The History and Development of Herbal Medicine (Unit 1)

By 29th December 2021 May 11th, 2022 Master Herbalist Course

I got a voucher for an online Herbalism Diploma for Christmas! I’m buzzing. I’m hoping my knowledge on phytocology expands and there’s bits in there that could contribute to my arts practice, or at least give me additional jumping points for research. Who knows, it might even start a change of career.

I’m intending to post things of artistic importance or note here, so I can come back easily later. I’m not jotting notes on the entire thing, just things that jump out… some text has been lifted from the course, but to clarify, it is for educational purposes!

Master Herbalist Diploma: Unit 1: The History and Development of Herbal Medicine

Learning Outcomes:

Understand the contributions made to Herbalism by Culpepper and Dioscorides

Understand the Doctrine of Signatures

  • Aristotle believed plants had a psyche
  • Medieval Doctrine of Signatures – the connection between how a plant looks (God’s signature) and how it’s used medicinally. Eg- the mottled leaves of Lungwort mirroring lung tissue, which treats ailments of the respiratory tract. The hollow stalk of the garlic showed it was a remedy for windpipe ailments. Some weeds-like dandelion, plantain, yarrow, and nettles-revealed the broadness of their healing virtues through their abundance.
  • De Materia Medica, the first European herbal guide written by Greek, 1st century physician
  • Pliny the Elder 23-79 AD drew together writings from over 400 authors in his Natural History, recording, amongst other things, herbal lore of the time.
  • John Gerard’s ‘The Herbal’ is clearly the work of a horticulturist, rather than of a herbal practitioner, but is nonetheless a mine of information. The book includes many plants that had been recently brought back to Europe by explorers and traders.
  • Culpeper’s ‘The English Physicians’ has been widely used as a practical reference book ever since its publication.
  • John Hill, M.D., wrote ‘A general Natural History’, or new accurate descriptions of the Animals, Vegetables and Minerals of the different parts of the world, printed in 1751, and ‘British Herbal’, an History of Plants and Trees Native to Britain, cultivated for use or praised for Beauty, in 1756.
  • William Salmon, M.D., wrote ‘The English Herbal’ or History of Plants in 1710.
  • Benjamin H. Barton, F.L.S., and Thomas Castle, M.D., F.L.S., collaborated ina the production of two volumes entitled ‘The Medicinal Plants of Great Britain’, published in 1845.
  • A Modern Herbal. The author, Mrs. Maude Grieve
  • An adage from the Salerno school (Middle Ages medical establishment – that let women practice) on sage went as follows: So/via salvatrix, natura conciliati’ix (sage, the saviour; nature, the conciliator). A conciliator is a person who acts as a mediator between two disputing people or groups.
  • The name Ayurveda derives from two Indian words: ayur, meaning life and veda, meaning knowledge or science. Ayurvedic medicine is more than a system of healing. It is a way of life encompassing science, religion and philosophy that enhances well-being, increases longevity and ultimately brings self-realization. It aims to bring about a union of physical, emotional and spiritual health, known as swasthya. This state enables the individual to enter into a harmonious relationship with cosmic consciousness.
  • Charles M. Skinner’s ‘Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits and Plants’


Image: Lungwort

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