A Universal Antidote from Macer Floridus

I uploaded all my excerpts from Macer Floridus today, but there will be one or two more recipes taken from it before I return to the Mondseer Kochbuch. Today’s is for and antidotum, what I think we would call a digestive tonic:

rue, courtesy of wikimedia commons

323 Take in equal quantities soda ash (nitrum), pepper, and cumin (cyminum) and as much rue as all three of these. You must first soak the cumin in sour wine and fry it on hot iron. All three are then well pounded and mixed with honey. If you enjoy of this antidote often, it will heal the pain of your chest and sides, liver and kidneys, it dilutes the gall, softens a hard belly without causing it to rumble (sine tormine), comforts the stomach and enables it to digest food well.

I am guessing this could have the desired effect. Cumin is a digestive aid, and honey has known health benefits if eaten in moderation. I am less sure about the nitrum (Mayer and Goehl ambiguously translate Steinsalz, but nitrum usually means natron i.e. a compound mostly containing sodium carbonate). If that is the correct rendering, it would add antiacidic properties which plain rock salt would not have. The taste of sodium carbonate is less than pleasant, though. Rue, aside from being a bitter culinary herb, is an abortifacient, so if you decide you want to try this, it should not be taken during pregnancy.

The Macer Floridus is a herbal that was extremely popular throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in all of Europe, and especially in Germany. It was most likely written in the mid-eleventh century by Odo of Meung, but this is somewhat uncertain and the early version could date from as early as the ninth century. Its final form of 77 chapters, drawing on material from Constantinus Africanus, certainly existed by 1100. We know with certainty that it was not authored by the classical Roman writer Aemilius Macer to whom early editors ascribed it.

The Macer is a relatively brief treatment of the pharmaceutical properties of various plants, drawing on various classical and medieval sources. It does not contain culinary recipes, but some remarks in it are nonetheless interesting from that perspective. I excerpted several paragraphs I found interesting with a view to culinary preparation, feasting, and lifestyle medicine. It should not need saying that these are not medical recommendations. While some recipes in Macer may actually have an appreciable effect, others can be seriously dangerous, and none hold up to modern evidence-based practice.

I am relying on the scholarly edition of 1834 and a German translation by Johannes Gottfried Mayer and Konrad Goehl that is still in print.

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