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.)