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.