La Framboisiere’s Mead for the Eyes

Nicholas Abraham de La Framboisiere’s 1600 ‘Le Govvernement Necessaire a Chacun Pour Vivre Longuement en Sante’ (Governance required for everyone to live long in health) contains 8 books focusing on conserving health, maintaining the complexion, women’s health, health at different ages, health in different regions, health in each season, health in times of sickness, and treatment of specific sicknesses.

Nicholas de La Framboisiere

Monsieur de La Framboisiere (1560-1636) was a French physician and author of a number of works on medicine. His initial works were written in Latin, but his later works were in French. He was a doctor to Henry IV and served on the faculty of medicine at Reins University. He was a believer in a comprehensive view of health that viewed philosophy and attention to the soul as critical in maintaining health. (Giacomotto-Charra, 2017).

In the last book of his treatise, Chapter 4 covers management of maladies of the eyes. After speaking of foods recommended for those with eye problems, he presents a brief section on drink for the same. He first mentions the opinion of Aristote (probably Aristotle 384-322 BCE) that water is the best drink for the eyes; immediately after he recounts the opinions of Avicenne (Avicenna 980-1037) and Rhases (Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi 854-925) that wine is the best drink for those with eye problems.

Then he states:

Ceux qui ne voudront boire du vin, useront d’un hydromel simple, lequel leur sera encore meilleur, si on y adjouste du fenouil, de l’euphrase & du macis. Au surplus on se doit abstenir de boire d’autant.

TRANSLATION (Laura Angotti): Those who do not wish to drink wine, will use simple hydromel, which will be even better if they add fennel, eye-bright, and mace. In addition they must abstain from so much drinking.

The recommended use of hydromel (honey and water) is notable, but more interesting is the core of a recipe for a mead with herbs and spices.

Fennel is not uncommon as an addition to meads, and mace is moderately common. This recipe is the only appearance I have currently cataloged for eyebright. Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) is a parasitic or semi-parasitic plant (meaning it relies on the roots of other plants for some of its nutrition); it has a long history of being used for eye problems.

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)

It cannot be definitively determined whether this drink is made by placing the flavors in the mixture prior to or after fermentation. Macerating herbs and other materials in wine (or beer/ale, or mead) was a common medicinal approach. But we also know that fermenting herbs and materials into the drinks was common. In this case, I suspect that it is more likely the additions were more likely added into the finished hydromel than it is that they were added to the wort prior to fermentation.

Regardless of the method of addition, this remains an interesting recipe; although the combination of flavors for fennel (‘fresh’ and anise overtones, aromatic) and mace (warm taste, aromatic) could prove unusual, even before the addition of eyebright, which is reported to have a bitter and sour taste.


Giacomotto-Charra, Violane. 2017. La Framboisiere, Nicolas. In Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy. Springer.

La Framboisiere, Nicolas Abrahamde. 1600. Le Gouvernement necessaire a chacun pour vivre longuement en sante. Paris: Michel Sonnius.

Illustration Credits

Portrait of de la Framboisiere from the Wellcome Collection

Euphrasia officinalis (Eyebright) By Jason Hollinger

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