Planta Med 2010; 76 - P297
DOI: 10.1055/s-0030-1264595

A comparative analysis between historical iatrosophia texts and modern plant use in the monasteries of Cyprus

A Lardos 1, M Heinrich 1, J Prieto 1
  • 1The School of Pharmacy, Univ. of London, Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, 29–39 Brunswick Square London, United Kingdom

The iatrosophia is a genre of historical medical Greek texts rooted in the Byzantine Empire [1]. Here we use a diachronic approach based on the medicinal knowledge contained in six iatrosophia related to Cyprus from the 17th to 20th century mostly written by monks [2]. We juxtapose this ancient knowledge with modern knowledge collected in an ethnobotanical field study involving 21 monasteries. In both the ancient and the modern dataset gastrointestinal and respiratory tract disorders are among the most important conditions treated (at least 35% of the medicinal use reports). The most remarkable change is the decline of uses in dermatology (from 22% to less than 7%) and the appearance of cardiovascular and blood system uses (from practically zero to 14%) in the modern dataset. In both datasets the majority of the twenty most frequently reported plants are cultivated vegetables, fruits, aromatic herbs and other crop plants with about half belonging to the Lamiaceae, Rosaceae and Liliaceae. Mentha spicata L., Crataegus azarolus L. and Salvia fruticosa Mill. are used for medicinal purposes in at least 16 of the 21 monasteries. While M. spicata scores among the top ten with the highest numbers of use reports in the historical texts, S. fruticosa is less important and C. azarolus not mentioned at all. The present analysis highlights changes and similarities in plant usage patterns of two closely related traditional systems separated in time and adds to our understanding of the dynamics involved the development of herbal medicine use in the (Eastern) Mediterranean.

Acknowledgements: This study was supported by a grant from the A. G. Leventis Foundation.

References: 1. Touwaide, A. (2007) In: Bowers, B.S. (Ed.) The Medieval Hospital and Medical Practice. Ashgate. Hampshire.

2. Lardos, A. (2006)J Ethnopharmacol 104: 387–406.