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Medicine in the Ottoman Empire: A Full Health Guide .. 2023

In this article, I will tell you about medicine in the Ottoman Empire. Health has been an area of ​​interest since the existence of human beings. The West has used exorcism to treat incurable diseases for centuries. The Ottoman Empire was one of the pioneers of its era in health as well as in many other issues. The various types of treatment he used began to be used in Europe centuries later. 

The Ottomans, on the other hand, used many methods of today’s modern medicine and went to organize in a modern way. Ottoman physicians found healing in nature itself as a tool instead of science. Now let’s get to more detailed information about medicine in the Ottoman Empire.

Medicine in the Ottoman Empire

Who They Looked Up Too?


Avicenna ‘s work El-Kanun Fi’t-Tıb is a unique resource in the medical world. This work, which has influenced the whole world, has been used as a textbook for years in medical faculties in Europe. In Ibn Sina, he finds a cure for diseases according to the four temperaments of the person. The major characteristics of people with the same temperament are similar. However, not every person is necessarily pure Safavid, Demevi, Phlegm or Love. More than one liquid may be dominant in the person’s body. These types are called mixed temperaments. Such a person will show the mixed features of two or more dominant liquids.

In humans, the disease occurs when the balance of the four cells is disturbed. The most outstanding forms of treatment are laxatives, enemas, vomiting, Turkish bath, massage, exercise, cupping, leech diet changes and medicinal plants. It is one of the successful forms of treatment that is still used today. The main idea of ​​all these practices is detox. The main goal is to remove the liquids, whose disorder is detected, from the body. When the toxins that hinder the body’s ability to work are removed from the body, the body is expected to renew itself.

While some medicinal plants are used to empty the body of bad liquid, some plants are used for regeneration of tissues and organs. Each plant, food and drink used has its own benefits. Some are heaters, some are coolers, some are humidifiers, and some are dryers. Prescriptions are prepared in accordance with the temperament of the patient and the disease. Another important and exemplary physician is Altıncizade. He treated urinary retention and a piece of flesh formed in the urinary tract with a catheter. This method is still used today.

One of the most important medical works of the period was Edirne Beyazıt Hospital. This building is of great importance in terms of Turkish Islamic and world hospital architecture. Until that day, hospitals were built in the form of wards like madrasahs, but a hospital architecture called the central system was put forward in this Darüşşifa, which was built by the famous architect of the period, Hayreddin.

The Süleymaniye Complex and the Süleymaniye Hospital and Medicine Madrasa, which was built by Kanuni in his name, is the largest developed complex and hospital of the Ottoman Empire. The most important difference from other hospitals is that there is a special nerve diseases service. Here, too, patients were treated with musicThis treatment technique began to be used at least two centuries after Europe.

Câbir bin Hayyân

Câbir bin Hayyân is the author of the oldest known chemistry book, and he was a farsighted scientist who could see that the atom would break apart. Câbir bin Hayyân examines the atomic structure of substances and conducts experiments, saying that certain masses react with certain masses. 

He said the following words about the atom, which can only be perceived centuries later: “There is an intense energy in “al-juz la yetecezza”, which is the smallest piece of matter. which can turn Baghdad upside down in an instant. This is Allahu Teala (God)’s badge of power.”


Biruni, on the other hand, created an index on biology, plants, minerals, animals and useful herbs. However, only twenty-seven of these works have survived to the present day. Especially the fact that Bîrûnî’s works were not translated into Latin in the Middle Ages is a result of his books being written in a heavy language. 

However, as Bîrûnî himself said, he wrote his works not for ordinary people but for scholars. He studied Greek and Indian medicine and treated Sultan Mes’ud’s eye. He knew very well which herbs were a panacea and a cure. He drew the boundaries of pharmacy and medicine and talked about the side effects of drugs.


Farabi has many works in the fields of medicine, logic, philosophy and even music. Farabi, who works in the field of medicine, wrote a book on various drugs on this subject. Farabi has conducted various studies and written works on subjects such as human physiology and anatomy, neurology and biology, and psychology.

He lived in the tenth century and performed the first cancer surgery. He is known for his work called Kitab Kamilü-s Sina, which he wrote on medicine. This work was later named The Complete Art of Medicine, which was completed in 980. Ali bin Abbas dedicated this work to the Emir. Besides, he used animal intestine for the first time as a suture material in surgery. He investigated the factors affecting the human organism. 

He focuses on the main causes of diseases rather than medical treatment. He was the first scholar who did scientific studies and wrote books on the causes of diseases in medicine. His most important book on medicine is “Hamse-i anizade”. This work, which consists of five volumes, gives information about anatomy, physiology, diseases, drugs, and surgery.

Also read: Prices of Heart Medicines in Turkey .. A Full Guide


Akşemseddin had extensive knowledge in medical sciences as well as religious sciences. In his book Taşköprüzade¸ Şakaik ; Emir Hüseyin Enisi, on the other hand, used the terms “Lokman-ı Sani” (Second Lokman) and “Tabib-i Ebdân” (Physician of the Body) for him in his work Menakıb-ı Akşemseddin. We can add the name Kindi among these scholars. He is a very famous name in the field of medicine in the Middle Ages and left a huge complex of himself.


Ez-Zehravi (Abu’l-Qasim Halaf ibn Abbas), who lived in Andalusia between 1936 and 1013, became so famous that he has more than a dozen names in European languages. He has the nickname “the Father of Surgery”. He understood the surgical art very well and achieved its various branches with great success. He discovered many surgical instruments and explained how they were used, down to the tiniest point. 

Surgeon wrote a thirty-volume medical encyclopedia containing internal medicine, ophthalmology, orthopedics, nutrition, pharmacy, in short, all branches of medicine. This book, which he named Et-Tasrif, became so famous that it replaced Ibn Sînâ’s book of Law in medical education from the 12th century to the 17th century in many universities of Europe.

Medicine in the Ottoman Empire: Ottoman’s Attack

A sort of medical academy was established by playwright Fatih Sultan Mehmet within the Fatih Hospital. The Ottoman Empire excelled during this time in the fields of science and medicine. He laid the groundwork and constructed the madrasahs that exposed the Ottomans to modern techniques.

One of the most well-known doctors of the time, Hamza Akşemsettin, pioneered the concept of microbes and contamination in his book Maidetül-Hayat and advanced the idea that “diseases have seeds and origins as in plants and animals.” Saying that there are too many people to compete with him is likely not exaggerating. He would accurately diagnose the illnesses and make the medication himself.

With the publication of his Cerrahname-i-lhan, Sabuncuolu Erafettin rose to prominence in the medical world. Along with illustrations of surgical tools, He also included illustrations of patient posture in his book to serve as training materials. These anatomical illustrations represented a major advance at the time.

Food is More Important Than Ever in Ottoman Medicine

Physicians actually acted in accordance with science. He benefited from observation and experimentation. He tested the effect on the human body by observing the environment and weather conditions for days. Today, Ottoman physicians gave many advices of famous doctors in the Middle Ages. 

“O servants of Allah, be cured because Allah has created a cure and medicine for every disease He has created.” As supported in the hadith (Tirmidhi, Medicine, 2), the Ottomans sought and found healing in nature, unlike the West. Hz. Great care was given to the hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding medicine, and a separate section was opened for Medicine for the Prophet (PBUH) in 6 hadith books known as Kutub-i Sitte, and Ottoman physicians recommend that foods be consumed in a balanced way. For example, this is why yoghurt is brought with the kebab.

Also read: How to Save 75% on Medicine

Four Liquid

According to Ottoman physicians, the elements of fire, water, air and earth in the universe are also found in human beings as ahlat-ı erbaa

  • Fever – yellow bile -dry and hot
  • Air – blood – moist and hot
  • Earth – love (black bile) – dry and cold
  • Water – sputum – moist and cold

The foods eaten and drunk in the human body also turn into these four main substances, and according to physicians, spring blood, summer bile, autumn love, winter phlegm. According to Ottoman physicians, health was possible with the existence of a balance between these four fluids. Diseases were caused by the deterioration of the balance between them. The “temperements” depended on the ratio of these elements in that person.

Physicians used to divide the human body into four parts. He developed treatment methods according to ‘liquid’ (blood, bile, passion and phlegm). Unity of existence, which emerged as a systematic concept about existence, According to the explanations of the Sufis, who are the people of discovery and supplication, the eternal body itself is one, and that is the essence of the Haqq is his body.

Why is the Number of Patients in the Ottoman Empire so Low?

Medicine in the Ottoman Empire

Sick people were uncommon in Ottoman society. Many of the side effects of today’s drugs have been proven all over the world. The nutritional aspect was crucial in this case. For example, the tradition of compote and sherbet, which is widely consumed in Turkish society, was written as a prescription by physicians.

Sports That Makes the Sultan Athletic: Giyra

Girya is one of the oldest sports in human history. It also known as a “kettlebell,” is a hand-held iron ball that provides excellent support for almost the entire skeletal and muscular system of the body. A 10-minute kettlebell workout is equivalent to 1.5 hours in the gym.

Sleep Is Not For Resting Only

One of the first signs of a healthy body is a regular sleeping pattern. The position in which we lie down is critical for our organs. Ottoman physicians addressed this issue, suggesting that a patient with amnesia lie face down to allow more blood to flow to the brain and affect circulation. They do, however, advise us not to sleep immediately after eating. Because the stomach needs time to digest.

Turmeric Usage at Ottoman: An Antidote to Cancer

We see the side effects that can be found on the package insert pages for each drug. Cancer patients, for example, are treated with modern medicine techniques such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Turmeric is a miraculous plant that is used in cancer treatment and has been proven all over the world.

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. This antioxidant protects cells from free radicals, which can damage our DNA and cause premature aging and cancer. According to the records, this plant was useful in the Ottoman Empire and was used in food. When modern medicine is no longer sufficient, physicians turn to plants, which we call alternative medicine.

Turmeric Cure

When using this miraculous plant, the body should be absorbed in the best way possible.

– 1 teaspoon of turmeric
– 2 glasses of water
– 1 teaspoon of ginger
– Lemon
– Honey

Health Tips From Ottoman Physicians

  • When falling asleep, you should normally lie on the right side and then the left side. The reason for this is to allow the liver to come over the stomach. Thus, the residues in the stomach will be cleaned with its warmth.
  • Eat little food. (You should get up from the table before you are full.) Because in order to remove excess food from the body, it gets tired by exerting effort and goes to organ destruction.
  • Use dried fruits in meals.
  • Physicians believe in the healing of wind and air currents, and recommend rocking because of the oxygen supply to the body.
  • Water is not consumed from spring water, but from stream water.

Health System in the Ottoman Empire

There is the following information about the hospitals that were built, repaired and opened during the reign of Abdulhamid II in the Ottoman Empire, describing the health system of that period.

  • Since Ottoman hospitals were foundation institutions, patients were treated free of charge.
  • There was no distinction between the rich and the poor in the treatment of the patients.
  • It was ensured that hospitals providing public service were spread across the Ottoman geography in a fair manner.
  • The principle of need was taken into consideration in the construction of health institutions.
  • Patients were mostly treated at home, doctors went to the house personally and took care of their patients.
  • Expenditures made for the sick were covered by the revenues obtained from the sultans’ treasury and their own property.
  • In the Ottoman Empire, there were many private hospitals as well as military, missionary, municipality, palace, training and women’s hospitals.
  • The opening of many hospitals was coincided with the date of birth of Abdulhamid II.

Hospitals in the Ottoman Empire

The types of hospitals opened during the Ottoman period were as follows:

* Gureba hospitals.

* Municipal hospitals.

* Palace hospitals.

* Prison hospitals.

* Hospice hospitals.

* School hospitals.

* Military hospitals.

* Hilal-i Ahmer Society hospitals.

* Non-Muslim community hospitals.

* Foreign mission hospitals.

* Private hospitals.

* Teaching hospitals.

* Hospitals for women.

* Children’s hospitals.

* Hospitals for epidemic diseases.

* Hamidiye hospitals.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in the Ottoman Empire: Pharmacists of Ottoman Empire

In the Ottoman Empire, the physician prepared simple drugs such as powder, while more difficult drugs such as paste and herbal juice were prepared in Darüşşifas. Salaried employees were known as “aşşap” and “edviyekup” in hospitals.

They would help the doctor prepare the medication. Furthermore, some people who knew and knew herbs, collected herbs for medicine, or bought them from outside sources, would prepare medicines at the request of the physician.

  • Physicians working in the palace: They oversaw the manufacture of medicines in the palace. In the palace kitchens, pastes were also cooked with the meals.
  • Military doctors: Surgeons knew very well how to make medicine, especially since they instantly treated injuries, fractures and dislocations during the war.
  • Kehhaller: They would grow up like surgeons. They looked at eye diseases and performed cataract surgery. They would make their own medicine and sell it to anyone who wanted it.
  • Herbalists: They used to trade this business. They would bring pharmaceutical raw materials, prepare and sell medicines that could be used by everyone.
  • Traveling herbalists: They used to collect herbs and open an exhibition in the market place. People would come and tell about their illness, and they would give the appropriate medicine.
  • Censers: They used to make incense. These were used to clean the air, especially in places like mosques.
  • Matchmakers: They used to make the medicine that was put on the matches. Not everyone could make matches. They set the prices themselves.
  • Objectivists: They used to obtain fragrance from the oils of the flowers and sell them fresh. Fragrance was very important in the Ottoman Empire.
  • Güllapcılar: They used to obtain rosewater. Besides rose water, they also had frankincense water in their shop. They used to sell the water extracted from other flowers at the exit gates of the Spice Bazaar.
  • Those who extracted medicinal oils: They used to extract two types of oil: oils used as pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical raw materials (such as walnut oil, sesame oil) and oils of fresh herbs (such as peppermint oil, rose oil).
  • Those who extract the deva oils: They used to prepare the oils that were put into the drugs to be drunk or to be drunk.
  • Putty makers: They used to prepare certain commonly used pastes in big amounts.
  • Deva soft drinks: HerbsThey collected and boiled them, collected their water and oil by passing them through special alembics, and sold them in dark colored bottles as they were easily perishable.
  • Amber sellers: They used to sell precious amber grass brought from India and used as fragrance and medicine.

All these groups belonged to the Ahi organization. Here they controlled themselves and trained within themselves. In the trainings, professional knowledge, being ethical, honest and beneficial to the environment were emphasized. They were also tested by the physician, chief physician, surgeon, chief surgeon appointed by the sultan. 

They would complain about the tradesmen who made unfair profits to their own kethüda (He is the representative of the people of the city before the government.), and they would prevent bad production. The shops of such people were closed or their licenses were taken away.

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