Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Heretic's Tomb and the Black Death - Medieval Medicine Part Five

Despite their skills and knowledge, for diseases and ailments beyond their abilities, medieval doctors fell back on solutions which seem bizarre to the modern reader. Ringworm was treated by washing the patient’s hair in a boy’s urine. Gout could be relieved by a plaster of goat dung mixed with rosemary and honey. Blood letting was also popular as a cure for just about everything, with many different parts of the body used. For example, the two veins in the neck were to be tapped for leprosy, while the basilic vein, just below the elbow was said to clear the liver and spleen of any impurities.If everything failed, charms, sacred relics and incantations were used to ease the pain of childbirth, help contraception, cure toothache, remove boils, and even mend broken arms and legs. Medical knowledge eventually improved, but not straight away, and for centuries to come, doctors were still very much influenced by superstition in the performance of their duties.

You can learn more about The Heretic's Tomb and the historical background to the novel on my website.

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