History of medicinal plant use in Europe: A phylogenetic and organoleptic approach
24 October 2017 (online)
Historical texts have emerged as a valuable tool for studying the therapeutic knowledge of past cultures. Dioscorides' De Materia Medica (DMM) written during the 1st century AD is one of the most influential historical texts dealing with the therapeutic use of herbal drugs in Europe and the Mediterranean. DMM summarizes medicinal knowledge for over 1000 plant, mineral and animal derived drugs. Despite the historical relevance of DMM for modern herbal medicine and phytotherapy the content of this work has hitherto not been assessed systematically . Therefore, the herbal drugs described in DMM (ex Matthioli, 1568 ) were analysed using a multidisciplinary and quantitative approach. We analysed the correlation of smell and taste properties of herbal drugs assessed through an organoleptic tasting panel with their therapeutic uses described in DMM. A prevalence of uses for infectious diseases, a high frequency of root drugs, a marked use of Fabaceae seeds for dermatology, Apiaceae exudates for neurological problems and Apiaceae seeds as antidotes were noticed. Herbal drugs with higher flavour complexity also tend to have more therapeutic uses indicating that chemosensory complexity is linked with perceived therapeutic efficacy.
This project has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 606895.
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