HERB - Re: Tree diagrams

Gaylin Walli gwalli at infoengine.com
Mon Dec 14 12:40:42 PST 1998

Agnes wrote a while back:
>I'm deLanvallei of the Angevin Empire (1190)--that's the world I'm
>clear about. I note you are of Cordoba and probably interact with
>Unbelievers. I don't know much about the philosophy of Arab science
>in the MA. Nor of Jewish science.

I'm not sure that I'm clear, either, to be honest, but Cordoba was a
major medical center and it seems foolish to ignore the history
of that city for my personna, as I'm sure you understand. :)
My thanks again to wajdi for the excellent links to Arabic medieval
medicine sites on the web. They were of great interest to me.

The reason I'm responding so late to something was this comment:

>When did herbalists and physicians stop being the same people?

I've spent a bit of time looking this up simply because I thought
I had a good answer twice and both times I argued myself out of
the answer as I was typing it up.

I think my answer is loaded with my lack of knowledge, but if I
had to put a date and explanation on it, I'd say this:

I think physicians stopped being herbalists in the 1300s and that
separation began to widen progressively as the end of the middle
ages and the Renaissance completed itself. I give this date for
five reasons (though I'm sure I could come up with a few more if
I knew more. *sigh*).

First, during this time period a marked rise in the power of guilds
related to medicine and surgery became prominent. Organization and
increased membership (forced or otherwise) increased this power. As
a result, it became harder for people in cultural centers to obtain
and dispense medication without the appropriate approval, usually
of the guilds in charge.

Second, during this time period, patrognage for care began to rise,
both in the wealthier classes and in the merchant and minor nobility.
I think that physicians were lured away from herbal medicines (ones
that relied on plants obtained locally or nearby) by the promise of
money (and favor and royal income and houses and plate and jewelry)
that people were willing to pay to eas the fear of protracted suffering.
Right around this time period we also see a marked rise in the
shipment of exotic ingredients from foreign lands, and these same
ingredients appearing in apothecaries workshops. Which brings me to
number three.

Third, the rise of the apothecary and regulations in and against their
favor begin appearing far more frequently around this time. In letters
by doctors written at this time (from what I can discern) physicians
had begun seriously relying on apothecaries to deal with the various
finanicial responsibilities of distributing medicines. The simple fact
was, although the monetary and social renumeration were quite substantial,
many patrons didn't pay up, leaving their expenses in arrears for months
at a time. For wealthier customers, physicians often accepted items in
lieu of cash, but ingredients were still costly. They often relied on
apothecaries to take the burden of that expense away, charging patrons
only for their knowledge and recommendations.

Fourth, knoweldge training begain to increase substantially. Something
had to go with all the knoweldge coming in, and I think that was the
in-depth personal knowledge between plants and their witnessed curative
properties. I think doctors began relying more on the published accounts
of others or the advice of wise-women and obstetrix rather than knowing
fully the lore and witnessing the efficacy of treatments. Study had to
be done on topics that cured the "why" of a sickness. Diagnosis took
precendence over the  curative properties of plants because when it came
right down to it, there was really no distinction between the symptoms
of a disease and the actual disease itself. I think it might have been
that finding the cause of an illness became more important to the
physician unless the patient was in immediate danger of death.

Fifth, and finally, with the increasing knowledge of causes and sources
of disease (especially after the abyssmal failure of cures for the
plagues) patrons realized the treasure of knoweldge physicians afforded
them, especially if patrons paid well or promised well. In positioning
themselves in powerful locations or ones where wealth and prestige were
the foremost benefit, physicians took on the responsibility of not only
curing someone sick, but ensuring that they stayed healthy over time.
They begain to be required to provide astrological advice, nutritional
advice, religious direction, building advice (sort of a medieval Feng Shui),
and a few more I'm sure I'm not remembering.

Everybody still with me here? Sorry to ramble on...:)
I'll stop here.
Jasmine de Cordoba, Midrealm, gwalli at infoengine.com

"Si enim alicui placet mea devotio, gaudebo; si autem
nulli placet, memet ipsam tamen juvat quod feci."
-- Hroswith of Gandersheim
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