Materia Medica, Pharmacology & Bio-Prospecting

Plantago lanceolata from the Wellcome Collection

In this image, there is text on the left-hand side with the image of Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) on the right. The plant is not drawn in detail, only a general outline is provided along with very few discerning features. One of these main features includes the stemmed bristle part of the plants that are seen scattered among the broad leaves. Another important note to make of the image are the scorpion, snake, and spider depicted beneath the plant. The significance of this “notation” is to highlight the specific healing properties of Plantain (Plantago lanceolata). It was observed that this plant is effective in treating venomous bites from scorpions, snakes, and spiders, which is why they were drawn as part of the image. The purpose behind this overall book was to compile all the European medieval knowledge gathered on animal, plant, and mineral substances used for wound treatment. The two main authors of this piece are Matthaeus Platearius, who worked on the text portion of the work, and then Robinet Testard, who gathered the illustrations. Platearius provided information “on the nature, healing properties, secondary qualities and therapeutic use of samples obtained from plants, metals and precious stones”. The illustrations are unique in that they are considered to be of “diagrammatic nature” or not being closely depicted as other realistic work from the Renaissance “back to nature” movement (Moleiro).

By examining different species of Plantago, all the plants were drawn with broad, green levels and the occasional bristle-like stems. It is effective when applied directly to the wound in pulp/paste form or even ingested as a juice. Because of the similarity in physical appearance and chemical properties that promote healing, we argue that the Plantago species studied are closely related (MAMcIntosh 2019).


MAMcIntosh. 2019. The Art and Knowledge in Medieval Herbals. Brewminate.
Moleiro. n.d. The Book of Simple Medicines National Library of Russia, St Petersburg. M. Moleiro Editor.

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