Examples of Ancient Greek Medical Knowledge
In Latin there is a nice comment of Hippocrates: &ldquoMedica mente non medicamente”, Use your mind to heal not pharmaceuticals.
- According to Diogenes Laertios “Life of Plato” in “The life and opinions of prominent philosophers” Plato said that “Of medical science there are five species: one, pharmaceutical; a second, manual; a third, conversant about the regulation of the manner of life, and the diet; a fourth, the business of which is to detect diseases; and the fifth is remedial. The pharmaceutical relieves infirmities by means of medicines; the manual heals men by cutting and cauterizing; the one which attends to the diet, gets rid of diseases by altering and regulating the diet; the fourth produces its effects by a thorough comprehension of the nature of the disease; and the last relieves men from suffering by bringing prompt assistance at the moment.
- Ancient authors were not unaware of the connection between ill health and swamps: Herodotos derives the word for fever, "puretos" from "porata", a river delta, and although a false etymology, it demonstrates a realization of the possible connection between pooled water and disease. In Pseudo-Aristotle's Problems (1.8.21) there is a discussion that damp, marshy places are unhealthy, a sentiment which is repeated several times in Hippokrates' Airs, Waters, and Places. Strabo (5.1.7) marvels that although Alexandria is marshy, it is free of fever. Christina A. Salowey, Herakles and Healing Cult in the Peloponnesos
- The word Narcotic is derived from the Greek word narke who is used in the mythology of Narcissus
- Knowledge of nature was considered important for a doctor and the word nature in Greek physis gave the name to the profession of the physician
- Democedes of Croton earned 30 times as much as an average skilled worker.
- Asclepius' snakes tied to a stick symbol, the caduceus of medical art, has been suggested to represent a way of inoculating patients with non-lethal doses of snake venom, a primitive hypodermic injection device. Snake venom is chemically similar to bee venom and seems to be an important material in treating various kinds of arthritis. The caduceus was originally only an olive branch with the stemmata which were afterward formed into snakes (Müller, Archäologie der Kunst, p504). Hyginus provides another explanation: Mercury once found two snakes fighting, and divided them with his wand; from which circumstance they were used as an emblem of peace. The Caduceus vs the Staff of Asclepius
- Hippocrates writes that Asians (i.e. Near Easterners) use goats extensively for food and their skins to sleep on, whereas Greeks do not use goats, and so lack certain diseases characteristic of the Asian populace. Informed medical opinion suggests that Hippocrates may have been speaking of goat-carried anthrax, which we know to have been prevalent in the ancient world.
- Hippocrates wrote of a copper ore drink “misy” which would prevent pregnancy for up to one month (Zatuchni, (1989). The current theory is that increased prostaglandin production from the copper would create inflammation of the endometrium and prevent implantation. However, it may have simply worked as a toxin. Myrrh, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Pennyroyal have also been used in Greece as contraceptives (Riddle et al., 1994). Kolata (1994) describes the now-extinct Silphium plant (giant fennel) which was used throughout ancient times as both a contraceptive and to induce abortions. (Justyna R. Sarna, Contraception in the Ancient Times,:The Proceedings of the 9th Annual HISTORY OF MEDICINE DAYS 200)
- Hippocrates cautioned that loss of excessive amounts of semen could result in physical damage, such as spinal cord deterioration (Masters, Johnson, & Kolodny, 1986, 284). The physician Galen argued that the retention of semen is dangerous and leads to ill health. He used Diogenes as an example of a learned person who has sex in order to avoid the health risks of retaining semen (Stengers & Van Neck, 2001, 230).
- In man the scrotum is clearly asymmetrical, the right testicle usually being placed higher than its opposite number. Chang et al (1960) found that the right testis was the higher in 62.1% of 486 men, and the left testis higher in 27.4%, the two being equal in height in the remaining 10.5%. Antliff and Shampo (1959) found an essentially similar result in 386 men, the right testis being higher in 65.1% and the left higher in 21.9%. The two sets of authors differ in their findings as to the effect of handedness, Chang et al claiming that the relationship is reversed in left-handers, whilst Antliff and Shampo found no such reversal. There is also evidence that in the bull the right testis tends to be the higher of the two. From 187 sculptures, the majority of which are from ancient Greece, the data being pooled from two separate studies. In the single largest group the right testicle is placed higher (and thus correctly), but simultaneously the left testicle is made larger, the reverse of the correct anatomical situation. Winckelmann was partly correct when he observed of Greek sculpture that, “Even the private parts have their appropriate beauty. The left testicle is always the larger, as it is in nature; so likewise it has been observed that the sight of the left eye is keener than the right”,...Anaxogoras proposed that the male was the active principle in determining sex (as modern science holds). He suggested (unlike modern science) that the male seed comes from the right testis and the female from the left. Furthermore that the male fetus grew on the right side of the uterus and the female on the left. The Hippocratic authors attributed great significance to the difference between left and right. They proposed that diseases of the right side were more severe (particularly in the case of pleurisy), that the milk from the right breast was stronger and more suitable for male infants, and perhaps most interestingly, that if the right testicle was cold and retracted then this was a sign of death. I C McManus Right-left and the scrotum in Greek sculpture
- Democritus of Abdera developed Leucippus's atomic theory: Atoms vibrate when hitched together in solid bodies and exist in a space which is infinite in extent and in which each star is a sun and has its own world. He also produced two major concepts in the history of ideas concerning the brain--that thought was situated there and, anticipating the nervous system, that psychic atoms constituted the material basis of its communication with the rest of the body and the world outside. Socrates, and hence the Platonic school, followed Democritus in locating thought in the brain.
- Homer in his account of the Trojan war, has provided us with an adequate insight to the understanding of injuries at that time and the treatment used for those injuries. The Iliad also contains references to various deformities. Homer mentions nearly 150 different wounds most with surprising anatomical accuracy. For instance Harpalion, a prince allied with the Trojans, is struck from behind by an enemy arrow. Homer explains that this was a fatal wound, for although the arrow entered near the right buttock, it sliced through the body, missed the pelvic and pubic bones, and hit the bladder (Il. XIII. 640-653). In the Iliad, wounds to the arms and legs are painful but not deadly (the story of Achilles' and his famous heel is not mentioned in the poem). On the other hand, all of the 31 different head wounds were lethal. Deaths in Iliad
- The Greek anatomists of Alexandria, during the 3rd century BC were also great contributors. Herophilus, who is believed to have practiced human dissection, is regarded as the first to divide nerves into sensory and motor components and also the first to distinguish arteries from veins. Hegetor also of Alexandria, but of 100 BC, described in detail the anatomical relations of the hip joint, and was the first to record a description of the ligamentum teres.
- Probably in the 3rd century BC first evidence of an hemisphere specialization of the brain (left right asymmetry) that until 1982 was considered a modern discovery (maybe of 1836 first mentioned in a publication of 1863). In the first half of the nineteenth century everyone was convinced that the brain is functionally symmetric. G. J. C. Lokhorst. The first theory about hemispheric specialization: Fresh light on an old codex. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 51 (3): 293-312, July 1996.
- H. S. Williams, M.D., LL.D. and E. H. Williams in their book “A History of science” write: Half a century after the time of Herophilos there appeared a Greek physician, Heraclides, whose reputation in the use of drugs far surpasses that of the anatomists of the Alexandrian school. His reputation has been handed down through the centuries as that of a physician, rather than a surgeon, although in his own time he was considered one of the great surgeons of the period. Heraclides belonged to the "Empiric" school, which rejected anatomy as useless, depending entirely on the use of drugs. He is thought to have been the first physician to point out the value of opium in certain painful diseases. His prescription of this drug for certain cases of "sleeplessness, spasm, cholera, and modern physician in certain cases; and his treatment of fevers, by keeping the patient's head cool and facilitating the secretions of the body, is still recognized as "good practice." He advocated a free use of liquids in quenching the fever patient's thirst--a recognized therapeutic measure to-day, but one that was widely condemned a century ago.
- In the period between 430 and 330 BC a very important Greek text was collated and is known as the Corpus Hippocrates. It is named after Hippocrates who is known as the father of Medicine. Hippocrates was born on the island of Cos in 460 BC and died at an old age in 370 BC. He is known as having brought a systematic and scientific approach to Medicine and as having defined for the first time the position and the role of a doctor in society.
- Various volumes in the Corpus Hippocrates had relevance to Orthopedics. One such volume is the one on joints. Here dislocation of the shoulder was described together with the various methods used in reduction. There were also sections describing the reduction of acromioclavicular, temporomandibular, knee, and hip and elbow joint dislocations. The correction of clubfoot was described. The problem of infection after compound fractures was described and treated with pitch cerate and wine compresses without forcible bandaging. Probing into any compound fracture was avoided.
- Hippocrates had a thorough understanding of fractures. He knew of the principles of traction and counter-traction. He developed special splints for fractures of the tibia, similar to external fixation. Hippocrates also developed the Hippocratic bench or scamnum. Of all the developments that Hippocrates has given to us, his careful clinical observation and rationale thinking must be particularly commended.
- Galen is often referred to as the father of sports medicine. He gave a good account of the skeleton and the muscles that move it. In particular, the way that signals are given from the brain through the nerves and to the muscles. He first recorded a case of cervical ribs. He described bone destruction, sequestration and regeneration in osteomyelitis and sometimes performed resection in such cases. Galen is believed to be the first to have used the Greek words, kyphosis, lordosis and scoliosis for the deformities described in the Hippocratic texts. He also devised several methods for correcting these deformities. During this Graeco-Roman period, there were also attempts to provide artificial prostheses. There are accounts of wooden legs, iron hands and artificial feet. Soranus of Ephesus is said to have first described rickets. Ruphus of Ephesus described tendon ganglia and their treatment by compression. Antyllus of the 3rd century is said to have practiced subcutaneous tenotomy to relieve contractions around a joint. It is said that he used both linen and catgut sutures for thee procedures. Various drills, saws and chisels were also developed during this period.
- Throughout history, healers have understood the value of copper in obtaining and maintaining optimum health. Whether topically applied or ingested, many forms of copper and copper compounds (such as copper carbonate, copper silicate, copper oxide, copper sulfate, copper chloride, etc.) were used throughout history for the treatment of disease. Copper has been used for medicinal purposes as far back as ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome as well as in the ancient Aztec civilization. An ancient Egyptian medical text, known as the Smith Papyrus (circa 2400 B.C.), mentions using copper as a sterilization agent for drinking water and wounds. Another ancient text, known as the Ebers papyrus (circa 1500 B.C.) mentions the use of copper for headaches, "trembling of the limbs," burns, and itching. The island of Cyprus provided a readily available supply of copper to Greece and is known to have provided much of the copper needed for the empires of ancient Phoenicia and Rome as well. It has also been documented that Israel's Timna Valley provided copper for the Pharaohs. Hippocrates mentions copper as a treatment for leg ulcers associated from varicose veins. The Greeks also sprinkled a powder of copper oxide and copper sulfate on open wounds and treated wounds with a mixture of honey and red copper oxide. In the first century A.D., the book De Materia Medica by Dioscorides, describes using verdigris (which they made by exposing metallic copper to vinegar steam to form copper acetate) in combination with copper sulfate as a remedy for bloodshot eyes, inflamed eyes, "fat in the eyes", and cataracts.
- Homeopathy derives from the Greek “homios” for Similar and “pathos” for suffering. The principle like can cure like is the basis of Homeopathy dates back to the Greek Physician Hippocrates in the 5th century BC. He believed that the patients own powers of healing.
- The ancient Greek myth of Prometheus casts an interesting light on liver regeneration. Prometheus, which means forethought in Greek, never did give in though. Because of his unyielding strength in fighting for his beliefs, Prometheus stands as a symbol of courage under fire. Ken Dixon, MD, asks: As for the liver part, I still have not discovered how the ancient Greeks had any understanding of the liver’s regenerative capacity. Answer that I have found in a FAQ medicine text: ”It is possible that a Greek doctor would have treated an abdominal wound involving the liver inflicted by a spear or sword. The treatment wold have involved sewing up the wound. The doctor could have followed progress of the liver by palpitating the organ. The probability of such a patient surviving is low, but every once in a while one would. And it is certainly the case that the doctor's efforts would be helpful in this case. But the myth of Prometheus may not include this knowledge. After all Prometheus was a god and gods have much better powers of regeneration than mortals. It may be that the liver in this case is more associated with augury than medical knowledge, though there may be a connection. Vitruvius seemed to think that the state of the liver of an animal was an indicator of the animals health. He related that soldiers would examine the liver of animals at a site to see if that site would be a safe encampment.”
- Gout is one of the oldest diseases known. It was recognised by the ancient Greeks and the famous physician Hippocrates wrote about it.
- Physicians dating back to the ancient Greeks have espoused the concepts of Holistic Medicine. Hippocrates taught that physicians should observe their patients carefully and gather information with all their senses, including touch, smell, sight, hearing and even taste. He emphasized that herbal medicines, as well as diet and exercise, be used to treat illnesses. Proper diagnosis, simple treatments and prevention were the hallmarks of this approach.
- Turning from practitioners to treatments, we will follow the order of the Hippocratic Aphorisms 7.87, as most healers – and presumably even more of their patients – preferred to: ‘those diseases which drugs cannot cure, the knife cures; those which the knife cannot cure, fire cures; those which fire does not cure must be considered incurable’.
- There is a part whose external surface is gleaming white and harder than the substance on the remaining surface of the brain. It was for this reason that the ancient Greeks called this part "tyloeides" or "callosus" in Latin (corpus callosum).
Pineal gland mid-sagittal view brain model
- Ancient Greeks believed the pineal gland (epiphysis) to be our connection to the Realms of Thought. Iamblichus repeats the statement of Plato that the study of the science of Numbers tends to awaken that organ in the brain which the ancients described as the "eye of wisdom", the organ now known to physiology as the pineal gland. Speaking of the mathematical disciplines, Plato says in the Republic (Book VII), "the soul through these disciplines has an organ purified and enlightened, an organ better worth saving than ten thousand corporeal eyes, since truth becomes visible through this alone." Descartes called it the Seat of the Soul. This gland is activated by Light, and it controls the various biorhythms of the body. It works in harmony with the hypothalamus gland which directs the body's thirst, hunger, sexual desire and the biological clock that determines our aging process. It is occasionally referred to as the "third eye" in occult religions, and is believed by some to be a dormant organ that can be awakened to enable telepathic communication. In seventeenth-century France, the length of medical studies was from six to seven years. The examinations often consisted of theses defended before an audience of professors and students (Lebrun, 1995, p. 29). On Thursday, 24 January 1641, Jean Cousin defended such a thesis in the series of matutinal quodlibetal disputations of the École de médecine in Paris. The title of his thesis was An kwna'rion (Greek word) sensus communis sedes? (Is the pineal gland the seat of the sensus communis?) He gave an affirmative answer to this question: Ergo kwna'rion sensus communis sedes (Therefore the pineal gland is the seat of the sensus communis) (Cousin, 1641). Not much is known about Jean Cousin. He is not mentioned in the large biographical dictionaries (Michaud et al., 1811-64; Hoefer, 1855-66; Bradley, 1987). In 1642, he defended two other theses, Theriac is a remedy for hypercatharsis (Cousin, 1642a) and Warm and moist food is good for the elderly (Cousin, 1642b). He may also have written a book (Cousin, 1673). Cousin's thesis and announced its public defense has been preserved. Most of the thesis is nothing but a recapitulation of points made by Aristotle and Galen. The closing paragraph is, however, of interest:
The brain--the seat of the psychic faculties--is protected by membranes and bony walls on all sides, has a cold and moist temperament, and is divided into several parts, which reside in it as if they were not attached to each other. Among them one may observe a gland, called the pineal gland, which is situated like a centre in the middle of the ventricles, and which is the meeting point of threads coming from the external senses as if from the circumference; and because it is unique, supported by the choroid plexus and permanently inflated by the spirits which have been elaborated, it is only in this gland that the double appearances received by both the eyes and the ears can and must be united: "for there is one sense-faculty, and one paramount sense organ." Aristotle was therefore mistaken when he located the common sense in the heart, the Arabs were mistaken when they located it in the anterior part of the brain, and the Metoposcopists were mistaken when they located it in the forehead and its wrinkles.
Some clarification may be in order. First, both Aristotle and Galen viewed the brain as cold and moist. Second, the quote about the uniqueness of the faculty of perception and its paramount organ comes from Aristotle's On sleep (Bekker, 1831-70, 455a21). Third, Aristotle located the sensus communis in the heart in On sleep (Bekker, 1831-70, 456a1) and On youth (Bekker, 1831-70, 469a10). Fourth, "the Arabs" refers to Avicenna and his followers (Sudhoff, 1913). Fifth, "the Metoposcopists" refers to the adherents of the pseudo-science of metoposcopy or physiognomy, which was very popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Thorndike, 1923-58, vols. V-VIII).
- Catheter: A thin, flexible tube. For example, a catheter placed in a vein provides a pathway for giving drugs, nutrients, fluids, or blood products. Samples of blood can also be withdrawn through the catheter. The catheter was created by the Greeks. "Katheter" originally referred to an instrument that was inserted such as a plug. The word "katheter" in turn came from "kathiemai" meaning "to sound" with a probe. The ancient Greeks inserted a hollow metal tube through the urethra into the bladder to empty it and the tube came to be known as a "katheter."
- Electro Therapy? The Greeks and Romans were known to combat the pain of gout by standing patients upon electrical eels until their feet became numb BAGHDAD BATTERIES
- There are four basic concepts of non-biomedical therapies: humoral, subtle energies, mental disciplines, and spirits therapies of which the most important is the humoral concept. Humoral based medicine was popular among the Romans, Greeks, Islamic, and then Western medicine up through the 19th century. It is again becoming popular in the West through the importation of Asian therapies (i.e. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine). Humoral therapy involves distinguishing the different humors in the body such as yellow bile verses phlegm. These humors are aligned with sex, seasons, and basic elements of the earth such as fire, air, and water. Treatment involves restoring balance of these humors through the application of herbal or dietary treatments that cause sweating, bleeding, urination, etc., to balance these humors.
- According to the writings of Galen breast cancer is caused by a coagulum of black bile within the breast, a substance discharged from the body by the monthly menstrual flow. He explained in this way why breast cancer was mainly a women problem and more common in postmenopausal women who had stopped menstruating. The therapy was to get rid of this black bile. In 1810 Miller challenged this theory after observing the unregulated abnormal growth of cells.
- The ancient Greeks believed that if bee honey is taken regularly human life could be prolonged. Early thinkers such as Homer, Pythagoras, Ovid, Democritus, Hippocrates and Aristotle mentioned that people should eat bee honey to preserve their health and vigour. Scientists of today accept Bee honey as an effective medicine for all kinds of diseases which can be used without side effects. Today Bee honey is being given its due recognition due to two main factors: since some potent strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics and due to the fact that people are experiencing some severe side effects to modern synthetic drugs. Bee honey plays an important part in medical cosmetics too. Hippocrates, the father of medicine comments on its ability to preserve the beauty and complexion of the skin. The 'Honey mask' is known to strengthen, soften and nourish the skin.
- The first Greek doctor to work in Rome, Archagathus, was known as ‘the butcher’ because of his fondness for surgery and cautery (Pliny NH 29.13). The activities of him and his kind prompted Cato to think that sending healers to Rome was one way in which the Greeks’ sought revenge on their captors (Plutarch Cato 23).
- The ancient Greeks recognized the importance of the extracranial carotid artery and named it from the Greek word karoo, which means to stupefy.
- The Greeks recognized the value of heat in some medical treatments; indeed, the word hyperthermia comes from the Greek HYPER ("to raise") and THERME ("to heat"). Even the most ancient texts of the Law of Moses mention hot springs (Genesis 36:24) to therapeutically elevate body temperature. Eastern Medicine, envisioning one's well being has always been a large part of the healing process. In Tibetan medicine for example, physicians believe that creating a mental image of the healing god improves one's chances for recovery (2). The ancient Greeks, including Aristotle and Hippocrates, also had their patients use forms of imagery to help them heal. The ancient Greeks who regarded disease as an imbalance of "humors", believed fever cured the sick by cooking the bad humors and helping the body get rid of them. The notion of fever as beneficial persisted for more than 2000 years, and countless patients were actually treated with "fever therapy" to aid their recovery from such ailments as syphilis, tuberculosis and even mania. Then, in the mid-1800s, aspirin compounds that rapidly reduced fevers became commercially available and the medical view of fever changed abruptly. For the next hundred years physicians and patients focused on bringing down fevers, sometimes with such drastic measures as cold baths and alcohol rubs. Now, the view of fever is undergoing yet another about-face, thanks to recent research that has in essence documented the benefits suspected by the Greeks. Thomas Sydenham, the 17th-century English physician, said, "Fever is Nature's engine which she brings into the field to remove her enemy." From my own experience with fevertherapy I can say: Fever is nature's strongest and best healing reaction for chronic diseases, including cancer. The earliest recorded use of heat to treat tumors comes from Egyptian and early Greek descriptions of medical practice when superficial tumors were subjected to cautery. (LeVeen RF. Laser hyperthermia and radiofrequency ablation of hepatic lesions. Sem Interven Radiol 1997;14:313-324.) In general, thermal injury to cells begins at 42°C, with the exposure times to low level hyperthermia needed to achieve cell death ranging from 3-50 h depending upon the tissue type and conditions. As one increases the temperature above 42°C, there is an exponential decrease in the exposure time necessary for a cytodestructive response. For example, only eight minutes at 46°C is needed to kill malignant cells, and 51°C can be lethal after only two minutes. At temperatures above 60°C, intracellular proteins become denatured, lipid bilayers melt, and cell death is inevitable.
- The Hippocratic treatise on Haemorrhoids gives some idea of treatment by cautery: First, undertake to find out where the haemorrhoids are; for to incise the anus, to amputate from it, to lift it by sewing, to cauterize it, or to remove something from it by putrefaction–these seem to be dangerous, but in fact will do no harm. I bid you to prepare seven or eight irons, a span in length, and the width of a wide probe; bend these at the end, and also make them flat at the end like a small obol. Clean the site you are attempting to cauterize beforehand with a medication, have the person lie on his back, and place a pillow beneath the loins. Force the anus out as far as possible with your fingers; heat the irons red-hot, and burn until you so dry the haemorrhoids out that you do not need to anoint: burn them off completely, leaving nothing uncauterized. You will recognize haemorrhoids without difficulty, for they rise above the surface in the interior of the anus like livid grapes, and when the anus is forced outwards, they spurt out blood. Let assistants hold the patient down by his head and arms while he is being cauterized so that he does not move–but let him shout during the cautery, for that makes the anus stick out more. After you have applied the cautery, boil lentils and chickpeas in water, pound them smooth, and apply this as a plaster for five or six days. On the seventh day, cut a soft sponge as thin as possible–it should be six fingers broad in every direction–place a piece of thin fine linen cloth equal in size to the sponge on top of it, and smear with honey.
- Hippocrates is the first who described asthma. He believed that it was caused by a disturbance of humours that had not been cleansed from the brain before birth. “Asthma” was derived from the Greek meaning the same.
- Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians loved apples. The healing power in apples comes from its pulp, which is high in pectin. Pectin is a form of fiber that is very effective against different kinds of bacteria that can cause diarrhea. Because apples are high in fiber they can also be good for constipation, diabetes, high cholesterol, and colon cancer. The best way to benefit from the apples pectin is to grate the apple and let the pulp turn brown before eating it. Don’t eat the seeds. Apple seeds contain high levels of the poison cyanide. Half a cup can kill an adult.
- Hemlock (Conium maculatum). Hemlock is one of the most recognized botanicals in ancient medicine and is associated with the death of Socrates. Ancient populations were very aware of hemlock and its poisonous nature. Hemlock is a member of the order Umbelliferae that also includes carrots. The plant is tall, highly branched with excellent foliage and white flowers but has a bitter taste and unpleasant odor when bruised. This has likely prevented accidental overdoses. In addition to the obvious issue with human consumption, there are substantial concerns about the consumption and toxicity or teratogenicity observed when animals, especially horses, cattle and other domestic animals, consume the plant. Eight piperidine alkaloids have been identified in hemlock. Of the eight alkaloids identified in hemlock, two are in highest concentrations and account for the toxicity of the plant. These two compounds are g- coniceine and coniine with coniine being about 8 times more toxic than coniceine. Coniine, also called 2-propyl piperidine, is also one of the simplest alkaloids and one of the most toxic, with a dose of less than 0.2 grams being toxic. Pure coniine is a colorless, oily liquid with a bitter taste and unpleasant odor. Other alkaloids that have been identified in hemlock are methyl coniine, ethyl piperidine and pseudoconhydrine. As a medicine, hemlock has sedative and antispasmodic properties but was used by Greek and Arab physicians for a variety of maladies including joint pain. Obviously it was used with extreme caution since even small amounts could cause untoward affects. This has made its use in medicine rather spotty since the amount needed to migrate from a therapeutic to a toxic dose is very small. An overdose can produce paralysis with toxic doses first causing loss of speech followed by depression of respiratory function and eventual death. At Phaedo 117e, Plato describes the death of Socrates in terms consistent with the action of hemlock: Socrates walked about, and presently, saying that his legs were heavy, lay down on his back--that was what the man recommended. The man--he was the same one who had administered the poison--kept his hand upon Socrates, and after a little while examined his feet and legs, then pinched his foot hard and asked if he felt it. Socrates said no. Then he did the same to his legs, and moving gradually upward in this way let s see that he was getting cold and numb. Presently he felt him again and said that when it reached the heart, Socrates would be gone. Hemlock Poisoning and the Death of Socrates: Did Plato Tell the Truth?
- BASIL - It’s leaves and flowers are a key ingredient in spaghetti sauce. In the past the herb has been a symbol of love and insanity. The ancient Greeks believed in order to have a healthy crop of basil you had to rant and rave while sowing the seeds. Basil has also been associated with love. Young lovers used to exchange a sprig of basil as a gesture of love and affection. In India “holy basil” is a protector of life. As far as health basil may be useful in killing intestinal parasites, healing acne and stimulating the immune system.
- BAY LEAF - Also known as Laurel, Sweet Bay, Green Bay or Roman Laurel. Greeks would crown athletes with laurel wreaths. The Romans crowned their emperors with laurel. Today, some people are said to be resting on their laurels. For relaxation Add laurel to your bath. Bay oil is also used to help ease arthritis pain by rubbing oil on sore joints. Crushed bay leaf makes a good natural cockroach repellent.
- ACONITE (ACONITUM LYCOTONUM). Aconite is believed to have originated in China. It was thought long ago that arrows tipped with the juice of Aconite could kill wolves. For this reason the Ancient Greeks called it Wolves Bane. According to ancient legends, it was a brew of Aconite that Medea prepared for Theseus. Extreme care must be observed with handling Aconite as it can be a deadly poison if handled incorrectly.
- AGRIMONY (AGRIMONIA EUPATORIA). Agrimony has been used for centuries by cultures in Europe and around the Mediterranean. The name Agrimony comes from ancient Greeks, which translated means, "Speck in the Eye". It was originally used for eye problems as a wash or rinse. Agrimony has also been used as a yellow dye for clothing and leather by these same cultures.
- AMARANTHS (AMARANTHUS HYPOCHONDRIACUS). In Greece, the Amaranth plant was sacred to the ancient Ephesian Artemis. Amaranths was supposed to have special healing properties. Amaranths was also a symbol of immortality, and for this reason, was used extensively to decorate images of the temples and tombs of Greece. The name Amaranths from the Greek means "unwithering", and was regarded as a sign of longevity and eternal life.
- ANISE (PIMPINELLA ANISUM). Anise was originally a native to the Middle East. The Greek Physician Hippocrates recommended Anise as a treatment for people with coughs. According to ancient records, the Roman Scholar Pliny used Anise as a breath freshener. Today’s modern wedding cakes can trace their ancestry back to spicy Anise cakes that the Roman’s used after feasts.
- Carrots were well known to both the Greeks and Romans. They cultivated carrots in their kitchen gardens. These varieties are thought to have been 'forked' with white roots, not unlike the roots of today's wild carrot. The Greeks called the carrot "Philtron" and used it as a love medicine to make men more ardent and women more yielding. The Carrot is mentioned by Greek and Latin writers under various names however it was not always distinguished from the Parsnip and Skirret, which are closely allied to it. The name Pastinace was used for both at the time of Pliny the Elder and is based on the verb pastinare - to dig up. Galen in the 2nd century attempted to distinguish the two by giving the wild carrot the name Daucus Pastinaca. The Greeks had three words each of which could be applied to the properties of the carrot: "Sisaron", first occurring in the writings of Epicharmus, a comic poet (500 B.C.); "Staphylinos", used by Hippocrates (430 B.C.) and "Elaphoboscum", used by Dioscorides (first century A.D). Dioscorides said that the Greeks used carrot leaves against cancerous tumors. The History and Evolution of the Carrot
- The ancient Greeks used cannabis as a remedy to treat inflammation, earache, and edema (swelling of a body part due to collection of fluids). Shortly after 500 B.C. the historian and geographer Herodotus recorded that the peoples known as Scythians used cannabis to produce fine linens. They called the herb kannabis and inhaled the "intoxicating vapor" that resulted when it was burned. Around 100, Dioscorides, a surgeon in the Roman Legions under the Emperor Nero, named the herb Cannabis sativa and recorded numerous medicinal uses.
- According to Herodotus, the Babylonians had few doctors because they left illness to the wisdom of the public. A sick individual was placed in the city square, where passersby who had suffered from the same ailment, or had seen it treated, gave him advice on how to be cured. Pedestrians were forbidden to pass such an individual without inquiring about the complaint and "prescribing" for it if they could. ( from http://www.sentex.net/~ajy/facts/medicine.html )
Ancient Greek Medicine and Psychology, Biographies of Physicians, Examples of Medical Knowledge, Timeline, Anatomical Studies, Medical Instruments, etc.
Selected pre-Socratics; Hippocratic Writings, pp. 67-86, 139-46, 170-84; Clendening: Galen "A case history," pp. 45-47
Akesias healed Said of those who heal for the worse SUDA
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