What’s the earliest Chinese medical book?
The recipes suggest chanting spells, herbal medicines, lancing (cutting the skin open) and cauterization (burning the flesh).
Possession by demons
In this book, Chinese medicine was supposed to cure things like warts and snake bites and possession by demons (mental illness).
Another book of Chinese medicine: the Neijing
By about 100 BC, China had become a major center of medical research. It was the home of some of the world’s best doctors. These doctors wrote the Neijing, a book about Chinese medicine. The book organized and explained all of their treatments. The Neijing argues that earlier ideas about demons making you sick are wrong.
What are yin and yang and qi?
According to the Neijing, you get sick when the yin and yang of your body are out of balance. Lifestyle choices like bad food, not exercising, stress, and your environment can knock you out of balance. This imbalance blocks your qi, your life-force. It’s like Herophilus‘ idea of pneuma.
How did Chinese doctors treat patients?
Doctors used a combination of acupuncture (using China’s newly invented steel needles), moxibustion, herbal medicines, and exercises to restore your balance.
(You might want to compare this to the Greek idea of four humors that developed in the 400s BC. It’s possible that Chinese doctors knew about these Greek ideas, from travelers along the Silk Road, or the other way around.).
Another Han Dynasty doctor, Huo Tuo, apparently combined wine and hashish as anaesthesia for surgery. Sadly, the medical books Huo Tuo wrote have all been lost. Possibly Huo Tuo got medical information from Buddhist missionaries from India.
Did Chinese doctors do human dissections?
Ge Hong discovers a treatment for malaria
Chinese doctors figured out many ways to treat sick people. They used many medicines made of different herbs and tree barks. Though some of these were just guesses, other medicines worked well. By the 300s AD, Ge Hong was the first doctor in the world to write about a good medicine for malaria.
A third book of Chinese medicine: Sun Simiao
During the T’ang Dynasty, in the 600s AD, a doctor named Sun Simiao wrote more medical books. Sun listed thousands of recipes for different medicines, and also discussed how doctors should behave. He said, “A great doctor should not pay attention to status, wealth or age. He shouldn’t ask whether the patient is beautiful or ugly, whether he is an enemy or friend, whether he is Chinese or a foreigner, or finally, whether he is uneducated or educated. A doctor should meet everyone on equal grounds. He should always treat patients as if they were his own family.”
Clean water and toilets help to save lives
About this time, Chinese cities began to have pay toilets, which helped to keep poop out of the streets so that fewer people caught dysentery. By the 1100s, under the Song Dynasty, there were even a few free public toilets.
Chinese doctors use inoculation against smallpox
Chinese doctors learned from Indian doctors about inoculation against smallpox, and by the 1500s AD, under the Ming Dynasty, Chinese doctors were inoculating many people to prevent smallpox from spreading.