“the herbs that have the property of healing…,”: the phytotherapy in don quixote

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  • Journal of Ethnopharmacology 106 (2006) 429441

    The herbs that have the propertyon

    mo/Juanarch 2006


    Don Quix docuintend to de on Qincluding a g d othfrom the ph ed fiused during s likirritants) and ics, ohis novel. A highllathyris), ch ry coexamined the possible scientific influences, which might have inspired Cervantes in this field, mainly the work of Andres Laguna (DioscoridesMateria Medica). 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Phytotherapy; History of pharmacology; Don Quixote

    The knherbalishave the

    1. Introdu

    In 1605,of Juan de lHidalgo Dpopularly rworks in tha book, sucbriefly somSaavedra (the son of a

    CorresponE-mail ad

    0378-8741/$doi:10.1016/jight-errant. . ., must be a physician, and above all at, so as in wastes and solitudes to know the herbs thatproperty of healing wounds

    Miguel de CervantesDon Quixote


    Miguel de Cervantes published, at the printing-housea Cuesta, in Madrid, his celebrated novelEl Ingeniosoon Quijote de La Mancha (Cervantes, 1605/1615),eferred as Don Quixote, one of the most importante history of literature (Fig. 1). Before any analysis ofh as Don Quixote it is essential to consider at leaste biographic data of its author. Miguel de Cervantesborn Alcala de Henares, 1547, died Madrid, 1616),family of physicians, moved to Rome at the age of 21

    ding author. Tel.: +34 91 724 82 10; fax: +34 91 724 82 05.dress: frlopez@juste.net (F. Lopez-Munoz).

    years to enter the service of a distant relative, Cardinal Gaspar deCervantes Acquaviva. He later served as a soldier in the assaultunits known as the Tercios, in the service of Philip II, and foughtat the famous battle of Lepanto (1571). Having survived 5 yearsin the tough Berber prisons of Algiers, he returned to Spain towork as a civil servant in the tax ministry and other governmentagencies. After several spells in prison, he eventually died in theSpanish capital, the victim of poverty. Cervantes was, then, aman of enormous curiosity who lived at a time of great uncer-tainty. Don Quixote itself was written in a historical period oftransition, in which the Renaissance worldview was giving wayto the more complex perspectives of the Baroque era.

    The resources Cervantes employed in the writing of DonQuixote make it not only a masterwork of world literature, butalso, in the opinion of many experts, the first example of themodern novel. The first part of the book, published in 1605, wasa parody of contemporary courtly romances, while the secondpart, not published until 1615, represented an attempt to neutral-ize an unauthorized sequel written by another author trying tocapitalize on the success of part one. Regardless of the authorsobjectives or the meaning of the worka satirical jibe at the

    see front matter 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved..jep.2006.03.020The phytotherapy in DFrancisco Lopez-Munoz , Cecilio Ala

    Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Alcala, CReceived 20 January 2006; received in revised form 23 M

    Available online 2 May 2

    ote, the most outstanding novel of the Spanish literature, represents aepen in the knowledge of the late Renaissance society. In this sense, Deneral therapeutical view (oils, ointments, balms, poultices, syrups an

    ytotherapeutic and ethnopharmacological perspective, a barely explorthe Cervantine time for the treatment de multiples diseases (sedativewe analyze the specific herbal therapies (balms, purgatives and emet

    mong them, the rhubarb root (Rheum spp. or Rumex spp.) should beicory (Cichorium intybus) and rosemary (Rosmarinus ofcinalis), primaof healing. . .,:Quixote

    , Pilar Garca-GarcaIgnacio Luca de Tena 8, 28027 Madrid, Spain006; accepted 24 March 2006

    mentary source widely used among those specialists whouixote has been also studied from a medical perspective,er pharmacy preparations). We have tackled Don Quixote

    eld. In this work, we intend to study the medicinal plantse opium, laxatives and emetics like hellebore, tonics andintments and poultices), which Cervantes reveals to us inighted, as well as the seeds of gopher spurge (Euphorbiamponent of the famous Balsam of Fierabras. Also, we have

  • 430 F. Lopez-Munoz et al. / Journal of Ethnopharmacology 106 (2006) 429441

    Fig. 1. Migue zo fofrontispiece o and pAtocha street

    chivalric taperceptivethe world,be denied icenturies, aacter, Alonreference (

    DonQuand from althose of mon what thius, and howthe numero(Lopez, 191999; Valleaims to offeof writingsexclusivelyhis immorttime, and i

    2. Therap

    The pubas alreadysance, whiof Constanl de Cervantes Saavedra (15471616), from an engraving by Luis de Madraf the princeps edition of Don Quixote (1605), dedicated to the Duke of Bejar, Madrid (B).les of the era, a historical portrait of the times, or acritique of a society which, though still the hub ofwas beginning to fall apart at the seams what cannots that it achieved the quality of durability across thend was capable of converting its fictional main char-so Quijano, into an almost flesh-and-blood historicalEsteva de Sagrera, 2005).ixote has been the object of all types of detailed study,l the fields of human knowledge, including, of course,edicine and therapy. Various authors have remarkeds most famous work of Spanish literature has taughtit has widened our knowledge and understanding of

    us illnesses (and their remedies) of the early Baroque71; Bea and Hernandez, 1984; Chiappo, 1994; Pena,, 2002; Esteva de Sagrera, 2005). The present articler a new approach to complement the enormous bodyon Don Quixote, in the form of an analysis focusingon the herbal remedies mentioned by Cervantes in

    al work, in the context of the herbal therapies of thatn its popular use.

    y in the time of Don Quixote

    lication of the first edition of DonQuixote took place,mentioned, at a time of transition from the Renais-ch from the Spanish perspective began with the falltinople to the Turks (1453), to the Baroque period,

    whose beg1598 (Puerbetween theras, thouginfluence o

    The prinment wasinterest into possess stranslatorsscholars (Gvailing theGalen, witcurrents (Pit sufficestext by Jude ingeniorenown insome authothe writingdeals withteristic forBustamantto the clastheory, thehot, dry, cothe differenr the Gorchs edition of Don Quixote (Barcelona, 1859) (A) andublished by the Juan de la Cuesta printing-house, situated in theinning is marked roughly by the death of Philip II into, 1997). Cervantes masterwork finds itself wedgede philosophical and cultural frameworks of the twoh the majority of authors find in it a more manifestf Renaissance ideas.cipal driving force behind the Renaissance move-

    Humanism, a current characterized by a profoundknowledge of classical culture and a strong desireuch knowledge, but first-hand, not distorted by Arabor by the prejudices and limitations of medievalomez Caamano, 1990; Puerto, 1997). Thus, the pre-ories in the field of medicine were those based onh some influence from the incipient iatrochemicaluerto, 1997; Montiel, 1998). By way of example,to mention the publication, in Spain, of the onlyan Huarte de San Juan (15291588), the Examens para las ciencias (Baeza, 1575), a work of somethe Europe of the time, and which, according tors (Salillas, 1905), greatly influenced Cervantes inof Don Quixote. Huarte de San Juans text, which

    the hypothesis of ingenuity as an individual charac-the exercise of certain activities (Martn-Araguz ande-Martnez, 2004), includes a short treatise referringsical Galenic theory of humours. According to thisfour dimensions that make up the world, namely,ld and wet, are combined in mans body to producet humours, so that the mixture of hot and wet forms

  • F. Lopez-Munoz et al. / Journal of Ethnopharmacology 106 (2006) 429441 431

    blood, warm and dry forms bile, cold and wet forms phlegm,and cold and dry forms melancholy. In line with this theory,the proportion in which these humours are combined in theorganism will determine the different temperaments (SanchezGranjel, 1980; Martn-Araguz et al., 2003; Martn-Araguz andBustamante-Martnez, 2004).

    In this late-Renaissance context, even though clinicalmedicine had advanced considerably and physicians were capa-ble of diagnosing numerous illnesses, curative capacity wasquite limited, insofar as the therapeutic tools in use were prac-tically the same as those that were available in the Middle Age,despite the fact that their application had been systematized andmade more comprehensive with new incorporations. It should beborne in mind that during the Renaissance, the Galenism that haddominated previous eras continued to provide the frame of refer-ence for therapeutic practice, and the use of classical techniqueswas the norm. Medicines were meant to restore the healthybalance, and they were graduated according to the degrees ofheat, dryness, cold and moisture (Rothschuh, 1978). Thus, therewas widespread use of evacuants, notably hellebore (Helle-borus niger L. or Veratrum album L.), for diverting or elimi-nating excessive bile and acid humours, bleeding and leeches,irritants, such as cauterants, moxas (mugwort sticks), sedals,vesicants, friction, cataplasms and boiling sealing wax and ton-

    ics, such as rice, semolina, cordials, the bitter wines of quinine,wormwood or gentian, mercury and cantharis powders (Sauri,1969).

    Nevertheless, we should not overlook some importantadvances that had been made in the field of pharmacotherapyin the pre-Cervantine era. Perhaps the most important was thetransformation of medieval alchemical procedures into a disci-pline with scientific potential. Although by this time the conceptof the Philosophers Stone had lost currency, the alchemicalsymbolism and forms remained intact. Without alchemy therewould have been n