Development and Circulation of Indigenous Medical Knowledge: A Study of Medieval Kerala

Spices have been an integral part of the trade of medieval Kerala since the ancient times. Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Jews, Arabs and Europeans were part of the spice trade in the region. Having been recognised for their healing properties, spices have been used widely as medicines in the regions that they were traded in. This paper is an attempt at understanding the circulation and incorporation of indigenous knowledge regarding spices as medicine and its subsequent usage in the medical realm of western pharmacopoeia. Medieval Kerala has had an active tradition of plant-based medicine with the focus mainly on spices. The works of van Rheede and da Orta attest to the local knowledge on botany and its application in medicine. The article focuses on bringing out the influence that the local medical traditions and knowledge have had on western medical corpus and to understand the acceptance and acknowledgement they received for the same.