St. Apollonia and the Mandrake root

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With the fall of the Roman Empire, Christianity began to supplant Greco-Roman culture. The new religion destroyed the old temples and took control of all aspects of the life of the flock, from birth to death. The secular medicine of antiquity have faded into the background.

Christianity was not only a religion of salvation, but also a religion of healing. Most of the miracles performed by Jesus and Christian saints were of a medical nature. Jesus treated blindness, deafness, paralysis, leprosy, dropsy, and other diseases that are difficult to identify. In all, the New Testament mentions thirty-one cases of cure.

Many Christian saints specialized in the treatment of certain diseases. To St. Anthony and asked for deliverance from erysipelas, for St. Vitus – from chorea, St. Roch, from the bubonic plague (this Saint is easily recognized on the images by the bubonic bubo on the leg), to St. Sigismund, from fevers, to the St. Lawrence from back pain. St. Apollonia, who lost her teeth during torture, protected from toothache, now on the day of her memory we celebrate the international day of the dentist. The patrons of all medicine were brothers Cosmas and Damian, who were simultaneously burned, stoned, crucified and sawn, but remained alive until their heads were cut off. One of their miracles was that, having amputated the patient’s leg affected by gangrene, they put in its place the leg of a dead moor. This is often found in the painting of the plot with nothing to confuse: the rescued depicted with legs of different colors-white and black.

For help addressed to the saints, or in prayers, or ordering a special Church service. The stained glass Windows of the chapel of the Holy Trinity in Canterbury Cathedral eloquently point to secular medicine in its place: the doctors depicted in them turn away in despair, unable to compete with the healing gift of St. Thomas of Canterbury.

However, professional medicine continued to exist. Ancient treatises were preserved and copied in monasteries, which began to play the role of not only spiritual and intellectual, but also medical centers. It was under them that the first public hospitals and the first pharmacies were opened, where monks acted as doctors and pharmacists for a long time.

At the same time, Greco-Roman medicine was preserved in the Arab countries, which, thanks to an atmosphere of religious tolerance, became the center of culture and science for several centuries. The most famous physician of the Arab middle Ages was Galen Ibn-sin, who developed the ideas, known in Europe as Avicenna.

Thanks to the Arab influence in the VII century in Europe began the revival of secular medicine. Already in VIII century opened the first in history specialized medical school in Salerno. Study in it was based on the study of surviving ancient and Arabic texts – primarily Galen and Avicenna. After Pope Alexander III forbade the monks to do bloodletting, secular medicine finally regained its lost position. More than two dozen universities have already taught medicine. There was a developed network of pharmacies, including those located outside the monasteries. Independent professions of the surgeon making bloodletting and simple surgical manipulations, and the pharmacist making medicines began to develop.

The effectiveness of the treatment offered by this developed, diverse and lucrative industry was little different from that offered by prehistoric and ancient doctors. In addition to enema, laxative and bloodletting, which formed the basis of therapy, there were an incredible number of drugs. For example, created in the XII century Pharmacopoeia Antidotarium magnum contained 1100 recipes, sometimes very difficult to manufacture. But opium was almost the only existing remedy until the opening of the New world, added two medications, borrowed from American Indians. The bark of the Cinchona tree was effective antimalarial agent, and ipecac – vomit.

Some of the drugs common in the middle Ages and the Renaissance were very colorful. So, who lived in the seventh century Paul of Aegina left detailed recommendations for the treatment of various diseases of the blood. With shortness of breath it is recommended that owl’s blood with kidney stones – goat. The blood of the lamb allegedly helped from epilepsy, and bear – from boils. The crocodile, which was probably not easy to get, increased the sharpness of vision, and the blood of bats solved any problems with the breast – though for some reason only helped virgins. One of the recipes of the XIII century, offers to mix the oil from a puppy, with whom alive skinned, with parts of the body of a vulture, goose, bear, Fox, wolf, and seven other substances. Even the London Pharmacopoeia of the enlightened seventeenth century contains recipes of worms, crushed gems, ants, wolves, spiders, feathers, hair, human sweat, cobwebs, fasting saliva, crab eyes, human urine, and lichen from the skull of a violent death.

The most expensive medicine was made from a nonexistent animal. Unicorn horn treated fever, plague, epilepsy, forgetfulness and poisoning. It was sold for an amount of gold ten times its weight. In terms of current prices four-kilogram horn cost about 150 thousand dollars. Those who could not afford such an expensive treatment bought a one-penny unicorn drink: a glass of water passed through a hollow horn. When Danish merchants were deciding the feasibility of investment in unicorn horn, they ordered Zoological expertise, which determined that all horns on the market once belonged to the male narwhal. Although this reduced the price somewhat, in General, the popularity of the drug is not very affected.

Until the XVII century, drugs from Mandrake, the root of which resembled the human body, were in great demand. Popularity provided the myth that she is a strong aphrodisiac. It was believed that when a Mandrake was pulled out of the ground, it screamed and whoever heard it would die or go mad. Therefore, the miners took serious security measures: while one dug up the root, the second drowned out the cries of the Mandrake, blowing hard into the horn. There was another safe way: to tie a dog to a plant, and then to entice it with food-the dog rushed to the food and pulled out the Mandrake.

Another drug available only by wealthy nobles, were powdered Egyptian mummy. Like any very expensive medicine, it supposedly cured almost all known ailments. Several medical conferences have been devoted to the problem of fake mummies. According to the famous surgeon of the XVI century Ambroise Pare, all the mummies in the market of France were made of bodies stolen from the scaffold gallows. However, Pare believed that fake mummies “are no worse than those brought from Egypt, because there is no use from either of them.” By the way, if a cure was made of real Egyptian mummies, it could be deadly: the components that were used for mummification by the ancient Egyptians, contained a large amount of lead, and ingesting it could cause a serious poisoning.

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