Thursday, December 29, 2011

1200-1600: Asthma in ancient Korea

If you were an asthmatic living in Ancient Korea you would have had to wait until the 13th century before you had any options available to you other than folk medicine.  

Folk medicine was basic philosophies and treatments of various disease processes handed down from generation to generation to anyone interested in learning them.  Remedies usually consisted of simple things such as concocting herbal remedies, applying ointments, drinking teas, or soothing massages.  (1)

It was around the 12th and 13th centuries when medical philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine started to influence Korean physicians, which were recorded in various Chinese texts.  Yet the first medical texts in Korea simply consisted of compilations of folk medicine, which up to this time was passed on only by word of mouth

It was in 1236 that all the folk medicine of the day was compiled into one treaties called "Hyang-yak kugup  pang" or "Emergency Remedies of Folk Medicine."  It's the oldest medical texts written by a Korean. (2)

At about the same time several other such treaties were compiled, including "Samhwaja hyangyak pang," or "Folk Remedies of Samhwaja."This was mainly a diagnostic guide.  (3)

All the medical wisdom from these books were compiled in 1433 into "Hyangyak chipsong pang," or "Compilations of Native Korean Prescriptions."  (4) Two centuries later, in 1610,  Korean philosopher Ho Chun compiled all the medical wisdom up to his time in "Tongui pogam," or "Exemplar of Korean Medicine."  (5)

Mark Jackson, in his book "On Asthma:  The Biography," explains that Korean physicians believed asthma-like symptoms or coughing were caused by excessive eating, fear and shock.  While folk medicine was the original treatment for any ailment, various remedies from Chinese medical texts worked their way into Korean medicine. (6)

While Traditional Chinese Medicine influenced Korean medicine, Korean texts were likewise respected in China.  It wasn't until the 18th century that Eastern and Western civilizations shared medical wisdom.  
  1. WebMD,
  2. Lee, Ki-baik, "A New History of Korea," 1984, Korea, page 171
  3. Lee, ibid, page 171
  4. Lee, ibid, page 171
  5. Jackson, Mark, "Asthma: The Biography," 2006, New York, page 43
  6. Jackson, ibid, page page 43

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