The Renaissance

     During this period, new political independence from the church and
     a renewed interest in the classics fostered a flowering of
     scientific, medical and cultural achievement that is unparalleled
     in human history. Many of the great herbal's were written,
     compiled and printed during this time. Some of these were as


     Bancke's Herbal was the first printed herbal.


     Grete Herball printed by Peter Treveris had the highest reputation
     of the earlier English herbal's.


     Turner's Herbs, by the physician and divine, William Turner
     (1510-1568). He was regarded as `the father of British Botany,"
     because he was the first Englishman who studied plants

     At the same time, the German, Fuch's Herbal by Leonhard Fuchs
     (1501-1566) was written and became another landmark work with
     beautiful illustrations.


     Aztec Herbal, published in 1552 is the earliest treatise on Aztec
     pharmacology. Written by Martin de la Cruz, an Aztec doctor, it
     was later translated by Juan Badiano, an Indian doctor from
     Xochimilco. It was discovered in the Vatican library in 1919 and
     has become known as the Baliano Codex.


     Rembert Dodoens (1517-1585) was a Belgian botanist. His herbal
     called Histoire de Plantes incorporated many of Fuch's woodcuts
     along with some new illustrations. His most important book, The
     Pemptades, became the basis of the English herbal known as
     Gerard's Herbal.

     1597 & 1633

     Gerard's Herbal by John Gerard (1545-1612) is the second of the
     three greatest English herbalists, Turner, Gerard and Parkinson.
     Gerard was a surgeon, well traveled and a dedicated gardener. He
     grew over 1000 plants mostly for seed. His herbal is largely based
     on the early Pemptades by Dodoens and was probably translated into
     English on commission by a Dr. Priest. Gerard altered the
     classification of plants and added a great deal from his personal
     observations. First published in 1597, it was later corrected and
     reprinted in 1633. Even to this day, amateurs calling themselves,
     "herbalists, freely plagiarize material from Gerard's herbal.

     In his work we see the old belief in the efficacy of herbs to
     treat not only physical diseases but those of the mind and spirit.
     This belief is shared by the greatest civilizations of antiquity.
     Gerard also describes methods of aromatherapy involving the
     inhalation of volatile oils, the absorption of these through the
     skin into the circulatory system.

     1629 & 1640

     John Parkinson (1567-1650) was the last of the great English
     herbalists. His books include Paradisi in Sole Terrestris (A
     Garden of Pleasant Flowers) published in 1629, and Theatrum
     Botanicum (The Theater of Plants) published in 1640 at the age of

     Parkinson's monumental Theatrum Botanicum describes over 3800
     plants and was the most complete and aesthetically beautiful
     English treatise on plants of the day.


     Nicolas Culpeper (1616-1654) expounded on the relationship of
     astrology and herbs and the older belief in the "Doctrine of
     Signatures". This belief extending deep into the distant past
     herbal traditions of the world maintains that there is a
     relationship between the way a plant appears and the condition for
     which it is indicated.

     Culpeper was the most loved by the people and hated by his
     professional colleagues herbal doctor of his day. It was the
     custom of the time for official medical knowledge to be printed
     and discussed only in Latin. In Culpeper's opinion, this was
     simply an elitist ploy to keep the knowledge of herbs and healing
     from the masses and thereby ensure the vested interests of the
     medical profession. There was also some sense, that this would
     protect the masses from possibly mistreating themselves. Medical
     elitism, of course, continues to this day in many forms and the
     many branches of medicine and with the American Medical
     Association (AMA) and other countries such as the British Medical
     Association (BMA).

     Always the physician of the people, Culpeper was the most hated by
     his professional colleagues because he violated a solemn oath of
     London's College of Physicians by translating from the Latin some
     of the elitist works of the time, notably the Pharmacopoeia which
     he retitled A Physicall Directory. Some of this information
     eventually found its way into his ever popular Culpeper's Herbal.

     He was the most loved because by translating the works of his
     greedy and paranoid colleagues, he was able to empower common folk
     with the knowledge of self treatment. Always a man of the people,
     Culpeper charged small fees, had an unaffected manner and was
     especially loved by his poor London West-end patients. The result
     is that he continues to be honored in the minds of the people with
     Culpeper's Herbal being reprinted through countless versions and
     editions up to the present.


     William Coles (1626-1662) authored two books, The Art of Simpling
     and Adam in Eden. Like Culpeper, he also wrote in colloquial
     English but he was severely critical of Culpeper and described him
     as being, "ignorant in the forme of Simples" and "transcribing out
     of old works only what was useful". Cole was also critical of
     Culpeper's astrological botany and the association of plants with
     planetary influences. Cole is regarded as a major exponent in
     English of the Doctrine of Signatures.

     Because medicine tended to be the official domain of either the
     church or the state, folk medicine throughout the Middle Ages,
     developed and was relegated to the practice of herbalists and
     healers who utilized non-official healing methods associated with
     previous pagan religions to attend to the needs of the those who
     were unable to afford the ministrations of the wealthy medical
     elite. This included women who were branded as witches (see the
     following section, Women and Healing), men who were called
     warlocks and other social outcasts who rebelled against the
     domination of Church and state and sought to rediscover their
     ancient so-called pagan religious customs and healing with the use
     of herbs and various charms. In the name of preserving Christian
     values, the Inquisition and witch-hunts became a convenient method
     to suppress and denigrate the efforts of unofficial lay  healers.

     Today, some may still look disdainfully on the witches' strange
     use of animal and mineral substances described in Shakespeare's
     Macbeth. However, this only alludes to the outlaw status of many
     women healers and their use of bonafide and potent remedies,
     however strange. Interestingly Shakespeare's son-in-saw and next
     door neighbor, John Hall was a great herbalist of the time whose
     official medical armamentarium included various animal parts,
     herbs and minerals much as these even today are also part of
     Traditional Chinese Medicine.

     The psychological aspects of healing through the use of rituals,
     prayers, charms and talismans represent another aspect of
     traditional herbal shamanism. It was not the power and validity of
     such methods of healing with which the Church took issue, for
     priests similarly employed various religious relics, specially
     consecrated `holy' water and the symbol of the cross in a similar
     way. Rather is was the question by whose authority the healing was
     achieved. If, therefore, an individual was healed with a
     non-Christian symbol, it must have been by the power of the devil.

     During the 17th century, the Swiss physician, Philippus Paracelsus
     advocated the use of minerals. These included methods of purifying
     and using minerals such as copper, sulfur, arsenic, mercury and
     iron. Because of his emphasis on the importance of Chemistry,
     Paracelsus holds two seeming contradictory distinctions as the
     "father of alchemy" and the founder of a system of mineral drug
     medicine that has ultimately resulted in the primacy of plants
     used for medicine.

                              WOMEN AND HEALING

     It may be noticed that thus far, that other than mythological
     figures such as Hygeia, Hepatica and other ancient goddesses, the
     only prominent historical woman described in this overview of the
     history of herbal medicine is Hildegard. While there were
     undoubtedly others, little seems to be known about them and they
     certainly do not play a prominent role in the chronicled history
     of medicine with the exception of a few in comparatively recent
     times. Certainly this is not because women, as a group, had no
     interest in healing. Quite the opposite.

     With the preponderant numbers of women who enroll in our course
     and attend our various seminars, women as a group, in my opinion
     are the most apt healers, with a natural tendency of compassion
     required for healing. Further, unlike men, their monthly and
     cyclic physiological needs (menses, childbirth and menopause)
     involve them directly on a regular basis with healing. We can only
     assume, therefore, that women have always had a lively and direct
     involvement with health and healing but were, along with other
     disadvantaged groups of peoples such as native people, blacks and
     Jews, simply overlooked in the chronicles of history.

     Before the great holocaust of the 20th century with the execution
     of 100's of thousands of Jews, gypsies and other ethnic groups by
     the Germans during the 2nd world war, another holocaust involving
     perhaps even greater numbers of women healers occurred between the
     14th and 17th centuries with the systemic torture and executions
     of millions of women as witches. According to Barbara Ehrenreich
     and Deirdre English in their very important booklet entitled
     Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers (Glass
     Mountain Pamphlets, P. O. box 238, Oyster Bay, N.Y., 11771), "The
     great majority of them were lay healers serving the peasant
     population, and their suppression marks one of the struggles in
     the history of man's suppression of women as healers."

     They go on to say that "The witch-hunts represented well-organized
     campaigns, initiated, financed and executed by Church and State."
     They came about coincident with the evolution of the European
     medical profession and the apparent need to suppress any attempts
     by the lay people to minister to their own medical needs.

     ..... Because of the Medieval Church, with the support of kings,
     princes and secular authorities, controlled medical education and
     practice, the Inquisition (witch-hunts) constitutes, among other
     things, an early instance of the `professional' repudiating the
     skills and interfering with the rights of the `nonprofessional' to
     minister to the poor. (Thomas Szasz, The Manufacture of Madness)

     As Ehrenreich and English state, "Witch hunts did not eliminate
     the lower class woman healer, but they branded her forever as
     superstitious and possibly malevolent. So thoroughly was she
     discredited among the emerging middle classes that in the 17th and
     18th centuries it was possible for male practitioners to make
     serious inroads into that last preserve of female healing ---
     midwifery. Nonprofessional male practitioners - "barber surgeons"
     - lead the assault in England, claiming technical superiority on
     the basis of their use of the obstetrical forceps. ---- Female
     midwives in England organized and charged the male intruders with
     commercialism and dangerous misuse of the forceps. But it was too
     late - the women were easily put down as ignorant "old wives"
     clinging to the superstitions of the past."

     Ehrenreich and English's book goes on to describe the male take
     over of the roles of healing from the 1800's through the early
     20th century throughout all European countries and in the US.

     It is difficult for us today to conceive of the profound lack of
     personal rights and the historical repression of women that has
     been so characteristic of the history of both Western and Eastern
     countries of the world. Rather than to over simplistically condemn
     men as a group, since I believe that ultimately both men and women
     suffer from female repression, the cause seems to coincide with
     the rise of warlike civilizations where physical strength and
     brutality became more of a necessity for survival and highly
     valued by both sexes. Witness our own time, that as war is
     becoming more technological and mechanized, it is less the
     exclusive domain of men as women are admitted into the military.
     Concomitantly, women's rights are emerging more strongly to the
     fore in all sectors of society.

     It is valuable to study more feminine oriented ancient
     civilizations such as the Mycenaean civilization of Crete which
     existed from around 1500 to 1100 B.C that made many important
     contributions to the evolution of civilization.

     The following section of describes the rise of the Eclectic
     medical system in the US. Among the many unique achievements of
     the Eclectics was the recognition, admission and graduation of
     women and blacks into the medical profession.