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Medieval Medieval Botanical Tiles

Medicinal Herbs based on the Juliana Codex

Medieval Herbal: De Materia Medica

Plants in the Beautiful Dangers are either poisonous or have been thought to be poisonous at different times in history. All were used as medicinal herbs for centuries. I've listed Dioscorides' recommendations in the individual plant summary in the sidebar. I selected the Beautiful Dangers herbs from the Juliana Codex/Vienna Dioscorides, the oldest known manuscript of De Materia Medica, itself the oldest known herbal, in use for more than 1500 years.

Pedanius Dioscorides

Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-c. 90), or Pedanius Dioscorides Anazarbus, was a Greek physician. He was from the small town of Anazarbus near Tarsus, a town renowned for the study of pharmacology at the time. Dioscorides worked as a surgeon with the army of Roman Emperor Nero, recording animals and sea creatures, as well as the existence and medicinal value of hundreds of plants, roots, seeds, herbs, and vines in southern Europe and northern Africa . About 70 A.D., he compiled that information into a five-volume work of medicinal herbs and attributes. Some time later, Dioscorides's herbal was first translated into Latin as De Materia Medica, which was in turn translated into Arabic as well as later Greek and Latin translations and then into Italian, German, Spanish, French, and English over the next 1500 years.

The Juliana Codex / Vienna Dioscorides

The Juliana Anicia Codex, also known as the Vienna Dioscorides, is located in the National Library in Vienna. It is an illustrated early middle ages (512 A.D.) translation, with 400 color ilustrations each occupying a full page opposite a description of the plant's medicinal properties. illustrated by a Byzantine artist for presentation to Juliana Anicia, daughter of the Flavius Anicius Olybrius, in Constantinople. No original copy of the original Dioscorides work has ever been found, so it is unknown if it contained illustrations. Scholars believe that the illustrations in the Vienna Dioscorides are based on illustrations from the Rhizotomicon of Crateuas of Pergamon (1st century B.C.). You can download all five books of De Materia Medica in PDF format.

I have a few sets of tiles from the Vienna Dioscorides so far and will add more sets over time.

Original Set: Beautiful Dangers

The first set of De Materia Medical tiles I made are plants that were either dangerous, thought to be dangerous, or treat dangers such as snakebite. There's a discussion of each further down this page that tells some of their uses as recommended by the Dioscorides. This is for entertainment purposes only. Please use common sense and don't take quotes off a web page that features tile to treat any condition. See someone who really knows about herbs, and that is not me. All of the information is available online and in the pdf linked above.

Medieval herb tiles, Vienna Dioscorides

From top left: Asphodel, Panax Heraklios, Artemisia Absinthium or Wormwood (Absinthe), Drakontaia, Strychnos, Rose, Cyclamen, Grape Vine, Wooly Bramble, Water Hemlock (Wild Parsnip), Physallis (Chinese Lantern), Cannabis Sativa.


Latest Set: Ferns and Other Finery

Medieval ferns and flowers tiles, Vienna Dioscorides

New in 2022, from top left: Wood Fern, Hemionitis (Heart Leaf Fern), Lonchitis Fern, Delphinium Staphisagria (Ranuncula), Poppy, Lily of the Valley, Rosemary, Bulb Onion, Domestic Iris, Linen, Viola, Hyssop.


Vienna Dioscorides Pricing and Specifications

Title: Vienna Dioscorides Herbs

Tile: Tumbled Marble Stone

Complete Set: 12 individual tiles

Size: 6 inch square tiles (15.4 cm).

Also available on 4 inch tiles.

Thickness: 3/8 inch (1 cm)

Weight: 22 ounces (.62 kg) each tile


Pricing Vienna Dioscorides Tiles


4.25 inch tiles : $56 each

6 inch tiles : $67 each


Tumbled Marble

Available in both 4 and 6 inch tiles.

Size: 6 inch square tiles (15.4 cm), or 4 inch (10.16 cm)

Tumbled Tiles : $77 each


Tumbled is, well tumbled, and varies with what I'm sent when I order blanks; some have more veining and "character" than others. For ceramic, I have two cream background colors: whipped cream (closest to blue-white), and creme fraiche (whipped butter). Creme fraiche is not the yellow of your store-bought butter but has a richer color than whipped cream.

You are helping. $5 of the price of each Beautiful Dangers tile is donated to Direct Relief International. (Facebook)

Pedanius Dioscorides being given a mandrake root, from an illustration in the Juliana Codex 512 A.D.

Pedanius Dioscorides being given a mandrake root.
Illumination from the Juliana Codex, Vienna Dioscorides.

Summary of Medicinal Properties of Herbs Shown

From top left:

  1. Asphodel. The name is derived from a Greek ford for "sceptre". Dioscorides recommends it for treating gout. The roots were to be cooked in ashes and eaten. He also recommends it to cure ulcers, infections, tuberculosis, ear infections, toothache, and as a purgative and diuretic and to regulate menstruation.

  2. Panax Heraklios. "Panax" means universal remedy and Dioscorides prescribes its juices for stomach pains, ulcers, menstrual cramps, coughs, toothaches, convulsions, snake bites, ruptures, and headaches. Improved vision when rubbed on the eyes as an ointment. Mixed with honey, a remedy for indigestion.

  3. Artemisia Absinthium or Wormwood. Dioscorides recommends it as an ingredient in absinthe, a popular Thracian summertime drink. (Tracians were a group of Indo-European tribes who inhabited a large area in southeastern Europe). Artemisia is also recommend to pack clothing in order to repel moths and mice, and as a remedy for jaundice, to get rid of intestinal worms and parasites, and to assist digestion.

  4. Drakontaia. Arum. Dioscorides recommended it as an antitdote for snake bites. Rubbing the plant on the hands would prevent snakes from biting a person. Also used as an expectorant. The leaves, when beaten, were applied to fresh wounds.

  5. Strychnos. Black Nighshade. It is a relative of Belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade. This poison of this plant is milder than Belladonna. Dioscorides recommended its leaves for treating skin diseases and infections. A decoction of the plants leaves could be used to treat indigestion and internal bleeding, as well as earaches.

  6. Rose. The rose was associated with Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, as well as the Three Graces, and the Nine Muses. Dioscorides suggested rose petal paste as an eye salve and prescribed rose hips for coughing up blood. Dioscorides recommended that rose petal dust be mixed with wine for hemorrhoids, as well as headaches and earaches.

  7. Cyclamen. As a purgative, juice from the root stock was applied topically, over the bowels and bladder region or directly to the anus. Dioscorides mentions its use as an aphrodisiac, and also recommends it as an anti-toxin, skin cleanser, and to induce labor.

  8. Grape Vine. Dioscorides recommends grapes to improve the appetite and to relieve stomach paint. He also recommented grapes to treat severe diarrhea, and wine to reduce fever.

  9. Wooly Bramble. Dioscorides recommends using the flower in wine for diarrhea, and spreading an ointment made from macerated leaves and oil on the eye for infections and diseases. The flower, as a drink in water, helps to ease an upset stomach.

  10. Water Hemlock. Also called Wild Parsnip. Hemock is one of the most poisonous pants and is rarely used today -- it paralyzes the respiratory nerves. Dioscorides used it externally to treat herpes and St. Anthony's Fire, a skin infection appearing as patches on the face or legs and feet that often follows strep throat.

  11. Physallis. Also called Chinese Lantern, and Cape Gooseberry because it was first culivated on the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Physallis, a plant in the nightshade family, prefers warm temperate and subtropic regions. Most species are native to the New World, although it there are species in Europe, China and South Africa as well. Dioscorides would have described the Harankash of Egypt, or possibly the Rasbhari of India. Dioscorides prescribed its stem as a sedative, and recommends its berries as diuretics. It can be used like a tomato and eaten in salads, or in desserts, or dried like dates and raisins. Dioscorides recommends for: Asthma, infections, laxatives. Good for stomach-related disorders.

  12. Cannabis. In Book Three of De Materia Medica, Dioscorides describes both major varieties of Cannabis: Cannabis indica -- the root (boiled and applied) is able to lessen inflamation, disolve edema, and disperse hardened matter around the joints.... Cannabis sativa is a plant of considerable use for twisting very strong ropes. The seeds eaten in quantities quench conception and the herb (juiced while green) is good for earaches.

  13. Wood Fern. From Book IV. Poisonous Was used in an influsion with orange flowers to cure dandruff, kidney stones, and the common cold.

  14. Hemionitis. From Book III. It puts out a horned leaf similar to dracunculus (like the third-day moon). The many slender roots are underneath, but it bears no stalk, seed, or flower. It grows in rocky places. The herb is astringent to the taste and is taken as a drink with vinegar to reduce the spleen. It is also called splenium.

  15. Lonchitis Fern. From Book III. It helps slow painful urination, hiccups and jaundice, and breaks stones in the bladder. It is thought to be a cause of barrenness (used alone or hung about one with the spleen of a mule) but they say that to cause barrenness it must be dug up when the night is moonless. It is also called scolopendrium, splenium, hemionion, pteryx, lonchitis, aturius, phrygia, phrygitis, or philtrodotes, while the Magi call it the blood of a weasel. Also used to cure leprosy.

  16. Delphinium Staphisagria. From Book IV. Poisonous. If you give ten or fifteen grains of this (pounded in honey and water) it purges thick stuff by vomiting, but let them walk about who have taken a drink of it. You must be careful when giving it in honey water because of the danger of suffocation and burning the jaws. It is good bruised and rubbed on with oil for pthiriases [psoriasis].

  17. Poppy. From Book V. Used as an ale, the seeds help those bitten by crocodiles, pounded into small pieces and bound in a linen cloth dipped in vinegar and then bound to the wounds with bandages. With honey they help those bitten by venomous creatures, and bruises on the face. As an antidote for drinking the juice of poppy or eating mushrooms it is taken as a drink with vinegar and honey.

  18. Lily of the Valley. Like all lilies, poisonous to humans and animals. It grows in woods and shady places. The root of this (used in a mouth rinse) is a remedy for toothache. The leaves (boiled in wine and smeared on) dissolve oedema and tumours without fluid. It is also called agrestis iris.

  19. Rosemary. From Book III. The Romans call rosmarinus and those who plait wreaths for the head use it. The shoots are slender, around which are small leaves -- thick, somewhat long, thin, white on the inside, but green on the outside, with a strong scent. It is warming and cures jaundice. It is boiled in water and given to drink before exercises, and then he who exercises bathes and is drenched with wine. It is also mixed with remedies for the removal of fatigue

  20. Bulb Onion. From Book I. Used as an external oil. When it has boiled up twice take it away from the fire, and having cooled it, skim off the oil with a spoon. Afterwards add other water, boil it again, and repeat the procedure, and then store it. This oil is mostly made in Sicyonia and is therefore called sicyonium. It is somewhat warming, suitable for fevers and affected nerves. Women use it to have a clean skin.

  21. Domestic Iris. From Book I. Poisonous. Used as an ointment for noises in the ear and sores: It is softening and warming, and it cleans crusted ulcers, decaying flesh and filth, and it is good for conditions around the vulva, and for inflammation and closures of it. It expels a birth and opens haemorrhoids.

  22. Linen. From Book I: Commonly known as Flax. The seed (boiled with honey and oil and a little water, or taken in boiled honey) has the same strength as fenugreek, dispersing and softening all inflammation inwardly and outwardly. Used raw (applied as a plaster with saltpetre [potassium nitrate] and figs) it takes away sunburn and varicose veins. With lye it disperses inflammation of the parotid gland and hard lumps. Boiled with wine it cleans away herpes [viral skin infection] and favus [contagious skin disease]. It takes off pitted nails, taken with an equal amount of nasturtium and honey. Taken with honey instead of syrup, it brings up things from the chest and it relieves coughs. Mixed with honey and pepper into a flat cake and eaten, it encourages the pursuit of sexual pleasure [aphrodisiac]. A decoction is given as a suppository for ulcers of the bowels and womb, as well as for expelling excrement; and it is very good (like a decoction of fenugreek) used as a hip bath for inflammation of the womb. It is also called Unocal amis, anion, or linon agrion ; the Romans call it linomyrum, and the Africans, zer aphis.

  23. Viola. From Book IV: Claimed to be cooling, so that the leaves (applied by themselves or with polenta) help a burning stomach, inflammation of the eyes, and prolapse of the perineum. A decoction of the purple part of the flower (taken as a drink with water) helps the synanchic [abscessed throat], and epilepsy of children.

  24. Hyssop. From Book V. Used to make wine. The best hyssop wine is that which is made from Cilician hyssop. It is made like absinthites [above]. Put one pound of bruised hyssop leaves (wrapped in a thin linen cloth) into nine gallons of must and also put in small stones so that the bundle subsides to the bottom. After forty days strain it and put it in another jar. It is good for disorders in the chest, side, and lungs, and for old coughs, and asthma. It is diuretic, good for griping, and the periodical chills of fevers, and it induces the menstrual flow.