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History

Greek methods of diagnosis and treatment

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Some ancient Greek methods of diagnosis would not be out of place in a modern doctor's surgery, and some of the natural cures of Greek doctors resemble some home remedies still in use today. Some of their theories, though - such as the theory of the four humours [Four humours: Four bodily fluids - yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm - used in ancient times to analyse and describe people's state of health. ] - although very influential in the history of medicine, eventually proved to be false.

Summary

The Greek doctors made their medical diagnosis based on examination of their patient from head to foot - this is called clinical observation. They did this while referring to Hippocratic textbooks, which told them how to do the examination and what the disease might be.

The ancient Greeks came to understand that illness had natural causes, and could not be cured by appealing to their gods. They therefore looked for natural cures, using natural substances such as garlic, vinegar and honey. Greek doctors said that nature is the best healer.

Since Greek doctors believed that most illness was caused by an imbalance of the four humours, many of their cures tried to rebalance the humours. In their search for a cure they also often tried to balance the natural heat of the patient:

  • They would cure a cold by keeping the patient warm.
  • They would treat a fever (hot and wet) by keeping the patient cool and dry.
  • They used bleeding and purging - not, as the Egyptians, to unblock a channel, but in order to rebalance two of the humours - the blood and the black bile.

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