Culpeper’s Complete Herbal
By the time Europeans arrived in the Americas, they possessed a long list of medicinal plants. They also began looking for new plants to use in medicine. The “Badinus” was the first manuscript to bring New World botanical medicine back to Europe in the 1550s. It was based on the work of an Aztec physician. However, Flannery pointed out, the “Badinus” disappeared, moving from one library to another, until it surfaced in the Vatican in 1929, so it had no effect on the way botanical medicines were used in Europe.
Nicholas Culpeper (18 October 1616 – 10 January 1654) was an English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer. His published books include The English Physician (1652) and the Complete Herbal (1653), which contain a rich store of pharmaceutical and herbal knowledge, and Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick (1655), which is one of the most detailed documents we have on the practice of medical astrology in Early Modern Europe.
Culpeper spent the greater part of his life in the English outdoors cataloging hundreds of medicinal herbs. He criticized what he considered the unnatural methods of his contemporaries, writing: “This not being pleasing, and less profitable to me, 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.”
Culpeper came from a long line of notable people including Thomas Culpeper, the lover of Catherine Howard (also a distant relative) who was sentenced to death by Catherine’s husband, King Henry VIII.