In the Middle Ages the church operated hospitals. In 542 a hospital called the Hotel-Dieu was founded in Lyon, France. Another hospital called the Hotel-Dieu was founded in Paris in 1660. The number of hospitals in western Europe greatly increased from the 12th century. In them monks or nuns cared for the sick as best they could. Meanwhile, during the Middle Ages there were many hospitals in the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world.
The roots of modern medicine are in ancient Greece. On the one hand most Greeks believed in a god of healing called Asclepius. People who were ill made sacrifices or offerings to the god. They then slept overnight in his temple. They believed that the god would visit them in their sleep (i.e. in their dreams) and when they woke up they would be healed.
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.
Seishu Hanaoka (1760–1835) studied medicine in Kyoto and set up a practice in his hometown of Hirayama. He became interested in the idea of anaesthesia owing to stories that a third-century Chinese surgeon Houa T’o had developed a compound drug enabling patients to sleep through the pain. Hanaoka experimented with similar formulae and produced Tsusensan, a potent hot drink. Among other botanical ingredients it contained the plants Datura metel (aka Datura alba or ‘devil’s trumpet’), monkshood and Angelica decursiva, all of which contain some potent physiologically active substances.
Many contemporary humans engage in little physical exercise compared to the physically active lifestyles of ancestral hunter-gatherers. Prolonged periods of inactivity may have only occurred in early humans following illness or injury, so a modern sedentary lifestyle may continuously cue the body to trigger life preserving metabolic and stress-related responses such as inflammation, and some theorize that this causes chronic diseases.
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.
The first medical schools were opened in the 9th century, most notably the Schola Medica Salernitana at Salerno in southern Italy. The cosmopolitan influences from Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew sources gave it an international reputation as the Hippocratic City. Students from wealthy families came for three years of preliminary studies and five of medical studies. The medicine, following the laws of Federico II, that he founded in 1224 the University ad improved the Schola Salernitana, in the period between 1200 and 1400, it had in Sicily (so-called Sicilian Middle Ages) a particular development so much to create a true school of Jewish medicine.
In spite of early scepticism, theriac took off as a prized (and expensive) cure-all. By the 12th century Venice was the leading exporter and the substance had a high profile in European, Arabic and Chinese medicine alike. Its fortunes waned after 1745, however, when William Heberden debunked its alleged efficacy and suggested that enterprising Romans had exaggerated the Mithradates story for their own gain.
A major scourge of the 18th century was smallpox. However in the 18th century people realized that milkmaids who caught cowpox were immune to smallpox. In 1796 Edward Jenner introduced vaccination. (Its name is derived from the Latin word for cow, Vacca). The patient was cut then matter from a cowpox pustule was introduced. The patient gained immunity to smallpox. (Jenner was not the first person to think of this but it was due to his work that it became a common practice). Unfortunately nobody knew how vaccination worked.
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.
Utilizing the Delphi method, 56 experts from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, medicine, and biology agreed upon 14 core principles intrinsic to the education and practice of evolutionary medicine. These 14 principles can be further grouped into five general categories: question framing, evolution I and II (with II involving a higher level of complexity), evolutionary trade-offs, reasons for vulnerability, and culture. Additional information regarding these principles may be found in the table below.
James Maskell: Absolutely. Well, the concept with the Evolution of Medicine Summit was that I saw so many ways in which medicine was evolving. You know, medicine is evolving to treat the kind of diseases that we have, the current epidemics. So it’s having to sort of evolve and adapt to deal with that. There are also really cool evolutionary concepts within medicine and health that I know you’re really big on. And that’s why I had to have you come in and speak. You know, obviously, I know you’re big on the microbiome, and our evolution with microbes has certainly been something that people are interested in, obviously evolutionary nutrition and then Paleo concepts. We are really excited to have your talk as the keynote for the Paleo day on the summit. And then there’s also this evolution with regards to technology as well, health technology and the interaction. You’re right there in San Francisco, the Silicon Valley Revolution, which I really feel is a synergistic force to the work that we are all doing in integrative and functional medicine. I just saw all of these things coming together. They’re literally coming together in the first week of September. There’s the iPhone, the new iWatch is going to launch then. We have the Cleveland Clinic announcement with Functional Forum. We have the Brain and Gut Journal coming up. So all of these things are happening in the first week of September. It’s just been really congruent to put together a summit of the finest minds and try and share some of these messages as quickly and as effectively as possible.
Bodies from the Stone Age show signs of medical treatment: broken limbs that have been set and healed, dislocations replaced and wounds treated successfully. Bone needles from the Upper Palaeolithic (c.30,000 years ago) may indicate that wounds were stitched (sutured) at this time. A widespread practice from the late Palaeolithic, which flourished in Neolithic Europe (c.7,000 years ago), was trepanation (making a hole through the frontal or parietal bones of the skull). Whilst the reasons for this practice are unknown, the high survival rate of patients, indicated by the healing and remodelling of bone, proves great technical skill. Major blood vessels in the skull had to be avoided, haemorrhage was minimised by turning back the flaps of skull created by the incision and the operation site had to be kept free from infection.
Although there is no record to establish when plants were first used for medicinal purposes (herbalism), the use of plants as healing agents, as well as clays and soils is ancient. Over time through emulation of the behavior of fauna a medicinal knowledge base developed and passed between generations. As tribal culture specialized specific castes, shamans and apothecaries fulfilled the role of healer. The first known dentistry dates to c. 7000 BC in Baluchistan where Neolithic dentists used flint-tipped drills and bowstrings. The first known trepanning operation was carried out c. 5000 BC in Ensisheim, France. A possible amputation was carried out c. 4,900 BC in Buthiers-Bulancourt, France.
This week on the Evolution of Medicine podcast, we hear from Richard Morris, CEO of Powell Metabolics. Powell Metabolics is an innovative wellness coaching program delivered in a physical therapy environment that started in Arizona and has the potential to expand across the country. This is part of a greater trend of functional medicine integrating with other "hands on" modalities like physical therapy, personal training and chiropractic. We think you'll be inspired to hear about their process, the results and how your practice could benefit.
Trapped in ice near Stadacona (the site of present-day Quebec City) in 1536, Jacques Cartier’s ships weren’t going anywhere. The crews, holed up in a makeshift fort with little access to fresh food, came down with a disease so gruesome that “their mouth became stincking, their gummes so rotten, that all the flesh did fall off, even to the rootes of the teeth, which did also almost all fall out.” They had scurvy, now known to result from a deficiency of vitamin C. Cartier had no idea what to do.
We revisit this important topic to gear up for the next Functional Forum – Evolution of Environmental Medicine from the Environmental Health Symposium. We will be connecting with more practitioners to discuss the importance of understanding where the major sources of toxicity come from and the ways to help your community of patients and clients to avoid these harmful toxins.
Our programs were designed to meet the changing needs of today’s integrative functional practices. The tools, systems and resources taught have been used by the world’s most successful doctors to create low-overhead, high-earning, purpose-driven practices. Our goal, like yours, is to help solve chronic disease worldwide. We fulfill this by helping practitioners create practices that thrive—for doctor, patient and planet.