Medieval Pharmacotherapy, Continuity and Change: Case Studies from Ibn Sīnā and Some of His Late Medieval Commentators

Front Cover
BRILL, 2009 - Medical - 795 pages
1 Review
The development of medical drug therapy in medieval times can be seen as an interplay between tradition and innovation. This book follows the changes in the therapy from the Arabic medicine of Ibn S n (Avicenna) to Latin medical scholasticism, aiming to trace both the continuity and the development in the theory and practice of medieval drug therapy. In this delicate balance between change and continuity a crucial role was played by the scientific community through critical rejection or acceptance of new ideas. The drug choices were in most cases rational also from the point of view of contemporary medical theory. The method used in the book for studying these choices could promote the development of a novel methodology for historical ethnopharmacology.
  

What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

In her study on mediaeval pharmacotherapy, H. Paavilainen assumes that the drugs Ibn Sīnā mentioned in his Canon were also used in his medical practice. Her reason for doing so is the theory that the Canon cannot be the result of mindless copying activities but rather the product of repeated observations of earlier physicians and those made by Ibn Sīnā in his medical practice. She follows Riddle who argued that our forefathers would not have “gone on using the same treatment and the same drugs if they had no effect whatsoever” (page 87). As Paavilainen shows in the case of nosebleed, for instance, Ibn Sīnā recommended drugs of which only “five percent are, in the light of present knowledge, ineffectual in the treatment of nosebleed” (217). In other words, allegedly 95% of the drugs analysed were effective. Paavilainen is very cautious about describing her methods and does so in a very detailed manner, but she does not question her assumption that the prescriptions and therapies as they are found in the Canon reflect medical reality. Moreover, Paavilainen’s methods to evaluate the efficacy of mediaeval treatments are immensely flawed by her decision to “trust cumulative evidence” in too many uncertain cases (pages 85ff.). Problematic are also her dismissal of the placebo effect, or her justification to dismiss differences between the medicinal properties of leaves or the roots of a certain plant. She tries to justify this with references to modern pharmacological literature which “indicates that plants frequently possess the same basic constituents in all or most of their parts, differing only in amount” (page 113). However, she fails to reference any modern pharmacological literature to buttress her claim and instead provides only one isolated example from a historical study on opium. In sum, many of Paavilainen’s assumptions are problematic and call into question the theory that certain passages in the Canon are based on observations Ibn Sīnā has made in his medical practice. If the Canon is “merely“ the result of Ibn Sīnā s meticulous and remarkable attempt to systematise medical teachings by excerpting from earlier treatise (that is, pure arm-chair analysis), it calls into question one of the more fundamental theories on which this study by Paavilainen is based. 

Related books

Contents

Research Method
4
Appendix
35
Galenic Medicine
36
Chapter ree Research Material
65
Ibn alNafıs
75
Jacques Despars
82
e Ecacy of Medieval Medicine
89
Suggested Methodology
99
Diabetes in the Arabic and Latin Commentaries
302
Relationship between the Medical Ecacy of Drugs and their
315
Chapter Eight Conclusions
325
Appendix
341
Table e Frequencies of the Drugs in the Prescriptions
351
Table a e Frequency of the Dierent erapeutic Qualities
357
Appendix
359
Appendix
365

Chapter Five Nosebleed
127
Nosebleed in the Arabic Commentaries
159
Nosebleed in the Latin Commentaries
183
Relationship between the Medical Ecacy of Drugs and their
211
Chapter Six Cough
225
Cough in the Arabic and Latin Commentaries
256
Relationship between the Medical Ecacy of Drugs and their
274
Chapter Seven Diabetes
283
Appendix
372
Table Evaluation of the Medical Eect of the Drugs against
666
Glossary Identication of Drugs Mentioned in the Texts
685
Glossary Arabic Drug Names
709
Bibliography
723
General Index
763
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Helena Paavilainen, Ph.D. (2003) in History of Medicine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is Researcher in the Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem. Her main research interests are ethnopharmacology and history of pharmacology, especially the Hebrew, Arabic and Latin traditions.

Bibliographic information