Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician and one of the first pharma-botanists is known mainly for his book De Materia Medica, a medical codex listing hundreds of medicinal substances. The Arabs admired Dioscorides’ legacy however they were very aware that their own inventory of drugs was much larger than his.
The Andalusian physician Ibn Juljul (944 – after 994) became famous on account of several medical treaties which he wrote. He devoted most of his time to identifying the drugs listed in Dioscorides’ monumental work, and thereafter wrote: “An article on the drugs not mentioned in Dioscorides’ book. . .”
This article analyzes and discusses the names of those drugs and presents an English translation of this work. The absence of these substances from Dioscorides’ codex, and from other classical sources of the pre-Islamic period (Theophrastus, Pliny, Galen, Paul of Aegina), is a prime reason for ascribing their distribution to the Arabs.
Ibn Juljul's list reflects the major change that took place in the inventory of Galeno-Arabic drugs after the Islamic conquests; about one hundred new substances. Some of these substances, such as the myrobalan, soon became among the most common and popular drugs in the practical pharmacology of the Middle Ages. The fact that about half of the substances not mentioned by Dioscorides are of “Indian” origin should be seen against the background of the influence of the Ayurvedic medical culture, to which the Arabs were exposed alongside the Greek.
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