What can the history of herbal cures tell us about the history of medicine?

Learning resource

A Wellcome Library GCSE learning resource for Medicine Through Time

One of the key concepts of the Medicine Through Time course is change and continuity. Yet often the course concentrates far more on examples of change than on examples of continuity. Herbal medicine is a good example of an approach to finding cures and palliatives that has been around as long as the human race. Source A, one of the oldest documents in the Wellcome Library's collections, is a herbal recipe (probably one of many) from before the Norman Conquest. Sources B and C are examples of collections of recipes for herbal cures - often jumbled up with more obvious cooking recipes. These collections were usually made by women, in these cases literate upperclass women - evidence of the continuing role of women as healers. Source D is from a modern herbal cure.

This is one of several resources, prepared by the Wellcome Library, and designed to support teachers and learners preparing for the Schools History Project GCSE course 'Medicine Through Time: A Development Study'.

The resources are not a course in themselves, but focus on key concepts and understandings required by the course, supplementing more commonly used materials. The collection includes some topics central to the course, items that provide overviews and some topics that extend the normal range of coverage.

They can be used online or downloaded for whole classes, groups or individuals as part of a teaching scheme or for self-study. They are appropriate for candidates of any of the GCSE awarding bodies.

 

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