Anglo-Saxon pharmacopoeia revisited: a potential treasure in drug discovery

Drug Discov Today. 2011 Dec;16(23-24):1069-75. doi: 10.1016/j.drudis.2011.07.002. Epub 2011 Jul 18.


Three of the four major Anglo-Saxon collections reporting medicinal formulations in England from the 10th century, the Old English Herbarium, Bald's Leechbook and the Lacnunga, could contain leads and insights into new medicinal uses. Previous pharmacological studies of medicinal plants mentioned in Anglo-Saxon medical texts suggested that some were effective and led to the identification and isolation of natural compounds. For example, matricin from yarrow Achillea millefolium L., is a proprionic acid analogue that yields chamazulene carboxylic acid with cyclooxygenase-2 activity similar to that of ibuprofen. As we discuss here, multidisciplinary projects could further explore historical texts to discover additional plant metabolites with potential pharmacological applications.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • England
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Pharmacopoeias as Topic / history*
  • Plants, Medicinal*