The Herbal Handbook


Nicholas Culpeper

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Tonight, we’ll read from “The Complete Herbal” written by Nicholas Culpeper, published in 1653. Culpeper was an English botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer. This episode first aired in April of 2021.

Culpeper cataloged hundreds of outdoor medicinal herbs. He attempted to make medical treatments more accessible to lay persons by educating them about maintaining their health. Ultimately his ambition was to reform the system of medicine by questioning traditional methods and knowledge and exploring new solutions for ill health. The systematisation of the use of herbals by Culpeper was a key development in the evolution of modern pharmaceuticals, most of which originally had herbal origins.

Culpeper's emphasis on reason rather than tradition is reflected in the introduction to his Complete Herbal. He was one of the best-known astrological botanists of his day, pairing the plants and diseases with planetary influences.

Culpeper believed medicine was a public asset, not a commercial secret, and the prices physicians charged were far too high compared with the cheap and universal availability of nature's medicine. For this, he was considered a radical, and even accused of witchcraft.