Evolution of Healing: Uncovering the Secrets of the Body from Shamanism to Modern Anatomy

Health & FitnessMedicine

  • Author Valentin Bodnar
  • Published March 3, 2024
  • Word count 694

In this essay, we will be looking at the key moments in the history of medicine, but first, I want to discuss the definition of medicine. What is it, and why is it so relevant throughout history?

If we delve into our history as a species, we can observe numerous similarities that aren't directly correlated. We will be taking medicine as a prime example. In every village, clan, or nomad group, there is at least one individual who cares for the wounded and practices healing. Now, the question arises: why is the healing of the wounded something that connects people? Why is it essential for us to take care of our loved ones, and why would someone entrust their life to 'magical' healing rituals?

The answer is straightforward because we fear what may come after death (if there is indeed something after). Many aspects of life remain unknown, and death is one of them. That's why people would go to great lengths to save those they love because we simply can't bear the thought of losing them. When someone is desperate, they will do anything to find what they seek. If someone is searching for redemption, they may turn to churches, and if they seek healing, they might consult shamans or traditional healers. So we conclude that the definition of medicine is the practice that aims to cure the ill.

It's challenging to determine precisely when medicine originated, but we will begin from shamans or the witch doctors as first mentioned by Robert Montgomery Martin in History of Southern Africa Comprising the Cape of Good Hope, Mauritius, Seychelles, etc. from 1836. Shamans or witch doctors were present in many tribes and held great respect due to their extensive knowledge of local plants and the human body, much like their successors, the modern doctors.Those shamans were primarily practitioners of herbal medicine; some specialized in healing through singing, while others were involved in diagnosis and the use of psychedelic plants.

This leads me to the next topic of discussion, which is Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is a form of medicine from the Indian subcontinent and it translates from Sanskrit to “the science of life”.However ayurveda did improve with time and is still practiced today. One of the reasons it is considered a milestone in medicine is due to the books 'Charaka Samhita' and 'Sushruta Samhita,' both written around the 1st millennium BCE. These texts are part of the 'Brhat Trayi' (The Great Triad), which comprises three early Sanskrit encyclopedias of medicine and serves as the foundation of the indigenous Indian medical system known as Ayurveda." These books are significant not only for their comprehensive content but also for being the oldest known sources of medical information to date.

As time progressed, Islamic medicine experienced a significant development during the medieval era. Middle Eastern medicine emerged as the most advanced in the world, blending concepts from ancient Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, and Persian medicine, while also drawing from the Indian Ayurveda tradition. However, one work that truly stood out and remains highly regarded as the foundation of medicine to this day is 'The Canon of Medicine,' authored by Avicenna.This book describes perfectly different aspects of medicine. It is both detailed and accurate, which is why it served as the foundation for medical studies for over 700 years, being used in European medical faculties.This fact clarifies its position as one of the milestones in medicine. Another intriguing book about medicine is the ”Humani Corporis Fabrica” written by Andreas Vasalius this book literally marks the beginning of modern scientific medicine

In conclusion, there are numerous aspects of medicine that unite us as a species. The remarkable evolution in medical treatment serves as a testament to our profound fear of losing lives, whether they are our own or those of the people around us. That's precisely why I chose to present these milestones to you. I want you to appreciate the impressive and profound understanding we have of the human body. Then as farewell i leave you with the following quote by Thomas Mann

“All interest in disease and death is only another expression of interest in life.”

Pickover, C. A. (2014). The Medical Book: 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine.

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