Rambam and Medicine

Maimonides, popularly known as Rambam, was born on March 30, 1135. Maimonides is best known as a philosopher, prolific author and jurist: the foremost intellect of Medieval Judaism. Although his chapter on health in his Mishneh Torah is still popular and studied today, most people are unaware that Maimonides actually wrote 10 medical works.

His fame as a physician spread rapidly in his later years. He became the court physician to the famous Sultan Saladin, and later to his son Al-Afḍal. In 1477, only a few years after the invention of printing, a Latin edition of his “Regimen of Health” was published in Florence. It was the first medical book to appear in print there. Prof. Waldmer Schweiseheimer, a mid-twentieth century historian, said of Maimonides’ medical writings: “Maimonides’ medical teachings are not antiquated at all. His writings are astonishingly modern in tone and content.” Mr. David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, and after him Prof. Albert Einstein, requested that Maimonides’ medical writings be published. As Sir William Osler so aptly put it, “Maimonides was Prince of Physicians.”

My journey began when I researched and wrote a book called 
The Life-Transforming Diet
, published by Feldheim. This book is based on Maimonides’ nutritional and psychological advice found in his philosophical and legal works, especially his medical writings. The book was well received and is currently in its seventh printing. It has been translated into Hebrew. The Life-Transforming Diet has already produced dramatic life-changing results for thousands of people worldwide.

After the book was published, I pursued my interest in the herbal aspect of Rambam’s writings. Besides writing about nutritional and lifestyle habits, Rambam details herbal remedies extensively in his medical works. In fact, he has one dedicated thick volume about drug names and descriptions. I was especially fascinated by Maimonides’ favorite stress relief formula, which he describes: “This should be taken regularly, at all times. Its effects are that sadness and anxieties disappear. This is a remedy of which no equal can be found in gladdening, strengthening and invigorating the psyche. It should always be found in your possession.” (Maimonides Medical Writings)

Posted on February 19, 2014

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