Moving Plants, Transforming Medicine


  • Alan Touwaide University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), USA The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA, USA Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions Washington, DC, USA


history of botanics, history of pharmacology


The introduction of non-native medicinal plants into a new envi- ronment and the subsequent modification(s) of medicine are often considered, in medical historiography, to be a defining process of the Renaissance characterized by the discovery, importation to Europe, medicinal use, and study of the species from a world that became ipso facto “new” upon its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492. From Oviedo to Hernandez and the publication of the Thesaurus by the Accademia dei Lincei in 1651, passing through Nicolas Monardes and the national competition arisen out of the in- troduction of tobacco into medicine, without mentioning guaiac for the treatment of syphilis, the 16th and the early 17th centuries went from one discovery to another, with therapeutic trials and successes, ephemeral and durable treatments, but also false promises and fail- ures, all of which deeply transformed therapeutics.