Europe's Ancient Pharmacology

Paul U. Unschuld

in What Is Medicine?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257658
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944701 | DOI:
Europe's Ancient Pharmacology

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This chapter focuses on the interests that had prevented pharmaceutics from being consistently incorporated into the four humors doctrine in Greece and in the Roman era before Galen. Galen expanded medicine with theoretically founded pharmaceutics. He drew on the ideas of the four humors doctrine and developed it into a comprehensive pathology of the humors, the so-called humoral pathology. He drew on the knowledge of the effects of medications and created pharmacology, the scientifically based study of the effects of medicinal substances on the human organism. Galen's task was to unite the four parts of the four elements doctrine with the seventeen different then-known effects of pharmaceutical substances. The result united the plausibility of theory with the reality of the properties of the substances. It is a reality that a pharmaceutical drug can produce a warming or cooling feeling in the body, which can be experienced by several people independently of each other. The ability of a substance to influence digestion, break open an ulcer, or increase urine flow is also a reality.

Keywords: pharmaceutics; four humors doctrine; human organism; Roman era; humoral pathology; pharmacology

Chapter.  769 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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