Anatomia Sumbuci – The Anatomy of the Elder 

Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       April 28, 2015


Author  Dr Martin Blochwich: London 1677. ; trans: Stefan Freund

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 978-3-9523693-0-2
Publisher:         BerryPharmaAG
Release Date:    


How best to describe this little wondrous book is the question. Unique, fascinating and astonishing are just a few of the words which come to mind. As you read through the many detailed subject areas, you are taking a peep back to medicine in the Middle Ages, courtesy of a man who dedicated his life to recording the incredible health benefits of the humble Elder tree.

First published in 1644 and reborn as a labour of love in 2010 by staff at BerryPharma over many months, the fascinating details of the use of the Elder or Elderberry tree as a physic for a raft of illnesses and conditions makes intriguing reading.

This ‘old English translation’ edition was discovered by staff researching the use of elderberries as a traditional remedy. They realised the historic significance of the work and undertook took the painstaking task of translating the work into modern English. The first edition was written in Latin in 1644, which was then transposed into English in 1651, by a Scottish Medical Army Officer. This most recent manuscript translation comes from the more recent 1677 English version.

The Elder tree is a tree which has been known to have medicinal properties for thousands of years. Revered by all, it was also tree shrouded in superstition. The tree’s properties were well known as an ancient healing remedy, having an already well established place in folkloric long before the advent of ‘modern medicine’, Sixteenth Century style.

Blochwich, in his desire to note down the healing properties and the uses of this amazing tree inadvertently created what is considered to be ‘one of the first comprehensive medical treatise dedicated to the virtues of the elder’. He considered this his life’s work and took an enormous risk translating the document from Latin to English – considered a more common language – to ensure the use of the elder was accessible to more people.

It is also interesting to note the number of conditions already ‘diagnosed’ so many centuries ago and the remedies used to cure or in some case, possibly not, with the use of the elder. Everything from a headache to a bee sting, infections of the womb, pleurisy, asthma, small pox, measles, fever and toothache have a specific recipe to be used, all made from elder and other herbs, berries and liquids.

The treatment for bladder stones is fascinating as is the remedy in case the patient faints!

Elder concocted into a syrup was also used as a tonic for young and old, particularly adults in the springtime to purge the body well! Blochwich also details the making and use of amulets made from the bark of the Elder tree to help guard against disease.

The final page in this book is written in a type of letter format and is addressed to all who used or read the works. It underlines that fact that Dr Martin Blochwich was a humble man who took the time to research, develop and deliver a form of health care treatment available to everyone, which back in the Middle Ages, was truly phenomenal.