Use of Ancient texts in
modern therapeutic research

Fabre A.
Rev Hist Pharm (Paris). 2003;51(338):239-50


Two main purposes were assigned to this study of medicinal prescription of spices at the time of the Roman Empire: analyze Roman pharmacopoeia of spices in reference to modern criteria and assess a new discipline, close to "ethno-botany" and "ethno-pharmacology", aiming to a new approach of drug research: "archeopharmacology". A brief overview is given of the Roman world of spices : all aromatic substances from Orient, India and Far-East held a major place which can only be compared to the role of petroleum in our modern times. The study is conducted on a thesaurus of 2600 quotations from twelve authors: Apicius, Caelius Aurelianus, Cassius Felix, Celsus, Dioscorides, Galen, Marcellus,(Anonymous) Mulonmedicina, Pelagorius, Pliny the Elder, Serenus Sammonicus and Scribonius Largus and a set of 33 medicinal spices among which: cyperus, ferulas (Asa foetida), frankincense, pepper, myrrh and saffron. Medicinal use of spices (mainly for pneumology, dermatology and gastroenterology) do not differ notably from the rest of Roman pharmacopoeia: the main criteria for prescription of spices is not their place of origin but a "therapeutic profile" which is clearly assigned to each substance by tradition. During the last decades, new methods of therapeutic research: ethno-botany and ethno-pharmacology have been used extensively to explore traditional medicines. A new discipline is ready to emerge: "archeo-pharmacology", aiming towards a drug research based on Ancient texts.
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The spongia somnifera
Chloroform anaesthesia
'My beloved chloroform'
'The secularisation of pain'

and further reading
Future Opioids
BLTC Research
Utopian Surgery?
The Good Drug Guide
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
The Reproductive Revolution
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World