Healing Plants of Greek Myth
By: Angela Paine - Moon Books, $24.95
Description: Greek myth is part of our background, the names of many of the gods and goddesses known to us all.
Within the myths are numerous references to plants used by goddesses and gods to heal or enchant, and the names of many of these plants have been incorporated into the Latin binomials that are used to identify them.
Verdict: Funnily enough, in ancient Greek medicine illness was initially regarded as a divine punishment and healing as, quite literally, a gift from the gods. However, by the 5th century BCE, there were attempts to identify the material causes for illnesses rather than spiritual ones and this led to a move away from superstition towards scientific enquiry, although, in reality, the two would never be wholly separated.
Greek medical practitioners, then, began to take a greater interest in the body itself and to explore the connection between cause and effect, the relation of symptoms to the illness itself and the success or failure of various treatments.
Indeed, by half a millennium BCE the physician god Asclepius entered into the mythology and temples were built to him called Asclepiaea, where the sick came to worship him and sleep with serpents in dormitories, hoping to experience miracle cures.
At around the same time the first actual physicians began to practice within the Asclepiaea, using herbs, surgery and dietary advice.
From these remote beginnings Greek medicine and botany evolved and were recorded, first in the Hypocratic Corpus, then by many other famous Greek physicians including Theophrastus, Dioscorides and Galen, who recorded the medicinal plants they used.
Healing Plants of Greek Myth: The Origins of Western Medicine and Its Original Plant Remedies Derived from Greek Myth (by Angela Paine) traces the evolution of Greek medicine, the source of Western medicine, and looks at a selection of plants with healing properties, including a large number of trees which were both sacred and medicinal.
Furthermore, textual sources on Greek medical practice begin with scenes from Homer’s Iliad where the wounded in the Trojan War are treated, for example, Patroclus cleaning Eurypylus’ wound with warm water. Medical matters and doctors are also frequently mentioned in other types of Greek literature such as comedy plays but the most detailed sources come from around 60 treatises often attributed to Hippocrates (5th to 4th century BCE), the most famous doctor of all.
However, none of these medical treatises can be confidently ascribed to Hippocrates and next to nothing is known about him for certain.
Interestingly, the Hippocratic texts deal with all manner of medical topics but can be grouped into the main categories of diagnosis, biology, treatment and general advice for doctors. Another source is the fragmentary texts from the Greek natural philosophy corpus dating from the 6th to 5th century BCE.
Philosophers in general, seeing the benefits of good health on the mind and soul, were frequently concerned either directly or indirectly with the human body and medicine. These thinkers include Plato (especially in Timaeus), Empedocles of Acragas, Philistion of Locri and Anaxagoras.
About the Author - Angela Paine has a BSc in Human Physiology and PhD from the School of Pharmacy, London University, in medicinal plant chemistry. Immersed in the Celtic tradition, she runs workshops on Celtic medicinal plants and is the author of Healing Power of Celtic Plants. Angela lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire, and splits her time between the UK and India.
Official Book Purchase Link