Microbiology, biochemistry, antimicrobials, medieval Welsh texts exploration.

Medieval and other historical Welsh texts are newly being translated into English, which include the Red Book of Hergest used by the Physicians of Myddfai, the famous Welsh medical practitioners of the 12th century. The previous translations have so far only been studied for Welsh Language (esp. poetry) and cultural aspects, while these books also contain a wealth of information on historical approaches to societal, environmental and medical problems. We aimed to explore the translated texts for the recovery of (bio)chemical, public health and environmental knowledge of the ancient Welsh environment and society.

The newly translated medieval Welsh antimicrobial recipes were reviewed for plant names/parts and other sources, medical indication of application, and materials or processes related to extraction and formulation of the remedy in order to better understand principal components and their activities, and to be able to redesign recipes using modern chemical extraction protocols. Statistical analysis showed that a wide range of materials could potentially function for selective extraction or for precipitation of (non-)active components. Clear descriptions of processes and protocols were usually missing. It therefore requires considerable human and material resources to truly assess the merits of medieval recipes.

It would therefore be worthwhile to discuss the merit of a systematic review of historical extraction and purification principles, to be able to suggest common principles aiding effective rediscovery and redesign of antimicrobials from historical texts. Did medieval societies employ “Standard Operating Procedures”? How can modern scientists accurately and efficiently assess the merits of historical treatment alternatives to infection in the age of increasing antimicrobial resistance?

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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