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.)