Book review: St. Hildegarde von Bingen's Physica
In translation from Latin. The credibility of modern citations on herbal medicine (even from Medline) is so awful that primary sources don't outdate that fast.
- Yes, unfortified white bread has been malnourishing Germans for at least nine centuries (composition date of the Latin original is ~1150 AD/CE). The diatribe on "wheat flour without bran" is almost the first thing in the book.
- Undercooked eggs have also been a problem this long; the perils of non-solid egg yolks rate two entire paragraphs.
- In general, reverse-engineering the herbal remedies to naked-eye indication isn't too difficult after undoing the translator's damage. Considering that livor can include such toxic liquids as pus, translating livor as "mucus" is very misleading to the casual reader (even after reading the introduction where this abuse is documented.) The general categories may be rendered as infections, rheumatic/autoimmune syndromes, and excessive fatigue.
- As for the other half of Physica: "Aristotle was here." (A decent Protestant cultural background also makes finding so much mention of sympathetic magic in the animals section, sliding right past the monastic editors, disconcerting.)