[Science news] - The forgotten officina of Meise Botanic Garden

Mon 19 Dec

In a medicinal garden, such as the one at Meise Botanic Garden, the visitor can discover which plants are behind phytotherapeutic preparations or herbal infusions. In the herbarium's collections, this is also possible, be it behind the screens and placed in historical context. 

In the rich economic botany collection, several thousand specimens with medicinal properties have been traced back to renowned chemists (druggists at the time) and pharmacists of the 19th century. 

From our own country - from Antwerp and Brussels - the Materia medica of Mathieu Verbert, Frans Rigouts and Henri Van Heurck and the Pharmacie anglaise of Ambroise Delacre take the crown.

Some of the important, international contributors are Theodor Martius, Theodor Peckolt, Wilhelm Behrens, Charles Lallemant, Carl Haussknecht, Adalbert Geheeb and Nicolas Guibourt. They take us to Erlangen, Cantagallo, Braunschweig, Algiers, Persia, Geisa and Paris.

These erudite figures have left us, in addition to their drugs, in sparkling glassware, their fine manuscripts and distinguished publications that make possible research not only in pharmacy but also in natural history, ethno- and economic botany. 

Their pharmacies of the time are now a museum in itself in Meise Botanic Garden. They bear witness to the ancient, natural wealth of medicinal remedies, not least derived from plants but also from animals and minerals. They are curiosities to be rediscovered.