Folio 186v

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

[2] 1939 ed. reads Amalfie.

[3] 1939: 2 scruples.

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

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

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

Gold dust, from Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[4] Dissolved?

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