Medieval Islamic Medicine

Medieval Islamic Medicine published by Georgetown University and Edinburgh University Press
by Peter Pormann and Emilie Savage-Smith
Reviewed by Yasmin Khan in Nature 2007 Medical History without Frontiers vol 448, 870

Islamic medicine has a long history especially in the medieval period of over thousand years and derives its past form vast geographical regions from Spain and North Africa in the west, to central Asia and India in the east. Its origins were the Islamic faith, but also collaboration of Muslims with non-Muslims, who used Arabic to publish heir ideas. .
The book describes the origins of Medieval Islamic medicine and the subsequent contacts with medicine in other cultures.
Muslims saw the body as well as the soul as precious, because it was derived from and accountable to God as the creator. The body therefore required constant and dutiful care. The body was to be maintained and preserved and protected from abuse. These concepts were drawn from ancient Greece and added to by the Islamic faith.
The book emphasizes the influence on early Muslim medical practitioners by Unani Tibb, an Islamic medical tradition dating from early Greek medicine. This involved balancing, through diet and medicinal herbs, the four humours air, earth, fire and water, which correspond to the four bodily fluids blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile and understanding that a good environment and spiritual peace are essential for good health. Today such a holistic approach to well-being, although experiencing a resurgence, is outside mainstream modern medicine.
There was a tradition of free specialized treatment which has its modern equivalence in the National Health Service.

Martin Eastwood
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