How important was natural, rather than supernatural, medicine in the treatment of disease in the Ancient World

In this essay I will explain the natural and supernatural treatments they used to treat disease in each period of the Ancient World that included Prehistory, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. I will also say which period had the biggest discovery, which helped the progress of medicine and which period, had the biggest discovery that hindered the development of medicine.

The first use of natural treatments came from the prehistoric Britons, from living strenuous lifestyles by carrying wood and climbing trees

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This wore away their bones and today is known as osteoporosis, they didn’t have any dental or mouth problems as they had less sugar in their diet than we do today but they did have sugar from the fruit they ate but skeletons have found out that they suffered from decay.

They used herbal remedies made from plants and herbs but they also used mud, paper bark, clay and animals skin to treat cuts and broken bones. This was the first cast made to take care of broken bones.

However, supernatural treatments (included gods, and them believing that good and evil spirits created the world and entered the body at night and would make a person become ill) those started here as well and were attended by a medicine man.

He would sing and chant and put the patient in a trance and would hold a crystal in one hand and a staff in the other. He would catch the evil spirits into the crystal and the patient would recover soon after. They would also bury cast off hair, nails and excrement as a method in warning off the evil spirits. When they thought evil spirits had entered your head they introduced a technique called Trephining in that they used two pieces of flint to make a hole in the patient’s skull to release the pressure and evil spirits.

The second applications of natural treatments were from the Ancient Egyptians, who started to train doctors and write down treatments and their knowledge so that future doctors and generations could learn from it.

They also started to find out about the anatomy of the body, this helped them to find out where each organ went, they learned about the blood because they used to trade with other countries along the River Nile and this made them believe that the blood was carried by 40 channels and when they irrigated the fields this made them learn how the heart and blood worked it the body.

When they learned about where the organs were they did this during a process called Enbalming. This was mainly based on natural and supernatural treatments because this process used salt, oil and chemicals to preserve the body when they believed they lived again in the afterlife.

The other supernatural treatment they couldn’t use was learn more about the body because they weren’t able to dissect the organ and learned more about its function, as they thought it would be against the gods and they then wouldn’t be able to live again in the afterlife.

The third use of natural treatments came from the Ancient Greeks, as they found out that an illness could come naturally and one massive Greek philosopher Hippocrates developed his theory called The Theory of the Four Humours.

This was an idea that was based on the seasons, the four elements, (air, fire, water and Earth) and when there was an imbalance or too much of one of the humours that included – blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm, the person would become ill.

They also used other treatments, which included bleeding which would let out the excess blood, purging the body that would encourage the patient to vomit and would get rid of the excess black and yellow bile. They would also observe patients and could afford to pay for doctors to look after them.

They also made and used herbal concoctions in which we now call laxatives today, and they also believed in a good diet, lots of exercise and hygiene these were thought to prevent illness.

The supernatural treatments used were when they believed in a god of healing called Asclepius, and they believed he came and cured you while you were sleeping with snakes that licked the diseased part of the body. They would also go to an Asclepion to pray to be healed, and in this complex a gymnasium was formed for people to exercise in.

The last uses of natural treatments came from the Ancient Romans, who were big enthusiasts in public health in creating flowing fresh water through Aqueducts as the stagnant spread diseases like Malaria quickly in a big city, sewers, public toilets which is where graffiti started as they used to meet their friends and public baths to keep clean.

A lot of these facilities were only available to the rich Romans but as the poor people didn’t have any sewers they used to throw their waste out onto the clean streets. The public health act was introduced by the government to improve the health of their people and also encouraged people to be healthy and this made the army fitter and healthier which helped them to grow the Roman Empire.

The biggest change in medicine came from Claudius Galen who wrote 60 books from his own ideas and Hippocrates’ ideas as well. He was very pragmatic and developed Hippocrates’ Theory of The Four Humours into the Theory of Opposites and this is where he used something hot to balance out too much phlegm for example.

He gained experience as he worked as a surgeon in Gladiator school and as a doctor to the Roman Emperor, he was able to dissect organs and he also dissected a pig to show doctors how nerves work by cutting the nerve in the throat to stop the pig from squealing. He discovered the brain controlled speech and the body and his medical ideas provided a framework for doctors for 1,500 years after he died.

Conclusion

From all this evidence the biggest discovery in medicine from the Ancient World that made the biggest progress was Galen realising that the brain and nerves controlled organs and the body. Also the Romans hygiene and public health solutions are still used today and helps prevent illness and horrible diseases.

The discovery from the Ancient World that had the biggest regress was Hippocrates’ many developments in the Greek Period as it stopped medicine from progressing for 2,000 years and this meant doctors didn’t discover new ideas and develop his theories. This was a little bit of progress because his ideas were written in 60 books and provided as a support for doctors for 1,500 years.

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