Jean Nicot Discovers The Healing Properties Of Tobacco

At the time Jean Nicot (pronounced niko) was born in France, about 1530, there was nothing to suggest that his name would be remembered. He was not from a family of consequence in the grand city of Paris. His father was just a humble notary in the old southern town of Nimes. (It was from Nimes that came a tough blue cloth Levi Straus found useful for making tents and pants (blue jeans) for the California goldminers. De Nimes, from Nimes, became jeans.)

Jean Nicot managed to gain employment in the service of the Keeper of the Great Seal of France. In that capacity he attracted the attention of the King, who made him his private secretary. He was then appointed ambassador to Portugal.

Among Nicot's friends in Lisbon was the scholar and botanist Damio de Goes. Once when Damio de Goes had Nicot over for dinner, he showed him a tobacco plant growing in his garden and told him of its marvellous healing properties. The application of the tobacco plant to a cancerous tumor allegedly worked wonders. Nicot tried treating an acquaintance's face wound for 10 days with the plant with excellent results. Nicot became convinced of the healing powers of tobacco from Damio de Goes, Nicot obtained cuttings which he planted in the garden of the French Embassy. In 1560 Nicot wrote of tobacco's medicinal properties. He described tobacco as a panacea and sent tobacco plants to the French court.

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