Folio 193v

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

(Cassia wood, Cont.) Is given to the fasting.

A spiced wine, made from honey and wine in which cassia wood has been steeped, also warms a chilled stomach and assists digestion.

Against bad breath, make little pills of ground cassia wood and storax, because storax can easily be softened in the hands.

These pills are also effective against every internal problem arising from a cold cause.

Against underarm odor and corruption of the gums: with the underarm hair shaved first, wash the area afterward with wine and rose water or with a decoction of ground cassia wood.

Against corruption of the gums, make a gargle of the aforesaid.

Against bad breath, as well, when cassia wood has been chewed it either takes it away entirely or diminishes it.

For provoking menstruation and soothing the womb, make a suppository with silk dipped in nutmeg oil or olive oil in which ground cassia wood has been steeped.

Its bark, boiled with nutmeg oil, inserted whole stimulates menstruation.

Against a problem of the spleen and liver: cooked in oil and plastered on it remedies their problems.

Tenasmus stemming from a cold cause is remedied as well when it is inserted in the same way.

Against cardiac arrest and fainting, a syrup made from ground cassia wood and rose water and bone of stag’s heart.

Tempered with honey and inserted, it dissolves and cures hard and moist swellings.

Chap. 12 (f. 193v): Concerning Castoreum[1]

A beaver being hunted for its testicles. From the Getty Center.

 Castoreum is warm in the 3rd degree and dry in the 2nd.  It is, moreover, the testiclc of an animal called a castor or a beaver. Some say that, sensing that hunters are pursuing it, it cuts off its own testicles with its teeth and casts them aside, believing that the hunter only want the testicles. This is false, for it is not of such discernment. For they pursue it more on account of its pelt than its testicles, and the hunters themselves cut off the testicles. The cut-off testicles are dried in a shaded place.

And note that the testicles of a young beaver are not as effective as those of an old one. The former dried testicle is white and soft. If it is of an adolescent beaver or one just beyond adolescence, however, that is the best. If it is of a beaver decrepit in age, it is not of such great efficacy.

It is adulterated by some in this way: they take the skin in which the beaver testicle or some other fresh testicle has been[2] and fill it with blood and sinews[3], with ground beaver testicle added so that it has the savor of a beaver. Others put in blood and earth. Still others counterfeit it better; they put in blood, Persian asafetida, and sinews; they put in pepper so that it is of stronger savor. That should be chosen which has a moderately sharp savor, since if it has a more acute savor and is as if earthen[4], it is counterfeited, and if it does not have the intricate sinews. Good castoreum has a moderately sharp savor, is gluey, and has a rather dreadful savor and intricate sinews, and clinging skin and adjoining some extremity. It can be kept with great efficacy for 7 years. The fresher is however better. In medicine, it should be used with the skin cast aside. That which is inside should be weighed out and put in medicine; it has the effect of dissolving, consuming, of thinning, and especially of comforting nerve locations.

Against epilepsy and other sufferings of the head caused by cold, 5 scruples of castor can be given in quantity; 2 or 3 scruples may also be given in rue juice in a beverage or wine in which it has been steeped.

Against paralysis of the tongue a powder of castoreum can be placed under the tongue, until it is dissolved and consumed.

Against paralysis of the whole body, give wine in which it has been steeped and rue and sage.

Against paralysis of the penis, make a foment around the pubes from wine in which it has been steeped, frequently, and reapply often.

Against gomoream steep it in the juice of agnus castus, with a bit of vinegar added, and plaster it on, then the kidneys, the penis, and the pubes.

Against litargium. Let sneezing be induced by castoreum; it stimulates the brain and soothes it. Or steep it with mint in rue juice and a bit of vinegar, and with the occiput shaved, rub it in well with the hands, et plaster it over.

Ground castoreum with rue juice can be into the nose, or one can receive its fumes through the nostrils.

Chap. 13 (f. 193v): Concerning Cubeb

Piper Cubeb from Wikipedia

Cubeb is warm and dry, although moderately. It is, moreover, the fruit of a tree growing in overseas parts. It can be kept for 10 years. That should be chosen which has a moderately sharp flavor with much aromaticity.

Whence it avails against fainting in this way: ground cubeb, 4 scruples in quantity, may be given with borage juice or with the juice of parsnip root or leaves. It strengthens greatly.

It can be smelled as a remedy against a cold flow from the head or for soothing the brain – let it be applied to the nostrils frequently.

Again, against a cold and discolored stomach, make a spiced wine out of wine and honey and among other spices put in cubeb in greater quantity.

Against coldness of the stomach and discoloration from cold, use it ground with food.

Chap. 14 (f. 193v): Concerning Maidenhair Fern

Adiantum capillus-veneris from Wikipedia

Maidenhair fern is cold and dry, yet moderately, from its fine substance. It has a diuretic force. Fresh is of more efficacy, yet it may be kept for a shor while. It is the plant that is of use, not the root.

Against warmth of the liver, water in which it has been steeped may be given, or water in which it has been steeped and sugar can be made into a syrup.

If there is a vice of the spleen, let something diuretic be added.

Compresses dipped in its juice can be placed over or even the crushed plant itself.

Drunk with wine, it resists poison and humors flowing to the stomach.

Plastered on, it is effective against alopecia and scrofula.

Cooked with water, it cleanses pustules and rot from the head washed with it.

Chap. 15 (f. 193v): Concerning Cypress[5]

Cypress is warm in the first degree, dry in the second. It is a tree whose fruit, wood and leaves are all suited to medicinal purposes, but the fruits are styptic, the wood consolidative, and the leaves diuretic.

Against a flux from the belly from a debility of retention, the patient may eat fresh cypress fruits or ground dried fruits may be given in food. Patients may also drink water in which they have been stepped.

Against painful obstruction of the bowels, steep the fruits in rainwater and

Against strangury and dysuria, let ground cypress be given, that is the wood or leaves placed in a jar with wine, and especially in new wine. Such a wine prevents intestinal distress.

A wine in which ground cypress or its leaves is steeped, given at the very beginning of this, soothes in a marvelous way.

For hemorrhoids with a severe flow, make a foment out of rainwater, leaves and berries of cypress; afterwards, the patient may sit in warm water. Then give ground cypress in food and water in which it has been steeped.

This same is effective at the opening of the anus.

Chap. 16 (f. 193v): Concerning Cinnamon

Cinnamomum verum from Wikipedia

Cinnamon is warm in the third degree and dry in the second. There are two sorts of cinnamon, the heavy and thick, and a little concave, which is the bark of a tree, and the fine which is concave and not thick, which is the rind of a shrub found either in India or Europe. That which is thick is used in medicines on ulcers; that which is fine in other medicines. That which is fine should be chosen; it has an intense flavor mixed with sweetness, with intense aromaticity and a reddish color. That which is whitish may be chosen, and that which is black, cast aside – this selection is especially by color. When moreover it is chosen by taste, it is considered good and the tongue is bathed in saliva or water, since the good taints the taste and sometimes seems bad. The good type can be kept for 10 years. From its aroma it has the effect of soothing the brain, from its stickiness the effect of consolidating. Against a stomach illness and a weakness of the digestion from (cont.)

[1] Castoreum, the substance referred to here, is actually extracted from glands between the pelvis and the base of the tail, not the testicles themselves. Both genders have these sacs. It is still used in making artificial flavoring and scents.

[2] Presumably the scrotum.

[3] The word “nervus,” used here, can also mean nerves or tendons. Platearius is probably referring to the spermatic ducts and is describing the anatomy of a testicle rather than the castor sac.

[4] The 1582 ed. reads “iron-like” instead of “earthen”.

[5] Many species of coniferous trees belong to the Cypress family. Many have needle-like evergreen leaves, berries (the junipers), or small, dense cones. The illustration here is not supposed to represent the exact species that Platearius is concerned with, but simply represents a common European Cypress, Cupressus sempervrens, or Italian cypress.

Folio 193r

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

(Caperbush, cont.) given, moreover, twice in a week, evening or morning with warm water. And note that when a formula using it is found among medicines, the rind of its root ought to be put in.

Chap. 9 (f. 193r): Concerning Calamint[1]

Calamentha montana from Abe Books

 Calamint is warm and dry in the third degree. It is an herb which some call by another name, Nepeta. Mountain calamint is better, since it is drier. It should be collected when it produces flowers, and it can be kept for a year, hung in a shady place, and there it should be dried. It has very great effect, the property of dissolving and consuming.

Against a cold cough and asthma: give old wine in which it has been steeped, or wine of a decoction of ground calamint, raisins, and dried figs.

The electuary which is called diacalamentum is also effective, and this is it: ℞ ground calamint in great quantity, ground gentian, or in its place, licorice, in 3 or 4 parts; let this be consumed with  honey for a cough.

Let ground calamint be given in a soft-boiled egg, as well.

Little wafers may also be made from ground calamint and barley flour.

Against a stomachache and coldness of the intestines: a patient may use it ground in foods, and in a wine in which it has been steeped.

Against a cold flow of rheum, the back of the head may be anointed with honey in which a powder of it has been steeped; afterwards a little pouch of ground calamint, heated in a clay pot, or of the herb itself, is quite soothing.

Against a morbid inflammation of the uvula, make a gargle of vinegar in which it has been steeped. Relieve this with powdered roses and calamint; it is sufficient enough.

Against tenesmus from glassy phlegm or from some cold humor: the kidneys may be rubbed with honey alone or with honey in which ground calamint has been steeped. Afterward, sprinkle ground Greek pitch, nasturtium seed, and calamint over it, and bind tightly with a cloth. When he defecates, moreover, after a suffumigation of ground Greek pitch, calamint powder should be applied to the anus with a cotton ball, and thus Master Matthaeus Platearius was released, and his mother.

For drying up menstrual superfluity and fluid in the womb: make a foment of water in which calamint was steeped; this is effective enough, as Salernitanian women testify.

Calamint plastered on the bite of a reptile draws the venom from the interior parts to the exterior.

Its juice dripped into the ears kills worms, and in the same way all wounds, it destroys libido, it helps against leprosy.

If green calamint cooked in wine is put on pustules, it cleanses them.


Chap. 10 (f. 193r): Concerning Centaury

Greater and Lesser Centaury from Wikimedia[2]

 Centaury is warm and dry in the fourth degree. It is, moreover, a very bitter herb, whence it is called by its own name, “gall of the earth.” There is a greater centaury, which has greater efficacy, and a lesser which is of less efficacy. Constantine says that the root of the greater is warm and dry in the second degree and has bitterness with a little sweetness. It also has brininess, from which it has the property of binding together. From its bitterness it has a diuretic property. Centaury has greater effect according to its leaves and flowers, whence it should be collected when it begins to produce flowers and hung in a shaded place to dry. It can be kept for a year with great efficacy. It has a diuretic, attractive, and consumptive effect. Note that when centaury simply is found, the greater should be used.

Against an obstruction of the spleen, the liver, and the vessels of the kidneys, strangury and dysuria, wine in which centaury has been steeped is effective, with sugar added.

The herb itself, cooked in wine and oil and plastered on the kidneys, the pubes, and around the perineum and pudenda, also on the spleen, is soothing.

An ointment made from ground centaury or from its juice or oil with wax added, helps the spleen.

For hardness of the spleen and liver, make a syrup in the this way. Cook fennel root, wild celery, and parsley in centaury juice, and strain it. With sugar added, a syrup may be made.

Against severe pain in the intestines: ground centaury with salt water and oil may be injected through a clyster, with a softening medication preceding the clyster.

Give this also by the mouth: 5 scruples with simple benedictina[3] electuary with warm water.

It may be administered in the same way against paralysis.

Against worms of the ears: its juice mixed with leek juice may be dripped into the hollow of the ear.

Against tapeworms: let its juice be given, or its powder with honey.

For clarifying the sight, greater centaury root juice may be mixed with rose water, and the eye smeared with it.

For knitting together wounds: crush centaury root and put it over the wound, since it consolidates. The proof of this is that if a little is put on cut flesh, it draws it together, as Constantine says.

For a pustule of the eye make a salve of ground centaury and rose water. This is quite effective if the blemish is large. If, however, it is small, it shouldn’t be applied, since it corrodes the tissue of the eye.

For pain in the eyes, put a bit of silk dipped in nutmeg oil in which ground centaury has been mixed over it.

Against hemorrhoids, do likewise.

For a sickness of the chest, take centaury juice and three grains of sal ammoniac, and prepare them and give them for use. And if the illness was from a cold cause, even so with cold anointments preceding.

For provoking menstruation, take Persian asafetida and warm it at a fire, and add ground centaury so that it is glued together with the asafetida. And afterwards, dip it in centaury juice and make a suppository.

Or make a suppository of ground centaury with the lees of olive oil.

This may be injected by means of a pessary with bull’s gall dissolved in centaury juice. It induces menstruation, the afterbirth, and the dead fetus.

A water in which the former has been steeped works too.

Constantine says that this water and Persian asafetida cooked in it knit together wounds.

A measure of centaury, that is drunk with wine, aids a stomachache and the prickling of thick humors and thick gassiness. Its juice mixed with honey clears obscured vision.

Chap. 11 (f. 193r): Concerning Cassia Wood[4]

Cinnamomum cassia from Wikipedia

Cassia wood is warm and dry in the third degree. Cassia wood is the bark of a tree or shrub growing near the border of Babylon. There are two sorts of cassia, that is cassia wood and cassia fistula. When just “cassia” is found, cassia fistula should be understood, for cassia wood is never found without a qualification in recipes.

Cassia wood and xylocassia are the same thing. There are two sorts of this: one is like cinnamon, which is generally reddish and round. And note that it has a solid substance, and when it is broken it is not equally divided, but it resists breakage without folding. It has a sharp flavor mixed with sweetness, with aromaticity. And this is the better sort, but we do not use it in medicine. There is another sort, which is reddish , having different colors in part. The kind that should be chosen, then, is not that which breaks easily, but folds, and when it is broken, has whitish colors inside and many different reddish colors. It has a sharp flavor mixed with sweetness and aroma. It may be kept for 10 years, moreover.

It is sometimes adulterated with an admixture of caper root, but it can be detected because caper root is of a bitterish flavor.

It has a diuretic property from its fine substance, a consuming property from its qualities, and a soothing quality from its aromaticness.

Against a cold watery humor or other cold causes of the head and for epileptics: 3 little pills of ground cassia wood made very well from ground cassia wood and laudanum, with absinthe juice mixed in, may be given, and soothe the brain.

A suffumigation may also be made in this way: put ground cassia wood above coals, on a hook, and put rose water on it. Let the patient receive the smoke.

Against strangury and dysuria of the kidneys and vesicles: let wine in which cassia wood has been steeped be given to the patient. Ground cassia wood in nutmeg oil, or at least in common oil, may be cooked, with which the perineum and the penis and the afflicted parts may be anointed.

Against obstruction of the spleen and liver, the kidneys and vesicles: it is effective if ground cassia wood is put in water and syrup.

Against a cold stomach and also against the aforesaid complaints: wine in which it has been steeped and mastic and fennel seed (cont.)


[1] There are a number of species of calamint, many of which go by the same names used here today – including Calamintha nepeta. These are the catmints.

[2] Today, Greater Centaury is identified as Centauria scabiosa. Lesser Centaury is Centaurium pulchellum.

[3] According to Norri, p. 93, a benedicta electuary consisted of a purgative, like scammony, with aromatic spices, honey, and the like, and it was used to treat gout and urinary stones. A “simple benedicta” was made with a streamlined recipe.

[4] Its common name today is Chinese cinnamon.

Folio 192v

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

(Cassia fistula, cont.) a purgation can be performed.

It has the virtue of softening and cleansing; it mitigates a fever of the blood marvelously; it purifies bile and blood, for which reason it avails in acute fevers. Cassia fistula given with water or by itself soothes the belly before purging and renders it suitable for purging. A garble of cassia fistula reduces a swelling of the throat or of the back of the mouth, if it is mixed with nightshade juice.


Chap. 5 (f. 192v): Concerning Dodder

Cucscuta epilinum, Flax dodder, from Wikipedia

Dodder is warm in the first degree and dry in the second. Dodder is a “gout”[1] of flax, moreover, because it clings around flax. It should be harvested with its flowers. It can be kept for 2 years.

It has the effect of purging melancholy, and secondarily, phlegm. Whence it is fittingly put in decoctions purging melancholy and phlegm.

The water of dodder decoction is effective against strangury and inability to urinate. If you are able to have the plant in much quantity, you can plaster it well decocted in wine and oil on the

Chap. 6 (f. 192v): Concerning Cardamom

Elettaria cardamomum from Wikipedia

Cardamom is warm and dry in the second degree. It is the fruit or rather the seed of a tree. The tree, moreover, producing fruit in springtime, makes certain tuberosities, like the seed of rue or its like, in which the seeds are enclosed. There are two types of it, that is a larger one that is called domestic and a smaller called wild, which is shaggy and whitish. The larger cardamom is better, since it is more aromatic. That which is larger should be chosen, moreover, and reddish in color, and has a bit of sharpness and sweetness mixed in. When it is used in medicine, however, the stones should be set aside, and it should be rubbed with the hands, on account of dust, and the stem discarded. It can be kept for 10 years. It has the property of strengthening from its aromaticity and of dissolving and also consuming from its qualities.

Against fainting and cardiac passion from a cold cause: a decoction of it may be prepared in fragrant wine, and give to the patient with the addition of rose water.

For weakness of the stomach and soothing the digestion: ground cardamom may be given with anise seed in food; they stimulate the appetite.

Against vomiting from a cold cause: prepare its powder with mint juice, and then food dipped in it can be given to the patient.

Prepare this ground cardamom with either fresh or dried mint in vinegar, and cooked it in salt water; a sponge dipped in it can be placed on the orifice of the stomach.

Against an illness of the head: its powder can be applied to the nostrils. If there is watery discharge, its powder can be put in nutmeg oil, and a bit of silk can be dipped in it and applied with wax (?).[2] Or its powder may be put with nutmeg oil in an eggshell above warm cinders, until it boils, and afterwards, the head can be daubed with it.

Chap. 7 (f. 192v): Concerning Cerussite[3]

Cerussite crystal from Wikipedia

Cerussite is cold and dry in the second degree. Cerussite is called “flower of lead” or “gersa” by another name. It is made thus: take squared lead sheets in the quantity of one pound, and put them over earthen vessels moderately narrow, a foot wide, that is over vessels first filled with the strongest vinegar possible. And put rods over the opening of the vessel from one edge to the other and suspend the perforated lead plates by the space of four fingers from the vinegar with string. Afterwards, cover the opening and the vessel likewise with hay or straw very well, and put it in a dark place and close the door or opening. Leave it there for 4 months. But at the end of the four months, open the mouth of the vessel so that the force of the vinegar may escape, and you will find some protuberances and excrescences all over the lead, which itself is found in less quantity than it was before. Scrape these off with a knife and put it in a large vessel; put in water and break up the lead with your feet. Afterwards, discard the water and put the substance which remains in some concave vessel and put in water. Expose this to the sun. When the water is consumed put in some more. Do this until it is as white as possible. Afterwards, drop it out of the concave vessel, whence the lead will seem round.[4]

It should be noted that those who prepare cerussite quite often suffer paralysis, apoplexy, epilepsy, and aching joints from the coldness of the vinegar, dissolving and destroying.

White lead has the property of cleansing and wiping away blemishes, for which reason women use it thus: first they wash their face, afterwards they put a little very finely powdered white lead over it.

Some do it better: since white lead is somewhat smelly, they mix white lead with rose water and expose it to the sun, especially in summer. When the rose water is consumed they take it and do this until it becomes very white and a little aromatic. Afterwards they make little tablets of it and apply them to the face.

Some, however, apply powdered borax or camphor or either and seashells, and they work better.

And note that those who use the application of white lead for a long time suffer damage to the teeth, rottenness and stench of the mouth.


[1] “Podagra.” In Greek, podagra can also mean “a trap for the feet.” Dodder is a parasitic plant, and this sort inhabits flax fields.

[2] Latin: “intingatur bombix et superponatur serre.

[3] Lead carbonate or white lead, commonly used in paint and in cosmetics.

[4] “Cup shaped” cakes of white lead were commercially available: see Cennino d’Andrea Cennini, The Craftsman’s Handbook: “Il Libro dell’Arte,” translanted by Daniel V. Thompson, Jr. (New York: Dover, 1960),.p.34.

Chap. 8 (f. 192v): Concerning Caperbush

Capparis spinosa from Wikipedia

Caper bush[1] is warm and dry in the third degree. There are those who say that it is a plant, others that it is a shrub. It grows in overseas parts, and is also found in Apulia and other regions. The bark, the root, the leaves, and the flowers are suitable for medicinal use, but especially the bark. The bark should be collected at the beginning of Spring and suspended in a shady place and dried, or even in the sun. It can be kept 6 years with efficacy. That bark should be chosen which is shattered, not pulverized, and which is a little reddish in color and a little bitter. Its flowers, moreover, should be collected when they are still nodules and not opened, since when opened they aren’t effective. They are collected and pickled with salt and vinegar. They can be kept for a year or two. They have the property of stimulating the appetite, of directing existing moisture to the orifice of the stomach; they soothe the stomach. They warm what is cold. For they are food and medicine.

Against a vice of the spleen or hardening of the liver, wine of a decoction of caper is effective.

Make this unguent which is very powerful as well, and not less effective than agrippa[2]: powdered caper in a large quantity may be prepared with the juice of black nightshade; afterward, with wine and oil added, a decoction may be made up to thickness, and with a little wax added, made into an ointment.

An electuary which is called diacapparis[3] is especially effective as well, and no less than this.[4] Take 2 ounces of ground caper bark and 1 ounce of the bark of tamarisk root, prepare it with honey and with a decoction of tamarisk root.

The juice of caper bush leaves dripped into the ears kills worms. Or ground bark may be colled in oil, strained, and poured into the ears. It not only kills worms but also alleviates deafness and ulcerations of the ears.

For roundworms, ground caper bush prepared with honey can be given to the patient.

Against new lumps: give water from the decoction of caper-root bark, butcher’s broom, and asparagus.

Likewise, let them be anointed with this ointment: take serpent eel[5] and cut off the head and tail for a length of 4 fingers. Then put it in a jar with minute perforations, and that jar be placed in something whole, so that the base of the perforated jar is in the mouth of the other jar. Afterwards it may be put in a bath filled with water and boiled for a long time, so that the eel is broken down from the heat, whose fat flowing into the bottom jar is preserved unconsumed by the moisture of the water. From this fat and ground black hellebore and ground caper root, let an ointment be made, with which ointment the new lumps can be anointed frequently. The patient suffering such a disorder may also use the aforesaid water, and it is quite effective.

For painful intestinal obstruction and painful joints, take a pound of ground caper bark and cook it in the juice of elderberry root bark, and add sugar, and a syrup results


[1] Platearius offers two spellings: Capparus and capparis.

[2] Norri, p. 33f: agrippa was an “ointment said to have been used Jewish King Herod Agrippa … made by soaking various roots in oil of mastic, extracting mucilage, and adding beeswax; used e.g. for swellings.”

[3] Norri, p. 282, defines this simply as an electuary containing capers.

[4] Latin: valet enim electuarium maxime ad idem quod dicitur dyacapparis et non minus hoc electuarium quod …

[5] Latin: Rufus serpens.

Folio 192r

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

(Cyclamen, cont.) extracted with forceps. The powder corrodes the excess flesh.

To treat a polyp, the powder is dusted on a stylus[10] and inserted into the nostrils.[11]


[1] There are 23 species of cyclamen, most from Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East. They are tuberous plants, hence the designation “earth apple.” Panis porcinus, or “sowbread,” is also a common nickname.

[2] ‘alio nomine appellat’ in older ed.

[3] ‘end of autumn’ older ed.

[4] plus ‘consumendi’ in old ed.

[5] “in the measured amount through an enema” (in modica quantitate per clisteri) in old ed.

[6] “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.

[7] older ed. ‘imposito pomo’; ‘39 ed. ‘in ipso pomo’

[8] This passage is at the end of the section in the Wölfel text, but placed more sensibly in the older manuscript after the description of the ointment.

[9] This section is absent in older text.

[10] Both editions have ‘stuellam’; Wolfel suggests ‘stylum’, and the French trans. uses ‘tuel’ (‘pipe’). Norri (p.1046): “roll or pledget inserted into wound or sore, usually of absorbent material.”

[11] Latin ‘naribus’; specifically a nasal polyp, or used more widely to refer to an opening?

Chap. 2 (f. 192r): Concerning Camphor

Camphora officinarum, from Wikipedia

  Camphor is cold and dry in the fourth degree. Some say that it is a gum, which is silly. It is, however, the juice of an herb, as Dioscorides and many others say. But that which is called “camphorata” is very like our camphorata[1], only more aromatic. This plant is collected at the end of spring and crushed, and its juice is extracted. Afterwards, that which is impure should settle and be discarded; the more liquid part, which is pure, is retained, exposed to the sun, and dried. It has the power of constricting, cooling, and wiping away. Dried, it is indeed reduced to the substance of camphor. It is especially counterfeited in its preparation, from an admixture of powder or some other juice, and thus a doubled or tripled quantity of camphor is produced. Juniper gum is like camphor in substance.

That which is pure, white, and shiny should be chosen; the impure is indeed not as good. That which is yellowish is not as good. It can be counterfeited with an admixture of gum, for instance, juniper gum, among the bits of camphor.[2] For juniper gum is similar in appearance to camphor, and it is similar in odor when it is mixed in. But it can be detected, since juniper gum is solid and is broken up with difficulty, but camphor is readily broken up, and if it is manipulated with the hands, it is quickly pulverized. And note that if it is not skillfully preserved, it is easily ruined, for it is aromatic and every aromatic vapor is swiftly dispersed. However, it can be kept in a marble vessel, or better, preserved in alabaster in psyllium or flax seed for 40 years.

Against gomorhea,[3] that is, the involuntary effusion of sperm, powdered camphor with the gelatinous liquid of psyllium, or with verjuice or the juice of black nightshade, and a moistened pledget may be placed on the pubic region, the kidneys, and on the pubes.

Against diabetes, do the same thing and put a lead plate on top.

Against heating of the liver, let camphor powder be prepared with nightshade juice. A pledget dipped in this may be placed on the liver frequently.

Against a flow of blood from the nostrils, make medallions of powdered camphor and the powder of burnt nettle seed, and mixed with sanguinaria juice, these can be placed in the nostrils. If, however, the flow of blood arises from the morbid heating of the blood or from the liver, let the camphor powder be prepared with cold water and place the moistened pledget on the forehead and the sides of the neck.[4]

This is the method against a spot on the eye: let camphor powder be prepared with rose water and add fennel juice. It can be put in a bronze vessel and the eye can be anointed with it.

Against a blemish of the face and for purifying the face: it can be mixed with rose water, with white, clean honey added.

Against lust: let camphor be sniffed by the nostrils, for it restores spirits loosened too much by the action of heat, by cooling the body; it thickens sperm, and suppresses lust accordingly. “Camphora per nares castrat odore mares.” (Camphor through the nose castrates men with its odor.)

Note that it is properly enough put in in syrups against acute illnesses. And note that in phrenesis[5] it is used properly enough to stimulate sneezing, if its powder is tempered with rose oil, and a feather dipped in it anoints the nostrils, and also in other acute fevers, since it doesn’t increase heat nor assist the morbid fluid – just as if the sneezing happens with hellebore, pepper, or pyrethrum.

Likewise, it is effective for redness or burning or pain of the eyes.


[1] Southernwood, a species of Artemisia, was known as camforata; see Hunt, 64.

[2] When camphor is prepared, it looks like this; illustration from

[3] This is defined as the “discharge of inflammatory secretion (thought to be male or female sperm) from urethra or vagina. Norri, 467.

[4] The Latin reads “timporibus gule.”

[5] Phrenesis was an illness caused by corrupt choler in the brain, see Norri, 819. Presumably sneezing dispelled the humor causing the illness.

Chap. 3 (f. 192r): Concerning Colocynth

Citrullus colocynthus from WebMD. Bitter apple, Citrullus, colocynthis is an annual plant with a whitish root and downcast, angular and bristly stalks.

 Colocynth is warm in the third degree and dry in the second. Colocynth is the fruit of some tree or shrub graoing in transmarine parts around the area of Jerusalem. It is called Alexandrine gourd by another name. Note that colocynth is as much the name of the fruit as the shrub. That which is found alone is lethal, like the squill which is found alone, as Dioscorides tells us and also Constantinus. It has a pith, seed and rind, but the pith is most effective for the purpose of medicine. Second is the seed, but the rind has no efficacy, or just a little. Whence if they are found on receipt the seeds should be placed with the pith. The colocynth that should be chosen is that which has an unbroken, white pith with many seeds in it. That which should be rejected makes a hollow sound when struck. Whether, moreover, they are found with seeds or without seeds, if they are easily pulverized when handled with hands, they should be discarded. It is possible to keep them for six years, and better inside the fruit. It has the power of dissolving, and of consuming from its bitterness, also a diuretic power. It principally purges phlegm, secondarily, melancholy.

It is of use thus against a quotidian fever: take 1 ounce of colocynth with 2 or 3 ounces of elderberry juice and cook it inside the rind of the colocynth. Let sugar be added to the strainings, and then give it late in the day to the patient before the hour of onset, with preceding digestives and pugatives, however. This ought to be done if the onset persists after purgation.

Against a quartan fever and scabies, there is such a use: water of a decoction of senna be put into the colocynth rind, with 1 ounce of colocynth added, and let it be decocted; let sugar be added to the strainings and given to the patient before the onset, with a digestive preceding as above.

It is effective in this way for the most persistent scabies.

Against toothache: a gargle can be made from vinegar of a decoction of the insides of the colocynth.

Against intestinal worms: colocynth powder mixed with honey can be given to the patient.

For children, a plaster of powdered colocynth and absinthe juice can be placed around the belly-button.

For earworms, its powder mixed with persicaria juice can be inserted.

Against hardening of the spleen and liver: fennel juice decocted with colocynth pith can be administered, or even the powder with its own juice.

For cleansing the womb and stimulating the menses, let a foment be made with the water of a colocynth decoction.

Powdered colocynth along with some oil can be decocted in the rind, and a bit of silk dipped in it may be used as a suppository.

For hemorrhoids, let nut oil be cooked in a colocynth fruit, and a bit of silk dipped in it, and the patient may aply it to himself frequently.


Chap. 4 (f. 192r): Concerning Cassia fistula

Cassia fistula, the Golden Shower tree, from the New York Botanical Gardens

 Cassia fistula is warm and moist, not in any grade, since it is temperate below every grade, sice it departs little from ideal temperance. It is the fruit of a certain tree, which produces long seeds, as it were. Afterwards, over the passage of time, they are elongated and fattened. The exteriors are thickened into bark by the action of warmth, while in the medulla inside 30 or 40 [seeds] are found clinging to it in one container. That which is thick should be chosen, since that demonstrates much moisture, which demonstrates maturity, and which when shaken does not make a sound within. That which makes a little noise has moisture and seeds that have separated from the medulla. It can be kept for two years, moreover.

And it should be noted that when cassia fistula is found in a recipe devised by authorities 2 or 3 ounces should be out; the medulla without seeds if you can. But since apothecaries are not patient, seeds are used, so that if medicine must be made or a syrup in which cassia fistula must be dissolved, do not boil with it; but let it be broken up in hot or very warm water with your hands, to the point that it is completely dissolved. Afterwards, the seeds may be discarded with the casing(?)[1]. And so a medicine can be made with it. When it is found in decoctions, 2 ounces should be weighed our with its shell, and afterwards, its medulla may be broken up in hot water with the seeds cast aside, and then put in powdered rhubarb or myrobalan or something by means of which a purgation can be performed. (cont.)

[1] “Catia.”

Folio 191v

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

Chap. 9 (f. 191v): Concerning Bear’s Breeches

Acanthus mollis, from Wikimedia

Bear’s breeches is warm and moist in the first degree. It has the power of softening, maturing[1], and soothing.

It is useful against a swelling from a cold cause; its use is in this way: its leaves may be ground together with old lard and put on the swelling.

Against a swelling of the lungs, let it be cooked in water, after it has been ground, and applied.

Against a complaint of the spleen and dryness of the sinews: make an ointment from bear’s breeches, ground and macerated for a long time in oil, add wax to the strained liquid and make an ointment against the aforesaid.

Note that young leaves should be used in unguents and plasters.

Chap. 10 (f. 191v): Concerning Barberry

Berberis vulgaris from Wikimedia

Barberries are cold and dry in the second degree. They are the fruit of some tree, moreover, a little bit oblong and somewhat dark in color. The ones chosen for use should be whole and not broken open.

They are effective against feverish imbalance of the humors. Make a decoction of them in water for the infirm, and with sugar added to the strained liquid a syrup can be made.

Against a heating of the liver, its powder can be mixed with nightshade juice and applied to the liver.

Against a headache from a warm cause: let them be macerated overnight in water, and given to drink in the morning.

Note that they may be kept for 7 years.

Chap. 11 (f. 191v): Concerning Belliculi Marini[2]

Belliculi marini are cold and dry, but to what degree is not specified by authors. They are like navels, and they are found around the seashore.

They are put in lotions for clarifying the face, as in citrine ointment.

There is also such a use of them for the face: let a very fine powder of them be mixed with chicken fat, melted first, and made into an ointment.

And note that they can be kept a long time, like pebbles.

Chap. 12 (f. 191v): Concerning Bistort

Bistort officinalis from Wikipedia

Bistort is cold and dry, but to what degree is not specified by authors; but from its brininess, it can be conjectured that it is cold and dry in the third degree. It has the power of closing, of constricting,[3] of invigorating a pregnancy.

Against vomiting from choleric heat: a powder of it may be prepared with egg white and cooked over a tile and given to the patient.

Against dysentery, it can be given with plantain juice.

For checking or stopping menstruation: a foment from rainwater and a decoction of powdered bistort can be made.

For aiding conception, let an electuary of powdered bistort in the quantity of half a pound and the same quantity of aromatic spices be made. Make the aforesaid foment, for bistort assists conception, since it invigorates the retentive power of the womb.

Powdered bistort binds and glues together wounds.

And note that bistort is a plant whose root is also called bistort, and it is twisted and similar to galingale, but it does not have the sharpness.

Chap. 13 (f. 191v): Concerning Bdellium[4]

Bdellium from Wikipedia

Bdellium is warm in the second degree and moist in the first. It is the gum of some tree which is found in overseas regions. But some say that that which is found is like the follicle which grows on an elm tree.[5] But wherever it comes from, it has a gluey substance. It has the effect of constricting and attracting.

It fights against dysentery caused by a sharp medicine.

It heals swellings joined internally and externally; shatters stones; alleviates a cough; and cures reptile bites.

Steeped with vinegar and sap, it heals swellings of the testicles.


[1] Maturing is promoting the formation of pus.

[2] Identified in the Alphita as well as shells or stones resembling the navel, found on seashores, or some kind of sea snail. P. 22.

[3] The power of consolidating is the power of closing a wound, while the power of constricting refers to stopping a flow of blood or other fluid.

[4] Bdellium is a resin from species of Commiphora trees found in India and Africa.

[5] In Latin: “Sed quidam dicunt quod sit illud quod reperitur quoddam rotundum simile foliculo, quod in arbore ulme fit.”

  1. De ciclamine         Cyclamen
  2.   De camphora        Camphor
  3.   De coloquintida   Colocynth
  4.   De cassia fistula   Cassia fistula
  5.   De cuscute             Dodder
  6.   De cardamome     Cardamom
  7.   De cerusa               White lead
  8.   De capparo            Caper
  9.   De calamento        Calamint
  10.   De centaurea         Centaury
  11.   De cassia lignea    Cassia wood
  12.   De castoreo            Beaver’s testicle
  13.   De cubebe              Cubeb
  14. De capillis veneris   Maidenhair Fern
  15. De cipresso             Cypress
  16. De cinamomo         Cinammon
  17. De camedreos        Germander
  18. De camephitheos     Ground-pine
  19. De carui                   Caraway
  20. De cimino               Cumin
  21. De croco                  Saffron
  22. De cicuta                 Hemlock
  23. De cipero                 Galingale
  24. De calamo aromatico      Sweet rush
  25. De corallo                Coral
  26. De cataputia           Caper spurge
  27. De cretano               (Seaweed?)
  28. De costo                  Costus root
  29. De cantabro           Wheat bran
  30. De colofonia          Greek tar
  31. De cucurbita           Gourd
  32. De celidonia           Celandine
  33. De coriandro          Coriander
  34. De celtica                Spikenard
  35. De calce                   Lime
  36. De cepis                  Onion

Chap. 1 (f. 191v): Concerning Cyclamen

Ivy-leaved Cyclamen. A photo of an original antique illustration by John Sowerby published in 1860s in The English Botany.

Cyclamen is hot and dry in the third grade. It is also called cassamus, panis porcinus, and malum terre[2]. The root of this specific plant is also called cyclamen. It has certain bumps, the greater number of large ones, the better. Both the young and dried forms have great potency, but the younger is more potent. It should be collected in autumn[3], divided into four sections, and hung by a cord in a dark place or with little sunlight. It can be preserved for three years keeping great potency. Its strength is in dissolving and attracting.[4]

One of its uses is for swollen hemorrhoids which have no blood flow and which are visible on the surface. It is dusted on as a powder. Or, it can be rubbed on from its dried form; afterward, the powder of black hellebore and rose is dusted on. If the hemorrhoids are internal, it is inserted as a suppository in its aforementioned powdered form by way of an enema.[5] After the powder is put into the enema, air from the inflated bladder of a pig (or similar) pushes it inside.

A certain Salernian woman showed that it is useful for all piles and hemorrhoids, inducing menstruation, and cleaning the uterus. Mix trifera magna[6] in musk oil or common oil, and bring to a boil with cyclamen on a fire; soak cotton in the mixture, and it becomes a suppository. To treat constipation caused by glossy phlegm, juice of the root mixed with common oil is boiled in/with the fruit[7]. Cotton soaked in the mixture is then applied on top.

To treat an ailment of the spleen, a great amount of malum terre, cleaned and crushed, is steeped in wine and oil for 15 days. To the strained malum terre a bit of vinegar and wax are added. Let it simmer until it is thick, with all the added ingredients softened. It is effective as an ointment from either its liquid or powdered form. If the liquid form is not present, mix the powder with oil and wax. It is an oft-proven type of ointment if rubbed on the afflicted area.

[Salernian women[8], on the final Thursday of a waning moon, take cyclamen and put it over their spleen. They then cut it into three parts, saying three times “what are you cutting?”, and enduringly responding “the spleen”. After, they hang it to dry, saying “just as the parts of this cyclamen are dried out and extinguished, so is the spleen”. Afterward, it is mixed into the previously described ointment.]

To treat an abscess caused by the cold which cannot be ruptured because of the thickness of the skin, the fruit itself is crushed and boiled in oil. It is applied while hot, and it will purge the abscess either from the interior or exterior.

To treat a fistula[9], a probe made from the root is inserted. It enlarges the opening, and if the opening is somewhat within, draws it out, and can be better (cont.)

Folio 191r

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

(Armenian bole, cont.) In this way, against a nosebleed: prepare bole with the juice of sanguinaria[3] and let him suck it with the nostrils and make a pledget and insert it in the nostrils, or powdered bole by itself can be inserted into the nostrils with a cotton wad. Or make a liquid substance of Armenian bole and sanguinary juice and he may suck it into the nostrils.[4]

A plaster can be made thus: prepare powdered bole with eggwhite and sanguinary juice, and place it on the temples when ready.


Polygonum aviculare, or prostrate knotweed; is this sanguinaria?

[3] Sanguinaria is identified in various ways in the glossaries. Lewis & Short calls it “an herb that stanches blood,” and provides the Greek, πολυγονον, polygonum, possibly Polygonum aviculare, or prostrate knotweed.

[4] Dittography?

Chap. 3 (f. 191r): Concerning Pomegranate flower

Pomegranate flower and fruit, from Wikimedia

 Pomegranate flower is cold and dry in the second degree. The fallen flower of a pomegranate is called “balaustia”; although the tree ought to produce fruit, its flowers clump together on a protuberance, and sometimes they fall from the tree, and sometimes they are consumed. They should be preserved with the outward parts removed, and they may then be kept for two years in full efficacy. The dried rind of pomegranate is called “psidia”[1], and the rind should be gathered when the fruit is ripe, the seeds discarded.

This is effective for everything that Armenian bole does, and further for choleric vomit and a flow from the belly from a weakness of retention.

In this way against choleric vomiting: grind the flowers and rind of pomegranate, cook them in vinegar, and put a sponge dipped in this on the fork of the collar bones.

Against a flux from the belly (i.e. diarrhea) from an inability to retain, in this way: let it be cooked in rain water and make a foment.

A powder of pomegranate flower binds together wounds.

Note that, instead of bole, powdered pomegranate flower may be used. But generally, as in all things for you, when one substance is put in a recipe, you should not use another in its place, if you can have it (i.e. the proper substance) in some way, since it will be less useful in medicine. Those things are most vigorous which are especially appropriate.


[1] Attested in Latham, 381.

Chap. 4 (f. 191r): Concerning Borage

Borago officinalis from Wikipedia

Borage is warm and moist in the first degree. It is a common plant, having hairy leaves, which are better suited for medicinal use when they are fresh, not dried, the seeds secondarily. It has the effect of generating good blood.

For this reason it is helpful for those convalescing from sickness: it is helpful for those fainting, for the cardiac patient, for the melancholy, when eaten with flesh or seasoned with fat.

Against fainting there is such a use, from borage juice with sugar: make a syrup from its juice with sugar with ground bone of stag’s heart added in.

Against melancholy sickness and epilepsy, thus: let senna steep in borage juice, and in the strainings, make a syrup. If the plant is lacking, its seeds can be cooked in water, in whose strainings a syrup can be made. And note that the seeds can be kept for two years in great efficacy. The root is suited for medicinal use. The plant also, eaten raw, generates good blood.

Against jaundice, let it be eaten often cooked with meat, and a sufferer can use its juice and sowthistle in a beverage.

Chap. 5 (f. 191r): Concerning Parsnip

Pastinaca sativa from Wikipedia

 Parsnip is warm in the second degree and moist in the middle of the first. There are two kinds of this plant, that is, the domestic and the wild. Another name by which the plant is called is “pastinaca”. It is more suited for food than for medicine. It has the power of producing excess, thick blood. Thus, it increases the libido. It is more effective fresh, dried it is of no use.

For the convalescent and the melancholy, it is effective either raw or cooked, but fresh and not dried.

Let it be prepared with ginger for stimulating coitus; for soothing digestion, take the roots and cook them well in water, then cut them into bits and press out the water, and make medallions, to which is added skimmed honey and cooked until the honey is absorbed, stirring it constantly so that it doesn’t stick to the pot. In the midst of cooking, put in almonds if you have them, and cleaned pine-nuts if you have them. Aftereward, add aromatic spices, like ginger, galangal, a little pepper, nutmeg, and other well-scented spices.


Chap. 6 (f. 191r): Concerning Borax[1]

Borax crystals, from Wikipedia

Borax is warm and dry in the fourth degree. It is, moreover, the gum of some tree that lives in overseas regions. In summer it flows in a pure viscosity, and it is condensed and hardened by the action of warmth. Something a bit impure also flows from it which is somewhat soft and full of dregs, as though of dirt. The borax that should be chosen is that which is white, clear, and hard, and if it has impurities, it should be discarded. It has the powers of cleansing, wiping away, and of attracting.

For clarifying the face and removing skin discoloration, and especially that which occurs after birth, and even if it comes about from hot air: a powder of borax may be prepared with rose water, and the face smeared with it.

For cleansing and purifying the face, women prepare it with honey and skimmed and strained eggwhite[2], and also with citron ointment.

They also prepare an ointment of chicken fat with pulverized borax and smear their faces with it.

Note that 3 scruples of borax may be put in 2 ounces of rosewater, 1 oz. of borax in 1 lb. of honey.

For stimulating the menses and a dead fetus and the afterbirth, a suppository may be made from borax and clary, well steeped in wine.


[1] In the Alphita, Borax is identified as “quedam gumma unde consolidatur aurum, anglice Boreis.” Ed. J.L.G. Mowat firther notes that it is “gummi idem, solidantur aurum et argentum.” P. 23, n. 12. Wikipedia notes:

A mixture of borax and ammonium chloride is used as a flux when welding iron and steel. It lowers the melting point of the unwanted iron oxide (scale), allowing it to run off. Borax is also used mixed with water as a flux when soldering jewelry metals such as gold or silver, where it allows the molten solder to wet the metal and flow evenly into the joint. Since borax has historically been used in the ways Platearius discusses, we must assume that he conflates the chemical substance with some unidentifiable plant product.

[2] In preparing eggwhite for suspending pigments or mixing into medicinal compounds, eggwhite was beaten until it was frothy and allowed to settle until the foam rose to the surface. Then the foam was skimmed off, the remaining liquid strained and, sometimes, thinned with water.

Chap. 7 (f. 191r): Concerning Betony

Betonica officinalis from Wikipedia


Betony is warm and dry in the third degree. Its leaves are especially suited for medicine, green and dried, and they are greatly effective. When simply betony is mentioned, its leaves are used.

For headache from a cold cause existing in it: make a gargle from a straining of a mixture of betony with stavesacre in vinegar.

If it comes from a vapor rising from the stomach[1], let wine with a decoction of betony be administered.

This is also effective against headache from a cause existing in the head.

Against stomachache, let a decoction of betony be given with the juice of absinthe, with warm water if there is serious constipation; in intestinal discomfort, after a clyster, this is also a remedy.

Likewise, for cleansing the womb while preserving the conceptus, make a foment from water with a betony decoction. Make a suppository as well, and let an electuary be given with powdered betony and honey.


[1] The word used here, anathamiasmi, must be a corruption of anathymiasis, a rising vapor.

Chap. 8 (f. 191r): Concerning Sandarac gum

Sandarac tears from Wikipedia

Sandarac gum is warm and dry in the third degree. It is moreover the gum of some tree growing in overseas regions. In summertime, whatever gum flows out is hardened by the action of heat, and thus it is dried and called “bernix”.[1] There are three sorts of this: one is a yellowish color, another reddish, and another whitish. Whichever sort it is, only that which is clear and pure should be chosen. It has the power of binding from its gumminess, of clarifying and of preserving. This is clear enough since artists apply it over other colors so that they appear brighter, and it preserves the other colors. It can be kept a long time.

Of its use: it is useful against nosebleeds. Its powder, prepared with egg-white, should be applied to the temples and the forehead, and this is called “sinapisma”[2] since it comes about from gluing together. Its powder can be injected into the nostrils.

Against choleric vomiting: make a plaster from its powder and frankincense, in egg-white, and let it be applied to the collarbones.

The same may be done for dysentery, but with vinegar added, and applied on the pubes.

Its powder given with soft-boiled egg is effective against choleric vomiting and dysentery.

Its powder is also effective against interior and exterior rupture.

Salernitan women use its powder for clarifying the face. Note that “bernix” is the same thing as “cacabre”[3] and “ventosice”[4], but it is called bernix in Greek.


[1] Bernix = varnish. Sandarac gum was the sap of a small Moroccan tree named Tetraclinis articulata. It is the substance generally meant when the word varnish was used in the Middle Ages, and it was used to coat furniture and paintings with a clear, protective surface. See

[2] “Sinapisma” is defined as an “ointment spread on patient’s body, with medicinal powder sprinkled on it.” See Norri, 988.

[3] Latham identifies this simply as “gum,” at 62.

[4] Unknown.

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.

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 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 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.)