Medicine of Ancient India and Ancient Arabic Medicine


Medicine of Ancient India

Religion always influenced medicine in ancient India (320-540 AD). Diseases and medical happenings were always attributed to unknown/mystical causes. However, alternate practices did arise; furthermore, marked a great advancement in medicine at the time. Two famous medical figures of ancient India were heavily guided by Hinduism. They practiced one of its branches, and gained their medical knowledge from it. This branch known as Ayurveda elaborates on the importance of abiding by health principles/actions. Ayurveda is still followed today all over the world.

The first influential physician was named Charaka. He was accredited to putting the verbal principles of Ayurveda into text. His medical book called, Charaka Samhita chronicles the numerous medicines of his time. This source also entails what steps should be taken in case of injury, as for snake bites.

Painting of Charaka

Susruta was the other vital Indian medical leader. He was a surgeon by profession and the author of, Susruta Samhita. It is the other acclaimed writing of Ayurveda. This medical publication covers the topic of surgery. Susruta described the hundreds of different medical tools used for surgery in, Susruta Samhita. Some of the tools used in ancient Indian medicine are replicated today.

The fundamental basis of Cesarean sections, plastic surgeries, Bladder surgeries, stitching cuts, getting rid of infected sores, and amputations can be found in this medical book. Susruta also introduced medical students to the practice of surgery on non-human patients. Vegetables could be used for exercising the methods of incisions. For stitches he introduced doctors to leather and twill.

Statue of Susruta

The knowledge/discoveries of Charaka, and Susruta support modern medicine today. Medical schools are still influenced by their teachings. They both turned over the conceptions of medicine, and allowed for progression to flourish.

“The Medicine of Ancient India.” Science and Its Times. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale World History in Context. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.


Ancient Arabic Medicine

After the collapse of the Rome Empire (fifth century), Arabs began to create their own medical foundation.  They believed in preserving Roman medicine; furthermore, adding their own twists on things.

With the rapid spread of Islam, Mohammed’s teachings were being brought into light by his followers. These teachings included the identification of medical illnesses. Mohammed (570 CE-632 CE) was worried about his supporters; moreover, he educated himself about the effects of leprosy and smallpox.  Mohammed’s attention to illnesses such as these, spurred Arabs to learn, and educate themselves about afflicting diseases. This is known as preventive medicine today.

As the majority of medical texts were written by the Romans/Greeks; furthermore, Arabs were motivated to have these books translated into Arabic. The drive to obtain knowledge/translations from other cultures, led to the establishment of the translation committee. This board called, The House of Wisdom was centered in Baghdad. People were sent to numerous areas to get information, and bring it back to absorb. This achievement helped Arabs become more prominent in medicine; thus, having many different views preserved.  

A famous translator was Hunain ibn Ishaq (808 CE-873 CE). He traveled to Baghdad to study medicine. There Hunain became known for his talents of translating, summarizing, and paraphrasing vital texts. The writers of these accounts included Hippocrates of Cos (Greek), Pedanius Dioscorides (Greek) and Claudius Galen (Roman). Hunain’s ability to embark on translation allowed for Arab medicine to change for the better, and for others like him to follow.

Painting of Hunain ibn Ishaq

“The Development of Arab Medicine During the Eighth through Thirteenth Centuries.” Science and Its Times. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale World History in Context. Web. 2 Dec. 2010. ____________________________________________________________________________


Continuation: Ancient Arabic Medicine

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya’ ar-Razi (865 CE-923 CE) also known as Rhazes, wrote the first considerable Arabic medical encyclopedia (totaling to 25 books). He is known as the father of pediatrics and as Islam’s greatest physician. These titles are accredited to him because of his vast writings devoted especially to adolescent diseases.

Painting of Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya’ ar-Razi

Ibn Sina (980 CE-1037 CE) also known as Avicenna, was another significant doctor in Arabic Medicine. His work, The Cannon of Medicine became a guide to many different doctors from all over the world. Physicians from different nations rewrote their own versions of Avicenna’s, The Cannon of Medicine. Arabic medical works were translated into different languages; thus, Arabic medicine proved to be significant.

Painting of Ibn Sina

Today, any country in the world is able to share important medical discoveries with other nations. They avidly borrow from one another, and prominently translate writings into numerous languages. Arabs were considered the first in revolutionizing this process of medical borrowing.  

“The Development of Arab Medicine During the Eighth through Thirteenth Centuries.” Science and Its Times. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale World History in Context. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.


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