Avicenna Canon of Medicine Volume 2: Natural Pharmaceuticals

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9781567448122: Avicenna Canon of Medicine Volume 2: Natural Pharmaceuticals
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UNESCO has declared 2013 as the millennium year of the writing of the Qanun fi al-tibb (Canon of Medicine) by Ibn Sina (Avicenna). A commemorative symposium will be held on June 21, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. The symposium will focus on the philosophy, medical therapy, materia medica and scientific works of Ibn Sina, with particular reference to his monumental work Al-Qanun fi al-tibb which he begun to write in 1013. Published for the first time in English alphabetical order, Volume 2 (of the 5 original volumes) of Canon of Medicine (Law of Natural Healing), is an essential addition to the history of medicine as it holds a treasure of information on natural pharmaceuticals used for over 1000 years to heal various diseases and disorders. Fully color illustrated with a 150 page, 7000 word index of the healing properties of each of the entries, the text itself is an alphabetical listing of the natural pharmaceuticals of the simple compounds. By simple compounds, Avicenna includes the individual plants, herbs, animals and minerals that have healing properties. Avicenna lists 800 tested natural pharmaceuticals including plant, animal and mineral substances. The compiler has included the Latin, Persian and Arabic names of the drugs along with artistic renderings of the drugs as illustrations as well as Avicenna s Tables or Grid for each entry that describes the individual, specific qualities of simple drugs: Nature: Names of the simple drugs and their properties; Choice: Selection of the best drug; Temperament: Temperament of drugs; Healing Properties: General description and healing properties of drugs: their dissolution, boiling down, adhesiveness, sleep-inducing properties, and so forth that are described with any other properties they may have; Cosmetics: Drugs that are helpful in beautifying the skin and hair, the drugs that remove skin rashes, vitiligo, warts, and those that are used in cosmetics and so forth; Swellings and Pimples: Drugs useful in treating inflammations and pimples; Wounds and Ulcers: Drugs for treating ulcers, cancer, abscesses, fractures; Joints: Drugs for treating arthritis and other diseases of the joints and nerves; Organs of the Head: Drugs for treating psychological disorders and diseases of the head; Visual Organs: Drugs for treating the visual organs; Respiratory Organs and the Chest: Drugs for treating diseases of the respiratory organs; Food and Alimentary Organs: Drugs for treating the alimentary organs; Excretory Organs: Drugs used as aphrodisiacs as well as for treating the other excretory organs; Fevers: Drugs for treating fevers and diseases related to fevers; Poisons: Drugs for treating poisons; Substitutes: Drugs to be used when the desired drug is unavailable.

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Abu 'Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina is better known in Europe by the Latinized name Avicenna. He is probably the most significant philosopher in the Islamic tradition and arguably the most influential philosopher of the pre-modern era. Born in Afshana near Bukhara in Central Asia in about 980, he is best known as a polymath, as a physician whose major work the Canon (al-Qanun fi'l-Tibb) continued to be taught as a medical textbook in Europe and in the Islamic world until the early modern period, and as a philosopher whose major summa the Cure (al-Shifa') had a decisive impact upon European scholasticism and especially upon Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274). Primarily a metaphysical philosopher of being who was concerned with understanding the self s existence in this world in relation to its contingency, Ibn Sina s philosophy is an attempt to construct a coherent and comprehensive system that accords with the religious exigencies of Muslim culture. As such, he may be considered to be the first major Islamic philosopher. The philosophical space that he articulates for God as the Necessary Existence lays the foundation for his theories of the soul, intellect and cosmos. Furthermore, he articulated a development in the philosophical enterprise in classical Islam away from the apologetic concerns for establishing the relationship between religion and philosophy towards an attempt to make philosophical sense of key religious doctrines and even analyse and interpret the Qur an. Recent studies have attempted to locate him within the Aristotelian and Neoplatonic traditions. His relationship with the latter is ambivalent: although accepting some keys aspects such as an emanationist cosmology, he rejected Neoplatonic epistemology and the theory of the pre-existent soul. However, his metaphysics owes much to the Amonnian synthesis of the later commentators on Aristotle and discussions in legal theory and kalam on meaning, signification and being. Apart from philosophy, Avicenna s other contributions lie in the fields of medicine, the natural sciences, musical theory, and mathematics. In the Islamic sciences ('ulum), he wrote a series of short commentaries on selected Qur anic verses and chapters that reveal a trained philosopher s hermeneutical method and attempt to come to terms with revelation. He also wrote some literary allegories about whose philosophical value recent scholarship is vehemently at odds. His influence in medieval Europe spread through the translations of his works first undertaken in Spain. In the Islamic world, his impact was immediate and led to what Michot has called la pandémie avicennienne. When al-Ghazali  led the theological attack upon the heresies of the philosophers, he singled out Avicenna, and a generation later when the Shahrastani gave an account of the doctrines of the philosophers of Islam, he relied upon the work of Avicenna, whose metaphysics he later attempted to refute in his Struggling against the Philosophers (Musari'at al-falasifa). Avicennan metaphysics became the foundation for discussions of Islamic philosophy and philosophical theology. In the early modern period in Iran, his metaphysical positions began to be displayed by a creative modification that they underwent due to the thinkers of the school of Isfahan, in particular Mulla Sadra (d. 1641).
-- Rizvi, Sajjad H. "Avicenna (Ibn Sina)" Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (January 2006)

Review:

Clinical pharmacology The emphasis of Volume 2 of The Canon of Medicine on tested medicines laid the foundations for an experimental approach to pharmacology. Avicenna lays 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. We quote Avicenna's Introduction to Volume 2 of the Canon of Medicine (The Law of Natural Healing): We say that if we observe certain rules, experiment can determine the temperament of a drug for us: 1. The drug should be free from any foreign alteration, either through accidental heat or cold, or by means of a natural quality that developed because of some sort of transformation that took place in the drug or it may be due to its combining with another substance: 2. The experiment should be based on a single disease. If there is more than one disease there would be two causes and the two causes would require two different treatments. If the experiment using both of them were successful, it would be next to impossible to determine which was the cause of success. 3. The drug may be experimented with in dealing with mixed diseases. If it should prove to be useful in treating all of them, it would still not be correct to say that the drug has an opposing temperament. This is because it may have been the case in regard to a particular disease intrinsically, and in the case of another disease, extrinsically. 4. The drug to be used experimentally must be both qualitatively and quantitatively in proportion to the nature and extent of the disease. It is the case that with some drugs, the degree of heat is less that the degree of cold of the disease. There are some drugs where the opposite is the case. We need to ask: How does this drug affect the specific disease with which we are concerned? The drugs might be useful in treating diseases of lesser cold because they are hot. In order to know this, it would be necessary to first use the drug in treating diseases of lesser cold and then move forward with its use once the full possibilities of the drug are known. 5. It is important to note the time at which the drug proved to have an effect. If the effect appeared quickly after the drug had been given, one could say without hesitation that the affect is natural to the drug. However, if the effect takes time, it would be difficult to decide if the drug worked. It would have to be assumed that the effect of the drug was accidental. This, however, is not an absolute and fast rule. 6. When experimenting with a drug to determine its natural qualities, one has to constantly watch the process to come to know whether the action will be the same in all or most cases. If this is not so, the action is considered to be accidental due to the fact that the inherent qualities of a substance do not come forth continuously, at least in most cases. 7. The experiment should be done with a human being. If the drug is experimented on another animal body, the difference could be because either the drug is hot in relation to the human body or it may be cold in regard to a lion or a horse. It may be warmer than the human body, but colder than that of a lion or a horse. Avicenna lists 800 tested natural pharmaceuticals including plant, animal and mineral substances. The compiler has included the Latin, Persian and Arabic names of the drugs along with artistic renderings of the drugs as illustrations. Avicenna introduces the Tables for each entry where applicable that describes the individual, specific qualities of simple drugs. --Source: enotes, Canon of Medicine, Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Influence in the Western world The [five volume] Arabic text of the Canon of Medicine (Qanun fil tibb or Law of Natural Healing) was translated into Latin as Canon medicinae by Gerard of -- --Kagan, Jerome, 1998: Galen's Prophecy: Temperament In Human Nature. New York: Basic Books

Influence in the Western world The [five volume] Arabic text of the Canon of Medicine (Qanun fil tibb or Law of Natural Healing) was translated into Latin as Canon medicinae by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century and into Hebrew in 1279. Henceforth the Canon served as the chief guide to medical science in the West and is said to have influenced Leonardo da Vinci. Its encyclopedic content, its systematic arrangement and philosophical plan soon worked its way into a position of pre-eminence in the medical literature of Europe, displacing the works of Galen and becoming the textbook for medical education in the schools of Europe. The text was read in the medical schools at Montpellier and Leuven as late as 1650, and Arnold C. Klebs described it as one of the most significant intellectual phenomena of all times. In the words of Dr. William Osler, the Canon has remained a medical bible for a longer time than any other work. The first three books of the Latin Canon were printed in 1472, and a complete edition appeared in 1473. The 1491 Hebrew edition is the first appearance of a medical treatise in Hebrew and the only one produced during the 15th century. Experimental medicine The Canon of Medicine was the first book dealing with evidence-based medicine, experimental medicine, clinical trials, randomized controlled trials, efficacy tests, risk factor analysis, and the idea of a syndrome in the diagnosis of specific diseases. According to Toby Huff and A. C. Crombie, the Canon contains a set of rules that laid down the conditions for the experimental use and testing of drugs which were a precise guide for practical experimentation in the process of discovering and proving the effectiveness of medical substances. Inductive logic This text contributed to the development of inductive logic, which it used to develop the idea of a syndrome in the diagnosis of specific diseases. The Canon of Medicine was the first to describe the methods of agreement, difference and concomitant variation that are critical to inductive logic and the scientific method. Pharmacy Avicenna devoted Volume 2 to simple drugs. He credits many of them to a variety of Arabic, Greek and Indian authors, and also includes some drugs imported from China, along with many of his own original contributions. Using his own expertise, he was often critical of the descriptions given by previous authors and revised many of their descriptions. Phytotherapy In phytotherapy, the Canon introduced the medicinal use of Taxus baccata L. He named this herbal drug as zarnab and used it as a cardiac remedy. This was the first known use of a calcium channel blocker drug, which was not used in the Western world until the 1960s. --Qanun fil tibb or Law of Natural Healing

One of the most interesting findings of my research is how Avicenna, in particular, and traditional medicine, in general, differs from Greek medicine. In the West, following Hippocrates description of the four humours, both Galen and Avicenna define a temperament by the natural qualities in opposite pairs: cold and wet, cold and dry, hot and wet and hot and dry. However, Galen goes beyond this by relating these natural qualities to the humours. In effect, a temperament and a humour become the same thing. Later, western philosophers and scientists are to tie physical characteristics to each type as well. So a person's temperament is referred to as being sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric or melancholic, the same as the humours. Each [temperament] is the result of an excess of one of the humours that produced, in turn, the imbalance in paired qualities. However, it is very clear in this volume of the Canon that Avicenna does not go as far as Galen to equate temperament to humour. Avicenna continues to refer to temperament in terms of the natural qualities of cold and wet, cold and dry, hot and wet and hot and dry, qualities hidden within substances and he continues to call the four humours: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric or melancholic. By the 17th or 18th century in the West, those who follow Galen s medicine no longer relate temperament to the temperament of the healing properties of natural pharmaceuticals. The connection with natural healing is lost, whereas in the East, the law of natural healing continues to be used so that a person s temperament was still connected to the temperament of healing plants, herbs, animals and minerals. One cannot, for instance, refer to the iris or saffron as having a choleric temperament. Avicenna refers to both as having a hot and dry temperament. Therein lies the healing property of the iris and saffron for treating the imbalanced temperament of person who is suffering from a cold disease. This was a completely unexpected find from my research and perhaps explains one reason why the law of natural healing has been lost to modern medicine while it still flourishes in the Middle East and Asia being called Unani medicine. While different in theory from Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine, Avicennian medicine is closely connected to them in their use of natural pharmaceuticals. In addition, Avicenna speaks of degrees of hot, cold, wet and dry temperaments. The iris, for example, is hot and dry in the second degree. Avicenna explains: There are four degrees of medicines whether eaten, taken in the fluid state, or used as an ointment: The first degree drugs are those whose action is not ordinarily felt by the body, i.e., the heat or cold produced by them is not appreciated unless the drug is taken repeatedly or in a larger quantity. The second degree drugs are a little more potent but unless taken repeatedly or in larger doses they do not disturb the normal functioning of the body and even when they do so it is only indirectly. The third degree drugs directly impair the normal functioning of the body but not to the extent of causing disease or death. The fourth degree drugs are those that cause death or damage to the body. These are the poisonous medicines that act on account of their quality. The poisons of course kill by their very nature and are thus specific. The descriptions of these degrees have been incorporated into the explanatory notes following each entry. --Kagan, Jerome, 1998: Galen's Prophecy: Temperament In Human Nature. New York: Basic Books

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