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The oldest monuments of history which we possess show the Psora even then in great development. Moses* 3400 years ago pointed out several varieties. At that time and later on among the Israelites the disease seems to have mostly kept the external parts of the body for its chief seat. This was also true of the malady as it prevailed in uncultivated Greece, later in Arabia and, lastly in Europe during the Middle Ages. The different names which were given by different nations to the more or less malignant varieties of leprosy, (the external symptom of Psora) which in many ways deformed the external parts of the body, do not concern us and do not affect the matter, since the nature of this miasmatic itching eruption always remained essentially the same.
(*In Leviticus not only in the thirteenth chapter, but also (chapt. 21, verse 20) where he speaks of the bodily defects which must not be found in a priest who is to offer sacrifice, malignant itch is designated by the word garab, which the Alexandrian translators (in the Septuagint) translated with psora agria, but the Vulgate with scabies jugis. The talmudic interpreter, Jonathan, explained it as dry itch spread over the body; while the expression, yalephed, is used by Moses for lichen, tetter, herpes (see M. Rosenmueller, Scholia in Levit., p. II., edit. sec., p. 124). The commentators in the so-called English Bible-work also agree with this definition, Calmet among others saying: Leprosy is similar to an inveterate itch with violent itching. The ancients also mention the peculiar, characteristic voluptuous itching which attended itch then as now, while after the scratching a painful burning follows; among others Plato, who calls itch glykypikron, while Cicero marks the dulcedo of scabies.)
The Occidental Psora, which during the Middle Ages had raged in Europe for several centuries under the form of malignant erysipelas (called St. Anthony’s Fire), reassumed the form of leprosy through the leprosy which was brought back by the returning crusaders in the thirteenth century. And though it thus spread in Europe even more than before, (for in the year 1226 there were in France alone 2,000 houses for the reception of lepers), this Psora, which now raged as a dreadful eruption, found at least an external alleviation in the means conducive to cleanliness, which also were brought by the crusaders from the Orient; namely, the (cotton? linen?) shirts before unknown in Europe, and the more frequent use of warm baths. Through both of those means, as well as through the more exquisite diet and refinement in the mode of living introduced by increased cultivation, the external horrors of the Psora within the space of several centuries were at last so far moderated, that, at the end of the fifteenth century it appeared only in the form of the common eruption of itch, just at the time when the other miasmatic chronic disease, syphilis, began (in 1493) to raise its dreadful head.
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Thus this eruption, externally reduced in cultivated countries to a common itch, could be much more easily removed from the skin through various means; so that with the medicinal external treatment since introduced, especially in the middle and higher classes, through baths, washes and ointments of sulphur and lead, and by preparations of copper, zinc and mercury, the external manifestations of Psora on the skin were often so quickly suppressed, and are so now, that in most cases either of children or of grown persons the history of itch infection may remain undiscovered.
But the state of mankind was not improved thereby; in many respects it grew far worse. For, although in ancient times the eruption of psora appearing as leprosy was very troublesome to those suffering from it, owing to the lancinating pains in, and the violent itching all around the tumors, and scabs, the rest of the body enjoyed a fair share of general health. This was owing to the obstinately persistent eruption on the skin which served as a substitute for the internal psora. And what is of more importance, the horrible and disgusting appearance of the lepers made such a terrible impression on healthy people that they dreaded even their approach; so that the seclusion of most of these patients, and their separation in leper hospitals, kept them apart from other human society and infection from them was thus limited and comparatively rare.
In consequence of the very much milder form of the psora during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when it appeared as itch, the few pustules appearing after infection made but little show and could easily be concealed. Nevertheless they were scratched continually because of their unbearable itching, and thus the fluid was diffused around, and the psoric miasma was communicated more certainly and more easily to many other persons, the more it was concealed. For the things rendered unclean by the psoric fluid infected the persons who unwittingly touched them, and thus contaminated far more persons than the lepers, who, on account of their horrible appearance, were carefully avoided.