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In all countries and among all peoples, feeding and caring for themselves are two primary concerns. This explains why the first research on natural products relates to food or medicinal plants. Throughout the ages, as soon as a country is discovered, it searches for the consumable substances as well as the plants that can be used in therapeutics.
In Madagascar, the first naturalists are sorcerers (“ombiasy”), diviners and healers who know early the main elements of the fauna and flora of the country. It is also they who, in rural villages, practice more or less empirically the medicine of the simple, observe the manners and habits of animals, find the veins of precious metals.
According to Henri Poisson, among the peoples of Antiquity, the Phoenicians who, long before Vasco da Gama, doubled the Cape of Good Hope and toured Africa, had to come to Madagascar to look for commercial commodities, Borrowed from
Productions of the Big Island. The Greeks also frequent the coasts madcasses. From a very distant period, the Indians, the Malays, the Chinese established trade relations with the natives. The Egyptians also know and visit Madagascar. The Arabs, from the 12th century, bring back Malagasy countries of sandalwood, tamarind, camphor and aromatics.
In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese sought the same ingredients to which they added spices like cloves and ginger. Thus, in 1506, Captain Jean Rodrigue Pereira of Tristan d’Acunha’s fleet noted the presence of medicinal and aromatic plants used by the natives. In 1515, Andrea Corsali describes the Isle of St. Lawrence, where all kinds of domestic and wild animals abound, where there is silver, ambergris, ginger, clove, whose perfume is superior to that of India and many other things.
Two years later, three French vessels from Dieppe went to the Great Island and brought back a cargo of aromatic and medicinal plants. In 1563, the
Garzius’ first medical book, which mentions natural products from Isle Saint-Laurent. In 1598, in the work of G.A.W. Lodewijckss, curator of the “Mauritius” of the fleet of Admiral Cornelis de Houtmann, we can see the first known figures of plants of Madagascar.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, trips took place mainly in the south, an area strange by its vegetation and which provoked considerable admiration and astonishment on the part of navigators. In 1602, François Martin de Vitré, who released the “Le Croissant” in St. Augustine’s Bay, gave a list of the region’s natural products (1619). A few years later, in 1609, Megiser published a volume on German
“A complete, detailed, as well as a historical and chorographic description of the extremely rich, powerful and famous island of Madagascar, otherwise known as St. Lawrence, as the greatest of all those in the world.” This with the presentation of all the advantages and “conveniences” of its inhabitants, animals, fruits and plants. The whole decorated with pretty engravings on copper. The following year, Nicolas Dowton, captain of the “Pepper-Corn” also came to Saint-Augustin.
In 1614, Father Luis Mariano reported the ordeal by plant poisons. In 1639, Jean-Albrecht Mandelsio passed to Saint-Augustin, and in 1651 Olérius, who mentioned the voyage, noted the presence of ebony, aloe and dragon-blood (“harongana”). Richard Boothby, a London merchant who came to the island, published in 1646 a book containing a marvelous description of the island and its inhabitants, a nomenclature of useful plants, food, animals, fruits and various products. He plans to make this land, an English colony!