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Title: The medicinal use of leeches in Malta
Authors: Savona-Ventura, Charles
Sawyer, Roy T.
Schembri, Patrick J.
Keywords: Alternative medicine
Leeches -- Therapeutic use
Medicine -- Malta -- History
Issue Date: 2002
Publisher: Malta Medical Journal
Citation: Savona Ventura, C., Sawyer, R. T., & Schembri, P. J. (2002). The medicinal use of leeches in the Malta. Malta Medical Journal 14(1), 48-52.
Abstract: The medical practice based on the Greek doctrine of the four humors considered that disease was due to alterations in the composition of these humors, and therapy was therefore based on attempting to restore the balance. Bleeding was the first resort in the treatment of a large majority of diseases ­ a therapeutic measure that persisted throughout the centuries. Bloodletting generally took the form of using a knife or lancet to open a vein, a procedure referred to as venesection or phlebotomy. A gentler and more desirable form of bleeding was to put a leech on the affected part and to let the animal engorge itself with the bad blood thought to dwell below the point of application. Leeches have been used medically for centuries; in Europe the use of leeches to drain off blood reached its height of popularity in the 19th century. The practice of bloodletting in the Maltese Islands dates at least to about the 2nd century AD. A tomb-slab from the late Roman/Palaeo-Christian period depicts a set of surgical instruments that include two Roman cupping vessels 1. Only 93 kilometers away from Sicily and 290 km from Northern Africa, the Maltese archipelago with its central position in the Mediterranean was an important meeting place for the various cultures that dominated the region. Malta's location at the crossroads of culture is reflected by the medical practices in use throughout the centuries. The practice of venesection in Malta persisted through the ages and during the medieval period (1539), the procedure was being carried out by the barbersurgeons against payment of one unza2. The barber-surgeons or barberotti remained responsible for venesection well into the 19th century and were only removed from the list of medical practitioners in 19213. The gentler form of bloodletting through the use of leeches was also practiced in Malta.
Appears in Collections:MMJ, Volume 14, Issue 1
MMJ, Volume 14, Issue 1
Scholarly Works - FacM&SOG
Scholarly Works - FacSciBio

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