Symposium “Plants in Health and Culture”

Gerda van Uffelen & Renske Ek:

Netherlands' oldest herbaria and botanical garden: links to traditional medicine


In the 16th century, herbals, large illustrated books on plants and their uses, formed a reservoir of knowledge on traditional medicine in Europe. At the same time, a purely botanical interest arose in plants - not for their use in medicine, but out of scientific curiosity. One of the best documented collections of living plants at the end of the 16th century is that of the Hortus botanicus in Leiden. This plant collection, planted for teaching and research, will be compared to two of the oldest herbaria present in Utrecht (Cadé, 1566) and Leiden (Gaymans, 1669-1676). Many plants in these herbaria were used in traditional European medicine, others have probably been incorporated because they were interesting or new to the Europeans at that time.