Department of History
University of California, Irvine
Instructor: Dr. Barbara J. Becker
Ailments of the Body and Medicines Suitable to Use for Their Cure
from Book X
The Florentine Codex, or Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España (c.1579)
created under the supervision of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (c.1499-1590)
piciyetl (described in Book XI): [Nicotiana rustica; an herbaceous species of tobacco] Its leaves are wide, somewhat long; and its blossoms are yellow. It is pounded with a stone, ground, mixed with lime. He who suffers fatigue rubs himself with it, likewise he who has the gout. And it is chewed. In this manner is it chewed: it is only placed in the lips. It intoxicates one, makes one dizzy, possesses one, and destroys hunger and a desire to eat. He who has a swollen stomach places it on the stomach and there in the navel.
zozoyatic (described in Book XI): It is like a little onion. At first this is dropped in the nose. Its roots, leaves, seeds are all ground together. Only as a powder, or in solution, a very little is dropped in the nose. If much of it is inhaled, if much is dropped in the nose, it causes bleeding. It grows there at Motlauhxauhcan, at the edge of the forest near Quauhnauac. It is not potable.
And to make [the patient] well, they proceed to make him drink water [in which wood of the] so-called tlatlauhqui tree is boiled; and [they use] its heart, not its bark.
[atole (ah-TOH-lee): A thick drink made with corn meal soaked in water and strained through a sieve and then boiled until it has the consistency of pap or porridge. Their are many kinds, depending on the different flavors (fruit, honey, milk...) added to the basic recipe.]
In injuries, whether of the spine, or the ribs, or the leg, etc., [or] whatsoever bone is injured, first that which is broken is pressed, stretched, joined. Then zacacili root is cut; a very thick poultice [of the pulverized root] is applied. Wooden splints are pressed on; they are bound about it. And if there is a swelling around [the break], it is pricked with an obsidian blade. Or [pulverized root of] iztac zazalic is spread on; it is spread on with [pulverized] tememetlatl root. Some bathe in it, some drink it in maguey wine, [some] take a hot bath in it when there is itching. Or it is applied; [the herb] named xipetziuh is applied. Some rub themselves with it, but some drink it mixed with iztac zazalic; they also drink it in wine. And if one is very sick, and his body is much fevered, and the bone is exposed; a very resinous stick is cut; it is inserted within the bone, bound within the incision, covered over with the medicine mentioned.
zacacili (described in Book XI): The leaves form right next to the ground; they are long, broad, green like the leaves of the Spanish omixochitl. They are not thick, only small and thin. It has white flowers; its blossoms are useless. Its roots are a little sweet. When one expels blood from his rectum, it is stopped with this. They add chía or wrinkled chía to it. It is drunk. An atole is made.
Its remedy is [an infusion of] teouaxin with chili [and] salt; it is to be cooked. One is to drink it many times. one constantly goes on drinking it. And this teouaxin is [also] boiled; one goes on drinking it with neither chili nor salt. Or one is to drink many times [an infusion of] twigs named iztac chichicquauitl boiled in maguey wine. One is not to eat immediately; one is to abstain from fruit; one is to abstain from cold things; one is to drink -- one is to eat -- everything warm; wine, maguey wine, white maguey wine also help. Only one drink [is required].
And its remedy is [an infusion of the wood] named chichiualquauitl, [which is] disagreeable to taste. It is not cooked; it is only warmed in the sun, prepared in the morning. One is to drink this medicine all day. And the next day one is still to drink [the water in which] tlapalezquauitl is cooked. A little colored saltpeter is dropped in.
Their cure is the same [as for hemorrhoids]. One will proceed to drink [an infusion of] tletlemaitl; one will take a hot bath in it. One is to cover [the pustules] over with the powdered herb, tlalquequetzal, or with copper filings.
And there are two kinds of pustules. The name of one kind [is] "filthy pustules," and they gave [the other] the name "silk-cotton tree pustules" [or] "small pustules." They are very painful, very paralyzing. They cause twisting of the hands [and] the feet, because the ailment penetrates completely. And when they erupt, one drinks [an atole of] fish-amaranth seeds. And one is to drink [an infusion of] quauhtlepatli; four times, five times [a day] one is to drink it. One is to take a bath in it. And if one's hands [and] one's feet become twisted, one is to drink a purgative, the root [of an herb] named tlatlapanaltic, which is like caxtlatlapan. And later one is bled with an obsidian blade.
And this same cure is for the "filthy pustules."
tlalquequetzal (described in Book XI): Its leaves, its branches are ashen, spreading, serrated. It is a cough medicine; it is a medicine for overeating.
Treating a Fever
One drinks [an infusion of the root of] chichipilli, [with] alum [and] acid water. First one is purged; then [an infusion from] the edible root of the sand tomato is drunk, adding to it the root of tacanalquilitl. The grown people drink [an infusion of] two sand tomato roots; small children drink [an infusion of] four. And five kernels of maize are mixed in this. And when there is fever, one is to drink [an infusion of the root of] aitztoli in acid water.
tacanalquilitl (described in Book XI): Its leaves are tacanlli. Its habitat is in the mountains. It is ash-colored, faded to an ash color. It can be cooked in an olla, it can be baked on a griddle.