Of the Tabaco and of His Greate Vertues


This text is from John Frampton's translation of Nicholas Monardes. It was published in 1577 under the title Joyfull Newes our of the Newe Founde Worlde. The entire work can be found in a 1925 edition with an introduction by Stephen Gaselee, published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

The text has been somewhat standardized for easier reading by Michael L. Wolfe, 1996


Of the Tabaco and of His Greate Vertues

THIS herb, which commonly is called tobacco, is an herb be of much antiquity, and known amongst the Indians, and in especially among them of the new Spain, and after that those countries were gotten by our Spaniards, being taught of the Indians, they did profit themselves of those things, in the Wounds which they received in their Wars, healing themselves therewith, to the great benefit of them

Within this few years there has been brought to Spain of it, more to adorn Gardens with the fairness thereof, and to give a pleasant sight, rather then that it was thought it had the marvelous Medicinal virtues which it hash, now we do use of it more for his virtues then for his fairness. For surely they are. such which put admiration

It is growing in many parts of the Indies, but ordinarily in moist places, and shadow places, and it is needful that the ground where it is sown, be well tilled, all that it be fruitful ground in all times it is sown, in the hot countries. But in the collide countries it must be sown in the month of March, for that it may defend it self from the frost

The proper name of it amongst the Indians is Pecielt, for the name of Tobacco is given to it of our Spaniards, by reason of an land that is named Tobacco

It is an Herb that does grow and come to be very great: many times to be greater then a Lemon tree, it does cast out one stem from the Root which grows up right, without declining, to any parts, he does cast out many Bowes, straight that well new they be equal with the principal stem of the tree, his Leaf is well nere like to the Leaf of a Sydron tree, they come to be very great, and be of color green, the Plant is heavy, they be in the Garden as Sidrons and Oranges are. For that all the year they are green, and have leaves, and if any wither, they be those that are lowest, in the highest parts of all the Plants, there does grow out the flower, the which is after the manner of white Campanillia, and in the middest of Carnation color, it has a good show when it is dry, it is like to black Poppy seed, and is it is shut up the seed which is very small, and of the color of a dark Tauny.

The Root is great, conformable to the greatness of the Plants, divided into many parts, and it is like to wood in substance, the which being parted, it has the heart within, like unto the color of Saffron, and being tossed, it has some bitterness with it. The Rind comes away easily, we know not that the root has any virtue at all. Of only the Leaves we know the virtues, I which we will speak of, although that I do believe that the root has Medicinal virtues enough, the which the time shall discover. And some will say that it has the virtue of Rhubarb, but I have not experimented it as yet, they do keep the leaves after they be dry in the shadow for the effects that we will speak of, and they be made powder, for to use of them in place of the Leaves, for it is not in all parts, the one and the other, is to be kept a great time, without corruption, his complexion is hot and dry in the second degree, it has virtue to heat and to dissolve, with some binding and comforting it gleweth together, and does soder the fresh wounds, and does heal them, the filthy wounds and sores it does cleanse and reduce them to a perfect health, as it shall he spoken of foreword, and so we will speak of the virtues of these Herbs, and of the things that it does profit, every one particularly

This Herb Tobacco has particular virtue to heal griefs of the head, and in especially coming of cold causes, and so it cures the headache when it comes of a cold humor, or of a windy cause, the Leaves must be put hot to it upon the grief, and multiplying them the time that is needful, until the grief be taken away. Some there be that do anoint them with the Oil of Oranges, and it does a very good work

In any manner of grief that is in the body or any part thereof it helps, being of a cold cause, and applied hereunto it takes it away, not without great admiration

In griefs of the breast it does make a marvelous effect, and in especially in those that do cast out matter and rottenness at the mouth, and in them that are short breathed. And any other old evils making of the herb a seething and with Sugar made a Syrup, and being taken in little quantity, it does cause to expel the Matters, and rottenness of the breast marvelously, and the smoke being taken at the mouth, does cause that the matter be put out of the breast, of them that do

In the grief of the stomach, caused of cold causes, or wince, the leaves being put very hot, it does take it away, and dissolves it by multiplying of them, until it be taken away. And it is to be noted, that the leaves are to be warmed better then any other, amongst Ashes or Embers very hot, thrusting the herbs into them, and so to warm them well, and although they be put to with some Ashes, it makes the work better, and of more strong effects

In Opilations of the stomach, and of the inner parts principally, this herb is a great remedy; for that it does dissolve them, and consumes them, and this same it does in any other manner of Opilations or hardness, that is in the belly, the cause being of a cold humor, or of windiness

They must take the herb green, and stamp it, and with those stamped leaves rub the hardness a good while, and at the time as the Herb is in the Mortar a stamping, let there be put to it a few drops of Vinegar, that his work may be made the better, and after the place is rubbed where the pain is, then put upon it one leaf or leaves of the Tobacco being hot, and so let it alone till the next day, and then do the like again, or in place of the leaves put a Linen clothe wet, in the hot Juice. Some there be, that after they have rubbed it with the stamped leaves, they do anoint it with ointments, made for the like evils, and upon it they put the leaves or the juice of the Tobacco. And surely with this cure they have dissolved great and hard opilations, and very old swellings. In the grief of the stone, of the Kidneys and Raines, this Herb does great effects, by putting the leaves into Ashes, or Embers, hot, that they may warm well, and then being put upon the grief, multiplying it as often as it is needful. It is necessary in the Seethinges that is used to be made for Glisters to put into them with the other hinges, the Leaves of this Herb: for that they shall profit much, and likewise for Fomentations and Plasters, that they shall make

In griefs of winces they make the like effect, taking away the pains that does come of the windiness, applying the Leaves after the same sort as it is stated

In the grief of women, which is called the evil of the Mother, putting one leaf of this herb Tobacco very hot, in the manner as it is stated, it does manifest profit: it must be put upon the Navel. And under it some does use to put first of all, things of good smell upon the Navel, and then upon that they put the leaf, in that they do find most profit, is to put the Tacamahaca, or the oil of liquid Amber, and Balsam, and Carana, any thing of these put to the Navel, and kept to it continually, that it may cleave unto it, does manifest profit in griefs of the Mother

In one thing, the women that dwell in the Indies, do celebrate this herb, that is in the evil breathing at the mouth of children, when they are over filled with meat, and also of great people, anointing their bellies with lamp oil, and putting some of those leaves in ashes hot to their bellies, and also to their shoulders, it does take away their naughty breathing: and it does make that they go to the stool, putting it hereunto, the times that it is needful, if the leaves be ashes it is the better

In Worms, and in all kind of them, it kills them, and does expel them marvelously, the seething of the herb made a syrup delicately, taken in very little quantity, and the juice thereof put on the navel, it is needful after this be done to give a Glister, that may void them out, and expel them out of the guts

In griefs of the Joints being of a cold cause it makes a marvelous work, the Leaves of this Tobacco being put hot upon the grief, the like does the Juice put upon a little clothe hot. For that it does dissolve the humor, and takes away the pains thereof, if it be a hot cause it does hurt, saving when the humour has been hot, and the subtle is dissolved, and the gross remains. that then it does profit as if the cause were cold, and it is to be understood, that the leaves being put, where as is grief of the said cause, in any part of the body, that it will profit much

In swellings or in cold Impostumes, it does dissolve and undo them, washing them with the hot Juice, and putting the beaten leaves, after they be stamped, or the leaves being whole of the stated Tobacco upon it

In the Tooth ache when the grief is of a cold cause, or of cold Rumes, putting to it a little Ball made of the leaf of the Tobacco, washing first the soothe with a small clothe wet in the Juice, it takes away the pain, and does stay it, that the putrefaction go not forward: in hot causes it does not profit, and this remedy is so common that every one heals

This Herb does marvelously heal the Chilblaines, rubbing them with the stamped leaves, and after putting hands and Feet in hot water, with Salt, and keeping them warm, this is done with great experience in many

In Venom and venomous Wounds our Tobacco has great experience, which has been known a little time past, that when the wild people of the Indies, which an eat mans flesh do shoot their Arrows, they do anoint them with an herb or Composition made of many poisons, with the which they do shoot at all things that they would kill, and this Venom is so evil, and pernicious, that it kills without remedy, and they that be hurt die with great pains and accidentes, and with madness, unless that they had found remedy for so great an evil. A few years past they did put to their Wounds Sublimatum, and so were remedied, and surely in those parts they have suffered much with this in vexation of poison

A little whiles past, certain wild people going in their Boats to Saint Jhon Depuerto Rico, for to shoots at Indians, or Spaniards, if that they might find them, they came to a place and killed certain Indians, and Spaniards, and they did hurt many, and as by chance there was no Sublimatum at that place to heal them, they did remember to put upon the wounds the Juice of the Tobacco, and the Leaves stamped. And God would, that putting it upon the hurts, the griefs, madness, and accidents, wherewith they died, was mitigated, and in such sort they were delivered of that evil, that the strength of the Venom was taken away, and the wounds were healed, of the which there was are great admiration, the which being known by them of the Land, they do use it in other hurts and wounds, that they do take when they do fight with the wild people, and now they have no fear of them, by reason they have found so great a remedy, in a thing so desperate

This Herb has also virtue against the Herb called of the Crossbow shooter, that our hunters do use to kill the wild beasts with all, which herb is venom most strong, and does kill with out remedy, the which the king's pleasure was to prove, he did command to make experience thereof, and they did wound a little Dog in the throat. And did put forthwith in the wound the herb of the Crossbow shooter, and after a little while, they put in to the self same wound that they had anointed with the Crossbow shooters Herb, a good quantity of the Juice of Tobacco, and the stamped leaves upon it, and they tied the dog, and he escaped not without great admiration of all men that saw him. Of the which the excellent Physician of the Chamber of his majestic the Doctor Barnarde in the margin of this book, that saw it, by the commandment of his Majesty, said these words. I did this experience by the commandment of the king's Majesty, I did wound the Dog with a knife, and after I did put the crossbow shooters herb into the wound and the herb was chosen, the dog was taken of the herb, and the Tobacco and his Juice put into the wound, the dog escaped and remained whole

In the venomous Carbuncles, the Tobacco being put in the manner as is said does extinguish the malice of the venom, and it does that which all the works of Surgery can do, until it be whole. The same thing it does in biting of venomous beasts, for it does kill and extinguish the malice of the venom, and heals them.

In wounds newly hurt and cuttings, strokes, pricks, or any other manner of wound, our Tobacco does marvelous effects. For that it does heal them and makes them sound, the wound must be washed with wine, and procure to anoint the sides of it, taking away that which is superfluous, and then to put the Juice of this herb, and upon it the stamped leaves, and being well bound it shall stand until the next day that they shall return to dress it, after the same fashion they shall keep good order in their meat, using the diet necessary, and if it be needful of any evacuation by stool, the cause being great, let it be done what shall be convenient. And with this order they will heal, without any need of any more Surgery then this herb. Here in this Country, and in this City they know not what to do, having cut or hurt themselves, but to run to the Tobacco, as a most ready remedy, it does marvelous works, without any need of other Surgery, but this only herb. In restraining the flux of blood of the wounds it does most marvelous works, for that the Juice and the Leaves being stamped, is sufficient to restrain any flux of blood

In old Sores it is marvelous the works and the effects that this Herb does, for it heals them wonderfully, making clean and mundifiyng them of all that is superfluous, and of the rottenness, that it hash, and does bring up the flesh, reducing them to perfect health, the which is so common in this City that every man does know it, and I having ministered it to many people as well men as women, in great number, and being grieved of ten, and of twenty years they have healed old rotten sores in legs, and other parts of the body, with only this remedy to the great admiration of all men

The order of the Cure that is to be healed with this herb is this following. The old rotten sores although t they be cankered, let the sick man be purged with the counsel of a Physician, and let him blood if it be needful, and then take this Herb and pound it in a Mortar, and take out the Juice and put it into the Sore, and then after the manner of a Plaster put the stamped leaves upon it which are the Leaves that the Juice is taken out of, and this do once every day eating good Meats, and not exceeding in any disorder, for otherwise it will not profit. And doing this it will make clean the evil flesh being totter, and superfluous, until it come to the whole flesh, and is not to be marveled if that the wound be made very great. For the evil must be eaten up, until it come to the good, and with the same cure putting less quantity of juice it will incarnate, and reduce it to perfect health, in such sort that it does all the works of Surgery, that all the Medicines of the world may do, without having need of any other manner of medicine

This work does cure ode Sores, with so much admiration: and not only in men, but in brute beasts. As at this day in all parts of the Indies, where you have any cattle having wounds or gaules and the country being hot and moist over much, it does soon rot them, and very quickly come to be cankered, and for this cause, much great cattle do dye. And to remedy this and the worms that do increase in the sores, they had for remedy to put into the sores Sublimatum: for that in this remedy they did find more benefit then in any other, that they had used. And for that the Sublimatum had there so high a price, many times it was more worth then the cattle that it healed. And for this cause and for having found in the Tobacco so much virtue for to heal new wounds and rotten, they did accord and agree together to use the Tobacco, in the healing of beasts, as they had done in the cure and remedy of men, putting the Juice of the Tobacco into the wounds, and washing it therewith, and putting upon it the stamped leaves of the Tobacco, after that the Juice is taken from it, and it is of so great efficacy and virtue, that it kills the worms, and makes clean the sore, eating away the evil flesh, and it does engender new flesh until it be whole, as in the other things which we have spoken of, the like it does in the gaules of the beasts of Carriage, the Juice being put and the beaten leaves whereof the Juice comes of the Tobacco, as it is said: although it be cankered, it does make them clean, and does incarnate them, and cures and helps them. And so the Indians do carry it, when they do journey, for this purpose and effect, and it does the like profit, that the juice does

I saw a man that had certain old sores in his nose, whereby he did cast out from him much matter, and daily did rot and canker, and I caused him to take at his nose the juice of this Tobacco, and so he did, and at the second time, he did cast out from him, more then twenty little worms, and afterward a few more, until that he remained clean of them, and using it so certain days, he did heal of the sores, that he had in the inner part of his nose: and if he had tarried any longer, I think that there had remained nothing of his nose, but all had been eaten away, as it does happen to many, which we do see without them. And being writing of this, a daughter of a gentle man of this City, had many years a certain manner of dry scabs, or well near scurvy in her head, I had cured her, and done unto her many benefits, universal, and particular: and also Masters of Surgery had done their diligence, and all did not profit. And a gentlewoman, which had the charge of her, as she heard me say one day, much good of the Tobacco that it did good, and was profitable, for so many infirmities, she sent for it, and did rub hard the decease that the wench had, and that day she was very evil, and was as though she had been foolish, and the gentlewoman did not let, in seeing her after that sort to rub her harder, and then the wench did not feel so much grief, but that the dry scabs began to fall, and the white scruff of her head in such sort, it did make clean and healed her head, with doing of it certain days, that she healed of her scurvy decease very well, without knowing what she did

One of the marvels of this Herb, and that which does bring most admiration, is, the manner how the priests of the Indies did use of it, which they did in this manner: when there was amongst the Indians any manner of business, of great importance, in the which the chief gentlemen called Casiques, or any of the principal people of the Country, having necessity to consult with their Priests, in any business of importance: then they went and propounded their matter to their chief Priest, forthwith in their presence, he took certain leaves of the Tobacco, and cast them into the fire, and did receive the smoke of them at his mouth, and at his nose with a Cane, and in taking of it, he fell down upon the ground, as a dead man, and remaining so, according to the quantity of the smoke that he had taken, and when the herb had done his work, he did revive and awake, and gave them their answers, according to the visions, and illusions which he saw, whiles he was rapt of the same manner, and he did interpret to them, as to him seemed best, or as the Devil had counseled him, giving them continually doubtful answers, in such sort, that howsoever it fell out, they might say that it was the same, which was declared, and the answer that they made

In like sort the rest of the Indians for their pastime, do take the smoke of the Tobacco, for to make them selves drunk withal, and to see the visions, and things that do represent to them, wherein they do delight: and other times they took it to know their business, and success, because conformable to that, which they had seen being drunk therewith, even so they might judge of their business. And as the Devil is a deceiver, and has the knowledge of the virtue of Herbs, he did show them the virtue of this Herb, that by the means thereof, they might see their Imaginations, and visions, that he has represented to them, and by that means does deceive them

To have Herbs that have the like virtue, is a common thing, and in the book of the Physicians, Dioscorides does say, that one dram of the root of Solatro, being taken in wine, which root is very strange, and furious, does provoke sleep greatly, and does make him that takes it, to dream of things variable, and does represent unto him terrible imaginations, and visions, and others does give delectation, and pleasure. Of the Anise seed they say, being eaten at the hour, when that they shall sleep, it does make a pleasant, and delectable dream. The Readishe does make them grievous, and very heavy, and of so many other herbs, which shall be large to speak of, the which of this matter, the ancient writers does write of

Diego Gratia de Guerta, in the book that he wrote of the Spicery and Drugs of the Oriental Indies, does say, that in those parts there is an Herb, which is called Bague, the which being mingled with things of sweet smell, they make of it a confection of excellent smell and taste: and when the Indians of those parts, will deprive them selves of judgment, and see visions that does give them pleasure, then they take a certain quantity of this confection, and in taking of it, they remain deprived of all judgment, and while the virtue of their Medicine does endure, they do receive much delight, and they do see things, whereby they do receive pleasure, and be glad of it. There was a mighty Emperor, being Lord of many Realms, stated unto Martine Alfonso de Sofa, viceroy that was of the East India that when he would see Realms, and Cities, and other things, of the which he did receive pleasure, that he would then take the Bague, made in a certain confection, and that in doing of it, he did receive pleasure. The use of this confection is very common, and very much used amongst the Indians of those parts, and they do sell it in the public market, for this effect

The Indians of our Occidental Indies, do use of the Tobacco for to take away the weariness, and for to take lightsomnesse of their labor, which in their Dances they be so much wearied, they remain so weary, that they can scarcely stir: and because that they may labor the next day, and return to do that foolish exercise, they do take at the mouth and nose, the smoke of the Tobacco, and they remain as dead people, and being so, they be eased in such sort, that when they be awakened of their sleep, they remain without weariness, and may return to their labor as much more, and so they do always, when they have need of it: for with that sleep they do receive their strength and be much the lustier

The black people that have gone from these parts to the Indies, has taken the same manner and use of the Tobacco, that the Indians have, for when they see themselves weary, they take it at the nose, and mouth, and it does happen unto them, as unto our Indians, lying as though they were dead three or four hours: and after they do remain lightened, without any weariness, for to labor again: and they do this with so great pleasure, that although they be not weary, yet they are very desirous for to do it: and the thing is come to so much effect, that their masters do chasten them for it, and do burn the Tobacco, because they should not use it, whereupon they go to the desserts, and secret places to do it, because they may not be permitted, to drink themselves drunken with Wine, and therefore, they are glad to make then selves drunken with the smoke of Tobacco: I have seen them do it here, and happen to them as is stated. And they do say, that when they come out of the same trance, or dream, they find themselves very lusty, and they do rejoice to have been after the same sort and manner, saying that thereof they do receive no hurt

These barbarous people do use of the like things, to take away weariness, and not only it is used in our Occidental Indies, but is also a common thing in the Oriental Indies. And also in the Portugal Indies, for this effect, they do sell the Opium in their Shops, even as they sell Conserva, with the which the Indians do use to ease them selves, of their labor that they do take, and to be merry, and not to feel pains, of any great labor of the body, or of mind that may come unto their, and they call it there amongst them selves Aphion. Of this Aphion the Turks do use for this effect. The Soldiers and Captains that go to the wars, when they do labor much, from the time that they be lodged, that they may take rest, they take Aphion, and sleep with it, and they remain lightened of their labor: The most principal people takes the Bague, and it has a better taste, and a better smell, there is put to it much Amber, and Musk and Cloves, and other spices: That surely it is a thing of admiration, to see that these Barbarous people do take such Medicines, and so many of them do take it, and that it does not kill them, rather they take it for health and remedy, for their necessity

I saw an Indian of those parts, that in my presence did ask Apothecary a quart of Opium, and I asked him wherefore he would have it, and he told me that he took it to put away weariness, when he did feel him self over much grieved, and afflicted with labor, and he took the half of that as he carried, for the Apothecary gave him more then a pint for twelve pence, and therewith he slept so much, that when he awoke from sleep, he found him self very much eased of his weariness, in such sort, that he might continue his labor. I did marvel at it, and it seemed to me a thing of mockery: seeing that five or six grains, be the most that wee can give to a sick person, how strong so ever that he be, and this being very well prepared, does cause many times accidentes of death. And many years after standing in the Shop of an other Apothecary of this City, there called an other Indian, of the same Oriental Indies, and he did ask of the Apothecary, that he should give him Aphion, the which Apothecary understood him not, and I remembering myself of the other Indian, I caused him to show to the Indian Opium, and in showing it to him, he stated that it was that, which he asked, and he bought a quarter of a Pint of it, and I asked of the Indian, wherefore he would have it, and he told me the same that the other Indian did: that it was because he might labor, and ease him self of his weariness and that he did bear burdens, and that he should help to discharge a Ship: wherefore he would take the one half that he might therewith labor, and the other half after he had labored, that therewith he might take ease, and rest. Then I gave credit to the first Indian, of that he stated unto me, and since I have believed that, which I have seen, and read, in those parts to be a thing in common, for the like effects. And truly it is a thing worthy of great consideration, that five grains of Opium does kill us, and three score does give them health, and rest

The Indians does use the Tobacco, for to suffer the dryness, and also for to suffer hunger, and to pass days with out having need to eat or drink, when they shall travel by any dessert, or dis-peopled Country, where they shall find neither water, nor meat. They do use of these little balls, which they make of this Tobacco, they take the leaves of it, and do chew it, and as they go chewing of them, they go mingling with them certain powder, made of the shells of Cockles burned. and they go mingling it in the mouth all together, until that they make it like to dough, of the which they make certain little balls, little greater than Peason, and they put them to dry in the shadow, and after they keep them, and use them in this form following

Then they use to travail by ways, where they find no water nor meat: They take a little ball of these, and they put it between the lower lip and the teethe, and they go chewing it all the time that they do travel. and that which they do chew, they do swallow it down, and in this sort they do journey, three or four days, without having need of meat, or drink, for they feel no hunger, dryness, nor weakness, nor travel does trouble them. I do think that to journey after this sort, is the cause they go chewing continually the little balls: they do bring phlegm into the mouth, and do return to swallow them into the stomach, the which does retain the natural heat, which does go consuming, and maintaining them selves of them, the which we do see happen in many beasts, for that much time of the Winter, they be shut up into their Caves, and hollow places of the earth, and do pass there without any meat. And for that they have to consume the natural heat, of the fatness, which they had gotten in the Summer, the Bear being a great and fierce beast, much time of the Winter is in his Cave, and does live without meat, or drink, with only chewing his paws, the which perhaps he does for the stated cause: this is the substance which I have gathered of this Herb, so celebrated and called Tobacco, for that surely it is an Herb of great estimation, for the great virtues that it has, as we have stated.



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