Philosophical Transactions. For the months of November and December, 1715 - Part III.

Ⅲ. An extract of a letter from Dr. Helvetius at Paris, to Monsieur Duyvenvoorde Embassador Extraordinary from the States-General1, and by him communicated to the Royal-Society.

I am extremely pleased, Sir, that you have applied yourself to me, for my advice about the use of the Pareira Brava2 which has been recommended to you because I can give you a very good account of it, having been one of the first that introduced it in France; I have made abundance of lucky experiments about it, which have made this medicine very well known to me wherefore I assure you, you can do nothing better than to make tryal of it.
The Pareira Brava is a root which comes to us from Brazil by the way of Lisbon, but which the war has rendred pretty scarce; however it is to be found among the good druggists, and is sold at Paris for 40 livres the pound: 'tis call'd in Brazil the universal medicine, and is made use of there in all kind of distempers. A Capuchin Monk3 , who came from thence, told me that he could not give it a greater character than by assuring me, that in all their voyages they carryed the Gospel in one pocket and the Pareira Brava in the other.
It will be very easy to convince you, Sir, that the Pareira Brava is perfectly good in your distemper. The business with you is to restore the digestions, to the end, that in the first passages there may not be form'd so much phlegm and acid crudities; and it is also necessary to hinder the serosity of the blood from spreading itself too much upon the parts. Now as experience shows us that the Pareira Brava does abundantly provoke urine, it will follow from thence, that it will discharge by the kidneys the corrosive acidity of the mass of blood; it is also good to break and thin the pituitous and viscous humors; and it cures the suppressions of urine occasion'd by obstructions in the kidneys.
One may conclude from hence, that the salts of the Pareira Brava, which are moderately volatile, are proper to dissolve or separate the too thick and too close texture of the sulphur of the lympha. Finally this medicine has a light or gentle bitterness which corrects the acids of the stomach, and renders them more pure and fine.
Hence the chyle4 becomes better digested and more balsamick, and fitted to assimulate it self with the blood, and to preserve therein that degree of division and fluidity which is necessary for it.
The method of using this root with success, is to reduce it to an impalpable powder, and to infuse thereof the weight of a demi-gros in a pint of boyling water, and let it lye in it all night, and next morning boyl it one moment. Then pour the liquor off gently from the powder, and take of it a demi-fetier in two cups with a little sugar as hot as tea, putting into each cup 5 grains of the said root reduced to an impalpable powder, which you must stir with a spoon, that none of it may remain at the bottom. You may repeat the same dose about 4 hours after dinner, but you must not eat anything within an hour after you have taken it in.
This medicine does not oblige you to alter the ordinary course of your living and you may continue the use of it several months together, in which time also you may discontinue it two or three days together at a time, if you please; but you should make some gentle purge every fortnight or three weeks during the use of the said medicine.

The preparation of the Pareira Brava, as Monsieur Duyvenvoorde uses it.

Take eleven grains of this root, and put it into a pewter tea-pot fill'd with boyling water, and so let is infuse all night over warm ashes, or a very small fire; and in the morning boyl it again, but very gently, till you use it. You must drink it just as you do tea, and the liquor which comes from this infusion must not exceed the quantity of 5 small dishes of tea.

A pdf version of the entire text of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London can be found here (this article begins on page 365).


  1. An ambassador extraordinary is a diplomatic minister of the highest rank sent on a special mission. []
  2. The Pareira Brava root is still in use by those who practice homeopathy medicine. The root is native in the West Indies, Central America, and India. []
  3. This Monk being a part of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. This order of Monks traveled around preaching to the poor. The name Capuchin came from the Camaldolese monks who hid the original members of Capuchin from the Catholic church. The Catholic church was not interested in the monks living in solitude as nomads. []
  4. Chyle is a fluid which looks like milk and consists of a mixture of lymphatic fluid and chylomicrons []

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