• Jayne Tamburello

Angelica 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.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica)

In this materia medica piece, Culpeper blasts those who name herbs after religious figures, dedicating almost two paragraphs to this pet peeve of his. But as we look to the section on "government and virtues" as he then called it, we can see what a fabulous herb it was, and still is. It was used for many ailments that started in the liver and the lower GI. He also used it for ailments of the lungs and as a topical for bites of all sorts as well topically for many open infections. It had so many uses as an antimicrobial, it's no wonder that they named it angelica. Finally, in following the galenic model (hot, cold, damp, dry), Culpeper mentions several times that is is good for those whose constitution runs cold.

"To write a description of that which is so well known to be growing almost in every garden, I suppose is altogether needless; yet for its virtue it is of admirable use.

In time of Heathenism when men had found out any excellent herb they dedicated it to their gods; as the Bay tree to Apollo, the Oak to Jupiter, the Vine to Bacchus, the Poplar to Hercules. These, the idolators, following as the Patriarchs, they dedicate to their Saints; as our Lady's Thistle, to Blessed Virgin, St John's Wort, to St John and another Wort to St. Peter, etc. Our physicians must imitate like apes (though they cannot come off half so cleverly) for they blasphemously call Phansies or Heartsease, an herb of the Trinity, because it is of three colours.

And a certain ointment, an ointment of the Apostles, because it consists of twelve ingredients. Alas, I am sorry for their folly and grieved at their blasphemy; God send them wisdom the rest of their age, for they have their share of ignoramus already. Oh! Why must ours be blasphemous, because the Heathens were idolatrous? Certainly they have read so much in old rusty authors, that they have lost all their divinity; for unless it were amongst the Ranters, I never read or heard of such blasphemy. The Heathens and infidels were bad, and ours worse; the idolators give idolatrous names to herbs for their virtues sake, not for their fair looks; and therefore someone called this an herb of the Holy Ghost; others more moderate called it Angelica, because of its angelical virtues and that name it retains still, and all nations follow it so near as their dialect will permit.

Government and virtues.

It is an herb the Sun in Leo; let it be gathered when he is there, the Moon applying to his good aspect; let it be gathered either in his hour or in the hour of Jupiter, let Sol be angular; observe the like in gathering the herbs, of other planets, and you may happen do wonders. In all epidemical diseases caused by Saturn, that is as good a preservative as grows. It resists poison, by defending and comforting the heart, blood, and spirits; it doth the like against plague and all epidemical diseases, if root be taken in powder to the weight of half a dram at a time, with some good treacle in Carduus water, and the party thereon, laid to sweat in his bed; if treacle be not to be had, take it alone in Carduus or Angelica water. The stalks or roots candied and eaten fasting, are good preservatives in time of infection; and at other times to warm and comfort a cold stomach. The root also steeped in vinegar and a little of that vinegar taken sometimes fasting, and the root smelled unto, is good for the same purpose. A water distilled from the root simply, as steeped in wine, and distilled in a glass, is much more effectual than the water of the leaves; and this water, drank two or three spoonfuls at a time, easeth all pains and torments coming of cold and wind, so that the body be not bound; and, taken with some of the root in powder beginning helpeth the pleurisy as also all other diseases of the lungs and breast, as coughs phthysic and shortness of breath; and a syrup of the stalks do the like.

It helps pains of the cholic, the stranguary and stoppage of the urine, procureth womens’ courses and expelleth the after birth, the stoppings of the liver and spleen and briefly easeth and discusseth all windiness and inward swellings. The decoction, drank before the fit of an ague, that may sweat if possible before the fit comes, will in two or three times taking, rid it quite away; it helps digestion and is a remedy for a surfeit. The juice or the being dropped into the eyes or ears, helps dimness of sight and deafness; the juice, put into the hollow teeth easeth their pains. The root in powder, made up into a plaster with a little pitch and laid on the biting mad dogs or any other venomous creature, doth wonderfully help. The juice or water dropped, or tents wet therein, and put into filthy dead ulcers, or the powder of the root (in want of either) doth cleanse and cause them to heal quickly by covering naked bones with flesh; the distilled water applied to places pained with the gout, or sciatica, doth give a great deal of ease. The wild Angelica is not so effectual as the garden although it may be safely to all the purposes aforesaid. "


carduus water. Water made from milk thistly (Silybum marianum)

windiness—uses joint pains, inflammation

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