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Monday, February 6, 2012

Alternative Medicine as Portrayed in Valentini's Polychresta Exotica (1700)

The Latin publication Polychresta Exotica by German physician Michael Bernhard Valentini (1657-1729) was an early attempt to document non-Western medical techniques and medications for a European audience. Remedies from Asia and South America were highlighted by Valentini, including Ipecacuanha (syrup of Ipecac), Pedra del porco (porcupine gallstones), and Clyster Tabacinus (a tabacco-smoke enema).

Shown here is plate VI, which depicts a man being treated with moxibustion, an ancient Chinese herbal therapy. Burning clumps of the dried plant mugwort are placed on or near the skin, at various acupuncture points (shown in the image with letters A-E), as a treatment for circulatory disorders, gout, and other ailments.


Michael Bernhard Valentini's Polychresta Exotica in Curandis Affectibus Contumacissimis Probatissima, published in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Sumptibus Johannis Davidis Zunneri, 1700.

--Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

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