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From the Research Office for the History of Persian Medicine and the Department of Traditional Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.
Image accepted September 2011.
Address correspondence to Dr. Mehdizadeh (email@example.com).
Copyright © American Psychiatric Association
Zoroastrian priest in Persepolis sculpture (500 B.C.), Persepolis complex, Fars, Iran. He has holy medicine (prahaoma syrup) in his hands. Ancient Persian psychiatrists were selected from priests. (Photograph provided by Dr. Zargaran.)
The official religion of ancient Persia was Zoroastrian, named for its messenger, Zoroaster. The religion flourished during the Achaemenid empire (550–330 B.C.), Parthian empire (247 B.C. to A.D. 224), and Sassanid dynasty (A.D. 224–637), until the Muslims' entrance into Persia (1). The Vandidad, the chapter about social conduct in the Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrians, contains the history of medicine, rules governing medical practice, and directions for health care and hygiene. According to this manuscript, physicians were divided into three groups: surgeons (kareto baēšaza in the Avestan language), physicians who worked with herbal medicines (urvarō baēšaza), and physicians who treated with holy words (mānsrspand baēšaza), which were preferred to other treatments. These physicians, such as the one shown above, were selected from Zoroastrian priests and included some of the first psychiatrists in history (2).
The Avesta describes prahaoma, the first known use of a stimulant produced from the haoma plant (Ephedra distachya L.), which was administered as a euphoriant antidepressant (2, 3).
A Pahlavic manuscript from the Sassanid period described the formulation of a “happiness drug,” a psychotherapeutic strategy depicted as a medicinal compound.
The happiness drug is a drug whose dose is 1 measure (0.6 g), administered with a soothing manner and understanding. It contains:
If I don't do this, what should I do? (1 measure)
Tomorrow may be better than today. (1 measure)
It can be worse than now. (1 measure)
It is better to become happy for what happened. (1 measure)
It is worse to become sad for what occurred. (1 measure)
These substances should be mixed in the “patience mortar” by the “invocation pestle,” then sifted through the “God-trust sieve.” The drug should be administered in the “refuge-in-God medicine cup” with “competence water” every morning. “Happiness without any bad mentality is beneficial for body and soul” (3).
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