In the Eastern Empire, based on Byzantium, physicians kept the knowledge and the skills passed from the Romans and the Greeks. This knowledge would form the basis of the Islamic medicine that would refine and improve medial techniques during the Islamic domination of the Mediterranean and Middle East. The history of Medicine would center on the Middle East and Asia for the next few centuries.
Byzantine physicians often compiled and standardized medical knowledge into textbooks. Their records tended to include both diagnostic explanations and technical drawings. The Medical Compendium in Seven Books, written by the leading physician Paul of Aegina, survived as a particularly thorough source of medical knowledge. This compendium, written in the late seventh century, remained in use as a standard textbook for the following 800 years.
The medicinal leech has been in use for thousands of years, and is even today considered to be a way of restoring venous circulation after reconstructive surgery. But it was in the early 19th century that the leech really soared in popularity. Led by French physician François-Joseph-Victor Broussais (1772–1838), who postulated that all disease stemmed from local inflammation treatable by bloodletting, the ‘leech craze’ saw barrels of the creatures shipped across the globe, wild leech populations decimated almost to extinction, and the establishment of prosperous leech farms.
The three branches of Egyptian medicine included use of internal and external medicines, using ingredients like onions, hippopotamus fat and fried mice. The Ebers Papyrus and others list treatments of the eye, skin and abdomen, also 21 cough treatments. Egyptian surgeons never opened the abdomen, but performed external operations such as lancing boils, cutting out cysts and circumcision, as well as dealing with wounds and fractures. Their surgical equipment included scalpels, knives, forceps and probes, as well as red-hot irons to cauterize wounds. The Edwin Smith Papyrus (1600 BCE) makes detailed observations of the head, nose, face, ears, neck, chest and spine, describing 42 examinations leading to surgery. Sorcerers used incantations and amulets to combat evil spirits.
I ended up selling the practice to my partner and taking a 20-month sabbatical due to a motor vehicle accident. I had considered retiring after selling the practice, but in the area where I live there are very few people practicing this style of medicine and the need far exceeds the number of people who have the skills or knowledge. During the time I was not working, I had many former patients contacting me and wanting to know when I was going to open a new practice.
Georg Ebers papyrus from the U. S. National Medical Library at the National Institutes of Health. This papyrus recounts the case of a "tumor against the god Xenus." The recommendation is to "do thou nothing there against." It is also noted that the heart is the center of the blood supply, with vessels attached for every member of the body. (Public Domain)
James Maskell is the host of our podcast and flagship show, the Functional Forum, the world’s largest integrative medicine community. He is on a mission to create structures necessary to evolve humanity beyond chronic disease. He lectures internationally and has been featured on TEDx, TEDMED and HuffPostLive and also founder of KNEW Health, a payer solution for chronic disease reversal.
When the Roman Empire split into the Western and Eastern Empires, the Western Empire, centered on Rome, went into a deep decline and the art of medicine slowly slipped away, with the physicians becoming pale shadows of their illustrious predecessors and generally causing more harm than good. Western Europe would not appear again in the history of medicine until long after the decline of Islam.
Modern research has shown that these builders were not slaves but highly respected and well-treated freemen, and the care and treatment given for injuries and afflictions was centuries ahead of its time. Early paid retirement, in case of injury, and sick leave were some of the farsighted policies adopted by Ancient Egyptian medicine, luxuries that would rarely be enjoyed by most workers until well into the 20th Century.
Humans evolved to live as simple hunter-gatherers in small tribal bands. Contemporary humans now have a very different environment and way of life. This change makes present humans vulnerable to a number of health problems, termed "diseases of civilization" and "diseases of affluence". Stone-age humans evolved to live off the land, taking advantage of the resources that were readily available to them. Evolution is slow, and the rapid change from stone-age environments and practices to the world of today is problematic because we are still adapted to stone-age circumstances that no longer apply. This misfit has serious implications for our health. "Modern environments may cause many diseases such as deficiency syndromes like scurvy and rickets".)
In the Middle Ages monasteries had sanitation. Streams provided clean water. Dirty water was used to clear toilets, which were in a separate room. Monks also had a room called a laver where they washed their hands before meals. However for most people sanitation was non-existent. In castles the toilet was simply a long passage built into the thickness of the walls. Often it emptied into the castle moat. Despite the lack of public health many towns had public bath-houses were you could pay to have a bath.
Sushruta advises his students that however well read they are, they are not competent to treat disease until they have practical experience. Surgical incisions were to be tried out on the skin of fruits, while carefully extracting fruit seeds enabled the student to develop the skill of removing foreign bodies from flesh. They also practised on dead animals and on leather bags filled with water, before being let loose on real patients.
Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) was one of the most important founders of medical microbiology. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases. His discoveries reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and he created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax. His experiments supported the germ theory of disease. He was best known to the general public for inventing a method to treat milk and wine in order to prevent it from causing sickness, a process that came to be called pasteurization. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of microbiology, together with Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch. He worked chiefly in Paris and in 1887 founded the Pasteur Institute there to perpetuate his commitment to basic research and its practical applications. As soon as his institute was created, Pasteur brought together scientists with various specialties. The first five departments were directed by Emile Duclaux (general microbiology research) and Charles Chamberland (microbe research applied to hygiene), as well as a biologist, Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (morphological microbe research) and two physicians, Jacques-Joseph Grancher (rabies) and Emile Roux (technical microbe research). One year after the inauguration of the Institut Pasteur, Roux set up the first course of microbiology ever taught in the world, then entitled Cours de Microbie Technique (Course of microbe research techniques). It became the model for numerous research centers around the world named "Pasteur Institutes."
Being a king in ancient times was exhaustingly dangerous; there was always someone plotting to get rid of you. So, according to legend, Mithradates (aka Mithridates) VI of Pontus (on the shores of the Black Sea in Turkey) attempted to become resistant to poisons by taking gradually increasing doses. He was also reputed to have conducted toxicological experiments on condemned prisoners, culminating in the creation of mithridate – a medicine that combined all known antidotes in one potent formula.
A major breakthrough in epidemiology came with the introduction of statistical maps and graphs. They allowed careful analysis of seasonality issues in disease incidents, and the maps allowed public health officials to identify critical loci for the dissemination of disease. John Snow in London developed the methods. In 1849, he observed that the symptoms of cholera, which had already claimed around 500 lives within a month, were vomiting and diarrhoea. He concluded that the source of contamination must be through ingestion, rather than inhalation as was previously thought. It was this insight that resulted in the removal of The Pump On Broad Street, after which deaths from cholera plummeted afterwards. English nurse Florence Nightingale pioneered analysis of large amounts of statistical data, using graphs and tables, regarding the condition of thousands of patients in the Crimean War to evaluate the efficacy of hospital services. Her methods proved convincing and led to reforms in military and civilian hospitals, usually with the full support of the government.
This week on the Evolution of Medicine podcast, we take a look back at an interview with birthing and environmental health advocate, Latham Thomas along with film maker and author, Penelope Jagessar Chaffer. Both have been guests on the Functional Forum and we circle back to their talk: Toxic Babies: Threat to Our Evolution? from the first Evolution of Medicine Summit.
Meanwhile In 1875 Robert Koch (1843-1910) isolated the germ that causes anthrax. In 1882 he isolated the germ that causes tuberculosis and in 1883 he isolated the germ that causes cholera in humans. Meanwhile the organism that causes leprosy was discovered in 1879. The germ that causes typhoid was isolated in 1880. The germ that causes diphtheria was discovered in 1882 by Edwin Klebs. In 1884 the germs that cause tetanus and pneumonia were both discovered. Immunization against diphtheria was invented in 1890. A vaccine for typhoid was invented in 1896.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, that’s really exciting to me. I think another frontier is lab testing. I mean, that’s one of the, as a practitioner, that’s one of the things that troubles me the most, is how expensive these labs are. And in a lot of cases, the insurance isn’t covering them because they don’t deem them to be medically necessary, which just makes me want to pull my hair out, because of course, you know, if we do these labs and we identify the underlying problems initially, we’re potentially heading off tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, in medical costs to the insurance company later on down the line. So I guess it just depends on how you define medically necessary, but that’s a whole different discussion. Some of these labs can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars. So I know there are some pretty exciting, new movements out there to make this lab testing more affordable financially. And then some of the tech tools that are becoming available, like the Quantified Self Revolution, that could really help in terms of not only gathering the necessary data, but organizing it and then presenting it back to the clinician in a way that makes sense and makes it easy for the clinician to track progress. So I know this is an area of interest for both us, James. Maybe you could talk a little bit about some of them, the more exciting technologies that you’ve seen, and that people have talked about in the summit.
This week on the Evolution of Medicine podcast, we are thrilled to be starting a series of podcasts for the month of August all around our upcoming Interpreting Your Genetics summit. In the coming week, you'll get to have a look under the hood of our founder James Maskell's genetics and genomics as he goes through the process of genetic testing and interpretation by leading educators in the field.
This week NDNR.com launched its first Online Summit on Cancer Prevention and we couldn't be more excited to partner with them. If we truly want to be successful in cancer prevention, some of the underlying foundations of Naturopathic Medicine, like the "Therapeutic Order" are a key part of an optimal plan. We welcome their founder and publisher Razi Berry for a great discussion relevant to any practitioner in integrative, functional or naturopathic medicine... or what we like to call the "kNEW medicine".
This paradigm shifting book shows how to build the practice of your dreams and still have a life; from efficiency to community and education to evangelism. He writes on the How to do it while maintaining your own health and life. The Evolution of Medicine speaks of the history and future of patient centered health care. The time is now to evolve with this revolution.