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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.
addition al-Jaghm¯ın¯ı al-Nafis al-Qanun apostemas Appendix Arabic and Latin astringent barley Beck bleeding blood camphor catarrh chapter cold connected cooling cough caused Daems diabetes dierent Dietrich disease Dragendorff drug appears drugs recommended Dubler eect eective English Name Latin etal evaluation expectoration frankincense Galenic Gentile da Foligno Gentile’s Glare honey Hoppe ibid Ibn al-Naf¯ıs Ibn S¯ın¯a Ibn Sina's ingredients innovations inuence Jacques Despars juice Kahl kidney knotgrass Latin Latin Arabic Name Latin commentaries Latin Name Scientific Latin Synonyme Latin translation Lev and Amar Levey liver material medical ecacy medical qualities medicine medieval medieval medicine moist mucilage Name Latin Name nosebleed ofthe opium patient plant drugs platanus pomegranate poppy Pormann and Savage-Smith preferred drugs Prescription recommended by Ibn remedies Riddle Schmucker simple drugs specic storax Strohmaier sugar supracommentary symptoms temperament theory therapy Thorndike and Benjamin tragacanth treatment Ullmann urinary incontinence vinegar vitriol