DioscoridesPedanius Dioscorides was an ancient Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist from Anazarbus, Cilicia, Asia Minor, who practised in ancient Rome during the time of Nero. He had the opportunity to travel extensively seeking medicinal substances from all over the Roman and Greek world.

Dioscorides wrote a five-volume book in his native Greek, (De Materia Medica in the Latin translation; Regarding Medical Matters) that is a precursor to all modern pharmacopeias, and is one of the most influential herbal books in history. In fact, it remained in use until about CE 1600. Unlike many classical authors, his works were not "rediscovered" in the Renaissance, because his book never left circulation. The De Materia Medica was often reproduced in manuscript form through the centuries, often with commentary on Dioscorides' work and with minor additions from Arabic and Indian sources, though there were some advancements in herbal science among the Arabic additions. The most important manuscripts survive today in Mount Athos monasteries.

De Materia Medica is important not just for the history of herbal science: it also gives us a knowledge of the herbs and remedies used by the Greeks, Romans, and other cultures of antiquity. The work also records the Dacian and Thracian names for some plants, which otherwise would have been lost. The work presents about 600 plants in all, although the descriptions are obscurely phrased. Duane Isely notes that "numerous individuals from the Middle Ages on have struggled with the identity of the recondite kinds", and characterizes most of the identifications of Gunther et al. as "educated guesses".

NICHOLAS CULPEPER, JEAN VALNET and RENE-MAURICE GATTEFOSSE to name a few were all influenced by Dioscorides' work.

Back to the top of the page

                            Send this page to a Friend:

Site Map
Essential Oils