put the vinegar on the earth or on cold iron, and if it bubbles, it is good, and if it doesn’t, it is not.

Against vomiting and a flux from the stomach[3]: boil the bark[4] of rose, of tamarind, of oak gall, or of round birthwort, or any one of these, in vinegar. And put wool or a sponge in the vinegar and put on the stomach, if it is vomiting, or if it is diarrhea, put it on the kidneys or on the navel.

A vinegary syrup is generally effective against a simple tertian fever[5] and a double tertian fever,[6] and also a quotidian fever from intermittent phlegm, and for all acute fevers, if it is given early with warm water. It is divided or made greater in this way, moreover: sugar can be dissoved in water and vinegar and cooked until it clings to a catia(?). And if you want to make a diuretic, cook it longer, as is found in the Salernitan Collection.

This syrup is effective against warm matter, and vinegar is also effective against cold matter,[7] since an oxymel can be made from vinegar and honey, sometimes simple, sometimes compounded. The simple is made from two parts vinegar, the third honey, if they are cooked to the thickness of honey at the same time. The compound is made in this way: take the roots of fennel, of celery, of parsley and crush them a bit, let them soak in vinegar for a day and a night, and on the second day cook this as above. Strain it afterward and in the vinegar strained thus put a third part of honey and cook as above. Likewise, a squill oxymel[8] is made in this way: take squill[9] and put it into vinegar for a day and a night, and cook and strain it. It is necessary, however, that the outmost parts and the inmost parts of the squill be cast aside and the middle parts be mixed in. Afterwards, mix in honey, as above. And if you do not have squill, take a radish root instead and do the same thing. Just as this vinegar syrup is administered against hot matter, so the oxymel is given against cold matter, since it breaks it up.

Vinegar improves the appetite. Take sage, pepper, parsley, pellitory and grind them and steep them in vinegar; such a sauce is called poitevin.[10]

Again, if flesh is eaten with vinegar alone this stimulates the appetite.

Note that, if vinegar encounters an empty stomach, it constricts it, but if full it relaxes it.

It is effective against the debilities of sickness: take vinegar and put baked bread into it. When this bread is well-moistened touch it to the mouth and the lips and the nostrils of the sufferer, and the arteries of the arm, and also bind this bread there on the veins, that is bread made damp with vinegar, and it will invigorate the patient greatly. It is better if you add the juice of mint with the vinegar – the bread is more effective when dipped in the juice of mint.

Vinegar is effective against lethargy and mental derangement if there is a rubbing around the palms of the hands and soles of the feet with salt and vinegar.

For these same afflictions, it is helpful if the head can be washed, after shaving it, with a decoction of vinegar and beaver’s testicle.

Note that a young animal, cut through the back, like a pig with its guts removed, placed on the head, so that that which remains in the young animal is only the heart, the liver, and the lungs, is extremely effective.[11]


[1] A medicine that is “divisive” dissolves morbid matter and humors; Norri, 312.

[2] A medicine that is “constrictive” is used to stop bleeding or excessive discharge of bodily humors; Norri, 244.

[3] I.e., diarrhea. The Alphabet of Galen uses “constrictive” meaning “astringent.”

[4] Here, the 1497 ed. reads “ramnus,” but the 1582 ed. has an ms. correction to “tannum,” i.e. bark. This is the more likely reading.

[5] Norri (p. 1089) defines a simple tertian fever as a “tertian fever with an attack every second day; attributed to choler putrefying in one part of the body only.”

[6] Ibidem: “tertian fever due to the humour choler putrefying in different parts of the body, with daily attacks.”

[7] Norri, 630: cold matter is a morbid bodily fluid dominated by cold, hot matter is dominated by hot.

[8] Norri (778): “an oxymel squill is a medicinal potion made of honey, vinegar, and the bulbs of squill.”

[9] Sea squill or sea onion.

[10] See Norri at 944-45.

[11] The Middle English version of Circa instans recommends using a catulus, generally interpreted as a “puppy” today, but the Latin version goes on to specify a pig. Other medieval medics were known to recommend binding a dead mole to the head for headache; see Peter J. Koehler and Christopher J. Boes, A history of non-drug treatment in headache, particularly migraine, in Brain v. 1, issue 8, available at

Chap. 26 (f. 189v): Concerning Alkanet

  Alcanna tinctoria from Wikipedia

Alkanet is cold in the first degree, dry at the beginning of the second degree. Alkanet is an herb in overseas areas and found abundantly in Sicily. It has the power of cleansing, wiping dry, and of diminishing. Since it is not found everywhere, then, some powder it and the powder can be transported through diverse regions. Its powder is a darkish color, and it can be kept for many years.

It is effective for healing skin in this way: who wishes to clean the skin and make it fine, whether on a limb or on the whole body, should take a bath, and when the parts of the body have been cleaned with warm water, alkanet can be mixed into an egg white and vinegar and applied. And a little later, the parts which were treated can be rinsed off.

Wash them in the same way on the second day, and again on the third, and again on the fourth.

Note that on the first day the treated areas will appear discolored, on the second day less, and by the fourth day, they will seem especially clear.

In this way, even herpes granosus[1] can be cured.

For mending a wound, use alkanet alone in this way, also on the ear or the nose, and even elsewhere.

Note that if you ’on’t have alkanet for mending a wound, a powder of cinammon by itself will help.

If you want to dye hair or nails or other parts of the body a reddish color, dissolve alkanet with vinegar or water.[2]

If you want a dark color, mix it in oil and allow the dyed area to dry. It will scarcely fade afterwards, unless with lemon juice and galingale, or bran and vinegar.


[1] Possibly herpes simplex; see Norri, p. 506.

[2] Alkanet is still used today as a natural dye producing a reddish-purple color.

Chap. 27 (f. 189v): Concerning Orpiment[1]

Orpiment from Wikimedia

Orpiment is warm and dry in the fourth degree. It comes from a vein of the earth. It dissolves, attracts, and cleanses. There are two types of orpiment, the red and the yellow. The yellow is suited for medicine.

Against entrenched asthma or cough which is of a moist sort: let orpiment be put above live coals and let the patient, standing erect with head bent, take in the smoke through an embotum[2]. An embotum is an instrument which is broad below, narrow above, with a channel at the bottom.

Dew is also effective against asthma from a moist cause; it may be given to children: 1 scruple of orpiment (cont.)

Folio 190r

Credit: Serapio, Senior: Practica Io. Serapionis dicta breuiarium, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

(Orpiment, cont.) may be given with soft-boiled egg, or wine or with mother’s milk.

This is effective in the same way: make a depilatory out of orpiment and quicklime in this way: take 4 ounces of quicklime and dissolve it in water and boil it. Afterward, add a quarter part of an ounce of orpiment and cook it. A sign that it is done is when a quill is dipped in, and at once is extracted, it may easily be stripped.

If you wish to remove hair, it is necessary to be in a warm place and apply this depilatory to the spot. Afterwards wash with warm water, since otherwise it will strip the skin off, if it is cold or too warm. But note that they add cumin and aloe to this depilatory, so that it will not strip the skin.

Three scruples of orpiment consumed with a soft-boiled egg help the asthmatic.

Against impetigo and creeping white skin disease[3]: take 3 pounds of soft soap[4] and a third part of orpiment, blend them, make an unguent, and apply. And first clean the area with warm water, and after application, clean likewise, since if it remains there a long time, it will eat away as much good flesh as the bad. Wash 3 or 4 times <after> applying that.

So that hair will never come back again: pull it out at the root and anoint with the oil of henbane, prepared together with orpiment. The hair will never come back.

Henbane oil is made in this way: crush henbane seed with common (olive) oil, and strain it afterward. Reserve it for use.

For restoring nails: take serapinum gum and mix with it a powder of orpiment, oil, and wax and make a plaster. And place this on the nail.


[1] Orpiment is an arsenic sulfide compound commonly used for pigments and medicines despite its toxicity. The yellow form is true orpiment, while the red is also known as realgar, which becomes more yellow as it decomposes.

[2] A pipe or funnel for ingesting or inhaling medicine.

[3] Serpigo, “the creeping white skin disease here, is defined by Norri as a “Skin sickness with tendency to spread, with nonpurulent bran-like scaling, itching, and ulceration; in VigoChir Aa1vb said to involve lesions that are not round (unlike impetigo).” P. 970

[4] The Alphita refers to sapo spatarensis, as it appears here, as a soap that “cuts like a sword,” and notes that the Jews used it for washing silk. It seems to be a soft soap that is more caustic than the usual. It goes on to say that it comes from French soap or other soaps, p. 159. See also Norri, p. 1002f.

Chap. 28 (f. 190r): Concerning Asphalt

Bitumen from Wikimedia Commons

Asphalt, that is Bitumen Judaicum[1] is warm and dry in the fourth degree. It can be preserved for long time in great efficacy. It is indeed an earth which comes from overseas regions, that is from Judea and India. It is of a black color, weighty and smelly. It has the power of attracting and consolidating. Some say that it is the foam of a certain lake, that is formed and hardens, in which lake, that is, Sodom and Gomorrah perished.

But wherever it comes from, it is greatly effective for drawing wounds together, if it is pulverized and placed on a dry wound, even if the wound was long and wide.

It is also effective for an affliction of the womb, as much below as above, if it is placed on coals. And let the woman receive the smoke through the opening of the womb, if the womb presses the respiratory organs, or through the vulva with a pipe. But if the womb has collapsed below, she must take it through a pipe through the vulva. But its smoke is abominable, and it is thus that it avails.

It is also effective for purging phlegm from the head, and also for the somnolent and lethargic. Pulverize pitch with beaver’s testicle, make it into little pills with the juice of meadow rue. And when there is need, dissolve one or two in the juice of the same rue, or in wine, or <put into> the nostrils with a pessary while the sick person is lying supine.[2]

Against colic: take one ounce of bitumen and pulverize it and put it overnight in squill oxymel.[3] And in the morning, strain and clysterize it, or if you wish to make it better, mix and clysterize it in the same hour.


[1] Dioscorides refers to the pitch that was sourced from the Dead Sea as Bitumen Judaicum, or Jew’s Pitch; see

[2] Here the 1497 ed. reads “vel misce per nares cum nasale egro iacente supine,” while the 1582 ed. reads “vel iniice per nares cum nasale aegro iacente supine.” A “nascal” is defined as a pessary of wood or cotton, or even a wooden enema-pipe.

[3] Norri defines this as (p. 778): Medicinal potion made of honey, vinegar, bulbs of squill (sea onion, Scilla maritima).

Chap. 29 (f. 190r): Concerning Plantain[1]

Plantago maior, Broadleaf plantain

Plantain is cold and dry in the second degree. It is useful for drying wounds and cleaning their putridity.

It soothes the liver.

It beats back erysipelas, lest it travel around the body.

It also avails against hemorrhoids.

It cools all the burning which comes from cauterizing.

It is useful for those suffering from hemorrhoids, dysentery, or those whose menses or hemorrhoids flow.

It cures wounds of the lungs.

Its root, cooked in water, soothes toothache, if the mouth is rinsed with its water.

As Galen says, the juice of lesser plantain[2] avails against an obstruction of the kidney.

Dioscorides: it cleanses black spots, forms a scar, and especially its ground seed.

It produces blood, expels warmth, and when chewed, alleviates toothache.

For a wound near the eye or nose, its juice can be applied with wool for 9 days.

Its juice, given to those with quartan fever, is effective before 2 hours of onset.

It cures fresh wounds, with fat.[3]

Dioscorides says that the juice of lesser plantain is effective against pustules in the mouth; if it be mixed with fuller’s earth or white lead it is the best against erysipelas.


[1] Arnoglossa is Plantago maior, broadleaf plantain.

[2] Quinquenervia.

[3] Assungia in 1497 ed., axungia in 1582. Axungia is defined as “body fat surrounding kidneys and other internal organs.” Norri, 81. The meaning here is not very clear.

Translator’s note: starting here, the entries are much shorter, and the wording is sometimes problematic. It seems almost as though the author or the copyist added some entries in haste at the end of each set of chapters.

Chap. 30 (f. 190r): Concerning Oats

 Avena sativa from Wikipedia

Oat has gently relaxing powers, and for treating any tumor, it softens hardness. Therefore its flour makes a fitting plaster for fistulas in the corner of the eye.

Chap. 31 (f. 190r): Concerning Southernwood[1]

 Artemisia abrotanum from Wikipedia

Southernwood is warm in the second degree and dry in the first.

For women sitting in an infusion of it, it provokes menstruation, and draws out the afterbirth and a dead fetus.

It opens a closed uterus, if inflammations are cleansed with it. It shatters stones; releases strangury; and when imbibed, casts out roundworms and flatworms.

Its juice, mixed with myrrh and made into a pessary or poulticed on the pubes, provokes menstruation. It dries out putrid humors of the womb, and it heals its pains and the phlegmatic swellings arising in it.

When powdered and mixed with barley flour it dissolves hard swellings.

Its juice or ashes mixed with aged oil heal baldness; washed on, it helps heal those not having hair.

A compress of southernwood oil[2] takes away a feverish chill.

When drunk or plastered on, its juice cleanses or draws out blood stricken from a wound or a bruise.

Chap. 32 (f. 190r): Concerning Hazelwort

 Asarum europaeum from Wikipedia

Hazelwort is warm and dry in the third degree.

It elicits menstruation and urine from thick phlegm.

It is effective for dropsy, sciatica, and hepatics; it cleans wounds. It purges dropsy through the urine. In place of it, a pound and a half of sweet flag can be substituted.

Chap. 33 (f. 190r): Concerning Queen Anne’s Lace[3]

Ammi majus from Wikipedia

Queen Anne’s Lace is warm and dry in the third degree.

It calls forth menstruation and urine obstructed by thick phlegm.

When drunk with honey, it kills intestinal worms, tapeworm and roundworm.

It dissipates thick gassiness.

It breaks up a stone, warms the stomach, cleans out the liver, mesenteric veins, kidneys, and womb, since it purges urine and the menses.

When ground and drunk with honey, and given to drink with warm water, it cures a phlegmatic fever and reptile bites.

Used often or plastered, however, it confers a yellow color to the skin.

It cures a quartan fever.

It relieves spasms[4], it calms flatulence straightaway. Mixed for a preparation of blister beetles[5], it represses their force.

Added to honey it removes bruises. Drunk and anointed it gives a good color.[6]

Chapter 34 (f. 190r); Concerning Arum

Arum maculatum from Wikipedia

The leaves of arum, that is cuckoo’s-pint, can be eaten cooked and raw with salt; its power is in its seed, root, and leaves.

Mixed with cow-dung and plastered on, it alleviates the gout-stricken.

Its root reduces not a little, whence it is very useful for expelling moisture in the lungs.

It cures a quartan fever.

Chap. 25 (f. 190r): Concerning Myrtle seed

 Myrtus communis, from Wikipedia

“Anagalidos” is the seed of myrtle. The elixir of this seed may be mixed into an eye-salve which removes cloudiness of the eyes

Chap. 36 (f. 190r): Concerning Chervil

Anthriscus cerefolium from Wikipedia

The apium commonly called chervil is warm in the third degree and (cont.)

[1] Yet another artemisia suited for medicinal purposes.

[2] Here the 1497 ed. reads “abrotane leō” while the 1582 ed. has “abroantoleon”; the sense seems to require oil of southernwood …

[3] A number of plants have been identified as “Ameos”, the name given here in Platearius. The modern herbalist uses of Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi majus) are closest to those listed in Platearius, however, so I have identified it as such here.

[4] Or perhaps, torments.

[5] Blister beetles, Cantharides, were used in poisons, and antidotes for the poison were common in pharmaceutical literature. But the phraseology here is obscure, and it is difficult to determine what Platearius means in this passage. In the Alphabet of Galen, 195: “They are used in a number of antidotes and several caustics, but are said to be poisonous.”

[6] Here, the gender ascribed to Ameos apparently changes from masculine to neuter.

Folio 190v

Credit: Serapio, Senior: Practica Io. Serapionis dicta breuiarium, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

(Celery, cont.) dry in the second.

When it is given to drink with mellicrate[7] it elicits urine and the menses. It soothes pain of the sides, the kidneys, and the bladder.

It mitigates torment of the belly from thick gassiness, dissipates windiness of the stomach, the liver and all the viscera, and it opens a blockage.


[7] This is a “medicinal preparation made by boiling honey with water or wine”; Norri, 663.

  1. De balsamo      Balsam tree
  2. De bolo             Clod of earth
  3. De balaustia     Pomegranate flower
  4. De boragine     Borage
  5. De baucia         Parsnip
  6. De borace         Borax
  7. De betonica      Betony
  8. De bernice        Varnish, Sandarac gum
  9. De branca ursina      Bear’s-foot
  10. De berberis       Barberry
  11. De belliculis marinis      Sea-snail shells
  12. De bistorta        Knot-grass
  13. De bdellio       Bdellium

Chap. 1: Concerning Balsam (f. 190v)[1]

Commiphora opobalsamum, Balm of Gilead (wikimedia)

Balsam is a tree, as some say, or more accurately a shrub, with Dioscorides and others who have seen it attesting. This is since it never grows more than two cubits in size. It is found in some fields around Babylon, where there are seven sources of water. If it is moved thence, it produces neither flowers nor fruits. In the summer, moreover, its branches are felled with some knife, not too deeply, and and afterwards, glass vessels are suspended beneath, in which dripping gum is collected. In a single year, 60 lbs. of that juice called opobalsamum can be collected. The bush is called balsam. After the branches have been cut for a little while, they are dried and collected and called “xylobalsamamum.”[2] The fruit found there is called carpobalsamum. These cannot be preserved for more than 4 years; afterwards, they rot. Therefore, that which is fresh is best. But sometimes if it is not pierced it is good even when old. But if it has been pierced, it matters that it used when old.

Balsam wood can be kept for 2 years. Therefore let that be chosen that has some gumminess inside when it is broken, or if it is old, let it be solid within and not dried to a powder. If it is thus, it it used up in age. These, balsam-wood and balsam-seed, have the power of warming and invigorating.

Opobalsamum is the juice of blasum, and it has a very powerful effect of dissolving and of consuming; it is warm and dry in the second degree. But since it is extremely costly it is counterfeited in many ways.

Some sell turpentine in place of opobalsamum. Some mix a bit of balsam with turpentine, and this it has the odor and appearance of balsam.  Others mix oil of spikenard with turpentine. Others take the wood of Celsus[3] or leaves of citrus and mix them with turpentine, adding a bit of yellow saffron. Others mix oil of spikenard with turpentine.[4] Some authors say that this can be discerned if it is placed on the tip of a stylus and set afire – it burns like turpentine. Dioscorides says that a drop of opobalsamum, when placed in goat’s milk, curdles the milk and the drop falls to the bottom, but there are many other coagulants. Others say if that a very fine cloth is dampened <in it> and then washed, and if no part of the cloth remains soiled, it was pure opobalsamum. So let pure opobalsamum be chosen thus: pure opobalsamum is yellow and very clear. It can be distinguished from a counterfeit thus: if when it is put delicately on the surface of water with a stylus, it remains there, if put in the middle of water it remains there, and if placed at the bottom it remains there.

There is moreover another test: put water in some vessel, put the opobalsamum in the water, and afterwards stir with something wooden, if it is counterfeit or has turpentine added, it will be stirred up, but if it is pure opobalsamum it will not be.

Another test: wash your hands very thoroughly and afterwards, place very clean water in a silver vessel or in another vessel, and then put opobalsamum in a very clean, very fine cloth, with the opobalsamum weighed beforehand, then press it out into the vessel: that which is pure will be gathered in one spot, like quicksilver. If there is some other gum there it will remain in the other area, or if there has been some counterfeit. If it was pure, the cloth will not be soiled, nor will the opobalsamum be reduced in quantity, but it will weigh the same as before.

Another test: let the opobalsamum be measured beforehand in some vessel and then set aside. Then measure turpentine in the same measure. If it was pure opobalsamum it will weigh two or three times the same measure of turpentine. But if does not weigh more or but a little more than turpentine it is clearly counterfeit.

Some say that if it is placed on the hollow of a hand or a foot, it penetrates the hollow, which is false. But if a little opobalsamum is put on the palate it warms the brain so that it seems to be afire. It has the power of dissolving vehemently, of consuming, and of attracting.

For cleaning out the womb: take 5 scruples of opobalsamum given with wine; this cleanses discharges of the womb. It draws forth a dead fetus and the afterbirth and elicits menstruation. A cotton ball dipped in opobalsamum and used as a suppository elicits menstruation.

Against strangury and dysuria, or stones of the bladder, or if there is an obstruction from a cold humor, let it be given with wine; or the penis, made erect and swollen first with warm water, may be injected with nutmeg oil through a syringe, then let the place that is blocked be anointed with opobalsamum, or with nutmeg oil, or with spikenard.

Against colic or stomachache produced by a cold humor, let a small measure of opobalsamus be given with warm wine.

Against all chronic headaches, it may be given with some opiate appropriate for the suffering.

Against scars needing to be removed, wax may be moistened with opobalsamum and placed on the scar for 10 days, since wax can be kept for a long time. And let it be thus for 40 days, if it is necessary.

Against quotidien and quartan fever, first purge, and then it can be given with wine.

Against a complaint of the ears, a little may be dripped into the ears themselves.

Against a complaint of the teeth, some can be instilled in the ear on the painful side.

It preserves the bodies of the dead unspoiled, since it dissolves as much as it consumes.


[1] The gum of Commiphora opobalsamum.

[2] Wood of balsam, attested in Latham, p. 523. .Carpobalsamum is simply the seed.

[3] Or perhaps mulberry-wood.

[4] Either dittography or signifying that the mixture spoken of last had oil of nard, etc. added in.

Chap. 2 (f. 190v): De bolo[1]

Armenian bole, from wikimedia

Armenian bole is cold and dry in the second degree. Bole a deposit in the earth which is found especially in Armenia, whence it is called Armenian bole. It has the power of constricting. It is not counterfeited due to its great abundance. It can be kept for 100 years.

There is such a use for Armenian bole, against hemoptysis,[2] that is when there is a flow of blood and vomit from the mouth. If it arises from a fault of the respiratory organs, make small pills from a powder of bole and gum arabic, and of barley sugar with the water of gum tragacanth sap. This is done so: put gum tragacanth in water over night and it will become a gel; from this gel, pills can be formed, which the patient may take under the tongue, so that, dissolved with saliva, it may pass to the respiratory organs. If <it arises> from a fault of digestion, its powder, prepared with a powder of burnt gum arabic, should be given with plantain juice.

Against dysentery and a bloody flux from the stomach: mix a powder of Armenian bole with egg white or with a whole egg and make little wafers and give in the morning, 2 and a half drams. Or thus: prepare powdered bole with plantain juice and let it be given by mouth or injected with a clyster. A purging must be done first if treatment is from the lower intestine through the anus, but if from the upper intestine, treatment is by the mouth. Also, a plaster can be made: prepare powdered bole with eggwhite and a little vinegar. If there is matter in the upper regions, put the plaster over the navel, if in the lower, put it over the kidneys and pubic region.

Against a menstrual flow: prepare Armenian bole with plantain juice and a suppository dipped in it can be inserted. (cont.)

[1] Armenian bole, also known as bolus armenus or bole armoniac, is an earthy clay, usually red, native to Armenia but also found in other places. The term Armenian was later referred to a specific quality of the clay. Originally used in medication, it has also been used as a pigment, as a poliment or base for gilding, and for other uses. It is red due to the presence of iron oxide; the clay also contains hydrous silicates of aluminum and possibly magnesium. Wikipedia.

[2] Emoptoicam passionem = Hemoptysis, expectoration of blood from lesions in respiratory organs. Norri, 340.