Herbal Medicine in Fes: A History

In this paper I look at the history of herbal medicine in the Fes medina. It is being made available here for anyone interested in the topic. Please contact me if you would like a translation.

Firstly, I look at Fes as a multi-cultural city since its establishment in the 8th century, with communities from the local Amazigh (Berber) communities, as well as Jews and Arabs. Whilst these three communities contributed considerably to the tradition, it was ultimately the coming of Islam, and with it ‘prophetic medicine’ and the Graeco-Islamic medical works of the early Islamic period which were most formative on the traditional medicine of the city. With this in mind, I consider the establishment of the Qarwa’īn University in 854AD, since with the establishment of this centre of learning, the medical profession was institutionalised and enriched. Finally I consider the culture of al-Andalus, and the fall of Grenada in 1492, which brought with it a great amount of textual resources as well as doctors who revived the tradition, making it what it is today.

In the second section of the paper I look at the practice of the tradition, particularly in the markets of Atarīn and Ashabīn and how through the guild houses in place in Fes throughout the medieval and into the modern period, the medical practice was regulated, institutionalised and protected. Finally, I look at the work of al-Wazīr al-Ghassani whose pharmacopeia ‘The Garden of Blossoms’ demonstrates all these factors coming together in one text from the 16th century (and you can find some translations of the text here on the website). 

Author: Miriam Hicklin

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