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Bloodletting: Why Doctors Used To Bleed Their Patients For Health

Bloodletting — the practice of withdrawing blood from a person’s veins for therapeutic reasons — was common for thousands of years. In this Curiosities of Medical History feature, we look at the history of bloodletting and how it eventually fell out of favor with the medical community. An online paper writing service offers an original health documented papers crafted by our professional essay writers.

Also known as phlebotomy — from the Greek words phlebos, meaning “vein,” and temnein, meaning “to cut” — bloodletting is a therapeutic practice that started in antiquity. Today, however, the term phlebotomy refers to the drawing of blood for transfusions or blood tests.

Some sources suggest that the original practice of bloodletting is more than 3,000 years old and that the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans — as well as many other ancient peoples — all used it for medical treatment.

But what is the origin of the notion of bleeding someone to help them get better?



The theory of the 4 humors

Hippocrates — an Ancient Greek physician who lived in the fifth century before the common era and was one of the most important figures in the history of medicine — practiced medicine according to the theory of the four humors, or “humoral theory.”

According to the most influential version of this theory, these humors were: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. In the second century before the common era, Galen — a famous Roman physician who also subscribed to the humoral theory — promoted arteriotomy, a bloodletting method, as a means of reestablishing the balance of the four humors and treating a variety of symptoms.

The principle behind bloodletting is to remove some blood in a controlled way so that the patient does not end up bleeding profusely. However, as some of Galen’s contemporaries observed, the famed physician could sometimes get carried away when administering this treatment. The writer assigned to write my paper request related to mediical information is qualified to the same academic level or higher than your writing requirements.


A strange precursor to blood transfusion?

Despite the fact that doctors no longer prescribe bloodletting, the practice has not died out entirely.

In some communities around the world, there are people who still believe that this practice can help cure all sorts of ailments and diseases.

Leech therapy has also persisted in alternative medicine, with some arguing that it can help improve blood flow and may even have an antitumor effect.

But bloodletting’s most important legacy is, perhaps strangely, blood transfusion.

Throughout history, bloodletting has been paired closely with an interest in the various functions of the human body.

By looking into how changing the volume of blood in the body might affect its health, doctors eventually came to understand more and more about blood circulation, the importance of blood to health, and the characteristics of blood.

In the 1200s, a Persian scholar called Ibn an-Nafīs had already understood that blood flows through the veins that thread their way to and from the various organs. However, it took European scholars another 400 years or so to learn about circulation.

Doctors in Europe started to practice blood transfusions as early as the 1400s, as they were aware of the dangers of blood loss. Always choose the best college essay examples that guarantees quality essay work  and highligh the medical information in an essay format.

However, for many centuries, they lacked the knowledge that there are different blood groups with different compatibilities, which affects the success of blood transfusions.

It was Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner who, in 1909, first discovered and described different blood groups, making blood transfusion a viable therapy.

For his contribution to the field of medicine, Landsteiner received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1930.

Nowadays, each year sees the collection of approximately 118.5 million blood donations globally. This donated blood helps save people’s lives and improve their health.