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British Society for the History of Pharmacy

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Our events programme covers a wide range of pharmacy history topics.  We hold 3 evening meetings each year, and annual conference, a summer visit, and a joint meeting with a School of Pharmacy.  Click on an event below to find out more.
Online (Zoom)
Monday 6 March 202318:30 GMT
Cost: free of charge

Dr Andreas Lardos, Institute of Chemistry and Biotechnology, ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, will speak on “The herbal materia medica in Greek texts – a botanical and pharmacognostic perspective”.

An underlying concern of all studies of herbal materia medica cited in ancient and mediaeval sources is the reliability of modern-day identifications. Without question, the identification of plants mentioned in historical texts is highly complex and of wider importance too. Given that traditional medical sources can be promising starting points for the development of new therapeutics, the impact of a false identification can be severe. As part of an interdisciplinary research project in humanities and sciences, we have developed a new methodology based on a multi-step procedure for the identification of plants and minerals in historical texts. Taking as a case study John The Physician’s Therapeutics, a 13th century Byzantine text, we identified the use of roughly 200 different plants in 1400 recipes. Using a sample of 50 JC plants, we assessed the validity of pre-existing identities proposed in the literature by conducting a botanical comparative analysis of historical and modern data. We were able to establish a list of candidate plants which shows correspondences, but also substantial deviations with pre-existing identifications. Outstanding data from the medicinal comparative analysis are expected to provide further clarification.

Andreas heads the Research Group for Phytopharmacy and Natural Product Chemistry at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in Wädenswil (Switzerland). He has been an academic researcher in ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology for more than 15 years, with substantial experience as a scientist in the phytopharmaceutical industry and private research institutes. He is also a lecturer at the University of Zurich for ethnobotany of the Mediterranean area, at the ETH Zurich for ethnopharmacology, and teaches phytopharmacy and biochemistry of herbal drugs at the ZHAW.

He holds a PhD in pharmacy from the University of London (Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, UCL School of Pharmacy, 2006-2012) and a MSc in botany and plant biology from the University of Zurich (Institute for Evolutionary and Systematic Botany, 1991-1997). He also is a FVDH-certified expert for herbal drugs and phytotherapy (Heilpflanzenschule Freiburg, Germany, 2005-2006). In his doctoral studies he compared medicinal plant uses in post-Byzantine iatrosophia texts from Cyprus with the current herbal knowledge in the island’s monasteries. His botanical expertise includes the flora of the Eastern Mediterranean (especially Cyprus and southern Greece).

Dr Lardos is sharing findings from a recent project, “Plants and minerals in Byzantine popular pharmacy”, established with the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Royal Holloway, University of London and funded by the Wellcome Trust. You can read more about the project here.

The talk will delivered on Zoom and livestreamed on our YouTube channel.  Book your place here


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