A masterpiece of herbal knowledge
I have an admission to make – I am addicted to collecting herb books. And finally, after years of using an electronic version of The English Physician I have treated myself to a print copy published in 2009.
Published over 350 years ago, at a time when medical knowledge was kept from the common man, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, with information on over 400 herbs and their uses, is still one of the most comprehensive listing of herbs and their properties.
Nicholas Culpeper combined his interest in anatomy, astrology and herbalism to become a healer to London’s poor. He really didn’t like the physicians of the day whom he thought to be too elitist and greedy. In 1649 he translated a medical text from Latin to common English, which meant the patient had a chance to actually understand what the physicians had kept as their professional secrets. This did in no way endear him to the medical profession.
‘I consulted with my two brothers, DR. REASON and DR. EXPERIENCE, and took a voyage to visit my MOTHER NATURE, by whose advice, together with the help of DR. DILIGENCE, I at last obtained my desire; and, being warned by MR. HONESTY, a stranger in our days, to publish it to the world, I have done it.’ Nicholas Culpeper
He produced a few more books before he published the book he would be most known for in 1653. The English Physician which later also became known as Culpeper’s Complete Herbal has been continuously in print since the 17th century. You will find Culpeper’s Complete Herbal mentioned in the reference list of most herb books.
Of course his view on medicine was considerably different from what we know today, although the general concept of keeping the body in balance for optimal health is very much relevant today as it was in the 1600’s. It would be unwise to blindly follow all of Culpeper’s advice but is much in works that are still very valid today.