A Nicotine Champion from The Renaissance

Jean Nicot was born about 1530.  He worked in the service of the Keeper of the Great Seal of France and attracted the attention of the King, who made Jean his private secretary.  He was then appointed ambassador to Portugal.  Among his friends in Lisbon was the scholar and botanist Damiao de Goes.  When de Goes had Nicot over for dinner, he showed him a tobacco plant and told him about its marvelous healing properties.  Applying the tobacco plant to a dangerous tumor allegedly worked wonders.  Nicot used the plant to treat a friend’s face wound for ten days with excellent results.  He became convinced that tobacco had healing qualities.

Nicot got cuttings which he planted in the French Embassy garden.  In 1560, He wrote about Tobacco’s medicinal values, describing it as a panacea. Nicot had applied tobacco to his nose and forehead and found it relieved his headaches.    He sent plants to the French court and snuff to Catherine de Medici Queen of France to treat her migraine headaches.  Catherine followed Nicot’s advice and was impressed.  She decreed that tobacco was to be called Herba Regina, the “Queen’s herb.”

Nicot gave tobacco its botanical name (Nicotian tabacum) and also gave his name to the addictive chemical found in tobacco, nicotine.

Wikipedia. “John Nicot.” Last updated June 6, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Nicot.