Scurvy and cloudberries: A chapter in the history of nutritional sciences

Luigi M. De Luca, Kaare R. Norum

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Abstract

We translated two Latin texts about scurvy. One is by Ambrosius Rhodius, who in 1635 published his doctoral thesis on scurvy. This contains aspects of 16th- and 17th-century folklore medicine. The other is a 1593 letter by Henrik Høyer (Hoierus), a German physician in Bergen, Norway. The letter states that in Norway grew a plant, Chamaemorus Norvegicus, whose berries had curative abilities against scurvy. Rhodius lists symptoms of scurvy and suggests ingestion of fatty and smoked foods as etiological agents. He thought that a malfunction of the spleen was involved in this disease, so that the undigested parts of the chylus perturbed liver function. Plants with curative abilities were "those that abound in volatile salts." He listed seven facilitating causes of scurvy and its therapies. These included blood-letting after laxatives and root extracts. The star of theshowwasthe cloudberry, which had miraculous effects on scurvy patients. Palliative care included a bath containing decoction of brooklime, water cress, mallow, hogweed, roman chamomile, and similar plants. Before bathing, the person was to drink an extract of wormwood, scurvy grass, or elder. As medication forgums and teeth, Rhodius recommended rosemary, hyssop, bistort, sage, nasturtium, waterweed, creeping Jenny, and scurvy grass. He referred to medications described by Albertus, Sennertus, and in antiquity by Hippocrates and Galenus. We discuss themanuscripts by Høyer and Rhodius in light of earlier treatments and opinions about scurvy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2101-2105
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Volume141
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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