Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 61, Issue 7, pp 1359–1379 | Cite as

Plant resources used in Serbian medieval medicine. Ethnobotany and Ethnomedicine

  • Snežana Jarić
  • Miroslava Mitrović
  • Branko Karadžić
  • Olga Kostić
  • Lola Djurjević
  • Marija Pavlović
  • Pavle Pavlović
Research Article


This ethnobotanical and pharmacological study presents the results of an analysis of manuscripts from the Chilandar Medical Codex (CMC) on the usage and origin of medical substances in Serbian medieval medicine compared to contemporary studies on medical ethnobotany conducted in the Western Balkans. Based on CMC pharmacological manuscripts, with chapters on simple and compound medicines (oils, ointments, pills, poultices, syrups, and electuaries), analysis focused on the types of drugs, the substances used most frequently in their preparation, their origin, and medical use. The results obtained show that most ingredients used were of plant origin, while the contribution of minerals and substances of animal origin was considerably smaller. Most medicines were named according to the main ingredient’s botanical name; thus, the chapter on simple medicine contains 119 medicines whereas the chapter on compound medicines has 15 medicines named after a certain plant species, pointing to a high level of knowledge of their botanical and pharmacological properties. Out of 125 plant resources, 90 are native species and 52 (60.5 %) are still used today in traditional medicine in the Western Balkans, including Serbia. Therefore, the ethnobotanical data recorded provides an interesting basis for further phytotherapeutical research, for fostering sustainable uses of plant resources and also for promoting local biocultural diversity. It is also important for studies on plant genetic resources since most of the medicinal plants available on the European and world markets today come from south-eastern Europe, meaning conservation of this genetic heritage is crucial for the future of the herbal market.


Chilandar Medical Codex Ethnobotany Medicinal plants Medieval Serbian medicine Pharmacological manuscripts 



This paper was supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of Serbia, Grant no. 173018. Two of the anonymous reviewers gave valuable comments for the improvement of this paper and are gratefully acknowledged. We are grateful to Ljiljana Puzović from the National Library of Serbia, Department of Archaeography. We also thank Jonathan Pendlebury, lector at Belgrade University’s Faculty of Philology, for proofreading this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Snežana Jarić
    • 1
  • Miroslava Mitrović
    • 1
  • Branko Karadžić
    • 1
  • Olga Kostić
    • 1
  • Lola Djurjević
    • 1
  • Marija Pavlović
    • 1
  • Pavle Pavlović
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Biological Research “Siniša Stanković”University of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia

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