What is it about?

In antiquity, therapeutic empiricism attributed medicinal properties to animal products, plants, minerals and metals, including the soil of specific geographic locations. The therapeutic use of certain earths and metals is thoroughly documented in the works of Hippocrates, Dioscorides and Galen and was still practiced in the eighteenth century by eminent physicians such as Sir Hans Sloane. Mercury and arsenical compounds have also been widely used since antiquity, the latter finding application in our times in the successful treatment of acute promyelocytic leukaemia.

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Why is it important?

There is probably still a lot to learn from the therapeutic empiricism of the ancients. The earth and the seas may be hiding forgotten or as yet undiscovered elements that may generate new opportunities for the treatment of human disease

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This page is a summary of: Geotherapeutics: the medicinal use of earths, minerals and metals from antiquity to the twenty-first century, Geological Society London Special Publications, December 2016, Geological Society, DOI: 10.1144/sp452.5.
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