Maimonides’ Medical Writings- A review of 10 books in 7 volumes

, March 24, 2015 in Reflective Essays

Moses Maimonides is one of the greatest authors in the history of Western medicine. At the end of the 12th Century, he had gathered the most important medical writings of the time and re-presented them through his unique character.

Western science or “natural philosophy” as it was called, began in ancient Egypt with the writings of Thoth (or “Hermes”.) Later, during the golden age of Greece, development of scientific concepts continued in the works of Thales and Anaximander, and Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle. Science was speculative for the most part rather, than empirical or experimental. The medical descriptions of the constitution of man was based upon a framework of concepts relating health and disease to four humors; blood, bile, phlegm and melanche; four elements; air, earth, fire and water; and four qualities; hot, cold, wet and dry. Hippocrates of Cos used this framework as his template and wrote extensively on a broad range of numerous medical subjects. Hippocrates is called the “Father of Medicine” and his “Book of [Medical] Aphorisms” is considered his most important work. The Greek physician Galen, a medical author in his own right, also copied the works of Hippocrates and commented on them to make them more accessible to readers. The writings of Hippocrates and Galen became the foundation of all medical writings in Europe and much of the Middle East for well over a thousand years.

In 1135 Moses Maimonides was born in Cordova, Spain. Little is known of his formal education but we can find many quotations in his writings that tell us which authors he studied.. Cordova was a Moslem center in the 12th Century so Maimonides would have read works translated into Arabic. The Greek medical works of Hippocrates, Galen and Aristotle had been long carried and translated in the Moslem world. Some of the famous Moslem writers quoted by Maimonides are Rhazes and Ibn Sina of Persia, Al Farabi, and Ibn Zuhr the Spanish-Arabic physician.

The Maimon family was forced to flee Cordova and traveled eastward, settling and moving over the years until they reached old Cairo (then called “Fostat”.) At age 39, Maimonides was appointed Court Physician to Vizier Al-Fadhil, Regent of Egypt. Saladin the Great, Al-Fadhil’s his father, was fighting in Palestine in the Second Crusade. In some chronicles of the crusades it is reported that Richard the Lion-Hearted invited Maimonides to be his personal physician, but Maimonides declined. Richard went on to give Maimonides papers entitling him to travel freely within the Christian camps, purchase medical supplies and provide treatment

Maimonides was a dedicated worker for the good of the royal entourage and the people of Cairo as expressed in this famous letter to Rabbi Samuel Ibn Tibbon:

“…I live in Fostat and the Sultan resides in Cairo; these two places are two Sabbath limits [marked off areas around a town within which it is permitted to move on the Sabbath; approximately one and one-half miles] distant from each other. My duties to the Sultan are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning, and when he or any of his children or concubines are indisposed, I cannot leave Cairo but must stay during most of the day in the palace. It also frequently happens that one or two of the officers fall sick and I must attend to their healing. Hence, as a rule, every day, early in the morning, I go to Cairo and, even if nothing unusual happens there, I do not return to Fostat until the afternoon. Then I am famished but I find the antechambers filled with people, both Jews and Gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and policemen, friends and enemies, – a mixed multitude who await the time of my return.

“I dismount from my animal, wash my hands, go forth to my patients, and entreat them to bear with me while I partake of some light refreshment, the only meal I eat in twenty-four hours. Then I go to attend to my patients and write prescriptions and directions for their ailments. Patients go in and out until nightfall, and sometimes, even as the Torah is my faith, until two hours and more into the night. I converse with them and prescribe for them even while lying down from sheer fatigue. When night falls, I am so exhausted that I can hardly speak…

“In consequence of this, no Israelite can converse with me or befriend me [on religious or community matters] except on the Sabbath. On that day, the whole congregation, or at least the majority, comes to me after the morning service, when I instruct them as to their proceedings during the whole week. We study together a little until noon, when they depart. Some of them return and read with me after the afternoon services until evening prayer. In this manner, I spend the days. I have here related to you only a part of what you would see if you were to visit me…”

Although his workday was long, Maimonides was also a prodigious writer, producing numerous volumes on religious, mathematical, ethical, astronomical and medical topics. His most famous books are three religious works held in very high esteem by Jew and scholars worldwide. The three books, “Commentary on the Mishnah”, “The Mishneh Torah” and the “Guide for the Perplexed” ensure Maimonides’ name a place in the annals of history. These great works are to Judaism as the “Summa Theologica” of Thomas Aquinas is to Catholicism.

In this article, the ten medical works of Moses Maimonides will be reviewed together as a collection, and we will explore examples of the concepts which reveal the framework of his medical philosophy.

Between 1984 and 1995, The Maimonides Research Institute in Haifa, Israel published a seven-volume set: “Maimonides; Medical Writings”. This is the first time these works have been available in English. Each volume has a foreword from the Dean of the Institute, a preface from the translator, another foreword commenting on the text and its relation to previous editions and 3 translations, an extensive bibliography of texts and manuscripts utilized to make the present edition, a table of contents, and the text itself. The text is footnoted heavily with notes at the bottom of the page (or end of each chapter, depending on the book.) There is an index at the end of each volume. Six of the seven volumes are translated by Dr. Fred Rosner M.D. F.A.C.P.

Volume I contains three books, the first of which is “Treatise of Poisons”. Maimonides praises his benefactor for many works including the supplying of the Great Theriac and the Electuary of Mithridates to all who needed them. These costly, complex herbal compounds were considered as universal antidotes to poisons bites and stings. Chapter one opens with the description of treatment of the bite victim:

“ When someone is bitten, one must strive to immediately tie and bind a ligature above the site of the bite as tightly as possible so that the poison not disseminate throughout the body. While the site of the bite is being tied, another person should make incisions with a knife at the site of the bite and suck with his mouth as strongly as he is able. He should spit out all that he sucks. He should first rinse his mouth with olive oil or wine and oil and then suck and then wipe his lips with violet oil, if available, or with olive oil. The person who is sucking must be careful that he not have any illness in his mouth nor any decayed teeth. Some physicians require that the sucking person be fasting whereas others maintain that he should not be fasting”. Maimonides distinguishes between hematotoxic (hot) and neurotoxic (cold) poisonings:

“ The remedies recommended by physicians – some are to be imbibed in wine, some in water, some in vinegar and some in milk. I advise anyone who does not know the type of animal that bit him to carefully examine his condition. If the patient is very hot as occurs in someone who is bittern by a viper, it is best for him to choose from those remedies which are taken in milk or in vinegar. If the patient is very cold as occurs in someone bitten by a scorpion, he should choose from those remedies which are taken in wine. If wine is forbidden to a person, they should be taken in a decoction of anise because all physicians agree that anise is effective against the poison of all living creatures.”

Maimonides notes the long incubation period (about 40 days) and the hydrophobia of rabies. Included in this text are remedies of medicine and food for every conceivable bite or sting. Lastly, he describes how to recognize the signs of many kinds of food spoilage.

Volume I, Book 2, is the “Treatise on Hemorrhoids”. It is written as response to a request and so is for a layman and not for a physician. Maimonides believed that in most cases of hemorrhoids, surgery is ineffective as a cure as it does not address the cause of the problem; hence the hemorrhoids may recur. In Maimonides’ introduction he states the outline of hemorrhoid management in seven chapters.

The First Chapter: A great essay on good (or normal) digestion.

The Second Chapter: Discussion regarding foods that one should avoid because of this illness.

The Third Chapter: Concerning foods which one should strive for because of this illness.

The Fourth Chapter: Concerning simple and compounded medications that one should regularly take.

The Fifth Chapter: Concerning remedies applied (locally) that one should regularly use.

The Sixth Chapter: Concerning those regimens upon which one can rely when this illness occurs.

The Seventh Chapter: Concerning the regimen to utilize in this illness from the standpoint of fumigations.

He describes the usage of cathartics, bloodletting, rectal suppositories, anointing with salves and oils and finally a fumigation device to dry and dissolve hemorrhoids. (Note that in some instances it is not clear whether Maimonides is speaking about hemorrhoids, polyps or rectal prolapse.

“ (One should regularly consume) each of the five types of myrobalan.70 One should pulverize one and a half drams 71 of one of these and combine it with an equal measure of sugar and eat and drink this powder in chick pea juice. Likewise anise; 72 one should take two drams weight thereof pulverized and sieved with an equal quantity of sugar. So too oxtongue; 73 one boils the weight of three drachmas and filters it over sugar. Similarly, raw silk; 74 one should cook one dram thereof and filter it over sugar. The same applies to grape juice, filtered over sugar or with manna. 75 Whenever one is constipated 76 the best softener is cassia fistula, because, together with the diarrhea it evokes, the blood becomes cleansed and therefrom iron slag. 77 One should take one and a half drams thereof and wash it after pulverizing it, and throw it into one half a liter of grape juice 78 which was cooked until (its volume becomes) reduced by one third, and drink this (concoction). Likewise, mace 79 is beneficial for hemorrhoids as a drink or inserted into the rectum. 80

70. Chebula, citrina, indica seu nigra, emblica and bellirica.

71. Drams, shekels and drachmas are weight measures.

72. Pimpinella anisum.

73. Borrago officialis, Anchusa italica Retz.

74. Muntner points out that only Maimonides among all the ancient and medieval physicians recommends this remedy.

75. Lecanora esculenta or coccus manniparus,Tamarix nilotica mannifera.

76. Literally: nature is dry.

77. Scoria, squama ferri.

78. I.e., wine.

79. Myristica fragrans Houtt.

80. As a suppository.

Book 3 of Volume I is the “Treatise of Cohabitation”. Written at the request of the Sultan of Syria, it is limited in its scope. Maimonides recommends moderation, self – awareness and self-control. The Sultan only wants to increase his coital activities so Maimonides gives him both general and specific recommendations. The first thing to notice is that Maimonides believes that nutrition is more important than medication as it was believed that sperm is the superfluous product of the “third digestion”. The general rule states that cold and dry foods are bad and moderately warm and moist foods are good. Also, positive emotions of happiness and delight are “good,” and being negative, sorrowful, anxious and weary is “bad”. The Sultan is advised regarding how to direct his thoughts so as to generate sexual excitement at the correct time, and also how not to dissipate his energy through licentiousness. A list of animal and vegetable foods, condiments and recipes is given which will increase potency (i.e. the “warm and moist” category). A second list describes anti- aphrodisiacs in that category. Maimonides lists wine and herbed wines as the strongest aphrodisiacs and apologizes to his sponsor because Moslems can not drink wine even as medicine. Maimonides only wants to state it for the record for future 6 use of the information by non-Moslems. He consistently endeavors to relate that which his art determines is the right information and the most beneficial regimen. He allows the patient to choose to act or not act using his own judgement of what is good and lawful. Recipes are given for herbal compounds, salves, massage oils, aroma therapy, bath compounds and honey-based drinks as substitutes for wine.

Volume 2 of Maimonides’ Medical Writings contains “Maimonides’ Commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates”. These aphorisms have already been copied and commented upon by Galen so what we have is an important medical text examined by two great physicians.

“It is because I saw that the book of aphorisms of Hippocrates is of greater value than all his other books that I decided to explain them. These are aphorisms which every physician, and even non-physician, should know by heart. I also saw that children memorize them in school so that non-physicians also know many of them by heart like schoolchildren who learn from their teacher.

“Among these aphorisms of Hippocrates are some which are doubtful and require explanation, some which are self-evident, some which are repeated, some which are not useful for medical therapeutics, and some which are absolutely erroneous viewpoints. Galen, however, denies such statements and explains them as he wishes. But I will explain them in the manner of brevity; namely, I will only explain those (aphorisms) which require explanation. I will follow the opinions of Galen with the exception of a few aphorisms where I will state my own opinion in my own name. That which I mention anonymously is the statement of Galen with whose opinion I agree. Here we find a discussion on considering the timing of an illness in order that the feeding times may be determined:

“Said Hippocrates: The characteristics of all illness and its severity are indicated by the diseases themselves, the season of the year, the periodicity of recurrence of attacks – whether they occur every day or every alternate day, or after a longer period -, and also by symptoms which may occur later. For example, in patients with pleuritis, at the onset one may see bloody expectoration. If this occurs immediately at the onset, the illness will be of short duration, but if it appears later, the disease will be of prolonged duration. Similarly, the characteristics of urine and feces and sweat can indicate the benignity or severity of an illness and whether it will be of long or of short duration.

“Says Maimonides: From the nature of the illness itself, one can know whether the acme will occur rapidly or slowly. Pleuritus and pneumonia and head abscess are extremely acute illnesses. On the other hand, hydrops and phrenitis and pyemia and phthisis, which is a lung disease, are chronic illnesses. Fever paroxysms in patients with pneumonia or with a head abscess generally occur every other day. On the other hand, most patients with pus in the stomach or the liver or those with phthisis have daily fever, and particularly at night. And most 7 patients with paroxysms of fever secondary to illness of the spleen or as a result of black bile have fever for one day and then none for two days.

“Similarly, the seasons of the year (are of prognostic importance). In most situations, quartan fever in the summer is of short duration, and during the winter of long duration, particularly during the transition from fall to winter. An increase in the paroxysms indicates worsening of the illness and closeness of the acme. The increase of the second episode differs from the first paroxysm, the second is the duration of the paroxysm and the third is its magnitude, that is to say its severity.”

Maimonides gives an example of the physician determining whether to heal with sympathy or antipathy:

“Said Hippocrates: Those things which need to be evacuated should be evacuated from those places towards which they have the greatest tendency, from those organs which are the proper outlets.

“Says Maimonides: Galen asserts that ‘those things which need to be evacuated’ refer to the humors which give rise to the illness and which, (if not excreted), are associated with an incomplete crisis. The organs from which it is appropriate to evacuate (these humors) and the sites which are suitable for such cleansing are the intestines, the stomach, the urinary bladder, the uterus and the skin. In addition, there are the palate and the nostrils, if one’s intention is to cleanse the brain.

“It is the physician’s obligation to examine and be cognizant of the tendencies of nature. If he finds the direction in which nature is striving to cleanse the body, he should provide nature with that which it needs to evacuate (the excretions) and thus help nature. But if the opposite is the case and the physician believes that movement (of nature) in that direction would be harmful, then he should hinder it and divert it and lead it in the opposite direction of the one toward which nature is striving. I will give you an example to illustrate this: if humors in the liver have already given rise to an illness, there are two favorable directions in which to effect (their evacuation); one way is through the stomach. If that is the direction which nature favors, then evacuation through purgations is preferable to that by emesis. The other direction is through the kidneys and urinary bladder. However, it is not good if the humors strive toward the chest or the lungs or the heart.”

He underlines an important lesson for the student of medicine:

“Said Hippocrates: When you are doing everything which should be done and according to rational indications, but things do not turn out the way they should, do not change to something else as long as the original appearances of the matter remain.

“Says Maimonides: This aphorism comprises a fundamental set of medical rules and regulations. In this commentary, Galen failed to pay sufficiently close attention thereto. This aphorism means to say as follows: if you, for example, observe signs which indicate that the 8 patient should receive warming medications, and you constantly administer such warming remedies, yet the patient fails to recover, it is not proper for you to change to cooling remedies. Rather, maintain the warming therapy as long as the original indications for warming remain. This is what is meant by the phrase ‘as long as the original appearances of the matter remain’.

“This is the sense of this (Hippocratic) statement, that is to say, do not change from the type of therapy being applied. However, it is certainly appropriate that you change from one warming medication to another warming medication. You should change from individual to compound medications and vice-versa, as long as they are all warming in their effect, because when a body becomes constantly accustomed to a single remedy, the action of the latter becomes less effective. Furthermore, by interchanging different medications which have the same qualitative action, one achieves an exceptional benefit for the constitution of each person and the constitution of each organ and for the occurrence of each illness. This is a fundamental principle of medical science.

“The same approach should be used in regard to nutrition, and in regard to the different types of evacuation of illness-producing humors, and in regard to dissolving remedies or cooking remedies or thickening substances or astringents. One should maintain the type of therapy indicated by the extant signs and symptoms and should change to medications and nutrients of the therapeutic class. Understand this!”

Hippocrates’ medical theories come alive in this volume with its many footnotes and comments from the translator Fred Rosner M.D., using modern medical terminology. Dr. Rosner helps display the wealth of understanding that Hippocrates, Galen and Maimonides had, and makes it available to modern readers.

Volume 3 in the set is titled “Medical Aphorisms of Moses”.There are 1500 aphorisms divides into 25 chapters of medical topics including “anatomy, physiology, pathology, symptomatology and diagnosis, etiology of disease and therapeutics, fevers, blood-letting or phlebotomy, laxative and emetics, surgery, gynecology, hygiene, exercise, bathing, diet, drugs and medical curiosities.” An excerpt chosen by Dr. Rosner give us insight into Maimonidean thinking:

“A very accurate description of obstructive emphysema is provided during a lengthy discussion of respiratory disease: ‘…reason [for respiratory embarrassment] is narrowing of the organs of respiration, then the breast is seen to greatly expand. This expansion produces rapid and cut off [respirations]’…”

Clubbing of the fingers associated with pulmonary disease, already described by Hippocrates, is beautifully depicted: “With an illness affecting the lungs called ‘hasal’; namely, phthisis, there develops rounding of the nail as a rainbow.” The signs and symptoms of pneumonia are remarkably accurately described: “The basic symptoms which occur in pneumonia and which are never lacking are as follows: acute fever, sticking [pleuritic] pain in 9 the side, short rapid breaths, serrated pulse and cough, mostly [associated] with sputum…”. Hepatitis is just as beautifully described: “The signs of liver inflammation are eight in number as follows: high fever, thirst, complete anorexia, a tongue which is initially red and then turns black, biliary vomitus, initially yellow egg yolk in color which later turns dark green, pain on the right side which ascends up to the clavicle… Occasionally a mild cough may occur and a sensation of heaviness which is first felt on the right side and then spreads widely…”

In Volume 4 we find three books of Maimonides’ that were written separately, but have been related since the Middle Ages. The first book, “Regimen of Health” is divided into five chapters and is a good general instruction book for the preservation of health. The book discusses diet, hygiene, drugs, phlebotomy, psychosomatic medicine and offers a list of recipes and prescriptions. This famous “Regimene Sanitatis” was taught throughout European medical universities in the Middle Ages. The fundamental principles of holistic medicine (before the word “holistic” appeared) can be found in the works of Maimonides. He unites body, mind and soul. He stresses that treatment should be of the patient and not the disease. He believes that Nature cures. He believes that God cures. The physician is a guide and facilitator. The book combines Greek philosophy and science with Arabic science, Jewish religion, ethics and hygiene. Maimonides allows that an individual can find their place in the cosmos through everyday acts. In other words; to be healthy is to be holy is to be pleasing unto God. Here, then, are some quotes which are self-explanatory:

“The Servant states: if a man would conduct himself as he cares for his animal upon which he rides, he would be saved from many serious illnesses, that is, you do not find a person who gives his animal an excessive amount of fodder; rather he measures it for her according to that which she can tolerate. He, however, eats excessively, without measure or thought. Furthermore, he (carefully) considers his animal’s movements and exercises so that it remain healthy and does not become ill. He does not do this for himself and he pays no attention to physical exercise which is the fundamental principle for the preservation of health and the repulsion of most illnesses.

“One should never forget to strengthen the natural power with nourishment and to strengthen the psychic power with good odors, such as hot aromatics like musk, amber, basilicon leaves and ligna aloe for cold illnesses, or cold ingredients such as roses, water lily, myrtle and violets for hot illnesses associated with heat, i.e., fever. Similarly, one should strengthen the vital power with musical instruments, by telling the patient joyful stories which widen his soul and dilate his heart, and by relating news that distracts his mind and makes him laugh as well as his friends. One should select people who can cheer him up, to serve him and to care for him. All this is obligatory in every illness. If a physician is lacking, one must arrange for these things by oneself.

“Justly and truthfully have the philosophers called the good things of the world and its evils – imaginary goods and imaginary evils, – because many goods that one imagines and thinks are good are in truth evil and many evils that one thinks are evil are in truth good. For example: very often a person gathers a large sum of money and attains prominence and great power and these are the cause of the corruption of his body and the loss of his soul though his acquisition of corrupt virtues, the shortening of his days and his distancing himself from the most praiseworthy God, the cleaving to whom is the true good and the eternal glory. How many times has a rich man become impoverished and a king lost his kingdom, and this occurrence became the cause of the improvement of his body and the perfection of his soul with virtuous characteristics, and the prolongation of his days, bringing him closer to the Lord his Creator and his cleavage to Him by serving Him? This is the ultimate and eternal good.

“ In one of his treatises, al Razi makes a statement and this is its comments. He says that if the disease is stronger than the strength of the patient, the physician is of no benefit at all. If the strength of the patient is greater than that of the illness, the physician is not needed at all. But when they are equal, there is need for the physician to support the strength (of the patient) and to assist him in counteracting the illness.

“Says the author: from the statement of this man who is perfect in his art, one can conclude that managing without a physician is sometimes far better than using his services if one considers all illnesses, even if he is wise and knows how to help nature and does not confuse it for divert it from its proper pathway”.

Book two, “The Causes of Symptoms”, is often found with the Regimen as an extension. It was written at a later time for the same royal patron. The information is good in a general way, though it was written for a specific person.

The final book of Volume 4 is titled “Human Temperaments”. Here medical and daily hygienic practices are placed squarely in an ethical and religious context. This is a section from Maimonides Mishneh Torah and rightly has a place in his medical works. Following are some representative examples.


These comprise eleven commandments, five positive and six negative. Specifically they are:

1. to imitate His ways.

2. to cleave to those that know Him.

3. to love neighbors.

4. to love proselytes.

5. not to hate brothers.

6. to admonish.

7. not to put someone to shame.

8. not to oppress the unfortunate.

9. not to bear tales.

10. not to avenge.

11. not to bear a grudge.

“ It is forbidden for a man to conduct himself to use words of flattery and seduction. And there should not be one word spoken and another in the heart; rather, the internal should be as the external, and the matter in one’s heart should be that which one enunciates with the mouth.

“ A person is required to direct his heart and all his deeds to know the Lord, blessed be He, alone. And his sitting down and his getting up and his conversation should all be directed to the attainment of this goal. How is this done? When he is engaged in business or performing work for wages, he should not intend solely to accumulate wealth; rather he should do these things in order to obtain the things which his body requires: food, drink, a house to live in, and marriage to a woman. Similarly when he eats and drinks and cohabits, he should not intend to do these things solely to obtain gratification therefrom to the point that one finds that he only eats and drinks that which is sweet to the palate and cohabits for the pleasure thereof. Rather, he should set his heart to eat and drink only to maintain the health of his body and limbs. Therefore, he should not consume all that the palate lusts for, like a dog or an ass, but should eat things that are beneficial to the body, whether they are bitter or sweet; and he should not eat things which are harmful to the body even though they may be sweet to the palate. How is this done? He whose flesh is hot should not eat meat or honey, and he should not drink wine, as the matter was stated by Solomon in proverbial form: The eating of much honey is not good (Prov. 25:27). And he should drink chicory juice even though it is bitter, so that one finds that he eats and drinks solely for medicinal purposes in order to become healthy and remain healthy, since it is impossible for man to live save with food and drink. Similarly, when he cohabits, he should not cohabit except to maintain the health of his body and to preserve his race. Therefore, he does not cohabit whenever he has the lust but at such times that he knows that he requires to emit seed, such as for medical reasons or to preserve his race”.

Volume 5 of Maimonides Medical Writings brings us a new translator, Uriel S. Barzel, M.D. The title “The Art of Cure Extracts from Galen” lets us know that this is not an original work of Maimonides but a compendium. There is an enormous corpus of the works of Galen in Greek, Arabic and Hebrew but little if any in English. Maimonides took on the formidable task of reducing the available Arabic texts of Galen (20 volumes) into a single, usable volume. He divided the information into 14 chapters, not in the usual manner but by classification of diseases and their cures. For those who want to study Galen, we are presented his works through the person of Moses Maimonides, who understood Galen well.

Volume 6 is titled “Treatise on Asthma”. This particular work was previously translated into English by Suessman Muntner and published by Israel Torah Research Institute and Lippincott Company. The translation of Fred Rosner in this series has different introductions and annotations, and is more accessible.

Once again, Maimonides shows his wisdom, for his understanding of the pathological etiology of asthma are as relevant today as they were then. Instruction is given concerning diet, 12 sleep, medications, bathing and exercise. Maimonides points out the different qualities of the winds in the seasons, the quality of air in various places in Egypt, and their relevance to health. His prescriptions start out with the more gentle herbs and actions, becoming increasingly stronger as he addresses the more intractable cases. Maimonides warns against the overuse of strong medicine, and relates a case where a group of physicians overdoses a member of the royal family. The doctors put the blame on the brother of the deceased, but Maimonides admonishes them in his book for not consulting the source of ancient authority (Galen) which would advise against their course of action. He further relates that the Spanish and Arab doctors would never practice nor act in the ways the Egyptian doctors do. The mental and emotional state of the patient is important to Maimonides, and he shows great compassion in this book. Maimonides takes great care that none of the medical interventions he prescribes is too shocking in nature to the patient.

Volume 7 is “Moses Maimonides; Glossary of Drug Names”. This is a medical lexicon of approximately 2000 drug names. The names are given their synonyms in many languages and notably not in Hebrew. This is not a pharmacopoeia or materia medica for learning plant uses, but a glossary of synonyms. The plants, minerals etc. are given Arabic, ancient Greek, Syriac, Persian, Berber and Spanish names. The translator gives an English folk name and Latin binomial to the different plants in discussion. There is also a listing of references for each plant in ancient manuscripts, utilizing the bibliographical research of Meyerhof. The names are examined as to their source and derivations. This is more a philological work than a medical text. If you are reading the other volumes and want further information on a particular herb mentioned, then Volume 7 will come in handy. Taken by itself, outside the medical works previously detailed the Glossary has little medical use for students of herbalism (unless they have access to the ancient manuscripts cited).

The seven volume set: “Maimonides Medical Writings” is a veritable gold mine of medical theory and herbal information for any serious student of herbalism or naturopathy. Dr. Fred Rosner does a great service in translating 6 of 7 books, as does Dr. Uriel Barzel in his volume of Galen. These books contain a distillation of herbal and medical wisdom from the time of Moses into the Middle Ages, or about 2000 years. These authors, some of history’s greatest lights, keep the flame alive as it travels around Europe and the Middle East.

“Maimonides’ Medical Writings” Published by The Maimonides Research Institute 3 Rabbi David Assaf St., P.O.B. 9049 Mount Carmel, Haifa 31090, Israel

I highly recommend these books.