Dragon's Blood & Willow Bark
The Mysteries of Medieval Medicine
- Toni Mount
15th April 2015
Calling to mind a time when butchers and executioners knew more about anatomy than university-trained physicians, the phrase ‘Medieval Medicine’ conjures up horrors for us with our modern ideas on hygiene, instant pain relief and effective treatments. Although no one could allay the dread of plague, the medical profession provided cosmetic procedures, women’s sanitary products, dietary advice and horoscopes predicting the sex of unborn babies or the best day to begin a journey.
Surgeons performed life-saving procedures, sometimes using anaesthetics, with post-operative antibiotic and antiseptic treatments to reduce the chances of infection. They knew a few tricks to lessen the scarring, too. Yet alongside such expertise, some still believed that unicorns, dragons and elephants supplied vital medical ingredients and the caladrius bird could diagnose recovery or death. This is the weird, wonderful and occasionally beneficial world of medieval medicine.
In her new book, popular historian Toni Mount guides the reader through this labyrinth of strange ideas and such unlikely remedies as leeches, meadowsweet, roasted cat and red bed curtains – some of which modern medicine is now coming to value – but without the nasty smells or any threat to personal wellbeing and safety.
N.B. No animals, large, furry or mythological, were harmed during research for this book.