How Modern Medicine Evolved Through the Years

From magic spells and folk medicine to the advanced treatments that are available to us today, modern medicine has a rich history. To have a complete understanding of how medicine has evolved, let’s take a journey from early times until today.

The Use of Folk Medicine During Earlier Times

In early times, various plants and herbs were used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Through trial and error, people experimented to learn which were poisonous and which were safe. Additionally, discoveries were made concerning which plants to use to address specific medical problems.

Herbal remedies were used to treat common illnesses such as colds, cases of flu, constipation, headaches, and stomach upset. Folk medicine is still widely used today as holistic medicine has gained a large following.

Magic and Medicine

For some time, magic was also a part of medicine since it was believed that serious physical and mental illnesses were thought to be caused by magic spells and evil spirits. Doctors collaborated with sorcerers to cast spells to rid the body of the evil causing the sickness. Patients were also given magic potions to consume while witch doctors and others danced around them and chanted as this was thought to promote healing.

Another method that was implemented to get evil spirits that were thought to cause serious illness to leave the body was to drill a hole in the patient’s skull, a practice known as trepanning. The holes were anywhere from two-and-a-half to five centimeters big. Trepanning was commonly used on patients who suffered from mental illness or epilepsy.

Medicine in 400 B.C.E.

In 400 B.C.E., there were many developments in medicine. Hippocrates referred to tumors as “karcinos” and stated that these tumors eventually became cancer. The cause of cancer was not yet understood though one prevailing theory was that cancer was a result of an imbalance in the four humors.

Also, in 400 B.C.E., mental illnesses were finally understood to be true health conditions. They were no longer thought to be the symptoms of being inhabited by evil spirits.

Medicine in the Second Century

In the second century, Galen created several treatments for breast cancer. One of these breast cancer treatments included a brutal surgery for removing tumors in their early stages. Often, these surgeries resulted in death. For centuries, these surgeries were the only cancer treatment available. It would not be until 1895 that radiation therapy would be used to treat cancer.

Mental Illness

From the 1400s until now, treatments for mental illness evolved. Until recently, many struggling with mental illness were kept in institutions and suffered several cases of abuse. In the 1600s, the mentally ill were chained to walls in dungeons.

In the 1700s, Phillippe Pinel forbade putting the mentally ill in chains in dungeons, and he encouraged patients to get sunlight and exercise. Even so, mistreatment of those with mental illness was still rampant. It was not until the late 20th century that treatments would be more humane and support for mental illness would be widely available.

Disease Prevention and Methods for Immunization

Immunizations and disease prevention methods also have a long history. Some developments were as follows:

  • In the 1890s, infections were minimized by applying carbolic acid to wounds, and chemical agents were used as disinfectants.
  • In 1914, rabies and typhoid became available for public use.
  • In 1915, the pertussis vaccine was licensed.
  • In 1955, a vaccine for polio was created.
  • In 1966, a campaign to eradicate measles began, and the measles vaccine was born.
  • In 1981, the hepatitis B vaccine was created.

More vaccines would come into the picture over the next decades.

Healthcare Specialties

Healthcare specialties are a recent development as there were few doctors concentrating on specific areas of medicine until the middle of the 20th century. Before then, there was a great deal of resistance to medical specialties because there was a prominent belief that these would degrade the worth of the general practitioner. But as time progressed, several believed that medical specialties would help to improve the quality of care and ensure complex medical problems are better addressed.

Now, there are a wide variety of specialty jobs in the medical industry. There are gastroenterology jobs, cardiology jobs, and jobs in obstetrics among many others.

As time progresses, medicine will continue to evolve, and more discoveries will be made that will dramatically improve our lives. We will have improved treatments and procedures to combat illnesses and continue to develop an even better understanding of various diseases and conditions.