Dr. Hanne Schönig

Animal drugs from classical texts to contemporary use

In his Qānūn fī’l-ṭibb Ibn Sīnā (d. 1037) mentions a significant number of animal drugs. He describes them as ingredients of a variety of recipes and recommends them for a broad range of purposes including aphrodisiac and cosmetic uses. Compared with the remedies offered nowadays locally by druggists in different Arab countries, we notice that the application of animal drugs has changed with regard to relative frequency as well as intended use. While we still find many of Ibn Sina’s materials and recipes reproduced in Ibn al-Baiṭār’s (d. 1248) Jāmiʿ li-mufradāt al-adwiya, in the context of Islamic regulations as well as pre-Islamic local traditions, some of these materials and products disappeared completely or are now applied in secret (magical) practices only, such as excrements and blood. The project traces continuity and change in the transmission of select animal materia medica from Ibn Sīnā’s Qānūn and other classical pharmacological texts until contemporary medical and magical practices and lore in different Arab countries. It scrutinizes the pertinence of medicinal motives and their interrelation with religious impacts, local tradition and biodiversity.