By Terry Breverton
Nicholas Culpeper’s The English Physitian: or an Astrologo-physical Discourse of the Vulgar Herbs of This Nation is more commonly known as “Culpeper’s Complete Herbal.” It was first printed in September 1653 (Culpeper died in January 1654) and immediately became a classic reference that is as fascinating today as it was more than 350 years ago. Breverton’s Complete Herbal is a reworking of that classic text for a modern day audience. The book identifies each of Culpeper’s herbs and spices, with a description of their appearance and Latin name/family; plus descriptions of the herbs’ uses in medicine, dyeing and/or cuisine from the Greeks to the present day. Informative and entertaining, and is packed with interesting facts associated with herbs. For example, most herbs have their uses attached to their old names: Lungwort cured lung illnesses, Fleabane was strewn to get rid of fleas, Wolfbane poisoned wolves, and Henbane killed chickens. Dog’s Grass was chewed by dogs when they were sick, Eye-Bright cured eye illnesses, Ducks-Meat was pond-algae, Gout-Herb cured gout, Mad-Wort cured the bite of a mad dog, Heart’s-Ease was for heart illness, and Rupture-Wort and Spleen-Wort helped ruptures and spleen illnesses. Arranged alphabetically,Breverton’s Complete Herbal describes 250 herbs and spices while containing feature sidebars and spreads on scented herb/medicinal gardens, the great herbalists, as well as New World herbs.