Nicholas Culpepper lived towards the end of the period which is often termed the Renaissance. This term, as a description of a historical era, is falling out of favour with some historians but I think Renaissance Man is a good way to describe Culpepper. He was an English apothecary and 17th century physician who rather than relying on the traditional medical authorities such as Galen popularized the theories of medical reformers, such as Paracelsus, to the English speaking world.

Cataract cures featured quite heavily in Culpepper’s Herbal as he affirmed that herbal remedies were to be preferred to ‘endangering the eyes by use of the needle‘. However it is not always possible to distinguish whether the eye problem referred to was a cataract, corneal scarring or inflammatory disease or even vitreous or retinal damage.

 ‘defluctions of humour fallen into the eye’ could be cured using water distilled from green barley in May. Possibly this referred to some form of conjunctivitis or blepharitis.

‘film’ on the eye was to be treated with cabbage juice and honey, or a mixture of oil and greater celandine. If the film was caused by simple eye infection, then so long as the ointment did not introduce further infection then the eye might improve. If the problem was cataract then using this mixture was not going to effect any improvement.

black eyes – could be helped with a mixture of frankincense and egg white in wine, or purple loosestrife.

‘dust in the eye’ or blindness could also be helped by purple loosestrife.

‘film, skin cloud or mists’ of the eye could be cleared with water obtained from boiling the root of Lords and Ladies (very acrid)

‘pin and web’ were treated with pounded hemlock leaves placed on the forehead.



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