Dioscorides and De Materia Medica - Willows and Opium
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
From DIOSCORIDES - DE MATERIA MEDICA BEING AN HERBAL WITH MANY OTHER MEDICINAL MATERIALS WRITTEN IN GREEK IN THE FIRST CENTURY OF THE COMMON ERA A NEW INDEXED VERSION IN MODERN ENGLISH BY Tess Anne Osbaldeston and RPA Wood - Introduction
Painkillers have always dominated healing texts.
Dioscorides wrote of the willow — itea, probably salix species — ‘a decoction of them is an excellent fomentation for ye gout’. In due course this knowledge led German scientists to aspirin. Dioscorides also mentions autumn crocus, another painkiller, warning of its dangers.
The world's best-known painkiller is undoubtedly opium, mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus (an Egyptian medical book dating from about 1550BCE), as well as by Theophrastus. Dioscorides describes harvesting opium — the same method is still used today for collecting the coagulated juice of the poppy heads.
The gummy exudate was called opium by the Greeks, this merely being a word for juice. Although a wonderful painkiller, opium is a dangerous narcotic. Dioscorides warned:
‘a little of it, taken as much as a grain of ervum (probably seed of ervil, a vetch), is a pain-easer, and a sleep-causer, and a digester ... but being drank too much it hurts, making men lethargicall, and it kills’.