/err"beuhl, herr"-/, adj.
1. of, pertaining to, or consisting of herbs.
2. a book about herbs or plants, usually describing their medicinal values.
3. a herbarium.
[1510-20; < ML herbalis of, belonging to grass or herbs. See HERB, -AL1]

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Ancient manual of plants used for medicinal purposes.

Hundreds or thousands of medicinal plants were known in ancient India, China, and Greece and medieval Europe. In the late 16th century, European herbals began to include plants from the Western Hemisphere. Their accuracy varies widely, but many of the plants in herbals later became sources for drugs (e.g., digitalis).

Watercolour illustration from the Badianus Manuscript, an Aztec herbal in Latin by Juan ...

By courtesy of the Vatican Library, Vatican City

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 ancient manual facilitating the identification of plants for medicinal purposes. Hundreds of medicinal plants were known in India before the Christian era, and the Chinese have a compilation, still authoritative, of 1,892 ancient herbal remedies. The Greeks had written accounts, and, according to the elder Pliny (Pliny the Elder), the physician Crateuas (early 1st century BC) produced a herbal with coloured illustrations. This has not survived but was probably largely embodied in the De materia medica of the Greek physician Pedacius Dioscorides. A Byzantine version of his famous herbal is the Constantinopolitan, or Viennese, Codex (c. AD 512). Some of its illustrations are probably derived from Crateuas, together with plant names, such as Anemone and Anagallis, which are still in use. Many manuscript herbals, drawing largely from Dioscorides and Pliny, were published in medieval Europe; during the 15th century several were printed, a notable one being Konrad von Megenberg's Das puch der natur (or Buch der natur, “Book of Nature”). When printed in 1475, it included the first known woodcuts for botanical illustrations. Very few original drawings were prepared for herbals before the 16th century: illustrations were copies and copies of copies. They became highly stylized, not only ceasing to resemble the plants depicted but also incorporating mythological notions. “Narcissus,” for example, in Jacob Meidenbach's Hortus sanitatis (1491), is unidentifiable: a human figure, instead of the plant's sex organs, emerges from each perianth (sepals and petals of a flower).

      Otto Brunfels' (Brunfels, Otto) Herbarium vivae eicones (1530s) contains excellent and accurate drawings by the wood engraver Hans Weiditz. This emphasis on accuracy also appeared in the subsequent herbals of Hieronymus Bock and Leonhard Fuchs. Plants brought back by explorers then began to be illustrated. Nicolás Monardes' Dos libros (1569), for example, contains the first published illustration of tobacco. A latinized version of an Aztec herbal (1552) contains formalized illustrations resembling European ones, suggesting that the artists were following the traditions of their Spanish masters rather than an indigenous style of drawing. Among other well-known herbalists of those times were John Gerard, Conrad Gesner, and Gaspard Bauhin.

      Alongside the genuine herbals other works of a superstitious nature probably existed. Many were concerned with the fanciful medical theory of the doctrine of signatures, the use of plants to cure human ailments on the basis of supposed anatomical resemblances. In England these culminated in Nicholas Culpeper's A Physicall Directory (1649), which was a pseudoscientific pharmacopoeia. The herbals were replaced in the 17th-century by floras, books in which plants were studied for their own sake.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • herbal — (del lat. «herba», hierba; Sal.) m. *Cereal. * * * herbal. (Del lat. herba, hierba). adj. Sal. cereal (ǁ dicho de plantas o gramíneas como el trigo, el centeno o la cebada, o de sus frutos). U. t. c. s …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • herbal — adj. 2 g. Relativo a erva, em especial às ervas medicinais.   ‣ Etimologia: inglês herbal, do latim herba, ae, erva …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • Herbal — Herb al, a. Of or pertaining to herbs. Quarles. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Herbal — Herb al, n. 1. A book containing the names and descriptions of plants. Bacon. [1913 Webster] 2. A collection of specimens of plants, dried and preserved; a hortus siccus; an herbarium. Steele. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • herbal — (adj.) 1610s, from L. herbalis, from herba (see HERB (Cf. herb)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • herbal — (Del lat. herba, hierba). adj. Sal. cereal (ǁ dicho de plantas o gramíneas como el trigo, el centeno o la cebada, o de sus frutos). U. t. c. s.) …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • herbal — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ relating to or made from herbs, especially those used in cooking and medicine. ► NOUN ▪ a book that describes herbs and their culinary and medicinal properties …   English terms dictionary

  • herbal — [hʉr′bəl, ʉr′bəl] adj. [ML herbalis] of herbs n. a book about herbs or plants, esp. a book of early botanical writings concerned with their medicinal properties …   English World dictionary

  • Herbal — A herbal is a book, often illustrated, that describes the appearance, medicinal properties, and other characteristics of plants used in herbal medicine. ee also*Herbal (Music Venue in Shoreditch, London) *Herbalism (herbal medicine) *Herbal… …   Wikipedia

  • herbal — [[t]hɜ͟ː(r)b(ə)l, AM ɜ͟ː(r)b [/t]] herbals 1) ADJ: ADJ n Herbal means made from or using herbs. ...herbal teas. ...herbal remedies for colds. 2) N COUNT A herbal is a book which describes herbs or other plants, and their uses as medicines or in… …   English dictionary

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