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Thread: Pre-historic Medicine

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    Pre-historic Medicine



    See:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cr.../#.XNiVk45KhPZ

    I've always been fascinated by this, by how humans developed such knowledge by simple trial and error.

    "Long before Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, people were using antibiotics to combat infections.In the late 1800s, French physician Ernest Duchesne observed Arab stable boys treating sores with mold growing on saddles. Duchesne took a sample of the fungus, identified it as Penicillium and used it to cure guinea pigs infected with typhoid. Earlier still, texts from ancient civilizations, including Rome, Egypt and China, discussed the healing powers of moldy bread applied to diseased skin.
    And prior to written history, there’s reason to believe human ancestors took advantage of many medicinal fungi, plants and other natural agents. The use of natural remedies probably extends back millions of years — long before modern scientists understood the biochemical basis of these medicines."

    "Geneticists later probed the plaque of the same Neanderthal and found DNA from poplar — a tree that contains salicylic acid, the natural pain-killer in aspirin — as well as a type of Penicillium. Now it’s possible minuscule DNA fragments of these organisms wound up in the Neanderthal’s mouth by accident, as she slept on the ground and lived in nature. But it’s also conceivable that this individual, in pain from an oral infection, intentionally took pain-killing poplar, soothing chamomile and antibiotic fungus."

    There are lots of examples that this continued into very recent times, willow bark to lower fever, for example, chamomile for indigestion, St. John's wort for mood, garlic for everything. The women who prepared and dispensed them were sometimes punished as witches. During the war years people had to rely on these remedies. For anti-bacterial properties, they used wine or stronger spirits, for soothing skin olive oil.

    "Our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, are also known to self-medicate. Across their natural habitat in central Africa, chimps infected with intestinal parasites fold up and swallow leaves with *****ly hairs. As the leaves travel through a chimp’s gastrointestinal track, the rough surface catches worms and carries them out with the next bowel movement.

    Sick apes also eat the pith — the bitter, spongy inner stem — of the Vernonia amygdalina, a member of the daisy family known for its medicinal properties. Scientists have identified many therapeutic molecules in the V. amygdalina pith, including sesquiterpene lactones, stigmastane-type steroid glucosides and aglycones. I don’t know what these molecules are, but more importantly, neither do chimps. Animals don’t have to understand the biochemistry underlying their cures. They just know to ingest these substances when sick, through innate knowledge, personal experience or imitation."


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    Fascinating. I'm sure after 1000's of years our ancestors would by experience and tradition know some of natures remedies!

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