Medical Utilization of Silver in Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine

Document Type: Original Article


1 Alborz University of Medical Sciences, Karaj, Iran

2 Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, School of Literature and Humanity Science, Shiraz University

3 Traditional Medicine and Materia Medica Research Center, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Archaeological researches indicate that the use of silver was common in various practices; there were numerous mints for silver coinage across Sassanid Persia (circa 620 AD) indicating that Persians were familiar with silver mining and its refining process. Medical practice also benefited from that expertise, and in the course of the following centuries new forms of utilizing silver began to emerge. This study focuses on one text belonging to the eleventh century; Avicenna’s (IbnSina) Canon of Medicine. This study found different forms of silver in his book including splinters of silver (Sohaala), silver litharge (Qaleemia), dross of silver (Khobth) and burnt silver (Ihragh) along with their methods of preparation and medical applications. Some silver medical devices were also found in this book including a silver tube as a breathing tube, catheter with silver needle, a silver device called Anboob to excise warts, and a silver thimble for nail protection. Avicenna rarely mentions the source of his information; therefore, the subsequent attempt of this study to trace the origin of his information is mainly comprised of tentative linkages. Nonetheless, it appears that Avicenna took at least a portion of the information on the utilizations of silver from Indian, Greek, Roman and local Persian medical sources or practitioners.