The hardest, and weirdest, part about studying medieval medicine is looking up the modern uses of plants, and not being sure where they’re getting their information. I remember one historian – M. L. Cameron, I think – complaining about tracing back a citation he found in a scientific journal, only to be led, after far too many steps, back to a translation of Pliny.
Today, I read that some Old English texts instructed that mugwort be put in a traveller’s shoes to ward off weariness of the feet. Wanting to figure out what properties could have led to this belief, I looked up mugwort in the Plants for A Future database, only to find this sentence:
The leaves, placed inside the shoes, are said to be soothing for sore feet
Citation 238 is Brown’s Encyclopedia of Herbs and their Use, which I have no way of checking at the moment. I can’t help wonder if it’s taking its information from the Old English text itself.
It’s also interesting in another way: the fact that these remedies filter through the centuries in this way really says a lot about how effective, or at least apparently effective, these remedies really were.