With the desire for natural remedies and holistic forms of medicine on the rise, the plant-based healthcare of the Middle Ages has seen a revival. If you find yourself gravitating away from traditional prescription medications and towards more organic treatments, you might want to consult this 1,000-year-old manual of plant pharmacology from the British Library’s collection. Luckily, it’s just been digitized for easy viewing.
The Cotton MS Vitellius C III is a beautifully illustrated 11th-century book, filled with natural, plant-based treatments. While modern medicine has rendered many medieval illnesses obsolete, others like chest pain, stomach aches, even body odor, still plague us today, and their treatments can be found in this manuscript. In addition to some pretty impressive Old English script, you’ll also find detailed drawings of the plants and animals with notable healing properties.
Given the popularity of herbal Anglo-Saxon medicine, it’s surprising that there aren’t more manuscripts like this one readily available. In fact, it’s the British Library’s only surviving illustrated Old English manual. “No one knows for sure how this manuscript was used or even where or by whom it was made,” project curator Alison Hudson told Hyperallergic. Because of its style and script decoration, she says “its production has been associated with monastic scriptoria at Canterbury and Winchester,” which were frequently centers of “natural and supernatural healing.”
While it might be harder make sense of the Cotton MS Vitellius C III than WebMD, who knows? You might just come across that magical, age-old remedy that does the trick.