A chance encounter with a colleague, Frances Watkins, whilst helping out with our University allotment led me to a couple of interesting references on Anglo-saxon and Roman herbalism. We have some innovative Health, Sport and Bioscience courses and a wonderful medicinal herb garden (pictured) at the Stratford campus as well as a thriving green approach at UEL .
The ‘dark ages’ are often seen as void of culture and knowledge advances. This stereotype is reflected in the wine world with an emphasis on the classical civilizations and modern period. The long period in between was where winemakers (usually monks) learned over generations about grapes and terroir. Frances explained how she and others are revisiting old texts to look for forgotten knowledge and how wine was vital as a solvent when preparing medicines (pharmacopoeia). She kindly sent me her paper on the topic and a link to a pdf of a key book on plants and health by Pedianos Dioskourides (here). He was an ‘army doctor’ thought to have lived during the reigns of Nero and Vespasian. His book on the use of plants, De Materia Medica, is well worth a look.
Watkins, F., Pendry, B., Corcoran O. and Sanchez- Medina (2011) Anglo-Saxon Pharmacopoeia Revisited: A potential treasure in drug discovery Drug discovery today vol 16 No.s 23/24 December 2011