Dodoens

Cruydenboeck 1554

During the renaissance doctor and herbalist Rembert Dodoens introduced herbal medicine in our regions. He described what the functions of the different kinds of herbs were and how they cured several diseases, including madness. 

Mediaeval popular medicine was based on magical elements. The use of herbs was embedded in the magical world where associations, symbolism and traditions were usually more important than the actual effect of the plant. The knowledge of these herbs was widespread. Herbalists, medicine men and women, travelling healers and other semi-shamans were usually well informed.

The Cruydeboeck remained a standard work in pharmacy for a long time.

This herbal medicine came to our regions during the Renaissance with Rembert Dodoens (1517 or 1518-1585), a Brabant herbalist and doctor. He developed his knowledge by going into nature, where he had the ambition to describe the flora in its totality. His herbal book Cruydeboeck, which was the first of its kind, was published in Dutch in 1554. According to the author, the book was published in the national language in order to make it more accessible to the population. Medicinal herbs were described in great detail in his Cruydeboeck, because of which it remained a standard work in pharmacy for a long time. Dodoens was not impressed by the magical and supernatural effects of herbs, and names or external appearances meant nothing to him.

Like almost everyone who was involved in the medical properties of herbs at the time, Dodoens also paid attention to madness in his description of the active ingredients. In his Cruydeboeck, he included references to 150 plants with regard to mental illness; some more comprehensible to today’s reader than others.