In 1552, during the early years of Spanish rule of "New Spain" (which covered Mexico, Central America, much of the Southwestern & Central United States, the Spanish West Indies & Spanish Florida) two Native American students at the College of Santa Cruz in Tlaltilulco, a physician Martinus de la Cruz & Juannes Badianus, compiled a list of herbs that had been used as medicines for centuries by the native populations. Martinus wrote, & probably illustrated, the original Aztec text, & Badianus translated the work into Latin. Today their work, Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis which is Latin for “Little Book of the Medicinal Herbs of the Indians” is commonly called the Badianus Manuscript. Presently housed in the Vatican Library, The Badianus Manuscript is the oldest known American herbal.
The Badianus Manuscript of 1552 is the first illustrated & descriptive scientific text illustrating sassafras as a component of Nahua medicine & botany produced in the Americas. The original text was produced in Nahuatl & translated to Latin for European readers.
It is a significant text in the history of botany & the history of medicine. Badianus Codex was written in Nhuatl by the Aztec physician Martinus de la Cruz, translated by Juannes Badianus (latin), presented to the son of the first Viceroy of New Spain in 1552. The manuscript was compiled 1552 by a young Aztec doctor, Martin de la Cruz “taught by no formal reasonings, but educated by experiments only” & describes a number of ailments suffered by the native people, together with recommended treatments.
This was the oldest known herbal which originated from the Americas. The indigenous populations of the Americas had already developed very considerable botanical & medical knowledge by the time they were 'discovered' by Europeans. The native peoples of North & South America also used medicinal herbs. Over thousands of years, the people of North & South Americans accumulated a vast store of botanical & medical knowledge, a fact that surprised many European explorers when they began their conquest of the Americas in the 16C.