Folio 188v

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AKG and MP

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

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

Acorus calamus from Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The juice of its root cleanses the eyes.

AKG and MP

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

[2] Not our modern gladiolus.

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

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

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

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

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

Dorema ammoniacum, from Dave’s Garden

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

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

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

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

One scruple of ammoniac drunk with an oxymel cures splenetics.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

[3] Helleborus foetidus.

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

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

[6] Tanacetum balsamita.

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

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

Pimpinella Anisum, Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Wormwood or artemisia from Etsy

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

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

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

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