Exploration of Lichens in Kitab al Saydanah fi al Tibb by al-Biruni

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Mediterranean Symposium on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants MESMAP-4, Antalya, Turkey, 18 April 2018, pp.25

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Antalya
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.25


Lichens or better known as ‘lichenized fungi’ in today’s taxonomical botany, are symbiotic organisms consisting of a mycobiont and at least one photobiont. This mutual partnership results producing unique secondary metabolites, which are used in the contemporary pharmacy, and medicine. The purpose of this study is to explore the uses of lichens in the history of medieval science, on the basis of Arabic terms coined to depict them. An interesting source for the history of pharmacy, Kitab al-Saydanah fi al-Tibb, Book of Pharmacy in Medicine written by Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni (973 – 1048) has been investigated by means of lichenology. It is found that, al-Biruni used اشنة (Ushnah) for naming epiphytic lichens and حزاز الصخر (Hazaz al-Sakhr) for that of saxicolous ones. The information he transmitted in his text is in accordance with that of Avicenna, his well-known contemporary in philosophy. However, the nomenclature he used differs, as it be related to Medieval Persian-Indian Medicine. Following, transmitting and updating the legacy from the antiquity, lichens have been used in pharmacy and medicine during the medieval, in which the scientific language was Arabic. Simple drugs of Medieval Medicine, as compiled in encyclopaedic works like Kitab al Saydanah fi al Tibb, can be considered as potential sources for today’s pharmacy.