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  • 8/22/2009

Avicenna’s science


Medicine and pharmacology

Though the threads which comprise Unani healing can be traced all the way back to Claudius Galenus of Pergamum, who lived in the second century of the Christian era, the basic knowledge of Unani medicine as a healing system was developed by Hakim Ibn Sina in his medical encyclopedia The Canon of Medicine.

The time of origin is thus dated at circa 1025 AD, when Avicenna wrote The Canon of Medicine in Persia. While he was primarily influenced by Greek and Islamic medicine, he was also influenced by the Indian medical teachings.

The Canon of Medicine

About 100 treatises were ascribed to Ibn Sina. Some of them are tracts of a few pages, others are works extending through several volumes. The best-known amongst them, and that to which Ibn Sina owed his European reputation, is his 14-volume The Canon of Medicine, which was a standard medical text in Europe and the Islamic world up until the 18th century. The book is known for its introduction of systematic experimentation and quantification into the study of physiology, the discovery of contagious diseases and sexually transmitted diseases, the introduction of quarantine to limit the spread of infectious diseases, the introduction of experimental medicine, clinical trials, neuropsychiatry, risk factor analysis, and the idea of a syndrome in the diagnosis of specific diseases, and hypothesized the existence of microorganisms.

 It classifies and describes diseases, and outlines their assumed causes. Hygiene, simple and complex medicines, and functions of parts of the body are also covered. In this, Ibn Sina is credited as being the first to correctly document the anatomy of the human eye, along with descriptions of eye afflictions such as cataracts. It asserts that tuberculosis was contagious, which was later disputed by Europeans, but turned out to be true. It also describes the symptoms and complications of diabetes. Both forms of facial paralysis were described in-depth. In addition, the workings of the heart as a valve are described.

The Canon of Medicine was the first book dealing with experimental medicine, evidence-based medicine, randomized controlled trials, and efficacy tests, and it laid out the following rules and principles for testing the effectiveness of new drugs and medications, which still form the basis of clinical pharmacology and modern clinical trials:

• The drug must be free from any extraneous accidental quality.

• It must be used on a simple, not a composite, disease.

• The drug must be tested with two contrary types of diseases, because sometimes a drug cures one disease by Its essential qualities and another by its accidental ones.

• The quality of the drug must correspond to the strength of the disease. For example, there are some drugs whose heat is less than the coldness of certain diseases, so that they would have no effect on them.

• The time of action must be observed, so that essence and accident are not confused.

• The effect of the drug must be seen to occur constantly or in many cases, for if this did not happen, it was an accidental effect.

• The experimentation must be done with the human body, for testing a drug on a lion or a horse might not prove anything about its effect on man.

An Arabic edition of the Canon appeared at Rome in 1593 and a Hebrew version at Naples in 1491. Of the Latin version there were about thirty editions, founded on the original translation by Gerard de Sabloneta. In the 15th century a commentary on the text of the Canon was composed.

Other medical works translated into Latin are the Medicamenta Cordialia, Canticum de Medicina, and the Tractatus de Syrupo Acetoso.

Other links:

Who was Avicenna?

Avicenna: Short biography

Avicenna: Early life

Avicenna: Adulthood

Avicenna's psychology

Avicenna’s philosophy

Avicenna: Short biography

Avicenna: Short biography

Avicenna: Short biography
Avicenna’s psychology

Avicenna’s psychology

Avicenna’s psychology
Avicenna: List of works

Avicenna: List of works

Avicenna: List of works
Avicenna’s Theology

Avicenna’s Theology

Avicenna’s Theology
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