Economic Botany

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 27–43 | Cite as

The Medicine and Medicinal Plants of C. S. Rafinesque

  • Michael A. Flannery


This paper pursues the lead of Bart K. Holland in utilizing classic literature as a guide to the pharmacologic potentialities of natural products. Instead of focusing on European texts, however, American medicinal plants are examined through the work of the influential naturalist Constantine S. Rafinesque (1783-1840). Rafinesque is discussed with special attention to his activities as a medical botanist. In particular, the plant species monographed in the main section of hisMedical Flora of the United States (1828-1830) are studied for their historical and current use as medicinal agents. The results are tabulated and presented in a bar graph. The study concludes that Rafinesque was a progressive therapist whoseMedical Flora is a promising guide for phytopharmacuetical prospecting with North American plants.

Key Words

Medicinal plants pharmacology pharmacopeia Rafinesque 

Die Medizin und medizinische Pflanzen von C. S. Rafinesque


Dieses Referatfolgt dem Beispiel von Bart K. Holland, indem es die Idassische Literatur als Anhaltspunkt zu den pharmakologischen Möglichkeiten von natürlichen Produkte mutzt. Statt sich auf europäische Texte zu konzentrieren, werden amerikanische medizinische Planzen durch die Arbeiten von dem einfluβreichen Naturforscher Constantine S. Rafinesque (1783-1840) untersucht. Rafinesque wird mit besonderer Aufmerksamkeit auf seine Tätigkeiten als medizinischer Botaniker besprochen. Insbesondere, die Einzeldarstellung der Pflanzenspezies, die im Hauptabschnitt seines BuchesMedical Flora ist, wird wegen ihres historischen und aktuellen Nutzen als medizinisches Mittel studiert. Die Ergebnisse sind tabellarisch angeordnet und graphisch dargestellt. Die Studie kommt zu dem Schluβ, daβ Rafinesque ein progressiver Therapeut war, dessenMedical Flora ein vielversprechender Führer für phytopharmazeutische Untersuchungen von nordamerikanischen Pflanzen ist.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature cited

  1. Berman, Alex. 1952. C. S. Rafinesque (1783–1840): a challenge to the historian of pharmacy. American journal of pharmaceutical education 16:409–418.Google Scholar
  2. ———. 1956. A striving for scientific respectability: some American botanies and the nineteenth-century plant materia medica. Bulletin of the history of medicine 30:7–31.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Boyle, Wade. 1991. Official herbs: botanical substances in the United States pharmacopoeias, 1820-1990. Naturopathic Press, East Palestine, OH.Google Scholar
  4. British Herbal Medicine Association. 1992. British herbal compendium: a handbook of scientific information on widely used plant drugs. BHMA, Dorset.Google Scholar
  5. British Pharmacopoeia Commission. 1990. British herbal pharmacopoeia, 1990. BHMA, Dorset.Google Scholar
  6. ———. 1993. The British pharmacopoeia. 2 vols. HMSO, London.Google Scholar
  7. Bruneton, Jean. 1995. Pharmacognosy, phytochemistry, medicinal plants. Translated, Caroline K. Hatton. Lavoisier, Paris.Google Scholar
  8. Bynum, W. F. 1994. Science and the practice of medicine in the nineteenth century. Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Drake, Daniel. [1830] 1970. The people’s doctors: a review by 'the people’s friend.' Pages 195–202in Henry D. Shapiro, and Zane L. Miller, eds., Physician to the west: selected writings of Daniel Drake on science & society. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington.Google Scholar
  10. Duke, James A. 1985. CRC handbook of medicinal herbs. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.Google Scholar
  11. Eisenberg, David, et al. 1993. Unconventional medicine in the United States, New England Journal of Medicine 328:246–252.Google Scholar
  12. Felter, Harvey Wickes, and John Uri Lloyd. 1909. King’s American dispensatory. 19th ed., 4th rev. 2 Vols. Cincinnati, Ohio Valley.Google Scholar
  13. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray’s manual of botany. 8th ed. American Book Co., New York.Google Scholar
  14. Foster, Steven, and James A. Duke. 1990. A field guide to medicinal plants: eastern and central North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.Google Scholar
  15. ———, andJames A. Duke. 1993. Herbal renaissance: growing, using & understanding herbs in the modern world. Gibbs-Smith, Salt Lake City.Google Scholar
  16. Griffith, R. Eglesfeld. 1832. OnFrasera walteri. Journal of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy 3:272–2733.Google Scholar
  17. Haag, H. B. 1941. Rafinesque’s interests—a century later: medicinal plants. Science 94:403–406.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hanley, Wayne. 1977. Natural history in America: from Mark Catesby to Rachel Carson. New York Times Book, New York.Google Scholar
  19. Hershenson, Benjamin R. 1964. A Botanical comparison of the United States pharmacopoeias of 1820 and 1960. Economic botany 18:342–356Google Scholar
  20. Holland, Bart K. 1996. Prospecting for drugs in ancient and medieval texts: a scientific approach. Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  21. Horine, Emmet Field. 1961. Daniel Drake (1785-1852): pioneer physician of the midwest. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  22. Kartesz, John T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd. ed. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.Google Scholar
  23. King, Nydia. 1987. A selection of primary sources for the history of pharmacy in the United States. AIHP, Madison, WI.Google Scholar
  24. Konoshima, Takao, and Kuo-Hsiung Lee. 1986. Cicutoxin, an antileukemic principle fromCicuta maculata, and the cytotoxicity of the related derivatives. Journal of natural products 49:1117–1121.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. The Lawrence review of natural products. Facts and Comparisons.Google Scholar
  26. DerMarderosian, Ara, Varro E. Tyler, and Mark Blumenthal. 1996. Milestones of pharmaceutical botany. Pharmacy in history 38:15–28.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Martindale: The extra pharmacopoeia. 1996. Edited by James E. F. Reynolds. 31st ed. The Pharmaceutical Press, London.Google Scholar
  28. Merck. 1996. The Merck index: an encyclopedia of chemicals, drugs, and biologicals. 12th ed. Merck, Rah way, NJ.Google Scholar
  29. Merrill, Elmer D. 1949. Index Rafinesquianus: the plant names of C. S. Rafinesque with reductions, and a consideration of his methods, objectives, and attainments. The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain, MA.Google Scholar
  30. Mignone, Cherie. 1975. Materia medica in early American literature. The Cornell plantations 31:3–77.Google Scholar
  31. Millspaugh, Charles F. 1887. American medicinal plants: an illustrated and descriptive guide to the American plants used as homoeopathic remedies. 2 vols. Boericke & Tafel, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Packard, Francis R. 1931. History of medicine in the United States. 2 vols. Paul B. Hoeber, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Rafinesque, C. S. 1828–1830. Medical flora, or Manual of medical botany of the United States of North America. 2 vols. Samuel C. Atkinson, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  34. ———. 1829. The pulmist, or Introduction to the art of curing and preventing the consumption or chronic phthisis. The Author, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  35. ———. [1836] 1944. A life of travels. Chronica Botanica 8:294–360. Reprint of a work first published as A life of travels and researches in North America and south Europe, by F. Turner, Philadelphia, in 1836.Google Scholar
  36. Schlectendal, D. F. L. von. 1835. Review of Medical flora, by C. S. Rafinesque. Litteratur-Bericht zur Linnaea für das Jahr 1834:95–100.Google Scholar
  37. Schweinitz, Ludwig. 1921. The correspondence of Schweinitz and Torrey. Ed C. L. Shear and Neil E. Stevens. Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 16:269–2711.Google Scholar
  38. Torkelson,Anthony R. 1996. The cross name index to medicinal plants. vols. 3CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.Google Scholar
  39. Tyler, Varro E. 1993. The honest herbal: a sensible guide to the use of herbs and related remedies. 3rd ed. Pharmaceutical Products Press, New York.Google Scholar
  40. ———. 1994. Herbs of choice: the therapeutic use of phytomedicinals. Pharmaceutical Products Press, New York.Google Scholar
  41. ———. 1996. “Pharmacognosy! What’s that? You spell it how?” Economic Botany 50:3–9.Google Scholar
  42. United States Pharmacopeial Convention. 1995. The United States Pharmacopeia XXIII. National Formulary 18. USP Convention, Rockville, MD.Google Scholar
  43. Weaks, Mabel Clare. 1945. Medical consultation on the case of Daniel Vanslyke. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 18:425–437.Google Scholar
  44. Werbach, Melvyn R., and Michael T. Murray. 1994. Botanical influences on illness: a sourcebook of clinical research. Third Line Press, Tarzana, CA.Google Scholar
  45. Wichtl, Max. 1994. Herbals drugs and phytopharmaceuticals: a handbook for practice on a scientific basis. Translated, Norman Grainger Bisset. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.Google Scholar
  46. Wilder, Alexander. 1904. History of medicine. Maine Farmer Pub. Co., Augusta, ME.Google Scholar
  47. Wood, George B., and Franklin Bache. 1880. The Dispensatory of the United States of America. 14th ed. Lippincott, Philadelphia.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY 10458 U.S.A 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Flannery
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Lloyd Library and MuseumCincinnati
  2. 2.Northern Kentucky UniversityDepartment of American HistoryHighland Heights

Personalised recommendations