de Materia Medica (Greater Centaury)

Author Dioscorides
Subject Other

Pedanius Dioscorides, de Materia Medica III, 6.1-3 (written ca. 50-70 CE)

1. The centaury, but some call it narce and others gentiane: it has leaves similar to the leaves of the walnut tree, oblong, pale in color like the leaves of the cabbage; their margin is serrated like a saw; it has a stem like that of monk rhubarb, two cubits tall or even three, having many offshoots rising from the root, on which there are heads resembling poppies that are somewhat long in circumference. The flower is dark blue; the seed is similar to that of safflower, nestled as if among flowers made of wool; the root is thick, solid, heavy, about two cubits long, full of juice that is sharp with a degree of astringency and sweetness, and reddish; the juice, too, is similarly red.
2. It likes a rich soil, a sunny location, thickets, and hillocks. It grows in abundance in Lycia and, within Peloponnesos, in Elis, Arcadia, Messene, and around Pholoe, Lykaion, and Cyllene. The root, taken with wine, is suitable for ruptures, spasms, people with pleurisy, dyspnea, for an old cough, and for those who spit blood, provided they are free of fever; but to those who run a fever an amount of two drachmai of root is given with water.
3. It is similarly given both for colic and for pains in the uterus. It draws down the menses and embryos/fetuses when whittled, shaped like a pessary, and applied to the uterus. The juice accomplishes the same. The root is also good for injuried, chopped up moist, but if it is dry, it is first moistened and then chopped up. For it does draw matter together, it agglutinates, and it contracts meats that are boiling, if one chopped it up and cooked it with the meats. People in Lycia use its extracted juice instead of a decoction of dyer's buckthorn.

Translation by Lily Y. Beck, 2005.

Greek Text

(1) κενταύρειον τὸ μέγα· οἱ δὲ νάρκην, <οἱ δὲ γεντιανὴν> καλοῦσι.
φύλλα ἔχει καρύᾳ βασιλικῇ ἐοικότα, προμήκη, χρώματι χλωρὰ ὡς κράμβης·
τὸ δὲ περιφερὲς αὐτῶν ἐντέτμηται ὥσπερ πρίων· καυλὸν δὲ ἔχει ὡς
λάπαθον, δίπηχυν ἢ καὶ τρίπηχυν, παραφυάδας ἀπὸ τῆς ῥίζης ἔχοντα
πολλάς, ἐφ’ ὧν κεφαλαὶ ὅμοιαι μήκωνι, ὑπομήκεις ἐν τῷ περιφερεῖ, ἄνθος
κυανίζον· καρπὸς δὲ ὅμοιος κνήκῳ, ἐγκείμενος ὥσπερ ἐν ἐριώδεσι τοῖς
ἄνθεσι, ῥίζα παχεῖα, στερεά, βαρεῖα, περὶ πήχεις δύο, μεστὴ χυλοῦ,
δριμεῖα μετὰ ποσῆς στύψεως καὶ γλυκύτητος,
(2) ὑπέρυθρος· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ὁ χυλὸς ἐρυθρός. φιλεῖ δὲ λιπαρὰν γῆν,
εὐήλιον, δρυμοὺς καὶ γεώλοφα· πλεονάζει δὲ ἐν Λυκίᾳ καὶ ἐντὸς τῆς
Πελοποννήσου ἐν Ἤλιδι καὶ Ἀρκαδίᾳ καὶ Μεσσηνίᾳ καὶ περὶ Φολόην καὶ
Λύκαιον καὶ Κυλλήνην. ἁρμόζει δὲ ἡ ῥίζα ῥήγμασι, σπάσμασι,
πλευριτικοῖς, δυσπνοίᾳ, βηχὶ παλαιᾷ, αἱμοπτυϊκοῖς, ἀπυρέτοις μὲν μετ’
οἴνου, πυρέσσουσι δὲ μεθ’ ὕδατος δραχμῶν δυεῖν πλῆθος τῆς ῥίζης
διδόμενον καὶ πρὸς στρόφους ὁμοίως καὶ ὑστέρας ἀλγήματα.
(3) ἄγει δὲ καὶ ἔμμηνα καὶ ἔμβρυα εἰς σχῆμα κολλυρίου ξυσθεῖσα καὶ
προστεθεῖσα τῇ ὑστέρᾳ· ὁ δὲ χυλὸς τὰ αὐτὰ ποιεῖ. ἔστι δὲ καὶ
τραυματική, ὑγρὰ μὲν κοπεῖσα, ξηρὰ δὲ προβραχεῖσα καὶ οὕτως κοπεῖσα·
συνάγει γὰρ καὶ κολλᾷ, καὶ τὰ ἑψόμενα δὲ κρέα συνάγει, ἐάν τις αὐτὴν
κόψας συνεψήσῃ. οἱ δὲ ἐν Λυκίᾳ χυλίζοντες χρῶνται αὐτῷ ἀντὶ λυκίου.