Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nicholas Culpeper - The Herbal Rebel

Nicholas Culpeper (1616 - 1654) was an English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer.

Culpeper was an herbalist who followed the classical medical precepts of Hippocrates and Galen.  A medical populist, Culpeper's mission was to put medicine and natural healing back into the hands of the people.  According to Culpeper, priests, lawyers and physicians were, by and large, a burden to society, and used Latin to keep their knowledge out of the hands of the public.  A "natural rebel, he was opposed to the doctors monopolising medical practice, to their great profit, through the College of Physicians."

To put medical knowledge and power back into the hands of the people, Culpeper wrote an unauthorized critical translation of The London Dispensatory in English.  In so doing, he aroused the enmity of many powerful physicians, who tried to brand him as a quack and charlatan.  

Culpeper also translated Galen's Art of Physick from Latin into English.  This work deals with the basic tastes, temperatures and energetics of medicinal substances, and how these properties produce the whole range of therapeutic actions associated with them.

Culpeper's best known and loved work is his herbal, called A Complete Herbal, which has never really gone out of print since it was first published.  It gives the astrological indications of every herb in terms of planets and signs of the zodiac.  According to Culpeper, plants were able to channel and embody the subtle life energies of the planets, which were then consumed as food and medicine.  Through an elaborate system of planetary sympathies and antipathies, he found the right herb or formula to treat the patient's illness. 

A Complete Herbal is Culpeper's treatise and alphabetical catalog of the medicinal plants of his native England, including their astrological correspondences and indications.   It is available free online at the link provided. 

The Royal College of Physicians..."are bloodsuckers, true vampires, have learned little since Hippocrates; use blood-letting for ailments above the midriff and purging for those below...It is surprising that they are so popular and that some patients recover."

1 comment:

Elisa Toledo said...

It looks like his intentions and methods of opening to all the knowledge transmitted since centuries to heal humans still a need today.
Thank you.