2. History Of Drugs
The oldest known written record of drug use is a clay tablet from the ancient Sumerian civilization of the Middle East. This tablet, made in the 2000's B.C., lists about a dozen drug prescriptions. An Egyptian scroll from about 1550 B.C. names more than 800 prescriptions containing about 700 drugs.
Ancient peoples used many drugs. An Egyptian physician, for example, tried to cure blindness by pouring a mixture of honey, pig's eye, and other ingredients into the patient's ear. But occasionally people who had taken drugs as remedies would recover naturally. As a result, they credited the drugs for their healing.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the demand for drugs remained high and pharmacies became increasingly common in Europe and the Arab world.
In the early 1500s, the Swiss physician Philippus Paracelsus pioneered the use of minerals as drugs. He introduced many compounds of lead, mercury, and other minerals in the treatment of various diseases.
The drug revolution began about 1800 and has continued up to the present. During this period, scientists have discovered hundreds of drugs. Scientists learned how to isolate drugs from plants in the early 1800s. In 1806, morphine became the first plant drug to be isolated. Within a few years scientists had isolated quinine and several other plant drugs.
The pace of the drug revolution quickened in the 1900s. In fact, most of the major drugs used today have been discovered since 1900, such as hormones, antibiotics, and sulfa drugs.
2.1 Herbal Medicines
Since early Neanderthal man, plants have been used as drugs for "healing" purposes. Even as modes of medicine changed throughout the centuries, plants continued to be the mainstay of country medicine as methods and ideas on plant healing were passed down from family to family and within communities. Thus tribes, clans, villages, towns, sometimes entire countries, tended to have similar styles in "healing." Most of these plant remedies were based on local discoveries and pass-along uses, so many plants are used in exactly the same way.
For several thousands years the Chinese physicians used the Ma Huang plant. Later researchers extracted an alkaloid, ephedrine, from this plant.
Willow bark was used for thousands of years, even by American Indian tribes. Unfortunately, consistent use of the bark affected the digestive system, and it became imperative to find a substitute, or chemical version. This duplication took over fifty years of investigation, and was solved when a German scientist broke the chemical code by using the spirea plant family, instead of willow bark. He called his result aspirin, now one of the most used drugs on earth (resulting in much distress and iatrogenic diseases).
Curare arrow poison, another tropical discovery, is now used to control breathing during some surgery.
Digitalis was extracted from the foxglove plant, an herb, and is still prescribed by physicians for those with heart problems.
2.2 Shamen and Witch Doctors
In his book, The History of Medicine, the British physician and surgeon, Kenneth Walker says, "Thanks to the extraordinary recuperative powers of the human body and the resilience of the human mind, the patient generally managed throughout the ages to recover health in spite of the vicissitudes of treatment to which he had been subjected."
During the early days of civilization, there were many types of 'cures' that were associated with various cults. If the patient recovered his health, it was attributed to the healing ritual. If recovery did not occur, the disease was blamed. However, in all cases, it becomes evident that it was 'vis Medicatrix Naturae' which effected the recovery.
There was always a common denominator involved in all of these 'cures.' This is the force active in the organism in which healing takes place in spite of what was done and not because of what was done.
The Indians had their shamen and medicine men. The Hindus worshipped many gods and believed that illness was the work of demons. Therefore, rituals were performed to rid the sick individual of these demons and witches. The African bushman performed a symbolic dance which was supposed to "cure." The Chinese used acupuncture, herbs and moxibustion. (This is the burning of powered leaves of the moxa plant on the skin of the patient).
All of the therapies differed widely—from magic and witches to acupuncture. The modes of treatment were varied and often bizarre but they all had "success." Patients overcame their illnesses in most cases. How can a superstitious ceremony overcome a disease? The answer is that it cannot. First of all, most diseases are self-limited and the patient becomes well in spite of the treatment. But there was always this common denominator present in all of the recoveries and that is the vital faculty within each of us which is called upon when needed to re-establish equilibrium within our body and to heal. It is this vital power which we call 'nature' that healed the Indian after the witch doctor performed his magical ritual and it was this same force which manifested itself after the Chinese doctor administered herbs. The highest success rate came after those ceremonies or rituals or treatments which did the least harm and interfered least with the body's innate ability to heal itself.
Home > Lesson 40 - The Dangers Of Drug Medication: Over-the-Counter And Prescription Drugs
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