Nursery Rhymes

Medicine in the Middle Ages

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Medicine in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages Medicine was extremely basic in an era when terrible illnesses such as the Black Death were killing nearly one third of the population. Medicine was limited. Physicians had no idea what caused the terrible illnesses and diseases. The Catholic Church believed that illnesses were a punishment from God for sinful behaviour. Letting blood was conducted by cupping or leeches.

There were no Antibiotics during the Middle Ages and it was almost impossible to cure illness and diseases without them.  Medicines in the Middle Ages were made from herbs, spices and resins. The medicine was applied in drinks, pills, washes, baths, rubs, poultices, purges and ointments. The Medicine used to treat some specific illnesses are described below. Also refer to:

Health in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages Hygiene
Middle Ages Doctors

Middle Ages Medicine to treat the Black Death
The Black Death held a massive mortality rate of between 30 and 40%. Victims had no idea what had caused the disease. And neither did the doctors in the Middle Ages. The Black Death was treated by lancing the buboes and applying a warm poultice of butter, onion and garlic. Various other remedies were tried including arsenic, lily root and even dried toad. During a later outbreak of this terrible plague, during the Elizabethan era, substances such as tobacco brought from the New World were also used in experiments to treat the disease.

MedievalMedicine to treat Headache and Aching joints
Head Pains were treated with sweet-smelling herbs such as rose, lavender, sage, and bay. A mixture of henbane and hemlock were applied to aching joints. Coriander was used to reduce a fever.

Middle Ages Medicine to treat Stomach Pains and Sickness
Stomach pains and sickness were treated with wormwood, mint, and balm.

Middle Ages Medicine to treat Lung Problems
Lung problems were given the medical treatment of a medicine made of liquorice and comfrey. Horehound cough syrups and drinks were prescribed for chesty and head-colds and coughs.

Middle Ages Medicine to treat Wounds
Wounds were cleaned and vinegar was widely used as a cleansing agent as it was believed that it would kill disease. Mint was also used in treating venom and wounds. Myrrh was used as an antiseptic on wounds. Yarrow, or Achillea  was used to treat headaches and wounds, especially battle wounds.

Life in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages Index

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