Weiss Fritz


Rudolf Fritz Weiss, MD, (1895-1992) is acknowledged as the father of German phytotherapy in the pre-Commission E era. Best known in the English speaking world for "Herbal Medicine", which is not only a canonical classic of clinical herbal medicine, but also anticipated many of the issues posed by the contemporary "integrative medicine" movement.

Rudolf Fritz Weiss (1895-1992) qualified as an MD in 1922 . By 1937 he was the leading proponent of phytotherapy in German postgraduate medical curricula. The first edition of Lehrbuch der Phytotherapie was published in 1944. In 1961 Weiss retired from active clinical practice to devote himself full time to the development of phytotherapy. Lehrbuch distilled over 20 years of Weiss's clinical experience in its first edition (several years of which he was doctoring as a prisoner in Russian POW camps), and it subsequently matured through six editions over the next twenty years. The first English edition, Herbal Medicine, was rapidly acknowledged as a classic following the publication of a well crafted production by Beaconsfield Publishing in 1988 of Meuss's silky translation of the sixth (1985) German edition of the work. Incredibly, this had been edited by the author in his 90th year, and was thus to all intents and purposes the final statement of his life's work.

Weiss was a libertarian protagonist of herbal medicine within the orthodox medical community: he knew he was arguing for a herbal therapeutics that ultimately was neither philosophically nor practically containable within the dominant medical viewpoint whilst operating within that milieu. He therefore addressed the medical community - and set about defining herbal medicine for them, articulating its basic premises, criticizing its weaknesses, and promoting its strengths. In so doing he anticipated many of the major issues that continue to confront western herbal medicine today and was arguably the first real exponent of the now fashionable trend of "integrative medicine". The original book remains a valuable "crossover" tool for introducing herbal medicine to physicians today.

As a philosophical progressive and experienced clinician Weiss was not only an authority within herbal medicine but also an outstanding thinker about herbal medicine. In Herbal Medicine, he ranged effortlessly over philosophy, materia medica and therapeutics in a way that consistently expresses an understanding of the nature of plants as healing agents, and of phytotherapy as a specific modality of natural medicine whose unique characteristics derive from the nature of medicinal herbs. By any informed historical account, Weiss was a towering figure of herbal medicine in the second half of the twentieth century, comparable to the leading physiomedical and eclectic figures of the preceding era.

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