Background De Materia Medica written by Pedanios Dioscorides (1 century CE) has shaped European and Mediterranean herbal medicine to a large extent. Despite its fundamental importance for modern medico-botanical traditions the content of this work has never been systematically assessed. Purpose We present a quantitative survey of the botanical drugs described in De Materia Medica (ex Matthioli, 1568) and identify overall therapeutic, diachronic and botanical patterns. The extracted data may serve as a baseline and help to better contextualize research on herbal drugs and phytotherapy. Methods Therapeutic uses of herbal drugs were extracted through line-by-line reading of a digitized version of the treatise. For each plant usage mentioned in the text we recorded (I) the chapter number, (II) the putative botanical identity, (III) the plant part, (IV) the symptoms or disease, (V) the mode of administration, (VI) our biomedical interpretation of the ancient ailment or disease description as well as (VII) the organ- and symptom-defined category under which the use was filed. Sections An introduction to Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica and Matthioli's Renaissance commentary is followed by a description of the employed methodology. The results and discussion section introduces the generated database comprising 5314 unique therapeutic uses of 536 plant taxa and 924 herbal drugs. Separate subsections address salient patterns such as the frequent recommendation of Fabaceae seeds for dermatology, Apiaceae seeds as antidotes and Apiaceae exudates for neurology and psychosomatic disorders as well as the heavy reliance on subterranean parts as drugs. Conclusions The therapeutic knowledge described in De Materia Medica (ex Matthioli, 1568) offers unique insights into classical Mediterranean epidemiology and herbal medicine. Drugs that lost importance over time as well as remedies used for diseases now controlled by preventive medicine and industrially produced drugs may be interesting starting points for research on herbal medicine and drug discovery. Apart from promoting future data mining, the study may also help to prove the tradition of use, which is required for the regulatory approval of certain herbal products.

Back to the roots: A quantitative survey of herbal drugs in Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica (ex Matthioli, 1568)

STAUB, PETER OSWALD;CASU, LAURA;LEONTI, MARCO
2016

Abstract

Background De Materia Medica written by Pedanios Dioscorides (1 century CE) has shaped European and Mediterranean herbal medicine to a large extent. Despite its fundamental importance for modern medico-botanical traditions the content of this work has never been systematically assessed. Purpose We present a quantitative survey of the botanical drugs described in De Materia Medica (ex Matthioli, 1568) and identify overall therapeutic, diachronic and botanical patterns. The extracted data may serve as a baseline and help to better contextualize research on herbal drugs and phytotherapy. Methods Therapeutic uses of herbal drugs were extracted through line-by-line reading of a digitized version of the treatise. For each plant usage mentioned in the text we recorded (I) the chapter number, (II) the putative botanical identity, (III) the plant part, (IV) the symptoms or disease, (V) the mode of administration, (VI) our biomedical interpretation of the ancient ailment or disease description as well as (VII) the organ- and symptom-defined category under which the use was filed. Sections An introduction to Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica and Matthioli's Renaissance commentary is followed by a description of the employed methodology. The results and discussion section introduces the generated database comprising 5314 unique therapeutic uses of 536 plant taxa and 924 herbal drugs. Separate subsections address salient patterns such as the frequent recommendation of Fabaceae seeds for dermatology, Apiaceae seeds as antidotes and Apiaceae exudates for neurology and psychosomatic disorders as well as the heavy reliance on subterranean parts as drugs. Conclusions The therapeutic knowledge described in De Materia Medica (ex Matthioli, 1568) offers unique insights into classical Mediterranean epidemiology and herbal medicine. Drugs that lost importance over time as well as remedies used for diseases now controlled by preventive medicine and industrially produced drugs may be interesting starting points for research on herbal medicine and drug discovery. Apart from promoting future data mining, the study may also help to prove the tradition of use, which is required for the regulatory approval of certain herbal products.
Europe; Herbal medicine; History; Mediterranean; Pharmacopoeia; Renaissance
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11584/185752
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