Strange Medicine Nathan Belofsky Kindle, PDF

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Strange Medicine Nathan Belofsky

 

FROM the ancient Greeks until the time of Lincoln, medicine did more harm than good, and hurt more than helped. Historian David Wootton has written, “For 2,400 years patients have believed that doctors were doing good; for 2,300 years they were wrong.”
Greek doctors of two thousand years ago were at least as effective as, and probably did less harm than, the physician/astrologers of the Middle Ages, or the pompous windbags of the Renaissance, or the medical wrecking balls of medicine’s “Heroic Age.” Only in the twentieth century did medicine regain its stride, too late for most.
Hippocrates would have been appalled.
With due apology to historians and scholars, many of medicine’s strangest ideas and dumbest procedures remain hidden from view, buried in the library stacks. This book attempts to correct this oversight and, along the way, introduces an honor roll of doctors, scientists, and medical thinkers who, however inadvertently, sent medical thought and practice hurtling backward.
This is not “history”—far from it—but the facts revealed here are true, as best we know. The book focuses on widely accepted ideas and practices by real doctors, not quirks or quacks, and virtually all the doctors mentioned were among the leading medical figures of their time. So, in the Middle Ages, John of Gaddesden, doctor of medicine at Oxford, really did hang cuckoos’ heads from the necks of epileptic patients, and later Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and treasurer of the Mint, spun his mentally ill patients like tops. Later still, Dr. Walter Freeman of Yale, the world’s best-known brain surgeon, would drive ice picks into his patients’ eyes with a carpenter’s mallet.
Chapter One briefly surveys ancient medicine, a time of trial and error, and great ingenuity as well. Chapters Two and Three explore the medicine of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when leading doctors and professors dreamed up some of the most bizarre medical ideas known to humankind and then proceeded to inflict them on their patients. Chapter Four explores medicine’s reckless “Heroic Age,” not so long ago, when doctors went after diseases and their patients with near-comic ferocity, and predictable results.

 

Growing Pains

WHAT we think of as real medicine—Western medicine at least—begins with the Greeks and wise old Hippocrates, who was born on the Greek island of Kos around 460 BC. His writings and those of his followers are preserved in The Hippocratic Corpus, a collection of about sixty medical works.
Although most healers looked to the gods to make patients better, Hippocrates relied on the evidence of his own eyes and ears, and the touch of his hands. Above all, Hippocrates did what worked, regardless of theory or belief, amazon kindle and thus managed to turn the corner from magic to medicine.
Sometimes even the great Hippocrates got things wrong, big-time. Most critically, Hippocrates believed that illness was caused by an imbalance of the “four humors” (blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm), Epub a theory that would come to plague doctors and their patients until the nineteenth century.
Still, medical thought and practice flourished, with a few detours along the way. A few hundred years after Hippocrates came Galen, the great Greek anatomist living in Rome. He was forbidden by law to dissect human bodies, but his work with animals, mostly pigs, showed for the first time, from the inside, how living things actually worked.
What follows is a brief description of a few ancient medical practices and ideas, before and after Hippocrates. Some worked, some didn’t, but all provide a good jumping-off point for the even stranger things to come.

 

The Power of Babel

[T]hey lay him in the public square, and the passersby come up to him, and if they have ever had his disease themselves…they give him advice, recommending him to do whatever they found good in their own case, or in the case known to them. And no one is allowed to pass the sick man in silence without asking him what his ailment is.
—GREEK HISTORIAN HERODOTUS, WRITING OF BABYLONIAN MEDICINE
In ancient Babylonia, sick people either got better or died, with little help from their medicine or their magic.
From clay tablets fortuitously baked to stone during a fire, we know that Babylonian shamans, the asipu, and physicians, the asu, often worked together, though the asipu seem to have received the most attention.
Believing that some illnesses came from troublemaking gods and demons and others from a person’s own bad behavior, the asipu determined why a person had become sick and prescribed a course of treatment. For guidance, an asipu might look for omens on the way to an ailing patient’s house—say, the lifting of a pig’s tail.
Once the asipu arrived, he’d root through his client’s personal life. According to fragmentary accounts found in the tablets, an asipu might find that a patient had had sex with his mother or his neighbor’s wife, or had cheated someone by saying no for yes and yes for no. Or maybe he’d had his spit stolen by a witch or been seized by the ghost of someone burned alive.
To chase illness away, an asipu would cast spells and chant chants. Sometimes he’d mix healing potions together in a leather bag, perhaps adding the hair of a black dog or a dirty menstrual rag. Kindle One tablet speaks of pig manure to be worn around the neck, and another speaks of a cure for teeth grinding: sleeping next to a human skull for seven days and kissing and licking the skull seven times each night.
Addud-Guppi, mother of King Nabonidus, once said:
[O]ne hundred and four happy years…My eyesight was good, my hearing excellent…my words well chosen, food and drink agreed with me, my health was fine and my mind happy…[I] had my fill.
Ms. Guppi might have been a tad optimistic, but Babylonian healers did the best they could with what they had.
Die Like an Egyptian
The elite had their specialists, such as the Shepherd of the Anus and Physician of the Belly, but even for them life in ancient Egypt was difficult and short, and, as in Babylonia, there wasn’t much that doctors could do about it. On the plus side, cancer wasn’t much of a scourge, because few people lived long enough to get it.
From the Smith Papyrus, we know that head wounds were treated with fresh meat, and for a headache the Kahun Papyrus prescribed goose fat rubbed into the eyes, with a helping of jackass liver. A person with a toothache would have a dead mouse stuffed down their throat.
People with cataracts had hot broken glass poured into their eyes, a treatment that actually worked, and ingrown eyelashes were rubbed with bat’s blood. The fat of a lion, hippo, crocodile, cat, serpent, and ibex were mixed together for baldness, along with the toes of a dog. People suffering from gout were told to stand on an electric eel.
In the Smith Papyrus, doctors performing triage gave a verdict of either “This is an ailment I can heal” or “This is an ailment I can fight with,” or, for those beyond helping, “This is an ailment that cannot be healed.”
Contending with a head wound, when a patient had spittle on his lips, a feeble heartbeat, and blood leaking from the ears, a doctor was to say, “An ailment with which I will contend,” and apply healing ointments to the mouth. But if a patient was said to smell like the urine of a sheep and looked to be weeping, pdf or was found paralyzed, with his phallus erect and urine dripping from it, he was to be considered beyond help. If a woman presented with a tumor in the breast leaking pus, the doctor would say, “An ailment that I will treat with the fire drill.”
Sometimes all a doctor could do was prepare the egg of an ostrich, place it on a wound, and say:
Repelled is the enemy that is in the wound! Cast out is the evil that is in the blood…This temple does not fall down; there is no enemy of the vessel therein. I am under the protection of Isis…My rescue is the son of Osiris.
Getting well wasn’t easy in ancient Egypt, but everyone knew the afterlife would be better, and that was the best medicine of all.
Grecian Formula
Socles, promising to set Diodorus’ crooked back straight, piled three solid stones, each four feet square, on the hunchback’s spine. He was crushed and died, but he became straighter than a ruler.
—GREEK ANTHOLOGY XI, 120
Before Greece was even Greece, wandering sages practiced the healing arts. They thought the world was composed of earth, wind, fire, and water, and that it was their job to keep these elements in “balance” through diet, meditation, and exercise.
Hippocrates believed in the elements, the humors, and the need for harmony in all things. But he valued the hands-on as well as the theoretical, everyday observation, and common sense. He was a craftsman, and he liked to fix things.
For whatever reason, the Greeks wrote often and at length about hemorrhoids, and Hippocrates’s On Hemorrhoids perhaps best illustrates his no-nonsense approach to medicine, painful as it could be:
PART 1
I recommend seven or eight small pieces of iron to be prepared, a fathom in size… Having laid him on his back…burn so as to leave none of the hemorrhoids un-burnt, for you should burn them all up… When the cautery is applied the patient’s head and hands should be held so that he may not stir, but he himself should cry out… [S]meared with honey and applied; the sponge is to be pushed as far up as possible.
PART 4
Having placed the man over two round stones upon his knees…bring it away with the finger, for there is no more difficulty in this than in skinning a sheep…And this should be accomplished without the patient’s knowledge, while he is kept in conversation.
PART 6
[T]he hemorrhoid will separate…like a piece of burnt hide.
Hemorrhoids even had relevance to the lovelorn. “Lovesickness” was considered a disease, a type of “melancholy” (depression). Of melancholy, the great Galen declared, “[T]he opening of the hemorrhoids is the surest remedy.”
One day Galen, an accomplished diagnostician, Amazon made a house call to Iustis, whose wife was very sick. Iustis’s wife had no fever but was bedridden and acted strangely and pulled the covers over her head. During a later visit, Galen overheard a guest speak of the dreamy Pilates, a male dancer, and observed the woman’s body become agitated and her face flushed. With her pulse beating wildly, the diagnosis became clear.
The Greek method for dealing with serious spinal curvature—throwing the patient off a tall building—may have been just a little too hands-on, even for Hippocrates:
pad the ladder…lay the patient on it…tie the arms and hands…you must hoist up the ladder, either to a high tower or to the gable end of a house…let go.
Of this extreme technique, Hippocrates wrote, “[T]he ladder has never straightened anybody…the physicians who follow such practices…are all stupid.”
Thousands of years before batteries, people with bad headaches were told to step on live electric eels and torpedoes (electric fish). The remedy was so well known that Plato, outwitted again by his mentor, Socrates, joked:
[Y]ou seem to me both in your appearance and in your power over others to be very like the flat torpedo fish, who torpifies those who come near him and touch him, as now you have torpified me…I do not know how to answer you.
For more serious head injuries and fractured skulls, Hippocrates employed trepanation. While the patient sat upright in a chair, Hippocrates drilled or chiseled through his skull, the tools becoming so hot from friction that a bucket of cold water would be kept nearby. Bone flaps and fragments would be cleaned and set, and the hole sealed with jet-black ink or pigeon’s blood. Often, an otherwise dying patient would recover.
Less practical was Hippocrates’s view of epilepsy. He thought it was caused by the melting of the brain and congealed phlegm in the heart. The brains of children were especially liable to rust and corrode, particularly if they stood too long in the sun or too close to the fire. Hippocrates also the “four humors” (blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm), a theory that would come to plague doctors and their patients until the nineteenth century.
Still, medical thought and practice flourished, with a few detours along the way. A few hundred years after Hippocrates came Galen, the great Greek anatomist living in Rome. He was forbidden by law to dissect human bodies, but his work with animals, mostly pigs, showed for the first time, from the inside, how living things actually worked.
What follows is a brief description of a few ancient medical practices and ideas, before and after Hippocrates. Some worked, some didn’t, but all provide a good jumping-off point for the even stranger things to come.

 

The Power of Babel

 

[T]hey lay him in the public square, and the passersby come up to him, and if they have ever had his disease themselves…they give him advice, recommending him to do whatever they found good in their own case, or in the case known to them. And no one is allowed to pass the sick man in silence without asking him what his ailment is.
—GREEK HISTORIAN HERODOTUS, WRITING OF BABYLONIAN MEDICINE
In ancient Babylonia, sick people either got better or died, with little help from their medicine or their magic.
From clay tablets fortuitously baked to stone during a fire, we know that Babylonian shamans, the asipu, and physicians, the asu, often worked together, though the asipu seem to have received the most attention.
Believing that some illnesses came from troublemaking gods and demons and others from a person’s own bad behavior, the asipu determined why a person had become sick and prescribed a course of treatment. For guidance, an asipu might look for omens on the way to an ailing patient’s house—say, the lifting of a pig’s tail.
Once the asipu arrived, he’d root through his client’s personal life. According to fragmentary accounts found in the tablets, an asipu might find that a patient had had sex with his mother or his neighbor’s wife, or had cheated someone by saying no for yes and yes for no. Or maybe he’d had his spit stolen by a witch or been seized by the ghost of someone burned alive.
To chase illness away, an asipu would cast spells and chant chants. Sometimes he’d mix healing potions together in a leather bag, perhaps adding the hair of a black dog or a dirty menstrual rag. One tablet speaks of pig manure to be worn around the neck, and another speaks of a cure for teeth grinding: sleeping next to a human skull for seven days and kissing and licking the skull seven times each night.

 

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6 thoughts on “Strange Medicine Nathan Belofsky Kindle, PDF”

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