202: Master Raymond’s Apothecary: Catnip and Crocodiles

202: Not in Scotland Anymore

202 titlecard

There are a few interesting medical discussions to be had in this episode but we’ve got to start with the amazing Master Raymond!

We are introduced to the much loved Master Raymond and his amazing apothecary.  I do hope we see more of this amazing space.

apothecary interior with crocodile

He is exactly as expected from Claire’s description:

For Master Raymond resembled nothing so much as a large, genial frog.  A touch over four feet tall, barrel-chested and bandy-legged, he had the thick, clammy skin of a swamp dweller, and slightly bulbous, friendly black eyes.  Aside from the minor fact that he wasn’t green, all he lacked was warts.

From Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon


master raymond

Jamie suffers from terrifying nightmares as he works through healing from his experiences at Wentworth. Claire has sought out Master Raymond in hopes of obtaining something to help him sleep.

Claire initially requests Nepeta cataria, which is actually catnip!

Nepeta cataria / source

The flowering tops of catnip are medicinal and known to have calming effects on humans.  It has been used for insomnia, anxiety, gastrointestinal ailments and migraine headaches.  Catnip is famous for the euphoric state it induces in cats, though some question whether this same effect occurs in humans.

Instead, Master Raymond suggests an alternative: Valeriana officinalis combined with a touch of Humulus lupulus.  I suspect he has chosen a more potent medicine for Jamie.

got em

Known as “herbal Valium,” due to its ability to calm the central nervous system and relax muscles, valerian root acts in a similar fashion to benzodiazepines like Valium and Ativan. These enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, resulting in sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing) and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects.  Claire, of course, is familiar with valerian root as this is the same herb she used at The Gathering to sedate Angus and Rupert so she could attempt escape from Leoch!

Valeriana officinalis / source

Master Raymond has combined the valerian root with Humulus lupulus, or common hops.

Humulus lupulus / source

Hops is a species of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family, along with Cannibis.  In addition to its use in most beers, when taken orally, the dried fruiting part of the plant provides sedative and hypnotic effects.  Indeed, Master Raymond knows his business!

What about Master Raymond’s “Sang de Crocodile” (crocodile blood)?  While his was not true crocodile blood and was used more for impressing the French nobility, perhaps by claiming to enhance virility, freeze-dried crocodile blood capsules are sold in Asia today as a supplement.  Supporters of it claim it increases hemoglobin levels in rats and is advertised as a supplement for patients with anemia.

sang de crocodile

More interesting though is the fact that crocodile blood actually holds promise for the development of medications to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria!

Crocodiles sustain significant wounds in the course of hunting and killing prey and in fights with each other for territory, food and mating rights, but as scientists noted, despite these significant wounds, the crocodiles return to their habitat of bacterial laden swamp water and never seem to become ill from wound infections.  Researchers took samples of crocodile blood and exposed it to 23 different strains of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant MRSA.  It turns out that while human blood could only kill off 8 of these strains, the crocodile blood killed ALL of the samples of bacteria!   Further tests showed it was also effective at killing HIV!  The potential application of this in developing antibiotics is pretty amazing.


That Master Raymond is a man ahead of his time.  Or before it?  Hmm…


Further Reading:

BBC News – Crocodile Blood Antibiotics Hope 19 August 2005