Early Medical Treatments

Hello friends!
Today we will talk about early medicine and medical treatments!
The writings of ancient Egypt reveal that when a woman suspected she was pregnant, she urinated over a mixture of wheat and barley seeds combined with dates and sand. If any of the grains sprouted, she was surely pregnant. If the wheat grew, she would have a boy. If the barley grew, it would be a girl. Urine is still used in modern day tests to determine pregnancy.

Early medical treatments were often crude. For a sore throat, a physician might mix barley water, vinegar, and mulberry syrup for a gargle. Someone suffering with rheumatism might be given a prescription of chopped mice, lynx claws, and elk hooves. Rhubarb, senna, bitter apple, turpentine, camphor, and mercury were among the physicians' staples. Some physicians washed the instruments used in treating the ill; others scoffed at such a practice. Malaria, diphtheria, tuberculosis, typhoid, and dysentery were commonplace. Leprosy was prevalent and venereal diseases were rife. Smallpox was frequent in villages; sometimes the sufferer would be placed in a meat pickling vat and fumigated. The death toll from such diseases was particularly high among children. Finally in the eighteenth century, Edward Jenner made a great contribution to the prevention of disease by discovering a method of vaccination against smallpox.

Medicine progressed rapidly during the nineteenth century. Two very important discoveries occurred: anesthesia to alleviate pain during surgery and the realization that some bacteria cause disease. Once it had been proven that certain bacteria were causes of diseases and were transmissible agents responsible for contagion, greater care was taken to prevent that transmission. Asepsis became important to reduce the risk of infection. The Hungarian physician and obstetrician Ignaz Phillipp Semmeweis was able to prove that physicians who came from an autopsy directly to the care of postpartum women, without scrubbing their hands and washing instruments, carried infection with them that often caused puerperal fever (septicemia following childbirth) and death to the new mothers.

The names of Louis Pasteur , Joseph Lister , and Robert Koch are familiar to all bacteriologists. Louis Pasteur has sometimes been referred to as the Father of Preventive Medicine as the result of his work in recognizing the relationship between bacteria and infectious disease. Joseph Lister revolutionized surgery because of his belief in Pasteur's theory of using carbolic acid as an antiseptic spray. He insisted that all instruments and physicians' hands be washed with the solution, Figure 3-3. Robert Koch used the culture-plate method for isolating bacteria and demonstrated how cholera was transmitted by food and water. His discovery changed the way health departments cared for persons with infectious disease.