The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has organised a series of four conferences to discuss the issues around ‘plants and medicine’.

Each of the four conferences will have a theme and will include short talks by experts, followed by discussion.

The topic for Monday, 2 June 2014 is Medicines from plants – the post-mediaeval period.

Medicines from plants – the post-mediaeval period

Monday 7 July 2014

Tropical plants in European medicine

By Mark Nesbitt.

Medicines from plants - the rise and fall of the Pharmacopoeias and Herbals

By Dr Henry Oakeley.

Plant- based medicine in women’s health

By Michael de Swiet

Registration: from 1.30pm.

Talks and discussions: 2pm to 5pm.

Garden tour: will be taking place in between the lecture with a coffee break.

Cost: The lectures are open to all and are free to RCP fellows, members and their guests; £10 per general public; £6 per students.

Book online

Programme details

Tropical plants in European medicine, by Mark Nesbitt

After a glimpse of the unexpectedly long history of import of medicinal plants from the tropics, this talk will focus on the 18th and 19th centuries. Drawing on examples from Kew’s archives and botanical collections, it will look at how European travellers learnt about what were (to them) novel remedies, how this information and sometimes the plants were disseminated, and the place of medicines from the tropics in British pharmacopoeias.

Medicines from plants - the rise and fall of the Pharmacopoeias and Herbals, by Henry Oakeley

The 16th and 17th centuries were the heyday of the great herbals and the start of the pharmacopoeias, both fuelled by the advent of printing. Physicians and apothecaries were expected to know the identity and uses of plants, and differed mainly in that physicians saw diagnosis of an illness was their prerogative, and that of making up medicines was the realm of the apothecaries. Through these two centuries physicians moved away from botany (which became a discipline in its own right) and began to uncover the real basis for illness; the apothecaries became manufacturers and dispensers. This lecture covers the nature of illness and its treatment with plants; and the rise and fall of the pharmacopoeia and the herbal; with reference to the contemporary literature.

Plant-based medicine in women’s health, by Michael de Swiet

From time immemorial, mankind has used plants in attempts to increase or decrease fertility, to expedite childbirth and to relieve symptoms relating to the female genital tract. Modern pathophysiological concepts can start to separate those plants that might have been genuinely beneficial from those that were too toxic to justify their use and from those that were no more than placebos.