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Medicine In The Middle Ages

Learning is a continuing process and through new discoveries and invention we broaden our horizon of knowledge everyday. Throughout history man has illuminated the world with art, science, and philosophy and has also acquired abilities to invent and discover, various tools for its survival. One of the most powerful discoveries ever made is the knowledge of medicine. Though history of medicine can be traced back to the primitive age, medicine as a specialized field of study did not exit before the middle Ages. Based on Greek and eastern principles, European medicine embellished with the discoveries of the middle ages and set the foundation for the contemporary medicine.

The Heptameron by Marguerite de Navarre is a representation of the French society in the middle ages. She has depicted various social and cultural norms of the time in the stories. Her insight into the science of medical practiced in France in the Middle Ages is quite apparent Even though the importance of medicine as specialty was acknowledged among the intellectuals of Paris; the influence of the church remained a conduit for its advancement. Although the supremacy of supernatural over natural was obvious, a clear implication was established that the natural and supernatural world was separate if not independent. As a result what we see is an amalgamation of medical science, mysticism and religion in the middle age France.

Ancient physiologists believed that the body must always have a balance of these humors, for imbalance will cause ailments. Diagnosis was based on examining sample of blood and also colors of skin, urine and feces.

Medical treatment by trained physicians rare and very expensive as a result the elite class could only afforded it. The uncertainty and unavailability of academic treatment left no choice for the general population, but to turn towards certain charms, special prayers and specific Christian rituals. Thirteen century Paris had only a half dozen doctors in public employ, with little time to spend on individual patients. Practice of medicine was not restricted to a certain sect of people rather clergy and laymen, men and women were all able to practice medicine.

The physician often compounded and dispensed drugs in addition to practicing medicine. And apothecary often engaged in medical practice as well as compounding and dispensing. It is evident from the stories in heptameron that the drugs made by apothecaries could be very lethal at times as they did not have the proper knowledge. Also personal hygiene was not an important factor for an apothecary, live alone the common people.

Diet was thought to be extremely important in the treatment of illness and prescriptions would cover the minutest of details for all sorts of conditions. The greatest general reliance was placed on broths, milk and eggs. Today the importance of diet in medical science is felt extensively. Nutrition as a special branch of study has emerged. Dietitians and nutritionist are there to help physicians in treating patients who needs special diets. Plants and herbs were used in the preparation of digestives, laxatives, emetics, diuretics, diaphoretics, styptics etc. Drugs remain to be the major form of treatments today but with the advanced technology, pharmacology has become one of the leading businesses.

Surgery a last resort advised by a physician but also it was only accessible to the wealthy. Surgery was known to be successful in cases of fistula, hemorrhoids, gangrene and cataracts. Bloodletting was one of the most common forms of surgery and was recommended for fever, inflammation, and a variety of disease condition and ironically for hemorrhages as well. There were three main methods of bloodletting during the middle ages: leeching, venesection and cupping. Among these leeching is still used, though rare as a medical procedure by some physicians. Leeching helps to reduce tissue congestion where arterial input is maintained but venous return is blocked or slowed leeches act as an extra vein to relieve a dangerous build-up of blood. As a result leech therapy is finding its way into numerous reconstructive surgeries such as digit and limb reattachment, skin graft procedure, scalp avulsions, and breast surgeries and even into effective treatment of periorbital hematomas. Anesthesia and pain relievers were available but some of the potions used were lethal in itself. For example the hemlock juice was used, and it could easily cause death.

The diseases that were very common in the Middle Ages were dysentery, jaundices pneumonia, influenza and common cold. This could be largely attributed to the living condition of that time. Rural people largely lived in a one-room structure with a central fire or hearth and a central roof with a small opening which allowed some of the smoke to escape. Homes were dark damp and cold, with minimum sunlight and poor air circulation, a perfect breeding place for germs and bacteria. The climatic conditions and life style of the time with no proper facilities contributed to the lack of personal hygiene as well. It further escalated with population growth in the towns and cities. Also due to lack of advanced techniques, patients often died due to excessive blood loss after a surgery. Today personal hygiene is considered to be a key factor to live a disease free life.

With the latest technologies available infant mortality has reduced and longevity of humans has increased tremendously compared to middle ages. As we benefit from the sophisticated technologies of medical science, it is imperative that we acknowledge the contribution of our predecessors. What we are enjoying today is the fruits from the trees whose seeds were planted by our ancestor.

Interesting Facts About Renaissance Doctors And Medicine

Do you usually link Renaissance to advances in medicine? Typically, when we talk about the Renaissance period, we talk about an explosion of learning and creativity. From paintings to music, this was a tremendous time for the arts in particular. However, the era of the Renaissance, which lasted from the middle 1400s until the 1700s, also featured major developments in European medicine. Here are some of the important facts surrounding the Renaissance period and medicine:

1. New knowledge and inventions improved medicine

A flurry of new knowledge and inventions helped to advance medicine quickly, during the Renaissance. There were no instruments yet to observe bacteria, and thus create a need for cheap urbane scrubs. However, diagrams of the human body and the printing press both had a huge influence on the world of medicine. Thus, doctors had a better comprehension of how the human body functioned, than during any previous era in Europe’s history.

2. Galen was no longer king

During the previous Middle Ages, the medical world considered Galen’s writings to be infallible. Galen was an ancient Greek living in Rome, who had developed the concepts of Hippocrates, “The Father of Medicine.”

However, during the Renaissance, doctors took a more practical and academic approach to training in their profession. Medical students studied from books with realistic diagrams of humans. In addition to better books, doctors-in-training also had access to more of them, thanks to the invention of the printing press. In fact, universities even permitted students to dissect humans, towards the end of the Renaissance. This practice had previously been limited to animals.

3. Science began to supersede spirituality

During the Renaissance, people still held to some spiritual reasoning regarding diseases. For instance, people were unaware that bacteria existed, and could spread from person-to-person. However, logic became king, due to a new wealth of knowledge available, and an efficient way to distribute it faster-the printing press. In addition, the training for surgical procedures greatly improved. Apprentices would learn surgical techniques, from an active surgeon. Interestingly, universities themselves failed to supply doctors-in-training with these skills. Nevertheless, the improvements in textbooks about human anatomy significantly boosted the complexity of the surgeries that doctors did.

4. Many did not embrace advances in medicine

While the Renaissance ushered in a new era of medical knowledge and skills, not everyone was impressed. During the Renaissance, home remedies remained a vital aspect of medical treatment, for many people. In fact, some people still sought treatments from local shaman who lacked formal training in the medical profession. Also, many “old-school” doctors and the Catholic Church still adhered to the teachings of Galen. However, within time, medical advances during the Renaissance would revolutionize the whole professional.

The Renaissance was clearly an era of enlightenment and developments. Besides the fantastic output in the arts, the medical profession flourished as well. While doctors were yet unaware of bacteria or the need to wear scrubs during surgeries, they were nonetheless learning. Essentially starting with the Renaissance, spiritual doctors were becoming scientific doctors!