Medieval Time Fun Facts (Part II)

Part II:  Medieval Time Medicine (#medieval #medicine)

Have you wonder what happened during the medieval time when people got sick?  Did they go to a doctor and took medicine like us?  Our recent discoveries in science help us to understand origin of diseases, how they are being spread, and how doctors use modern medicine to cure or prevent the diseases.  But in Medieval Time, people did not have such knowledge.  Worst, the doctors treated the diseases in a way that did more harm than good to patients.

People believed that diseases were spread by foul odors and people believed that it was the consequence of sin.  Pilgrimages were more often made to cure ailments than for spiritual fortification.

Barbers doubled as surgeons and dentists. They would hang the bandages stained with blood outside their shops; the sight of these rags twisting in the wind inspired the modern-day red and white barber’s pole.  Although surgeries were commonly performed, many patients died from infected wounds due to the lack of analgesic, disinfectants, and antibiotics.

Influential physicians at that period of time, like Hippocrates and Galen believed that the human body was filled with four basic substances (“humors”): yellow bile, black bile, phlegm and blood. These four substances needed to be kept in balance to maintain good health. Therefore, doctors would simply cut open a vein and drain some of their vital fluids into a receptacle. In some cases, more controllable bleeding used leeches to suck the blood directly from the skin. This type of practice could easily result in accidental death from blood loss.

People used oddities and poisonous materials to cure all sorts of illness. Cowebs were wildly used to cure warts.  And Mercury was used as a common elixir and topical medicine. Some healers even promoted the consumption of this poisonous mercury, sulfur and arsenic.  They believed that substances would help their patients to gain eternal life. One of the most famous victim was the Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who died after ingesting daily mercury pills designed to make him immortal.

The most deadly disease of Medieval times was the Black Death. It killed an estimated of 75 to 200 million people and peaking in Europe in the years 1346–53.  The Black Death was most likely carried by Oriental rat fleas living on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships.  The disease spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe.  It was responsible for killing 30–60% of Europe’s total population of the time. Treatments for Black Death during Medieval Time included from bleeding, aromatherapy by carrying flowers or herbs to eating spoonful of crushed emerald mixed with food.

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