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  • Jayne Tamburello

Agrimony by Nicholas Culpeper

Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) was an English botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer who believed in healing with herbs based on a patient's (and the herb's) astrological charts. He disdained his contemporaries who used such methods as blood letting, and other tactics that today, we would consider barbaric. He also believed in tending to the poor who often had little money to pay him. His main books are: The English Physician (1652, later rename the Complete Herbal) and Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick.


We are going to explore Culpeper's materia medica, in his own words, with translations at the bottom. You can also get his work on line at Google books.


AGRIMONY (Agrimonia eupatoria)

Descript. This has divers long some greater some smaller set upon stalk all of them dented about the edges above and greyish underneath a little hairy withal. Among which up usually but one strong round hairy brown stalk two or three feet high smaller leaves set here and there upon it. At the top thereof grow many small yellow flowers one above another in long spikes which come rough heads of seed hanging downwards which will cleave to and stick upon garments or any thing that shall against them. The knot is black long somewhat woody abiding many years shooting afresh every Spring which root though small hath a reasonable good of scent.

Place. It grows upon banks, near the sides of hedges.

Time. It flowers in July and August the seed being ripe shortly after.

Government and virtues. It is an herb under Jupiter and the sign Cancer and strengthens those parts under the planet and sign and removes diseases in them by sympathy, and those under Saturn, Mars and Mercury by antipathy, if they happen in any part of the body governed by Jupiter, or under the signs Cancer, Sagittarius or Pisces and therefore must needs be good for the gout either used outwardly in oil, or or inwardly in an electuary syrup, or concerted juice; for which see the latter end of this book.

It is of a cleansing and cutting faculty without any manifest heat moderately drying and binding It opens and cleanses the liver helps the jaundice and is very beneficial to the bowels healing all inward wounds bruises hurts and other distempers. The decoction of the herb made with wine and drank is good against the biting and stinging of serpents and helps them that make foul troubled or bloody water.

This herb also helps the cholic, cleanses the breast, and rids away the cough. A draught of the decoction taken warm, before the fit, first removes, and in time rids away, the tertain or quartan agues.

The leaves and seeds taken in wine stays the bloody flux outwardly applied being stamped with old swines grease, it helps cold sores, cancers and inveterate ulcers and draws forth thorns and splinters of wood, nails, or any other such things gotten in the flesh.

It helps to strengthen the be out of joint and, being bruised and applied, or the juice dropped in it, helps foul and imposthumed ears.

The distilled water of the herb is good to all the said purposes, either inward or outward, but a great deal weaker.

It is a most admirable remedy for such whose livers are annoyed either by heat or cold. The liver is the former of blood, the nourisher of the body, and Agrimony, a strengthener of the liver.

I cannot stand to give you a reason in every herb why it cures such diseases; but if you please to pursue my judgment in the herb, wormwood, you shall find them there, and it will be well worth your consider it in every herb you, shall true them true throughout the book.


Notes and translations:


Divers. Means diverse

Antipathy and sympathy. Treating like to like or like to opposite (think of homeopathy).

Tertain or quartan. A fever that comes and goes

Agues. Shivering associated with a fever

Imposthumed. Having an abscess



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