Henry VIIIThe Text of an Act of Parliament passed in the reign of Henry VIII to protect herbalists from persecution by the Company of Physicians and Chirurgeons.

“WHEREAS in the Parliament held at Westminster in the third year of the King’s most gracious reign, amongst other things for the avoiding of sorceries, witchcraft, and other inconveniences it was enacted that no persons within the city of London, nor within seven miles of the same, should take upon him to exercise and occupy as physician and surgeon, except he be first examined, approved and admitted by the Bishop of London and other, under and upon certain pains and penalties in the same Act mentioned; since the making of which Act the company and fellowship of surgeons in London, minding only their own gain, and doing nothing for the profit or ease of the diseased or patient, have sued, troubled and vexed divers honest persons as well men as women, whom God hath endowed with the knowledge of the nature, kind and operation of certain herbs, roots, and waters, and the using and ministering of them to such as be pained with customable diseases, as women’s breasts being sore, a pain and web in the eye (catarac), scaldings, burnings, sore mouths, the stone, strangury, saucelin (tumour), and morfew (a leprous eruption on the face), and such other like diseases.

And yet the said persons have not taken anything for their pains and skill but have ministered the same to the poor people only for neighbourhood and God’s sake and of pity and charity, and it is now well known that the surgeons admitted would do no cure to any person but where they shall know to be rewarded with a greater sum and reward than the cure extendith unto, for if they would minister their cunning to sore people unrewarded, there should not so many rot and perish to death for lack of help or surgery as daily do.

But the greatest part of surgeons admitted be much more to be blamed than those persons that they trouble, for although the most part of the persons of the said craft of surgeons have small cunning yet they will take great sums of money and do little for it therefore, and by reason thereof they do often times impair and hurt their patients rather than do them good.

IN CONSIDERATION therefor, and for the ease and comfort, succour, help, relief and health of the King’s poor subjects inhabitants of this his realm, now painted or diseased or that hereafter shall be pained or diseased, be it ordained established and enacted by the authority of this present Parliament that at all times from henceforth it shall be lawful to every person being the King’s subject having knowledge and experience of the nature of herbs, roots and waters, or of the operation of the same by speculation or practice, within any part of the realm of England or within any other of the King’s dominions, to practise, use and minister in and to any outward sore, wound, appostemations, outward swelling or disease, any herb or herbs, ointments, baths, poultices and plasters according to their cunning experience and knowledge in any of the diseases, sorces and maladies aforesaid and all other like to the same, or drinks for the stone, strangury or aques without suit, vexation, trouble, penalty, or loss of their goods.

The aforesaid statute in the aforesaid third year of the King’s most gracious reign, or any other act, ordinance or statute to the contrary hereof heretofore made in any wise notwithstanding.