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The effectiveness of Ancient Medicine is exaggerated and romanticized

I encounter in my practice patients from all walks of life and sometimes, in my discussions with them, this idea comes often along: that the Ancient Medicine was evolved somehow in diagnostics and therapeutics and that the healers of the ancient past were really skillful in restoring one’s health and that, somehow, we are losing this knowledge.
Well, I beg to differ. My theory is the history of the medicine up to the beginning of the 20th century was largely the history of the placebo effect. What does that mean? It means the majority of the plants, substances, concoctions used in medicine were ineffective and employed for the wrong conditions (as we know today based on scientific studies). This is, largely, the definition of the placebo effect.
What is the modern definition of the placebo effect?
Placebo effect is the nonspecific psychological or psycho-physiological therapeutic effect produced by a placebo, but may be also the effect of spontaneous improvement attributed to the placebo. A placebo therapy may be used with or without knowledge that it is a placebo. Also, treatments that are given in the belief that they are effective but that actually are placebos by objective evaluations.
With these definitions in mind, let’s succinctly examine the main drugs used in 2 major civilizations, Babylonia-Assyria and Egyptian civilizations.
Babylonia and Assyria – of the 250 drugs of vegetable and animal originally described in the Sumerian tablets only a handful we still use today (or at least have knowledge about them): anise, cardamom, coriander (as carminatives); castor oil and colocynth (as drastic laxatives – not used today anymore) mandrake and henbane (as sedatives/purgatives – not used today any more because of their strong side effects); cannabis for depression and neuralgia (now cannabis is having a comeback); poppy for pain (but we don’t know if the seeds were used, in which case it was worthless); belladonna for pain (not used today anymore due to the severity of its side effects)
Egypt – the Ebers Papyrus, estimated to have been written about 1,500 BC is one of the most important medical papyri and it is a compilation of recipes for different illnesses. It contains more than 800 prescriptions and has more than 700 drugs of vegetable, mineral and animal origin, all, with a few exceptions, worthless and placebos. The exceptions were: colocynth, castor oil, senna (as purgatives/cathartics); turpentine, hyoscyamus, pomegranate were vermifuge (for expelling worms); ox liver for night blindness (plausible effective due to high concentration of vit.A in the liver); copper salts and honey as antiseptics; carminatives like chamomile, coriander, mint, fenugreek, thyme, aniseed; almond (as demulcent); molds that covered bread or wood long soaked in water, which provided antibiotics extracted from the fungi. Willow leaves (which contain very little salicin) were also used for antisepsis but now we know that it was ineffective. Honey was the most extensively mentioned drug in the Egyptian papyri, used primarily for wound healing.
In Egypt patients were treated with dirt and fly-specks scraped off walls. Blood of various animals was often employed (lizards and cats); fat of goose, ox, cat, snake, hippo, mouse; grated human skull; tortoise shell; teeth of swine etc. were also the norm in the Ancient Egypt.
Also, the Egyptian healers were very fond of dung, recommending excrements from humans and eighteen other creatures, such as the crocodile, the cat, the ass, the dog, the pig, the sheep, the gazelle, the pelican and the fly. Human and animal dung and urine were used to repel bad spirits, in line with the concept that disease was viewed as a curse cast on an individual by an evil spirit. Bloodletting was also employed to purify the body of evil spirits.
Next to nothing is known about the effectiveness of the ancient drugs. There is no explanation of the exact reasoning that led the ancient healers to prescribe what they prescribed, or clues about the frequency with which they prescribed them and no clue about their true therapeutic efficacy.
All the facts exposed here has led me to my conclusion that the effectiveness is Ancient Medicine is grossly overstated and romanticized.

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