Pharmacopoea of Dr Chernowiz

Brazilian Pharmacopoea of Dr Chernowiz


 André J. Fabre                                          Octobre 2012

Louis Napoleon Chernoviz, was a Polish doctor who had found refuge in France after the attempted revolt in Warsaw in 1831.

Once acquired in Montpellier his medical degree, he was sent in 1840 by King Louis Philippe in mission to Brazil for the Emperor Dom Pedro II.

After a brilliant medical career in Rio de Janeiro, he undertook during his stay in Brazil, writing several books on popular medicine.

The Guide of Popular Medicine

In 1841, Chernoviz had published a guide to poplar medicine, the so-called Formulário Guia Medico, which won a  great popularity among Brazilian population. This book, with one important iconography, presents a wide variety of native plants of Brazil detailing their  therapeutic indications.

Medicinal plants of Brazil

Among a total of more than 200 medicinal plants

Psychotria Ipeca (Ipecacuanha), anti-diarrheal, emetic and expectorant

Anacardium occidentale (Cashew) : treatment of diabetes

Jacaranda caroba (Caroba) t: reatment of venereal diseases

 Louis Napoleon Chernoviz founder of modern ethnopharmacology

 A precursor

In the nineteenth century, the triumph of scientism century: medicinal plants had lost all credibility among the population science. Herbal medicine was seen as  an empirical practice, at best reserved for herbalists and quacks.

The merit of Louis Napoleon Chernoviz was to promote a systematic investigation of the Brazilian traditional medicinal plants.

Thus was founded the groundwork for a new discipline: ethnopharmacology, studying traditional therapeutic practices among populations of Brazil.

 Brazil land of Ethnopharmacology

Many botanical work have been published since early nineteenth century, the flora, including Saint-Hilaire author of a Book of Plants in Brazil (1824) and Carl Friedrich von Martius, author of iSystema Materia (1840)

Chernoviz brought as soon as 1841 a systematic study for  Brazilian  medicinal plants

Then came more recent publications, as Joaquim Monteiro Caminhoá with a Botánica de Elementos Geral e Médica (1877),and  Theodor  Peckolt with an Historia das plantas e Medicinaes Úteis do Brazil (1884)

Current perspectives of development of ethnopharmacology in Brazil

We cannot underestimate the complexity of any therapeutic use  of herbal vernacular pharmacopoeia : a first step in the laboratory evaluates therapeutic  potentials then comes isolation of active principles then a complex strategy of  industrial development and pharmaceutical marketing

However the WHO has taken a clear position in favor of  ethno-pharmacological research: In April 2009 the Division of Traditional Medicine has recognized the therapeutic value of traditional medicines in South America and the principle recommended evaluated based on pharmacological tests.

But much remains to be done!


The flora of America, from its unique biodiversity, has a high  potential for future pharmacological researches

The great merit of Louis Napoleon Chernoviz remains to have been first to understand it

Cooperation between France and Brazil in this area is more imperative  than ever

                      André J. Fabre                                                                                                      

Date de dernière mise à jour : 28/07/2013

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