The Richness of Indian Pharmaceutical Tradition

  • 10-4-1563, Goa (Índia)
  • 1 bound volume, covers wrapped with brown leather embossed with drawings, 217 numbered pages,
  • printed, paper;
  • 20,5 x 15,5 x 3,5 cm
  • Portuguese National Archive of Torre do Tombo
  • Ref Code: PT/TT/CF/088

As European nations engaged in worldwide maritime voyages, they came into contact with diverse and previously unknown scientific traditions. Colóquios dos Simples e Drogas da India or Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India is testament to this, written in Goa in 1563.Simples are plant based medicines. It is the first extended description of botanical, pharmaceutical and medical products of the Indian subcontinent by a European author, the Portuguese doctor Garcia de Orta (1501?-1568).

Written in the form of lively dialogues (Colloquies) between a scholar familiar with European traditions, and an acute observer of nature, it mentions a great variety of spices, resins, gums, and oriental fruits; it describes plants and their therapeutic applications and the respective administration – comparing them against their European counterparts.

Originally written in Portuguese, the book was translated into Latin by the noted naturalist Carolus Clusius (1528-1609) and published in 1567, with many other editions in the following years that gave an enormous diffusion to Orta’s original text.

To the stunned eye of its European readers, the book revealed the unsuspected richness of Indian and other Asian medical products and practices, thus challenging the traditional knowledge of European medicine.