Plants and Minerals in Byzantine Popular Pharmacy. A New Multidisciplinary Approach
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Historical texts containing information of the medicinal use of plants, minerals and other natural products are highly interesting study objects for various disciplines, in sciences as well as in humanities. In particular, historical texts can provide rewarding starting points for natural product drug discovery, as illustrated by the discovery of artemisinin from Artemisia annua and the development of important medicines for the treatment of malaria. This interdisciplinary project has been established to analyse plants and minerals mentioned in one of the most influential medical texts from the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire), which once spanned from Southern Italy to Syria and from Egypt to the Black Sea. The project will address questions of importance to philology, botany, geology and ethnopharmacology. The principle aim of the project is to develop an interdisciplinary methodology for the identification of medicinal plants in historical texts. This approach will ensure the repeatability of findings and increase confidence in future analysis of such kind of texts, which is of special importance regarding pharmaceutical research and development. In addition, the project aims to generate new research on Byzantine pharmacy and will involve the first in-depth study of the use of burnt substances.