Galen of Pergamon (Claudius Galenus), a Roman physician and philosopher in 2nd century C.E., pulled from the earlier medical knowledge of Hippocrates, travelled the Mediterranean studying and practicing medicine, and wrote medical treatises that remain among the top references for classical medicine. Galenus set the stage for a system of medicine that would last for nearly two millennia. About 1,000 years after Galenus, both the physician Trotula of Salerno, Italy and the mystic nun Hildegard von Bingen, of Germany, directed herbal clinics more or less based on Galenus philosophies. Centuries later, in 1633, John Gerard published his famous Herball and shortly after, in 1653, Nicholas Culpeper stamped herbal medicine with the publication of his tome judgments on health and healing, which copied the recipes of historic medicine for use during his time period.
Galenus left us with documentation of some early hygiene and herbal beauty practices of his time in book entitled On Hygiene. His cold cream recipe is still used today. The recipe spoken of in the translation of Galen’s Hygiene (De sanitate tuenda) by Robert Montraville Green, in the Life and Times of Ambroise Pare (1510-1590), and in Culpeper’s Herbal for the cold cream (unguentum refrigerans or ceratum galeni) used by the Romans, Parisians, Venetians, and Englishwomen of the past, is as follows:
“Take of white wax four ounces, oyl of roses omphacine a pound; melt in a double vessel, then powr it out into another, by degrees putting in cold water, and often powring it out of one vessel into another, stirring it till it be white; last of all wash it in rose water, adding a little rose water and rose vineger.”