Review By Cheryl Bolen
Culpeper's Complete Herbal
Wordsworth Reference, 603 pages,
Original Publication Date: 1653
I've just learned that other editions of this wonderfully handy
reference come with illustrations. Lamentably, my Wordsworth edition
does not. I really wish it did.
Actually, my edition contains Culpeper's Complete Herbal
(published originally in 1653) as well as his The English Physitian,
originally published in 1652. The English Physitian, in
continuous publication since its first printing, is the most successful
non-religious English book ever published.
The Herbal catalogues most every plant that grows in Great
Britain, giving descriptions of the plant, what time it needs to be
harvested for medicinal purposes, and which physical complaints a
concoction of it will help to alleviate.
The Physitian (that's the way Culpeper spelled it) is a
primer for physicians and apothecaries. It includes information on how
to make decoctions, syrups, purging electuraries (like laxatives),
pills, oils, ointments, and plaisters for a wide variety of ailments.
Since the information in this text was widely in use during the
Regency, I've used these works as a resource for almost every book I've
Here are some examples of Culpeper's delightful work:
My son was taken with the same disease (the body flux),
and the excoriation of his bowels was exceeding great; myself being in
the country, was sent for up, with only I gave him, was Mallow bruised
and boiled both in milk and drink, in two days (the blessing of God
being upon it) it cured it.
On ground pine, which grows low, Culpeper has this to say: It
is utterly forbidden for women with child for it will cause abortion or
delivery before time.
On mint, he writes: Simeon Sethi saith it helps a cold
liver, strengthens the belly, causes digestion, stays vomits and
hiccough; it is good against the gnawing of the heart, provokes
appetite, takes away obstruction of the liver, and stirs up bodily lust,
but therefore too much must not be taken.
He says dill "is a gallant expeller of wind."
So if you need to know what your characters would take if they are
suffering from gout, sore throat, headache, tooth ache, to expectorate
phlegm, treat asthma, or any infirmity you can devise, check out
This article was first published in The Quizzing Glass
in August 2008