The Badianus manuscript: an Aztec herbal of [Emily Walcott Emmart, Henry E. Sigerist] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Includes a. The Badianus Manuscript was sent to the Spanish court and placed in the royal library, and it began its journey into obscurity. Some years later, it found its way. THE BADIANUS MANUSCRIPT, AN AZTEC PHARMACOPCEIA.*. BY EMILY WALCOTT EMMART.’ We are so accustomed to think of the introduction of Spanish.

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The manuscript was bound in 16th century crimson velvet and is the earliest treatise on Mexican medicinal plants and native remedies which has ever come down to us. It is the work of two Aztec Indians, Martinus de la Cruz, a native physician who composed the work in Aztec, and another Indian, Juannes Badianus, who translated the text into Latin. The manuscript was reprinted in by the John’s Hopkins Press, and all the quoted material in this article comes from this publication.

The Spanish conquerors were very much impressed by the medical lore of the Indians and they mentioned it with much praise in all their early reports from Cortez’s letter to Charles V.

What makes this manuscript very unique is that the information that was provided by the Indians and recorded in the book was unaltered by the recorder and translator. Therefore there was no professional bias.

Powerful Grace Lies in Herbs and Plants

Already Hernandez, whose great book is a mine of information on Aztec materia medica, had the tendency to mqnuscript European views into the subject. The same applies still more to such writers as Juan de Cardenas, who attempted to interpret the New World in terms of Aristotelian philosophy. The great value and importance of this manuscript is that it shows no traces of European influence. The Badianus manuscript is an herbal. It therefore deals with the pharmacological treatment of diseases; it is not concerned with surgery.

Soon after the Conquest they built hospitals and schools for the Indians. They taught them the humanities, succeeding so well that less than twenty years after Cortez had conquered the country there were Indian boys who ‘spoke Latin as elegantly as Cicero. The Spaniards imposed their religion upon the Aztecs but allowed them to practice their own medicine and even allowed Aztec medicine to be taught in the colleges.

The translator had no Latin equivalents for most plant names; he therefore had no other choice kanuscript to keep the original Aztec names.

Moreover, since the manuscript is illustrated with pictures, which in many cases are very helpful in identifying the plants, the manuscript is a valuable source of Aztec lexicography. The native doctors experimented with the plants in the gardens of the Montezuma and the lords of Texcoco. Later, Francisco Hernandez endeavored experimentally in to check the reputed uses of the plants he found in the gardens of the Convent of Huaxtepec and other hospitals.

Of the hundreds of plants known to the Aztecs and referred to by Hernandez comparatively few are known botanically and from these a smaller number have found their way into our modern pharmacopoeias. In bone setting, in operations, in making incisions as well as relieving painful bruises and other injuries, pain relieving remedies were applied externally or combined in potions to be taken internally.


The Aztecs referred to various species by specific native names, tlapatl Datura stramonium ; toloatzin Datura innoxia and nexehuac Datura ceratocaula. Picietl tobacco was used in potions as a depressant and externally in lotions as a counterirritant and disinfectant. The juice of cocoxihuitl Baccconia arborea S. The oils of these substances serve as antiseptics and since they are also of mildly irritant nature are believed to stimulate repair of wounds and ulcerated areas.

Since the balsam are referred to as incense in the Badianus manuscript it is possible that the red and white varieties may have been obtained from this tree. In the Badianus manuscript white incense was applied to the temple in the treatment of the eye and as a salve for water blisters.

White incense was also used with the extract of xachiocotzotl Liquidambar styraciflua L. In addition a variety of incense was used externally to relieve roughness of the skin, to anoint the body of one struck by lightning and to reduce swelling.

The juice of the Begonia balmisiana is used with manuxcript remedies in the cure for dandruff and in a postoperative treatment for the eye. The use of the Agave and the oil of the fig Ficus were also frequently employed in treatment of wounds. A number of the badianuss used apparently as astringents have been identified, but the majority basianus known only by their Aztec names.

In the Badianus manuscript there is a reference to a Commelina called Matalxochitl blue flower and is used in a lotion for the face, and another species of Commelina Cacamatlalin was used as a treatment for constipation. Purgative remedies known to the Aztecs, as tlanoquiloni consisted principally of the extracts of roots, and seeds- of which a few have been identified botanically.

Some of these have been extensively used and are still in use today. The best known of these roots and one which was quickly introduced to Europe by the early traders of Mexican commodities was the Michoacan root.

Monardes has given a detailed nadianus of this root, its use as a purgative, and its extensive importation to Europe. According to manuscrript account it was referred to as the ‘Ruibarbe of Mechoacan’ and was brought ‘from a countrie that is beyond the greate Citie of Mexico, more than fortie leages, that is called Mechoacan.

The use of this emetic extract serves several functions: In addition a sort of bitter water was manusdript to produce vomiting in the treatment of certain helminthic afflictions. Monardes refers to its use for the ‘poxe,’ ‘dropsy’, for the shortness of breath, for the falling sickness, badiahus for other aliments of widely diverse nature.

Among the inorganic constituents of the medical remedies of the Aztecs there existed a wide range of stones, crystals, earth pigments, soils of various manuscripy and minerals.

Many of these were believed to have magical as well as therapeutic value, and a number were taken to Europe and became incorporated into the pharmacopoeias of the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Crystals were used in the Badianus manuscript in the application for fractures and in various potions. A purple crystal was used in a potion for sore eyes while a purple amethyst by the Aztec name of tlapaltehuitatl was noted that it was used to strengthen the kidney and liver.


A red crystal was also used in the treatment of sore eyes and crushed in a potion for the treatment of those afflicted by a ‘whirlwind. The history of the use of herbal remedies to mabuscript for patients with various ailments is absolutely fascinating. This rare and priceless document sheds so much light on the contributions of the Aztecs from baxianus 15th century.

The Badianus Manuscript

I thought badiansu article was very informative and has stimulated my interest in finding out more about this subject. One does wonder if those who bwdianus have this book in their possession will bring it back to the indigenous people of Mexico?

Out of respect to the shamans manusdript old this book should be returned to Mexico’s indigenous before they become thoroughly westernized and forget their ancestors’ sacred teachings around plant medicine.

I must disagree with RC. The safest place for the book is the Vatican Library. The Vatican has existed for two thousand years. They are very rich and powerful. If fact they are the most wealthy and powerful organisation on this planet. The manuscript is now housed in the library of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City since Although the knowledge may be native, the product is a colonial one indeed, made under the tutelage of humanist Franciscan friars. The day in when the Codex Badiano was returned to Mexico was a joyful one indeed, since the Vatican had no reason to keep it, or any of the other thousands of documents that were taken from Mexico which ,anuscript know.

Saying they are “very manuscriptt and powerful,” and they can keep the book safe is an act of a statement of pro-colonialism. The Martin de la Cruz award, named for the author or this manuscript, is given every year in Mexico to healers who have shown their dedication to keeping alive this indigenous work, which I disagree is a “colonial product, made under the tutelage of friars.

Your email address will not be published. Your Global Source for Health Information. Comments RDS February 25, The history of the use of bacianus remedies to care for patients with various ailments is absolutely fascinating.

RC March 11, One does wonder if those who currently have this book in their possession will bring it back to the indigenous people of Mexico? Michael July 11, I must disagree with RC. Ana Malinalli x September 27, The day in when the Codex Manusscript was returned to Mexico was a joyful one indeed, since the Vatican had no reason to keep it, or any of the other thousands of documents that were taken from Mexico which they know.

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