The Historical Prescriber

The most recent additions in English, in French and in Latin and Greek

English translations are copyright. You may quote from this page if you add the site URL 'http://perso.wanadoo.fr/dalby/'

Aphrodisiac (c. 400?)

Herba priapiscus. Herbae priapisci radices tundis et imponis: expurgat et cicatrices curant. Herbae priapisci suco oculos inungis et lippitudinem et dolores tollit sine mora. Si quis ad mulierem non potuerit, herbae priapisci radicem (sed et testiculum dextrum qui maior est) teres eum et piperis grana xlvii, mellis uncias iv, in uino optimo medicamen soluis et pondus scripula ix per triduo sumes.
Nomina herbae: a Graecis dicitur satirion, alii cinos <orchis>, alii entaticon, alii eritronion, alii panion, alii serapion, alii orchis, Aegyptii mene, Galli ura, Itali priapiscus, alii testiculos.

Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarius 15. Source: Antonii Musae de herba vettonica liber; Pseudoapulei herbarius; Anonymi de taxone liber; Sexti Placiti liber medicinae ex animalibus, etc. ed. Ernestus Howald, Henricus E. Sigerist. Leipzig: Teubner, 1927.

Aphrodisiac (c. 1200?)

Diasatyrion: antidotus e satyrio. Valet ad liberorum procreationem venereorumque frequentiorem vsum; imbecillitati renum succurrit & iis qui rem veneream agere haud possunt auxilio est; voluptatem quoque excitat ... Recipit satyrii viridis, dauci satiui radicis, nucis Indicae, pistaciorum eryngii radicis, nucum pinearum, singul. 3.xii; zingiberis, anisi, sinapi albi, linguae auis seminis, sing. 3.v; cinamomi, bulbi seminis, sing. 3.ii.s; moschi grana vii. Satyrii, dauci & eryngii radices in aqua feruefactas & probe fractas ac tandem valde tritas melli immitte, deinde pistacia & nuces pineas repurgatas. Vbi cum melle simul bullierint, postea impone odoramenta, & sublato ab igne lebete, vbi iam melle probe rigata fuerint odoramenta, moschum leuigatum insere. Et rursum iis probe subactis in vasculum ad vsum repone. Datur cum vetere vino aut condito vesperi dormituro.

1623 Leonhart Fuchs, Nicolai Myrepsi Compositiones p. 40

Nux indica = coconut. Lingua avis = ash-tree seed

Aphrodisiac menu (65)

curavi diligentius noxiosissimum corpus, balneoque praeterito modica unctione usus, mox cibis validioribus pastus, id est bulbis cochlearumque sine iure cervicibus, hausi parcius merum.

c. 66 Petronius, Satyrica 130. English translation: I took rather special care with my (very tiresome) body, skipping the hot bath and applying just a little oil; then I took some relatively strengthening foods, I mean grape-hyacinth bulbs and snails' necks served without sauce, and I swallowed some neat wine, but not too much.

Aphrodisiac menu (1746)

Zobéide ... laissa les bonnes choses, ne mangea que des drogues, des têtes et des pattes, des petits pieds et un léger morceau d'entremets ... et cependant au dessert s'humanisa avec le vin de Champagne et la crème des Barbades, faisant cependant un grimace agréable et les trouvant d'une force horrible, seulement pour la forme.

1746 La Morlière, Angola [Romans libertins du XVIIIe, éd. Jacques Trousson (1993) p. 408]

Barbecue, medical uses (1580)

Estant les Indes flechees a la mort on les gettent sur une barbacoue ... et alors que le feu est alume se mettent une feuille nommee tabac auec une gomme qui sapelle balce. [Balce = baume de Tolu]

1580 Histoire naturelle des Indes ("Drake Manuscript") fo. 92

Constipation (c. 30 BC)

... si dura morabitur alvus,
mitulus et viles pellent obstantia conchae
et lapathi brevis herba, sed albo non sine Coo.

c. 30 BC Horace, Satires 2.4

Cough (c. AD 400)

Salis quantum intra palmam tenere potest qui tussiet in potionem cervisae aut curmi mittat et calidum bibat cum dormitum vadit, neque postea loquatur, sed tacitus somnum capiat; cito sanabitur, si hoc vel triduo fecerit.

Marcellus of Bordeaux, De Medicamentis 16.33. Click here for the original text with dictionary links.

Dysentery (c. 500)

Hares, if they are quite young, can be taken with a sweet sauce including pepper, a little cloves and ginger, seasoned with costus and spikenard or tejpat leaf. Hare is an excellent food, good in cases of dysentery.

Anthimus, Letter on Diet no. 13. Click here for the original text with dictionary links.

Epilepsy (c. 70)

Epileptics drink the blood of gladiators, as if drinking from living cups. Horrific though it is when we see wild beasts in the arena doing the very same thing, sufferers believe that it is most efficacious to drink this medicine from a living, breathing, warm body.

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 28.4. Click here for the original text with dictionary links and here for my IFAQ on this subject.

Natural digestive transit (1930)

She was not a girl who believed in mincing her words, and a racy little anecdote she told about a man who refused to eat prunes had the effect of causing me to be a non-starter for the last two courses.

1930 P. G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves! 'Jeeves and the old school chum'

Scalding (1631)

'I ha' scalded my leg ... run for some creame and sallad oyle.' ...
''Tis but a blister ... I'le take it away with the white of an egg, a little honey, and hogs grease.'

1631 Ben Jonson, Bartholmew Fair act 2 scene 5

Snakebite (c. 400?)

Herbae personaciae sucus cum vino veteri, potione data, omnes morsus serpentium vel colubri mirifice sanat ...
Nomina herbae: a Graecis dicitur prosopis, alii bacchion, alii elefantosis, alii elefas, alii nefelion, Itali personacia, alii bardana, alii manifolium, Galli betilolen, Daci riborasta.

Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarius 36. And for a list of ancient Dacian plant names click here

To close the orifice of the stomach (1616)

What money ha' you about you, Mr. Matthew?
Faith, I ha' not past a two shillings, or so.
Come. We will have a bunch of redish, and salt, to taste our wine; and a pipe of tobacco, to close the orifice of the stomach.

1616 Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour act 1 scene 5