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Therapeutic properties and uses of marine invertebrates in the ancient Greek world and early Byzantium
Voultsiadou, E. (2010). Therapeutic properties and uses of marine invertebrates in the ancient Greek world and early Byzantium. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 130(2): 237-247.
In: Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Elsevier Science Ireland: Shannon. ISSN 0378-8741, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Zootherapy; Paleoethnozoology; Paleoethnopharmacology; Hippocrates; Galen; Dioscorides

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  • Voultsiadou, E., more

    Aim of the study Marine organisms are currently investigated for the therapeutic potential of their natural products with very promising results. The human interest for their use in healing practices in the Eastern Mediterranean goes back to the antiquity. An attempt is made in the present work to investigate the therapeutic properties of marine invertebrates and the ways they were used in the medical practice during the dawn of the western medicine.Methods The classical Greek texts of the Ancient Greek (Classical, Hellenistic and Roman) and early Byzantine period were studied and the data collected were analysed in order to extract detailed information on the parts of animal bodies and the ways they were used for healing purposes.Results and discussion Thirty-eight marine invertebrates were recorded for their therapeutic properties and uses in 40 works of 20 classical authors, covering a time period of 11 centuries (5th c. BC to 7th c. AD). The identified taxa were classified into 7 phyla and 11 classes of the animal kingdom, while molluscs were the dominant group. Marine invertebrates were more frequently used for their properties relevant to digestive, genitourinary and skin disorders. Flesh, broth, skeleton, or other special body parts of the animals were prepared as drinks, collyria, suppositories, cataplasms, compresses, etc.Conclusions Marine invertebrates were well known for their therapeutic properties and had a prominent role in the medical practice during the Ancient Greek and the early Byzantine period. The diversity of animal species and their medicinal uses reflect the maritime nature of the Greek civilization, which flourished on the coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea. Most of them were common species exploited by humans for food or other everyday uses.

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