The Temper of Herbs
By Robert Allan Bartlett
Publisher: Revelore Press
Paper Back Edition –The first printing, limited to 666 copies, features a full color interior and gold foil cover accents.
In this landmark exploration of the qualities of elemental degree, Robert Allen Bartlett sets up ancient alchemical natural philosophy against modern lab equipment. In the span of 150 pages, he outlines the historical basis for assigning temperament to an herb, and then presents raw laboratory data, in some cases copied facsimile from his own notes, to probe how chemistry either confirms or denies the results achieved through traditional alchemical theory and medical practice.
This book concerns an on-going laboratory research project investigating the elemental and humoral constitution of medicinal herbs as given by classical sources. So, for example, when the Roman physician Claudius Galen or the renaissance herbalist Nicholas Culpeper say that Hemlock is an herb which is Cold in the 4th degree and Dry in the 3rd degree, we may have a method of confirming such a classification or of producing a classification if one does not exist. The determination of a medicinal herb’s ability to affect the body and the relative intensity of that effect is a problem with a long pedigree of great minds in medicine, chemistry, and mathematics from ancient times to the present.
The methodology of the present study employs modern thermogravimetric analysis combined with the classical “analysis by fire” or “spagyric anatomy” as described by alchemists from at least the time of Jabir ibn Hayyan (circa 800 CE) and which became the center of a great debate on the number and nature of the elements in the seventeenth century.
The text includes a short examination of the development of elemental theory as applied to medicine with an introduction to the four humors and humoral medicine practiced for over a thousand years, and is indeed still practiced in parts of the world. The main focus of interest is in how materials were tested in order to assign their temperament. The laboratory methods used in this study are fully explained with many graphic examples and comparisons between materials. The methods of data reduction used to arrive at a final value for a material’s intensity are also explained for each phase of the investigation. Future possibilities are discussed and include the possibility of confirming classical designations for medicinal herbs and herbal compounds as well as application towards mineral medicines of the classical materia medica.