A 16th Century Russian medic at the court of Tsar Basil III prescribes the use of wormwood. (see details below) Wormwood comes in many forms, and it is unclear if the writer means grande wormwood, as used in real absinthe, or another variety.
What is interesting is to see the writer mention wormwood use in conception (could be a translation error). Is this an early reference to absinthe’s noted aphrodisiac effect? I don’t know, but it got me thinking. Tsar Basil certainly had problems producing an heir – he divorced his first wife as she was barren. His second wife later managed to produce a little darling called Ivan The Terrible! Ivan went on to beat his daugher in law causing a miscarriage, and then killed his own son.
Many people think that knowledge of herbs were much deeper in ancient times, that we have lost many secrets, is that right?
It is partly right. For instance modern physicians advice to take wormwood liqueur to improve appetite and stir up digestion. Nickolay Lubchanin advises to take wormwood juice with honey and sugar to those suffering from fever. To improve blood composition one must boil wormwood in wine and take it on an empty stomach in the morning.
Another prescription is for ill eyes and eyelids: one must mix up wormwood juice with honey and smear one’s eyelids for “the eyes to become light”. If one drinks this compound, according to Nickolay Lubchanin, it helps conception. Wormwood juice was considered more useful than herb extract. Here is the analogue of modern popular “liver cleaning”: drink wormwood juice ten days running 3 zolotniks (1 zolotnik is equal to about 4,23 gram) mixed with sugar. It will give one a good skin colour.
Dr. Tatyana Isachenko talking to Pravda about a manuscript by Nickolay Lubchanin (1534)