Cough? What sort of cough?

In the wake of Covid-19 an app was developed that turned out to be very efficient at diagnosing the infection by the quality of its cough. This continues a long tradition among older physicians of diagnosing different chest infections by the type of cough: they could...

The spleen story

In the earliest medical texts the spleen often features, with many important functions ascribed to it. In Chinese medicine it is literally central, known as pi and one of the major solid (yin) organs. It is the internal manifestation of the Earth element (tu),...

Wounds – the first medical priority

Look through any account of traditional medicine from communities living close to nature (eg Native American, African and Australian peoples, the Maori, ancient Britons and Welsh, middle European, and Siberian cultures, and island communities everywhere) and it is not...

The first wonder drugs?

The spices ginger, black pepper and cinnamon, sourced at great expense from southern Asia, were through much of European history worth more than their weight in gold. This spurred the widespread colonisations of India, East Africa and Indonesia by the Portuguese,...

Field of aspirin?

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) The brand name aspirin was derived from the former botanical name for meadowsweet, Spiraea ulmaria (now Filipendula ulmaria). In the late 19th century the German company Bayer was looking for a medicine that could replicate the...

The first medicines

In these posts we will look again at the plants that the first humans used to look after themselves and their families: the very first medicines. We dip into the healing needs of the hunter-nomads, and then the earliest farmers and villagers. Plants have common...