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Illness or Symptom?

Some remarks on the terminology of Mesopotamian medical texts

Author: András Bácskay

It has been obvious for a long time that the so-called symptom descriptions in the source groups of Mesopotamian medicine (particularly in prescriptions of therapeutic and diagnostical/prognostic texts) cannot be exclusively applied to specific diseases, as the same symptoms appear in connection with a variety of illnesses, and symptom descriptions relating to individual diseases can be very varied. Although several attempts have been made by researchers to describe the ancient Mesopotamian culture's system of ideas about illness, no unambiguous scientific answer has as yet been provided to the question what relationship exists between the symptoms and illnesses mentioned. Due to the lack of an exact understanding of ancient Mesopotamia's conceptual framework concerning symptoms and diseases, and the modern approaches to the given texts from the viewpoint of our own culture's taxonomy of the related field, we have achieved a state of significant conceptual discrepancies. Recent research has attempted to clarify some of the issues. Below I am giving a short summary of the results in this field. Following that I am providing a brief description of my approach to the Babylonian medical terminology.

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The goal of this paper is to analise the magical elements of mesopotamian medical texts. The Mesopotamian concept of illness is interpreting physical complaints and pain, that is symptoms and illness, as messages from the gods (omens), claiming that medical texts deal with a specific type of this kind of message transfer, namely those cases when the bad omen occurs on the human body. In this article I introduce the sources and the cultural context of Mesopotamian medical texts, then I examine the magical elements in the process of healing treatment. We can conclude that the minor role of practice in the curing of illnesses is supported by the magic elements (e.g. aspects of numerology, or magic circles) identifiable in each step of healing with medicaments.

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Authors: András Kerchner, Judit Darók, Ivett Bacskay, Attila Felinger, Gábor Jakab and Ágnes Farkas

The family Solanaceae includes several melliferous plants, which tend to produce copious amounts of nectar. Floral nectar is a chemically complex aqueous solution, dominated by sugars, but minor components such as amino acids, proteins, flavonoids and alkaloids are present as well. This study aimed at analysing the protein and alkaloid profile of the nectar in seven solanaceous species. Proteins were examined with SDS-PAGE and alkaloids were analyzed with HPLC. The investigation of protein profile revealed significant differences in nectar-protein patterns not only between different plant genera, but also between the three Nicotiana species investigated. SDS-PAGE suggested the presence of several Nectarin proteins with antimicrobial activity in Nicotiana species. The nectar of all tobacco species contained the alkaloid nicotine, N. tabacum having the highest nicotine content. The nectar of Brugmansia suaveolens, Datura stramonium, Hyoscyamus niger and Lycium barbarum contained scopolamine, the highest content of which was measured in B. suaveolens. The alkaloid concentrations in the nectars of most solanaceous species investigated can cause deterrence in honeybees, and the nectar of N. rustica and N. tabacum can be considered toxic for honeybees.

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