Nicholas Culpepper’s Complete Herbal
by Purple Herbal
Here is a link to one of my favorite books on herbal medicine, by Nicholas Culpepper, that I found on a really fun website about herbal medicine: www.witchenkitchen.com.
Culpepper was a 17th century astrologer, physician, botanist, herbalist, and truly a man after my own heart. He hailed from England, studying at the University of Cambridge. Subsequently, he become an apothecary. After marrying into a wealthy family, Culpepper was able to set up his own shop and give people access to herbal medicine for free.
His strong desire to give people access to herbal medicine was because he felt as though they were being taken advantage of by doctors who overcharged for their, often dangerous, treatments. His criticism of the techniques used by many physicians at that time, like bloodletting and the use of toxins as remedies, caused many to view him as a very radical figure. Culpepper worked hard to give the common people the knowledge of how to heal themselves, because he saw the effort on behalf of the British College of Physicians to keep that knowledge monopolized in the hands of a few.
Considering our medical system is based on the British medical system, it is no surprise that the monopoly continues today. Inexpensive and effective medicinal herbal treatments are not prescribed, and rarely studied. Over 1/3 of people today use some sort of complementary medicine (herbal, homeopathic, etc…), so I think it is time that modern medicine look back at its roots, herbal medicine, with appreciation instead of disdain.
After all, the majority of pharmaceutical drugs are based on plants. Why is it then that modern modern sees single compound extractions from a plant, and their synthetic imitations, as better suited for the human body than a plant used in its entirety? That kind of thinking only justifies my opinion that modern medicine is very macabre and materialistic, in the sense that they consider nature to be imperfect. Silly, man… he’s lost his connection to nature, and this is reflected in the medical system today.
As T.S. Eliot once said:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
I am confident that man will find his way back…to nature that is…
Now, back to Culpepper, he devoted a lot of time to studying and cataloging the medicinal plants of nature. He was outside constantly. Also, his interest in reforming and expanding the way medicine worked led him to translate many texts on herbal medicine from Latin to English so that the layperson could introduce themselves to the world of self-healing with herbs.
More than anything, Culpepper desired to give everyone the knowledge of herbal medicine, so that they may take care of themselves inexpensively and effectively.
Personally, I think today, more than ever, it is so important that people learn how to use the inexpensive and abundant cures of nature. It seems as though people are striving towards a life of being self-sufficient and living more organically. But, I don’t think that can only truly happen unless we know how to heal ourselves. The secret to doing that was literally right outside my front door. With just a little education on a few basic herbs (common weeds like dandelion, burdock root, red clover, and nettle), I was well on my way to taking back responsibility for my health.
The interesting thing about Culpepper’s work is the connection he placed between astrology and plants. According to Culpepper, all plants and diseases have a planetary significator. So, looking at a person’s astrological birthchart was just as important as talking with the patient about their illness.
I have studied astrology for just as long as I have studied herbal medicine, and think it would be great to create an inter-connected balance between astrology and plants in the same way that Culpepper did.