University of Cambridge > > Cabinet of Natural History > From Gilead to Peru: balsam in late Renaissance medicine and alchemy

From Gilead to Peru: balsam in late Renaissance medicine and alchemy

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In late Renaissance pharmacology, physicians discussed the properties and provenance of simple drugs in reference to the ancient sources of materia medica. In this paper, Elisabeth Moreau will examine the case of balsam, which could designate an exotic vegetal ingredient, a fine oil obtained by distillation, or the Paracelsian notion of vital principle. To do so, Elisabeth will envisage a series of medical and alchemical texts that aimed to clarify the nature of balsam and its location in the East and West. As will be argued, these debates shed light on the issues of drug adulteration and alternative methods of pharmaceutical production, as well as the emergence of alchemical therapy as a ‘balsamic’ medicine rooted in biblical times.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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