Monestir de Sant Quirze de Colera – 9th Century Benedictine Monastery

Monestir de Sant Quirze de Colera

The Monestir de Sant Quirze de Colera was discovered, quite by luck, on a recent trip to northern Spain.

Unfortunately it was a dreich day (good Scottish weather word). Fortunately not cold but very wet. Still even the bad weather did not dampen the visit. A remarkably beautiful area with a fascinating 9th century Benedictine monastery.

It has proven quite difficult to find information about the monastery. Any I have found is mostly in Catalan or occasionally, Spanish. Unfortunately neither language of which I have much knowledge. However, both the Monasteries de Catalunya and the Província de Girona Art Medieval websites are worth a look for the stunning photographs alone.

Monestir de Sant Quirze de ColeraStories abound. A document apparently suggests two brothers Libenci and Assinari took possession of the Albera range of valleys and mountains from the Saracens during the time of Charlemagne. Whether or not these two brothers founded the monastery is unknown. However, this appears to be the general belief.

The protected Albera range is stunning and so tranquil. A flora and fauna lovers paradise. Interestingly it is one of the last areas in the Iberian peninsula to find the Hermann tortoise in its natural environment. I didn’t see one but being sun worshippers I’m sure they were all hiding away from the bad weather. There is always next time.

Benedictine Monks and Medicinal Plants

Many plants grow around the monastery. This led to a wonder of what medicinals the Benedictine monks utilised.

On researching I found a particularly interesting paper from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Titled, The Pharmacy of the Benedictine Monks and published in 2012. The study concentrated on old prescriptions from a monastery in Brazil. However, as a Benedictine monastery the knowledge, and plants it would seem, were largely acquired from France. Strongly influenced by Galenic/Hippocratic medicine. In fact some 84% of the medicinals were not Brazilian natives.

The root of Gentiana lutea, recorded in several prescriptions as an aperitif and tonic, is still in use medicinally. A bitter digestive remedy. It seems plant roots were more frequently utilised. The authors surmised this may be due to preservation issues.

Other herbs included elderflower, lavender, dandelion, peppermint, juniper, ash, wormwood, hyssop, chamomile, sweet violet, soapwort, valerian. All herbs still in use today and plants I could imagine growing near the Monestir de Sant Quirze de Colera.

If ever in the beautiful natural reserve of the Albera area, the Monestir de Sant Quirze de Colera is well worth a detour.

A Macabre Medley of Medical Ministrations

A Macabre Medley of Medical Ministrations

As a special halloween treat, or perhaps trick, I thought we would look at a macabre medley of medical ministrations! Some of the gory ancient medical treatments in the search for good health!

First up, mind your brain…

A Macabre Medley of Medical Ministrations
crankshaft for trepanation from St Lizier apothecary

There is centuries of evidence of our ancestors boring into skulls (trepanation).

Many theories abound as to why this was done. While some consider a ritualistic cause the general belief is medical intervention.

Seems likely this was for pain relief perhaps following trauma. A release of pressure from headaches and other neurological conditions such as epileptic convulsions.

Creepy crawly blood suckers …

Any Outlander fans, of books or TV series, may remember Jamie Fraser bloodied and battered, after taking punishment for Laoghaire at Castle Leoch. Mrs Fitz brought leeches for reducing swelling. She pointed out to Claire they were of no use after the bruising has set.

Although the above is a fictional account, leeches were used. Most commonly utilised in cleaning wounds to avoid infection.

Oil of what for sciatica ??

A Macabre Medley of Medical Ministrations
old oil jars from St Lizier apothecary

I learnt of one ancient treatment, which I found particularly horrific, at the apothecary of St Lizier.

This treatment, utilised to treat sciatica, contained dog oil and 500 g of worms marinated in hot oil.

The dog oil recipe contained four small puppies! In the image of the old oil jars you can just see to the left the word ‘chien’. The jar reads ‘H. de chien’ translating as oil of dog. Poor puppies. I cannot imagine this treatment of worms and puppies provided any benefit to the sciatica patient. Certainly no life for the poor puppies or indeed, the worms!

Thankfully the above treatments have fallen out of favour.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum – an eclectic exhibit

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

New Orleans Pharmacy MuseumI have written previously about my visit to New Orleans and Voodoo. Looking through some old photographs recently reminded me of this trip. The photographs included in this post are from an enjoyable visit to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum seven years ago.
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

I do love visiting old pharmacies and seeing all the old herb bottles and jars and drawers and accoutrements.

The one in New Orleans was a wonderful example. In true New Orleans style some Voodoo potions are included in the exhibits. Should you ever visit New Orleans the pharmacy museum is well worth a visit.

There were many things I enjoyed about the museum. Especially relevant, the information on plants and herbs was of particular interest to me.

This settler’s quote from 1760 mentions ginseng and sarsaparilla. Nowadays, both plants well-known and in use by European herbalists, particularly ginseng. At the time, sarsaparilla would have been less well-known in the UK. It is a woody vine from the Smilax genus. Found growing in southern Europe and throughout Asia.

The ginseng mentioned here is probably Panax quinquefolius or American ginseng. In Europe P. ginseng, the Asian or Chinese ginseng, is more popular. However, in 1760 ginseng would have been relatively unknown in European medicine.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

In addition, I enjoyed reading the botanical magic and superstitions. There are many ticks in the forests in this area in France. How-in-ever, I doubt very much I would fancy walking around with a piece of fennel in my right shoe. That would be a little too uncomfortable, I fear!

However, I may source a dollar bill to wrap around a horse chestnut next time I fear my winter EDF electricity bill hitting my postbox.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Non Native Alien Plant Species in Europe

Non Native Alien Plant Species in Europe

First up the trees…

My friend Sue, who happens to be an ecologist, recently attended a tree seminar. She mentioned the London Tree Officers are planting non-native weird and wonderful trees in Hackney. The magnificent London plane trees are suffering with Massaria, a fungal disease.

Of course, Massaria is not the only tree disease and the London plane is not the only native tree to be suffering. Consider the damage caused to native trees from Dutch Elm Disease and Chalara, more commonly known as ash dieback.

Hence, finding trees that will grow and will “thrive and survive” is becoming difficult for the London Tree Officers. And so, the weird array of non-natives in Hackney. These include trees known commonly as the Paper Mulberry and the Bee-Bee Tree. Apparently “people like them and we have to adapt”. Incidentally both are Asian species.

This raised a little debate between two friends. Sue, the ecologist, and Ian, our tree-hugging, Woodland Trust loving, nature photographer guru friend. Ian was definitely in the pro-native tree group.

The problem is we have so many non native alien plant species in Europe now. Some pose no major issues and blend in like they have always belonged… others… well.

more alien trees…

My house here in France had a maturely planted garden when I bought it. Some 40+ trees. It’s not a big garden. Too many large trees. Some had to go. I’ve always liked a ‘practical’ rather than ‘pretty’ garden. That’s not to say something can’t be both but things growing ought to serve a purpose – food, medicine… I decided if not native, nor practical, it could go on the “to go” list. But it was difficult.

Right at front of the house was a very large false acacia. Non-native. In flower it was beautiful. However, I couldn’t park my car as ants, covering the tree for the sweet flowers, fell in the car. Suffice to say driving with ants crawling up your legs is not good. The acacia was working its way toward the chopping list. I kept thinking I can’t really put it on the list because it inconveniences me, right?

Then I got a crack right through the floor of the house. The acacia had to go before any serious structural damage occurred. That was nearly 5 years ago. I still cannot get rid of it. It pops up everywhere. During the summer it was so dry everything was dying. That bloody acacia kept on appearing.

I’ve searched internet, forums, gardening groups, you-name-it trying to find a solution to no avail. I was disheartened further when one woman advised she had been trying to eradicate it for 17 years!!!!

It is on the non-European and non U.K. invasive species list. Not to be planted. I can see why. My house is near the river and there are some growing there. I wonder did previous owners plant in my garden or did it move in to my garden of its own accord?!? Someone planted it somewhere near to start this alien attack!

Moving from trees to plants….

the Japanese knotweed!

Non Native Alien Plant Species
Japanese Knotweed

There is a patch some 3 km from my house. Having written about this previously I won’t go into too much detail again. However, every time I walk past this patch of knotweed my heart sinks. I decided I had to start thinking more positively about these aliens 👽. They are after all going nowhere. I started to look at the knotweed in particular.

The trouble is many of these invasive species cannot be removed. We need to hope that somehow a way of control is found. They are affecting structures, and more importantly, our native plant species.

Non Native Alien Plant Species
Broom flowers

I love the smell of broom. It is scrumptiously sweet. A native European shrub and, of course, a native medicinal. However, in the States it is commonly called Scotch Broom because those first Scottish immigrants decided to bring it with them. Consequently it is on the invasive non native alien plant species list in the States. It is not a problem in Europe. They have no idea what controls growth in Europe. We, us humans, are the bampots that keep doing this.

are there any friendly aliens ?
Asteraceae (Compositae) Echinaceae
Echinacea purpurea

That being said we have some non-natives that have lived here merrily, blending in for years. Some have become very useful. Thinking of medicinal plants… echinacea springs to mind. Everyone knows it. It grows very happily here in Europe and hasn’t caused any problem. Have I used it medicinally – yes. However it is not my first port of call. I prefer to choose European natives.

Nicholas Culpeper, a London herbalist, from mid 1600’s famously believed the medicinals we need grow nearby. I have always found this to be true. It helps immensely, in practice, if you know the area where your patient lives and what grows abundantly there.

That’s my rant on non native alien plant species over for the day….

so what is Herbal Energetics ? Warm Cold Moist Dry ?

so what is Herbal Energetics ?

In many of the individual medicinal plant profiles on this blog I often include a small section on the plant energetics. So exactly what is herbal energetics ?

Well, at the very basic level, it is how to best match a herb or selection of herbs to an individual patient rather than solely looking at the disease state.

Putting this in very simple terms. Lets make up a person called Joe Blog. Joe has painful joints. He is always cold. Joe never leaves the house without a jacket or warm layer, even in summer. He prefers summer and hates the winter. Joe needs warming herbs. He needs spices such as black pepper, ginger or even chilli to warm up those cold joints.

Our second made up person is Joan Blog. Joan also has painful joints. She likes the cool, fresh winter. Joan switches off the central heating after Joe has switched it on. She prefers the bedroom window open at night. Her painful joints are hot to touch and she describes them as burning. She needs cooler herbs like willow bark and comfrey.

Constitution

Whether a person is warm or cold, dry or moist is part of their constitution. Their vitality, strengthen and very nature are all important in correct herb selection. Equally the energy of the herbs chosen is important. In the example above black pepper and ginger are warming and chillies especially so!

There are several constitutional frameworks recognised worldwide. You may have heard of humoral medicine, Ayurvedic medicine or traditional Chinese medicine. They all have similarities and, of course, differences.

As a student herbalist we undertook a module on each of these three systems. We were very fortunate to have three incredible teachers. All medical herbalists and all experts in their chosen system. The following is a brief description of each of these.

Humoral Medicine

Relates to the four bodily humors – phlegm, black bile, blood and yellow bile. Phlegmatic constitution is moist and cold whereas Melancholic is dry and cold. Sanguine is moist and warm and Choleric dry and warm.

what is Herbal Energetics astrologySanguine relates to Air, Melancholic is Earth, Choleric is Fire and Phlegmatic naturally, is water. An individual may predominate in one constitution, although they may have elements of others.

This system is of Greek origin. It is the basis of Unani Medicine. Often astrological influences are incorporated.

If we look again at Joan Blog above Salix alba (willow bark) is a herb of the moon. Where does it grow? Frequently found growing by the water. Willow bark is cool and moist. The London herbalist Nicholas Culpeper followed this method. I have a personal preference for humoral medicine.

Ayurvedic Medicine

Whereas humoral medicine has four constitutions, Ayurvedic looks at three doshas and most importantly your prakruti. The three doshas are Pitta, Kapha and Vata. Your prakruti is the balance of these three doshas when you were born into the world.

This system is of Asian origin, popular in India. There are similarities with both humoral medicine and TCM. The Pitta constitution is warm, Vata is cold and dry and Kapha is moist.

If we look at ginger, black pepper and chilli, mentioned above for Joe, in Ayurvedic medicine they all reduce Vata and Kapha and increase Pitta.

Furthermore, if we incorporate preparation in more detail you can enhance specific qualities. For example dry ginger is hotter and drier than fresh ginger.

Going back to Joe. If he is slightly more Kapha than Vata and has fluid accumulation in the joints dried ginger would be preferred. However, if Joe is more Vata than Kapha, perhaps with dry scaling skin around the painful joints, he would fair better with fresh ginger root.

Ayurveda is probably the most popular method. Of the three here, I believe it is possibly the more straightforward and easiest to grasp.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

what is Herbal Energetics Yin YangTCM has a wider range of ‘constitutions’. Everyone has heard of Yin and Yang. Yin is cold whereas Yang is warm.

A Yin deficient person tends to prefer cold drinks, often complains of warm hands or feet. They are uncomfortable in a hot and dry environment. They don’t have enough cold. The menopause is often considered Yin deficient. I mention Yin deficiency in the red clover profile.

The Yang deficient person has a dislike for wind and cold. They have cold hands and feet. They don’t have enough warm. There are many more terms in TCM such as Qi stagnation and Qi deficient. Diseased states also have descriptions and may be described as due to wind heat or kidney Qi stagnation.

This method is naturally of Chinese origin. Although I find TCM fascinating it is the one I find most difficult to understand. I find it quite a complex system.

So what is herbal energetics ?

Often, I feel, we are bogged down by science. While it is interesting to know salicin, a constituent of willow bark, is pain relieving no individual constituent within a plant can give the full picture or true nature of that plant.

The above is simply a basic guideline in answer to so what is herbal energetics. If you are interested in learning a little more please do contact me. If this subject is of particular interest I offer a half day course looking at herbal energetics in a little more detail. Please feel free to contact me for further information.

Four Robbers Vinegar and Secret Ingredients

Four Robbers Vinegar and Secret Ingredients

four robbers vinegar and secret ingredients
St Lizier apothecary

I have previously written about my visit to the wonderful ancient pharmacy of St Lizier. The guide for the apothecary had many tales to tell. One of the apothecary anecdotes refers to the famous four robbers vinegar and secret ingredients.

The story goes thus …

It was the time of a plague. A highly contagious, epidemic disease with a high degree of mortality. Characterised by high fever, often with delirium, swollen lymph nodes and infectious lungs.

Any unfortunate soul found dead during this plague had their body stripped by the four robbers.

Bizarrely the thieves never fell ill with this highly contagious disease!

Eventually the Sisters discovered the thieves’ identity. Following capture, their sentence was death. However, in exchange for their freedom they were asked to divulge their secret for plague protection.

And so, the four robbers secret ingredients?

Four Robbers Vinegar and Secret Ingredients

Their secret was a strong smelling remedy of five medicinal plants in vinegar.

Those famous plague prevention plants ?

Thyme, rosemary, lavender, mint and sage.

I am not sure if they drank this remedy or covered their skin and clothing in it. Perhaps a combination of the two?

All five plants grow wonderfully well in this region. A wonderful story. So it seems the four robbers vinegar and secret ingredients is no longer quite so secret.

Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks to cleanse and purify

Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks to cleanse and purify …

Smudging and Smudge Sticks

Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks

Many sources consider smudging an ancient tradition of indigenous American Indians. Some believe smudging was just as prevalent in ancient European cultures too.

The idea of smudging is to burn herbs to produce a smoke, no flame, to cleanse and purify. They have many uses. Some utilise them to cleanse rooms, homes or buildings. Others to cleanse and purify the aura or in meditation.

Artemisia or Salvia Smudge Sticks

Smudge sticks known as ‘sage smudge sticks’ are most popular. You will always find these sticks for sale in new age stores. Sometimes white sage (Salvia apiana) is utilised in these sticks. However, it is more often a species of Artemisia and not, botanically speaking, a true sage speciesSeveral different Artemisia species are used.

Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticksArtemisia californica more commonly known as sagebrush apparently has aromatic sage-like foliage. Another species, is A. tridentata or big sagebrush. Perhaps the name ‘sage’ stuck due to the common names rather than scientific.

Another species commonly called California mugwort is Artemisia douglasiana. Occasionally utilised in smudge sticks. Known as mugwort or black sage smudge sticks. 

A newsletter from the Aromatic Plant Project suggest the common name for A. douglasiana is blue or green sage. They mention the herb for smudge sticks too. However, they add use ceremonially in sweat lodges.

The three Artemisia species, mentioned above, and Salvia apiana grow in North America. Of course, it is possible some of these plants were included in indigenous American Indian sacred ceremonies.

in the UK …
Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks
Mugwort – Artemisia vulgaris

The common mugwort growing in the UK, and indeed here in the Aude, is Artemisia vulgaris. There are many ancient superstitions around it. Travellers carried it to ward of fatigue, wild beasts and evil spirits in the middle ages.

Often considered a herb of magic. A favoured ingredient for dream pillows. In addition a popular smudging herb for clearing negative or stuck energy. Best gathered on a full moon apparently, particularly in June, if using for visions.

Finally, you can make your own smudge sticks and choose any herbs you like. So what would be your preference Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks ? Perhaps you prefer other plants, like purifying rosemary ?

The Surgery of Davie Beaton the Outlander Castle Leoch Healer

The Surgery of Davie Beaton the Outlander Castle Leoch Healer

In the first Outlander book, and the first TV series, Claire is taken by Colum MacKenzie to Davie Beaton’s dank surgery. The surgery is located in the basement of fictional Castle Leoch.

Last we saw of Claire in the TV show she had returned to her own time. With less than a month until Season 3 of the popular series airs, one wonders if Claire shall return to Castle Leoch at any point in the future, or should I say past!

In Season 1 Claire makes many interesting discoveries in the surgery of Davie Beaton and not all of them useful.

Davie Beaton’s Patient Log Book

It seems Davie Beaton, in life, was unfortunately not the best healer. Incidentally, he died of fever.

On browsing his log book, Claire reads an entry for a female patient with a thumb injury. Sarah had the misfortune of catching her thumb in a spinning wheel.

The Surgery of Davie Beaton
Yarrow – Achillea millefolium

Treatment involved application of boiled pennyroyal followed by a poultice of one part each of yarrow, St John’s wort, ground slaters and mouse-ear. This combination was mixed in a base of fine clay.

The first two are reasonable choices. Yarrow stanches bleeding. St John’s wort aids wound healing.

However, it is not entirely clear if the last ingredient refers to a plant or not. Cerastium fontanum is a type of chickweed. Commonly called mouse-ear. However, Hieracium pilosella, from the same family as the common dandelion, is commonly known as hawkweed and also mouse ear.

The fictitious treatment of Sarah may well have included one of these two herbs. H. pilosella was indeed traditionally utilised as an astringent, albeit more frequently as an expectorant. It had use in treatment of whooping cough.

Unfortunately, it is also possible the recipe actually means a mouse ear! What is certain? That third ingredient of ground woodlice is definitely not of plant origin!

Consequently the treatment was unsuccessful. Although some potential beneficial herbs in the treatment regime it was seriously in need of a powerful antiseptic and strict hygiene would have been paramount and highly unlikely in poor Sarah’s case.

Davie Beaton’s Recipe Book

In addition the discovery of a book of recipes included some further bizarre and obscure remedies.

A recipe for headache recommended drying one ball of horse dung and pounding this to a powder. The resulting powder mixed in hot ale. Surely that would give you a headache rather than cure it. Perhaps the smell made one vomit. As a result of which there may have been some relief if a digestive headache or migraine.

The recipe for treating children with convulsions was five leeches behind the ear. Poor kids.

Another recipe for jaundice used decoctions of roots of celandine and turmeric. Seems reasonable. However, the addition of the juice of 200 slaters not so much! Beneficial as plant medicines. However, the cause of the jaundice would need sought for best treatment. And the inclusion of the juice of 200 woodlice – erm?

Supplies in the Surgery of Davie Beaton

The Surgery of Davie Beaton
Wormwood – Artemisia absinthium

There were many jars and vials. While some of the jars contained useful ingredients such as angelica, rosemary and wormwood. Others contained dried toads packed in moss, dried snails, oil of earthworms and, of course, horse dung and slaters!

As a result, Claire certainly had her work cut out finding the useful remedies in that surgery.

 

Botanical members of the Fagaceae family

Botanical members of the Fagaceae family

Botanical members of the Fagaceae family
autumnal oak leaf

Often, on herb walks, people are surprised to discover beech and oak trees are related. Both the beech and oak are botanical members of the Fagaceae family. The scientific name Fagaceae means beech family.

Whenever I add a new medicinal plant profile to the blog I include the botanical family and scientific name. That way readers can easily identify other plants within the same family.

The plant scientific name generally includes two names, the Genus and the Species. Medicinally it is important you have the correct Genus and often, species. That being said, for some plants similar Species are used medicinally interchangeably. Others not. For example if we look at the lime flower or linden blossom tree medicinal use of three different Tilia species is interchangeable.

However, today we discuss some of the Fagaceae or beech family.

Fagaceae botanical features

Members of this family

  • Are trees or shrubs and either deciduous or evergreen.
  • They have single nuts attached to scaly or spiny caps.
  • Leaves are simple, alternate and often toothed or lobed.
Fagaceae medicinal properties

Members of this family

  • Contain varying amounts of tannic acid – astringent and diuretic.

Genus and Species

The following are some of the more common examples of botanical members of the Fagaceae family with Genus and species scientific names provided. Common names included within brackets.

  • Fagus sylvatica (European beech)
  • Castanea sativa (sweet chestnut)
  • Quercus robur (pedunculate or common or European oak or English oak)
  • Quercus petraea (sessile oak)

In addition, botanical features and medicinal properties break down further within the Genus and sometimes species too. You can see from the examples below the similarities and the differences between each medicinally.

Genus – Fagus

Medicinally utilised historically. However, beech is now generally out of favour. Branches or bark of 2-3 year old branches were utilised. A decoction was brewed as an astringent and disinfectant mouthwash and gargle. Some older sources suggest use as a quinine substitute.

Beech nuts, or masts, contain high saponins and an alkaloid called fagin. Therefore, in quantity, they can make you feel unwell although pigs seem to thrive on them. Horses are particularly susceptible to beech nuts.

Beech nuts are becoming quite popular in wild foraging courses. Remember not to eat in quantity and perhaps avoid if you are prone to an upset stomach.

Genus – Castanaea

Botanical members of the Fagaceae familyLeaves, bark and the nuts of the sweet chestnut can be utilised. Leaves are expectorant and sedative. Historical use of leaves for coughs particularly whopping cough. In addition also for dandruff. The bark is antidiarrhoeal and febrifuge. Therefore, traditionally utilised for dysentery.

As we know chestnuts are nutritious eating. Another popular find on a wild foraging course. Traditionally decocted for mild diarrhoea.

Genus – Quercus
Oaks and alcohol…

Botanical members of the Fagaceae familyFinally the oaks. There are lots of different oaks within Europe. As a result of my living in one of the largest wine regions in Europe a mention of oak in the wine making industry is pertinent.

Wine makers prefer sessile oak (Q. petraea) for casks. While the peduculate (Q. robur) is preferable for cognac. However, the sherry makers choose the Portuguese oak (Q. pyrenaica) for their casks.

Finally, last but not least, one needs a cork for that wine bottle, not a nasty screw top, and that is from the cork oak (Q. suber).

Oaks medicinally…

Pedunculate and sessile are the native oak trees in the UK. The medicinal uses of these two species are interchangeable. The dried inner bark and dried leaves are medicinal. Medicinal use, as with most of the Fagaceae family, is predominately externally.

Traditionally used topically for haemorrhoids in an ointment, or in a lotion for cuts and abrasions. Also used as a douche for leucorrhoea or a gargle for tonsillitis and chronic sore throat. The gargle use similar to the beech above.

Internally both oaks were used, like sweet chestnut, for dysentery. In addition, Maud Grieve recommended as a quinine substitute, again a similarity with beech.

The above gives an indication into the benefits of learning a little about a botanical plant family. Furthermore, in the above example, you can clearly see some similarities within the botanical members of the Fagaceae family. In conclusion, medicinally, this is largely due to the astringency (tannins) generally toning and beneficial for conditions ranging from sore throats to diarrhoea.

St Lizier Apothecary in the Ariege Department

St Lizier Apothecary in the Ariege Department

The History of the St Lizier Apothecary

St Lizier Apothecary Recently on a visit to a neighbouring department Ariege, I visited an 18th century apothecary in St Lizier. The hospital was funded by a wealthy bishop with a personal fortune. The Sisters of Nevers became the nurses.

The Sisters of Nevers were from a religious institute founded in 1680 to minister to the sick and poor. In St Lizier they took in the sick and wounded, beggars and elderly.

In addition they took in abandoned children. A special opening remains visible to the left of the hospital main entrance. The abandoned baby entrance. After baptism, every child took the surname DeDieu, meaning from God. Apparently a common surname in the area to this day.

The St Lizier Apothecary

St Lizier apothecaryThe Apothecary was a step back in time to 1764. It is quite small. The woodwork is from fruit trees, I believe it was pear and cherry trees.

Behind the glass doors are shelves for jars and vials, liquid contents. Furthermore there are 50 drawers for storing dried herbs. Each drawer numbered with a copper plate. Hence some of the drawers still had labels inside detailing the original contents. The example in the image (slideshow below) is guimauve or Althea officinalis. The English common name is marshmallow.

Behind the glass fronted doors there are a wide of array of glass vials and jars and ceramic pots. Often the contents are on the container. For example ‘H. de Chamomille’ is oil of chamomile. Those with ‘H’ is for huile whereas ‘S’ is for syrup. There are also aromatic waters for example ‘Eau de Menthe’ is peppermint aromatic water.

Other cabinets contained ceramic pots, no doubt used for storing unguents. The small ceramic dishes, like odd shaped egg cups, are eye baths.

Interestingly I assumed the ceramic canards (ducks in English) probably containers for treating the nasal cavity for infections. However, the guide described them as possibly early beakers for giving medicines to weak, infirm or children.

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Although a short tour, at around 20 minutes, it was extremely interesting. Furthermore, St Lizier itself is very beautiful. In conclusion, a wonderful way to spend a morning, particularly with a visit to the St Lizier apothecary.