Tycho Brahe, Medicine and Farmacology
The medicines were mainly composed of herbs from his garden and other places, substances of animal origins and minerals. Mercury was a common ingredient, and there are indications that Tycho, shortly before he died, tried to cure himself with a medicine of his own, containing mercury.
" A medicine as good as it is safe and easy for reducing fevers... Take equal parts of these two herbs, Cenaurea and Cardus benedicta, and boil drops of each of these in water; add with cichoria or ordinary water. Then, add to this brew some powder of the lower jaw of a stickleback and give this before the attack. However, you must not tell anyone about this medicine. Many are also cured by carrying around their neck a large, living spider confined in a nutshell, until the spider dies; this can even be used as a magnetic medium. I am also aware of other secret and reliable cures to cure all kinds of fevers, but I would rather tell you about these in person than in writing, if their use becomes necessary." (From a letter written by Tycho Brahe in 1571)
Tycho Brahe’s Epilepsy Medicine
The basic substance is the head of a person who has been hanged or otherwise executed. The head should be dried and crushed together with peony seeds to a powder. This medicine should not be taken at the full moon.
Tycho Brahe’s Plague Elixir
The main ingredient is Venetian theriak, (a product of variable composition. It was supposed to include unicorn’s horn. The unicorn is a mythical beast. In Tycho’s time narwhal tooth was used), sulphur and iron compounds, aloe, myrrh, saffron, juniper oil and amber oil. If you wanted to enhance the medicine’s effect, you could add a tincture of corals, pearls, sapphire and liquid gold. Sometimes opium was included. Ibland tillsattes opium.
Image: laboratory in the Uraniborg basement. Details from the picture of the
great Wall Quadrant in Blaeu's Atlas Major, 1663.