Saturday, September 20, 2014

5000 B.C.: Gods were the first physicians

It was because of this strong belief in the gods that dissecting the human body was not even thought of by most people.  To cut open a relative or friend to learn about why he died, or how the organs were laid out and how they functioned, was unheard of.  To even think of such a thing was morbid and sacrosanct: it simply was not done.  And for this reason most knowledge of anatomy came from three basic observations:
  1. Wounds obtained in battle
  2. Animals cut up for food
  3. Inspection of sacrificial animals
There was actually a fourth method that could be added to this list: embalming or mummification.  This was a method of preserving the human body mainly so that the person could utilize it in the after life.  The society most famous for doing this were the Egyptians, although they were not the only ones, and may not have been the first.  Yet to cut open the human body and inspect it more so than was necessary to get the job done was  not just sacrosanct and unheard of, it was strictly prohibited.  If you did so you would be severely punished, and you would always be caught because the gods, after all, were omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  

Although, there obviously were people who surreptitiously inspected the human body, and these few individuals are responsible for advancing physiology (yet they were also responsible for the wrath of the gods).  Since they would have had no knowledge about these internal workings, they created theories of how they worked.  These theories would generally be associated with what they learned and observed about life.  So, as life was associated with hot and cold, moisture and dryness, so to would the internal workings of the body.

And so theories evolved. And somewhere along the way one person would gain enough power, and he would be given credit for this accumulated wisdom. He would be given credit whether or not he had anything to do with it.  He may have been a famous speaker, a famous medicine man, a famous priest, a famous physician, or a famous ruler.  Or, better yet, he may have been all of the above.

And, as time went by, this knowledge migrated around the world with the traders, or with people looking to find better places of food.  So the myths and legends inculcated in their minds wended their way around the world, and so perhaps it is for this reason that the gods were the physicians for nearly every tribe, and every society, that existed in the primitive and ancient worlds.  

Through it all, these gods were responsible for all knowledge.  These gods were responsible for life and death. These gods were responsible for health and healing.  If you were sick with dyspnea for example, you did not wonder what was wrong inside your body to cause these symptoms: it was simply understood that these symptoms were the result of the desire of a god.  If you wanted any chance at healing, you were at the whims of this god.  In this way, the gods were the first physicians. This was true in nearly every ancient civilization regardless of where that civilization was.  It was true in Mesopotamia, it was true in Egypt, it was true in Greece, it was true in Rome, it was true in Mesoamerica, it was true in North America.  

Now surely the medicine man was the first human physician, yet as far as the first societies were concerned, people had no knowledge of the medicine man.  They also had no knowledge of the origins of the legends, and therefore the gods became the first physicians.  When the first civilizations came to be, and when the first written languages were invented, these legends were written down as known at that time.  The scribes, priests, physicians, princesses, princes, queens and kings had access to these writings, and they made sure the people were told these stories in order to keep them in line with the desires of the ruling classes.

The temples, shrines, and even churches were places of healing, places where the gods made their appearances and shared their wisdom for health and healing.  In ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome temples were places of healing, where the sick slept at night, and visions appeared to them that were interpreted by the priests, who were the mediators between the sick and the gods (the physicians). Yet while the gods were viewed as the physicians, the real physicians were the priests. They were the ones who learned at the schools at the temples, and who learned of the knowledge of medicine.

Yet the populace did not know this, as they were kept ignorant.  To them, these priest were merely mediators who so happened to interpret omens of the gods. These ancient priests had the ability to read messages sent from the gods by the placement of the planets and stars in the sky, and hence this is why astrology was a specialization in most ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamia to Mesoamerica.

Through this and other practices of divination (hepatoscopy being another), the priests were able to read the thoughts of the gods, and they were able to use these omens to provide hope to both the healthy and the sick.  Or, if the wishes of the gods were inauspicious, then perhaps gloom in the form of plagues would spread through a family or perhaps through the entire civilization.

If you had asthma, if you suffered from shortness of breath, no matter where you lived in the world, the best way to prevent future attacks, and the best road to healing, was to pay special attention to the legends, and to worship the gods as instructed.  If you were sick it was your fault, and if you became healthy it was your doing, because whether your guardian god was happy or sad was your doing.  Although, the happiness of the god was also an accumulative effort of the entire society, and so the job of keeping the gods happy on behalf of the society became the job of the priests.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

5000 B.C.: Knowledge comes to the Americas

Today we think of Americans as the innovators of the modern world.  The people who wrote the documents to protect the natural rights of mankind from government invasion were Americans.  The people who discovered electricity and learned how to put it to good use were Americans.  In the ancient world, however, it wasn't this way: America lagged behind.

Perhaps this was because it took longer for knowledge to make it to that part of the populated world. Or, as noted by William Brandon in his book "The Rise and Fall of North American Indians, "perhaps it was because Americans were content to live amid nature, and had no need nor desire to modernize the way they lived. Perhaps they simply lived in peace with their spirits and gods, and had no need to create great civilizations and empires.  He wrote:  (1, page 14-15)
There have even been hints that these people of the Archaic waited so long for new ideas (such as pottery and agriculture) and the resultant elaboration of their basic culture simply because they were content in their timeless nirvana and not at all eager to change.  Heretical reflections threaten to follow, that change -- we call progress -- might not always be a result of "forward" social movement but possibly of something going wrong in the social animal. (1, page 21)
As noted earlier in our history, environmental changes may have occurred that forced people to migrate to the lands around the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile rivers. When these rivers flooded, the land would be fertilized, and this would provide food for both animals and people.  By being forced to such a small area, the people started working together to better manage the land, and this resulted in the first agricultural revolution, and ultimately the first civilizations.  Such environmental changes may not have occurred in America, thus Native Americans had no incentive to band together until much later.

The specialists believe that there may have been land bridges connecting the Old World with the New World, with the main one being a land bridge between North America and Asia, what is now Alaska in the United States and Siberia in Russia.  This land bridge is often referred to as Beringia.  They believe that between 35,000 and 10,000 (some speculate as far back as 50,000) years ago most of the water was frozen, and this made it so there was a land bridge between Alaska and Siberia, said Brandon.  (1, pages 14-15)

According to, Beringia was a stretch of land that was about 55 miles between Siberia and Alaska.  It is now mostly covered by the Chukchi and Bering Seas, although there were times that the ocean levels were so low that plants, animals and people were allowed to cross.  Even if the land wasn't exposed, the water was at times low enough to allow people to cross via boat along the coastlines.  Along with people, animals, and even plants, would have been able to cross the land bridge. (2)

Joy Hakim, in her series, "A History of US," says that prior to the end of the ice age about 10,000 B.C. the stretch of land between Alaska and Siberia would have been about 1000 miles wide, and may even have been covered with grasslands, forests, and even lakes.  (3, page 14-15)

Also of interest is that "similarities between peoples of coastal Siberia and coastal Alaska show that the Bering Strait did not prevent contact between their cultures. Similar languages, shared spiritual practices, hunting tool and traditional dwelling similarities, distinctive fish cleaning methods, and meat preservation by fermentation are but a few examples ethnologist cite." (2)  

Although at some point these migrations stopped, perhaps due to natural events that cause people to change their way of living, thus causing people to forget.  As a result, the people of the New World were completely isolated from the Old world for thousands of years before the Spanish Conquistadors discovered the New World for the Old World. (You can see a neat time-lapse map of Beringia at

The people were hunters and gatherers, and they migrated to where the food was, wrote Hakim.  In Beringia there would have been "lots to eat.  For every day dining, the hunters and the fisherfolk lived on small game and small fish  but they had the skills to kill mammoths and whales, and when they could, the did. The mammoths and giant sloths and camels were plant eaters, and only moderately dangerous.  It was the meat-eating animals -- saber-toothed cats, the maned lions, and the huge bears -- who must have licked their lips after munching on humans.  That was the way of the hunting world.".  (3, page 15)

She continued:
 "Journeying by sea may have been safer than by land.  And these people were very good sailors.  In boats covered with animal skins, they could explore and settle the coastline.  Gradually, we think, the land rovers and the seagoers took a big step -- onto the new continent... Alaska, where the hunters went, seemed like a fine place. There were seals, bison with big curved horns, birds called ptarmigans, and other good things to hunt and eat.  Glaciers covered large parts of North America, but much of Alaska and Siberia was free of ice... More hunters came with their families.  At first there was plenty of food, but after a few years (maybe a few thousand years) the land seemed crowded.  There was no longer enough game for everyone to hunt." (3, page 15)
So they were forced, by nature, to travel further south.  Perhaps, as Hakim notes, they watched as the birds and other animals traveled south.  "They watched the animals and found there were ways around and through the thick glaciers.  They made there way to where Canada now lies, and the United States."

Hakim continued:
"It was worth the trip.  They found grasses and nuts and berries to eat.  They found a hunter's wonderland: there were antelope, musk, ox, bighorn sheep, lions, deer, moose, fox, otter, beaver, sabertoothed tigers, and bison.  Some of the animals had come from Asia too, by walking over the earth bridge, or by swimming in the sea... In America, animals had grown big -- bigger than any animals you have ever seen. Some beavers were as large as bears; and birds -- great vulture-like teratorns -- had wings that reached 15 feet from tip to tip.  Lions were huge; moose antlers measured eight feet across... they also kill and eat birds, fish, foxes, and turtles." (3, page 16-17)
Some of these natives, perhaps traveling in tribes or families of 20 or 25 people, would have settled where they found food and comfort, while others continued to follow the animals south, making their way all the way to South America where there was warmer weather and deserts and even rain forests (where lots of herbal remedies lie).

Some specialists believe it was the tribes that settled in South America who were the first to discover the ability to plant seeds and grow crops, such as maize, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, lima beans and squash. Perhaps this might have first taken place around what is now Peru, where the first American civilization (the Oltec) formed.  (1, page 20, 24)

Perhaps it was this that caused people from various tribes to work together to form the various cultures and civilizations that ultimately developed in America.

Brandon explains that "they practiced a form of agriculture known to primitive peoples all over the world since agriculture began, hacking down and burning trees and brush, planting a cornfield in the rough clearing, and slashing out a new such clearing a few seasons later. (Anthropologists call such a cornfield a milpa, a name taken from Nahualt, the language of the Aztec.)  In all the days of their greatness this technology was never improved.  There is some indication here and there of more intensive gardening on mounds or raised beds (chinampas), but the milpa remained the standard." (1, page 32-33)

Brandon further explains that:
Slash and burn farming, by its nature, operates against the growth of cities -- the clearings are scattered, in contrast to the closely populated communities fostered by such group undertakings as irrigation.
He uses the Maya as an example, as even while they created a South American civilization that lasted for several thousand years, "Very few of the Maya ceremonial centers appear to have been truly urban.  House mounds studied by archeologists are typically dispersed, with no clear pattern of urban density; thus the Maya, in the days of their greatness, rarely built real cities, at least not in our sense of the word." (1, page 33)

Various authors, including Brandon, noted that the specialists believe that the American agricultural revolution started in South America, possibly in Peru, and spread to North America, around 5,000 B.C.  As explained by Brandon, some of these experts believe this may be why so few civilizations in America developed, and those that did were relatively small, and why empires never developed.

Similarly, this may explain why so many people continued to live as tribes until they were forced by modern forces to change their ways.

So a second theory as to why change was slow to occur in the Americas was due to the lack of pastoralism, a branch of agriculture that involves cultivating and raising livestock, and herding it to where the food and water is.  Brandon explains:
The greatest difference in New World and Old World agriculture, and a difference entailing enormous consequences, was pastoralism, fundamental to the Old World way of life, entirely absent in the New World except for some herding of llamas and related small camelids in the high Andes... This -- pastoralism -- may have been a major factor, maybe the major factor, in the establishment of private property at the mudsill underpinning of Old World social structure, already basic law in 1800 B.C. when its legal specifics were carved on the stone tablet bearing the Code of Hammurabi.  It does seem reasonable that private property may have come into being with the keping of flocks, as the profit and loss problems between Jacom and Laban in Genesis 30:30-43 as to just who were to own which of the straked and unstraked cattle might seme to bear witness." (1, page 24)
A third theory, as noted above, was that Native Americans were simply content with their way of life, and were never forced by nature to change.  Isolated from the Old World, they had no reason to change -- until Columbus discovered America in 1492, and the Spanish Invasion of the 17th century, and later yet, the quest by North Americans for new lands to develop.

While the agricultural revolution was occurring in the New World around 5,000 B.C., the poeple of Mesopotamia and Egypt were learning how to work together to fend off the forces of nature.  By this meshing of the minds, there was a revolution of discoveries and inventions (such as the potters wheel, materials for building, and equipment for planting crops) to make life easier.  This never happened in the Americas: Americans never invented the wheel, and never had a bronze age, nor an iron age.

In essence, the prototypical stone age ended in Europe and Mosopotamia around 3,600 B.C. although it would be until 1600 B.C. that it ended in China.  In America, the stone age would not end until the Spanish invasion of about 1700 A.D.  In other words, the Americans were able to form a society basically with primitive tools and equipment.

As noted by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt in her 2006 book, "Amazing Maya Inventions:"
This doesn't mean they (early Americans) existed when there were cavemen during the Paleolithic period; it means they did not have metal tools to help them with their daily tasks.  Their tools were made of wood, stone, and bone.  So, instead of iron-tipped arrows, chisels, knives, axes, and hammers, their wooden tools had blades made of obsidian and flint." (1, page 8)
They were not introduced to the iron age until the Spanish Conquistador stormed through Mesoamerica with their horses and iron weapons.  Noting that civilization spawned at different times in different parts of the world, and regardless of whether they were in the stone age or not, this brings up an interesting question:  why does the development of civilization happen?

1.  Spontaneous Civilization:  One of the original ideas was that civilization is a result of the blending of the human mind; that once the various human tribes and families of an area come together, it's only a matter of time until they learn that together they can tame nature.  Subsequent meshing of the minds will result in a series of inventions that makes life better for everyone.  Civilization spontaneously spawned in Mesopotamia, then Egypt, India, China, and later in America, and this occurred completely independent and regardless of any other civilization or previous knowledge.

2.  Shared Civilization:  Elliot Smith, professor of anatomy at the University of London in the early 20th century, postulated that knowledge spreads around the world at its own pace; that as mankind migrates, so too does knowledge.

Harold Maxwell and Sydney Selwyn explain this in their 1947 book "A history of medicine:"
According to Elliot Smith's view of the migrations of primitive civilizations, culture with distinct characteristics migrated into the Mediterranean basin between the third and the first millennium B.C. Then it pushed on toward India, about the 10th century B.C., by the Phoenician navigators, whence it extended to Malaysia and Polynesia. It eventually reached the shores of America, taking on various modifications from the countries through which it passed. (2, page 80)
I don't doubt that civilization could spawn on its own, although I have a tendency to support Smith's theory, mainly due to a cruise I went on with my wife in 2002 to Mexico.  Our ship stopped at Cozumel, and from there my wife and I went on a side excursion to see the ancient Mayan ruins. Our guide pointed to an engraving of a cross above one of the structures.  Was it a mere coincidence the ancient Mayans would have a cross over a doorway?   Or is this evidence Elliot Smith was right, and Christians migrated all the way to America with the good news, and probably long before Christopher Columbus discovered the land for the old world.

I believe that either in a quest to find food, or in a quest to find people to trade with, or prehap, simply to share the good news, some individuals migrated to America and shared their knowledge with Native Americans.  It is perhaps by this means that knowledge and civilization made its way to America. As I look at a picture of a Spanish Conquistador and a Mayan warrior in battle, I can't help but see similarities: both with shield in one hand, weapon in the other arched and ready to pounce.

There are other similarities to support this theory, and I could go on ad infinitum. One example is the snake or serpent that appears as the universal symbol of medicine, and the fact that many of the myths, legends, and gods were shared from one society to another, such as the god Hermes in Greece is generally thought to be the same god as Thoth in Egypt. (see post: "5000 B.C.476 A.D.: The universal symbol of medicine" to be published 12/18/14)

Ironic or not, there were even myths describing how some deity created the world, how a great flood (a deluge) destroyed all of mankind, and of a virgin birth.  As noted by Plinio Prioreschi in his 1989 history of medicine:
According to the Mayas, the Earth was the back of a great reptile floating in a pond, and the world was ruled by several gods.  The most important was Itamnd (the Maya Jupiter) who was the god of fire  He was the son of Hunab, the creator of the world, and was often represented in serpent form.  Another ophidian deity was Kukulcan, the Feathered Serpent, recognizable in classical Mayan reliefs.  Another god, who often held a kind of scepter, is known only as God K, a deity with a strange branching nose who may have represented some deified king.  Among the animals, the serpent occupied an important symbolic place.  In the Popol Vuh, there is the story of a virgin conceiving through suppernatural intervention, a legend that, as we have seen, existed also in Chinese tradition.  The Mayas believed that there had been several worlds before the present one and that each one had been destroyed by a deluge. They believed that history was cyclical, and that, in fact, the universe itself was governed by great recurrent ages within which smaller cycles took place.
Is it mere coincidence that these stories, however altered to meet the requirements of local tribes, evolved amid the various societies of the globe, or is it simply a coincidental occurrence?

Although, I suppose it is possible that human beings are the same wherever they are put on this planet, and given the opportunity, they would create similar weapons, tools, arts, etc. They would at some point learn to farm, and this would result in more time.  More time would mean people had time to specialize, and some would tend to the land, some build houses and monuments, some create pottery, some become artists, some study the stars, some become priests and physicians.

Plus, at some point, in order for all the above to work, there would become necessary for a language to develop, and some sort of system for writing.  Of course then there would exist a need for something to write on.  Then a system of astrology, astronomy, science and math would develop.  These are the basic components of any civilization, whether it grows from the ash heap of earth, or is the result of migrating wisdom.

  1. Brandon, William, "The Rise and Fall of North Amerian Indians from Prehistory through Geronimo," 2003, Lanham, New York, Toronto, Oxford, Taylor Trade Publishing
  2. "Bering Land Bridge National Preserve,",, accessed 5/20/14
  3. Hakim, Joy, "A History of US: Book One: The First Americans," 2005, New York, Oxford University Press
  4. Bell-Rehwoldt, Sheri, "Amazing Maya Inventions," 2006, Chicago, Nomad Press
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

People with end stage COPD now living longer

The natural progression of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease will eventually lead to heart failure.  When this happens the disease is considered to be in its end stages.  Good news here is that, while the prognosis is still quite poor, it has now been extended from two years to four hears, according to a study reported on in 2013 by the American Heart Association.  

Sometimes heart failure is caused by the aging process, simply by the it getting weak with age.  However, often it is secondary  to to the heart working too hard to pump blood through diseased lungs.  Patients with cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are some of the lung diseases that may lead to heart failure. 

When heart failure is secondary to pulmonary disease, this usually begins by the right heart becoming enlarged (hypertrophic) from years of working too hard.  It then becomes an inefficient pump.  This is called cor pulmonale. 

Cor pulmonale may eventually lead to left heart failure, whereby the heart fails to meat the demands of the body.  Venous return to the heart increases, leading to blood becoming backed up in the legs, ankles, and lungs.  When blood backs up in the lungs this is called pulmonary edema.  It's also referred to as acute heart failure, or congested heart failure. 

There is no cure for heart failure, although the symptoms can be treated.  There are medicines to strengthen the force and contractility of the heart, and medicines to help remove the fluid from the lungs and ankles.  Acute heart failure may also be treated with noninvasive ventilation to reduce venous return and reduce cardiac output and blood pressure.  

Generally speaking, when patients with COPD develop heart failure it is considered end stage COPD.  This is where the patient will need to be monitored closely by a physician, and may require frequent physician and hospital visits in order to treat flare ups.  

At this point, flare ups may be caused by exposure to COPD triggers such as strong smells and cigarette smoke, but they may also be caused by heart failure. This is when treating the disease becomes difficult

Usually, patients with lung diseases develop atrial fibrilation prior to heart failure, so this may be a sign that it's time to consider heart failure.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Heart failure patients living longer

As recently as 2010 the life expectancy of patients with heart failure was only two years.  However, thanks to modern medicine, the American Heart Association reported in 2013 that the life expectancy for many can be as long as five years.  That's actually quite an impressive improvement.

The American Heart Association, on May 2015, reported in The Journal of the American Heart Association, "Heart failure patients living longer, but long-term survival still low," on a study that concluded the following:
  • More people hospitalized for heart failure are surviving longer.
  • Yet their prognosis remains poor, as only one in three patients hospitalized with acute decompensated heart failure (ADHF) in 2004 survived beyond five years.
  • Researchers noted that heart failure patients are older and sicker compared to the previous decade.
What this means is that due to science and improved technology physicians are becoming better adept at both preventing and treating heart failure.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Can I run on a treadmill if I have COPD and use oxygen?

Your question:  Can I walk on a treadmill if I have COPD and use oxygen?  I want to lose weight and strengthen my heart and lungs.

My answer:  The goal for any person with COPD is to stay as physically active as possible. I think that walking on a treadmill, even if you have oxygen, would be a great place to start. Just make sure you are careful, and know your limitations. On a side note here, it's always a good idea to talk to your physician before starting any workout program especailly if you have a disease like COPD. It's also a good idea to make sure you are not alone in your home when you are doing this. A good, safe, and highly recommended place for patients like you with COPD to get in shape, and strengthen your heart and lungs, is to talk to your doctor about participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program. This way you will be able to get the exercise you need in a safe and professional environment. 

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Monday, September 15, 2014

What is PEP?

Studies have shown that Positive Expiratory Pressure (PEP) by using an acapella, along with medicated aerosols, may help patients with asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis clear secretions from their airway.
Inhaled medicines have the following effect:

  1. Promote hydration
  2. Reduce secretion viscosity
  3. Optimize mucociliary clearance 

PEP therapy has the following effect:
Improve collateral ventilation to allow better distribution of gas beyond occluded airways
PEP works by creating a positive pressure to splint open and stabilize airways, preventing bronchial collapse. So when a treatment is given in conjunction with a nebulizer, it may result in better distribution of the medicine while enhancing secretion clearance.

  1. Mesquita, Fabricio, et al., "Scintigraphic Assessment of radio-Aerosol Pulmonary Deposition With the Acapella Positive Expiratory Pressure Device and Varoius Nebulizer Configurations," Respiratory Care, March, 2014, volume 59, number 3, pages 328-333
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Saturday, September 13, 2014

10,000 B.C.: Asthma caused by too much phlegm?

Asthma-like symptoms were described in ancient societies in Egypt, China, Korea, India, Greece and Rome, and while various terms were used to describe respiratory ailments, most societies believed in one way or another that disease was caused by an imbalance of bodily humors.

The humors are the bodily fluids. Primitive people must have noticed puss on open sores, and colored phlegm in those sick with breathing trouble.  They must have noticed the diarrhea and vomiting of people with stomach discomfort, pain, nausea and malaise.

So early on they must have associated the humors with being associated with disease, and at some point linked them with the cause.

They most likely would have noticed that, upon spitting up a wad of phlegm, the person who was short of breath felt better.  They most likely would have noticed that, after a good bowel movement or after vomiting, a person with stomach discomfort felt better.

So early on they must have linked the humors with the cure.

Some humors that were most certainly observed were blood, phlegm (sputum, nasal secretions, saliva), water and bile. (1, pages 111-112)

There are different descriptions of the humoral cause of disease.  For instance, the Chinese describe it as an imbalance of yin or yang causing an obstruction of sorts to the flow of human life, or qi.  The Ancient Greeks believed it was an imbalance of the four bodily humors:  blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.

The cause of such an imbalance was believed to be things like living non-virtuous lives, stressful living conditions, poor living conditions, uncleanliness and improper diet.  Remedies for disease were believed to be incantations, drinks or inhalents of various herbal concoctions, or anything to purify the system to return the humors back to normal.

Yet whatever way you look at it, the similarities of the causes and cures of diseases by different civilizations is stunning.  It almost makes one think such a theory was proposed before mankind split up into six different regions during the neolithic revolution or agricultural revolution nearly 10,000 years before the birth of Christ.

Either that or there was more communication between Ancient Eastern and Western societies than historians are aware of.  And in this way was devised the convection theory by Friedrich Ratzel in 1882 which states that nations have "identical phenomenon" because of communication between the various groups of humans, according to Fielding H. Garrison, in 1921 his book "An introduction to the history of medicine."  (2, pages 17-19)

A separate theory mentioned by Garrison is the convection theory devised by Adolf Bastian in 1881.  This states that "the appearance of identical ethnic phenomenon in different relations of space and time is due to the spontaneous development of certain 'elemental ideas' which are common to primitive man everywhere.(2, pages 17-19)

Garrison explained it as the "Solidarity of folkways."  This theory postulates "humans have instinctive actions" that cause them to gather in groups, form societies, and generate myths to explain natural phenomenon.  They tend to reach a "common point of similarity or identity." (2, pages 17-19)

Worded another way:  "The development of the individual is but an epitome of the development of the race. Left to itself in a favorable environment, any savage tribe will inevitably evolve a culture all its own, for the regulation of food supply, sexual and social relations, adjustments to the unknown, manifesting itself as a political economy, ethics, law, medicine, religion, and so on." (2, pages 17-19)

In this way it's believed certain human actions are instinctive, no matter when a society is formed, at a certain stage in it's development.  This may explain why the ancient Egyptians created their pyramids and mummification, and similar pyramids and mummification methods were discovered in Mexico thousands of years later.  There may have been no communication between the two groups, just that the Mexicans were slower to develop their society and advance to this state.

Religions and laws in all societies are ultimately realized to be an important element of maintaining peace in the society, and a government with a totalitarian ruler was determined to be the best way to get people to do things that were needed to be done for the society to function, such as tending to the land, creating structures, and managing irrigation.

And plants were determined to have poisonous and medicinal properties in the evolution of the society.  To explain how they worked myths were created. Myths were also created to explain health and sickness.  It just so happens at a certain point the myths appear to be the same, such that disease is caused by an imbalance of some sort of substance, which the Greeks called humors and the Chinese called Qi and other societies called something else.  Yet the ideas are similar, and this type of medicine is referred to as folk medicine (folklore).

These similarities are the natural, or instinctive, evolution of human societies. And at some point the society will develop a need to communicate ideas from one generation to another, and this is where folklore comes in.  Poems and songs are recited to make it easier to remember stories and recipes, and then at some point a form of writing material and written language is developed.  It's by this we have evolved to where we are today as a society.

In this way, societies evolve as new ideas are thought up to make life better for the civilization, but the heart and soul of the people has never changed.  Humans always have an inert tendency to socialize, to think, to communicate, to breathe, to eat, to adjust to change, and to have empathy for fellow men and women.

Men and women observed their relatives and friends suffering, and yearned to find a way to help them.  They attempted to find myths to explain the symptoms they observed or their fellows complained of.  They created myths to give people hope and faith for a better future.  This is always essential, as death and sickness are omnipresent.  Life can be melancholy, and hope and faith are needed to give people a reason to do what they need to do to keep the society afloat.

Asthma, or asthma-like symptoms were believed to be caused by too much phlegm that causes a ceizure or epilepsy of the lungs resulting in various respiratory symptoms such as foaming at the mouth, cough, dyspnea (short of breath), and wheezes.  These symptoms would be the result of anything that causes dyspnea, including exertion from running or battle.  The remedy for asthma, as with any disease, was as simple as improving diet and getting plenty of sleep and exercise.

While the definition of asthma matured through the years, it wasn't until the mid 19th century that the myth of humoral causes of disease left the medical profession. This evolutionary advancement occurred in western nations of Europe and the United States.  In this sense, the humoral cause of disease was such a simple description of disease it was easy to believe, and this dogmatic theory lasted perhaps 11,850 years if not longer. Yet at a certain point in the advancement of knowledge science would be learned, and myths would be found to be myths.  Although I think it's safe to say that some medical myths still linger.

Even the great asthma expert of the second half of the 19th century, Dr. Henry Hyde Salter, didn't completely reject the humoral theory, although he was the first to successfully sway from this mindset. And even then it took a lot of convincing to finally change the minds of dogmatic physicians and an ignorant society.  It took science, and a lot of hard work by a few physicians struck by asthma, to advance medicine.

While most modern civilizations have moved on from old myths, some primitive societies continue to believe in them.  They continue to worship gods and spirits, and justify health and sickness as being caused by transcendental forces. Medicines are thus gifts from the other world.  As their society advances, as knowledge progresses, they too will some day reach the modern world.

Likewise, if our society continues to exist, society will continue to change.  Who knows what the future will bring.  Yet what we do know is that the heart of humans will continue to be the same.

  1. Neuburger, Max, writer, "History of Medicine," 1910, translated by Ernest Playfair, Volume I, London, Oxford University Press
  2. Garrison, Fielding Hudson, "An introduction to the history of medicine," 1922, Philadelphia and London,
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