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Culpapper, an English physician, developed a medical system that blended astrology and sound personal experience of the therapeutic uses of local plants. His herbal became an instant ``bestseller" and appeared in many subsequent editions. The first herbal published in North America, was an edition of his herbal.

While the popularity of the English Physician was notable, other herbals also found a place in households. The development of the printing press in the 15th century brought herbal medicine into homes on a wide scale. Texts such as Dioscorides` de Materia Medica were printed for the first time, and ran through many editions.

The invention of printing in the 15th century changed the face of herbal medicine in Europe. Before that time, European folk medicine had been handed down from generation to generation. While some early herbals were written in Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic and welsh, for example, for the most part the tradition was orally based.

During the following centuries, herbals were published throughout Europe in different languages, making standardized catalogues of herbs and their applications accessible to the general public, not just to those who understood latin. As literacy rates rose, women in particular used the advice in the herbals to treat their families.
Culpapper`s new medical system was widely used as a practical reference book ever since its publication. It was a rich blend of personal and practical experience, traditional European medicine and astrological thought. Like Dioscorides` de Materia medica it had the merit of being based on close observations and extensive experiences in the use of herbal medicines.

Trade routes had also slowly expanded during the Middle Ages, bringing exotic new herbs in their wake. From 15th century onwards, an explosion in trade led to a cornucopia of new herbs becoming readily available in Europe. They included plants such as ginger (Zingiber officinale), cardamom (Eletteria cardamomum), nutmeg (Myristica fragrans), turmeric (Curcuma longa), cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) and senna (Cassia senna).

The trade in herbs was not entirely one way. The European herb sage, for example, came into use in China where it was considered to be a valuable yin tonic.




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