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Medieval Medical Treatments That Actually Work

The word “Medieval” often reminds us of old-fashioned and primitive castles and torture chambers. It also makes us think of the gruesome medieval medical treatments that could be downright harmful. However, there were a few things the medieval people got right…

And nothing was more primitive in Medieval times than medicine.

Most people living in the Middle Ages believed that disease could be caused by destiny, by wrongdoing, or by the stars themselves.

The famous Greek doctor Hippocrates believed the human body contained four humors representing air, fire, earth, and water. He also believed that good health relied on keeping those humors in balance.

While most Medieval medical treatments were completely wrong and downright harmful, there were a few things these people got right.

Garlic

According to legend, some people stayed alive during the Black Plague by covering themselves in a mixture of garlic and vinegar.

Raw garlic and vinegar are natural antibiotics that can prevent infection and kill bacteria, but it leaves you wondering if they were just trying to keep others away with the smell.

Sanitation

Before the mid-1300s, it was common practice for people living in Europe to dump human excrement and other waste into the streets.

In 1349, Edward III expressed concerns that the smell of human waste was somehow contributing to the spread of the Black Plague. England responded by imposing fines on anyone caught dumping poo in the streets.

Miraculously, the spread of the disease started to decline.

Today we know that human excrement is a breeding ground for bacteria and should be disposed of properly to avoid transmitting disease.

Bald’s Eye Salve

Bald’s Eye Salve is a mix of garlic, onion or leek, wine, bovine bile, and brass that was used to treat eye infections.

Studies confirm the recipe – first published in Bald’s Leechbook more than 1,000 years ago – is an effective treatment for various eye infections including stye and MRSA.

Honey

For thousands of years, people throughout the world have used honey to treat burns and other wounds.

Honey is effective for several reasons:

  • Protects the wounded area from the air, minimizing pain
  • Helps rehydrate the skin
  • Has natural antibiotic properties that prevent infection
  • Reduces inflammation and scarring
  • Minimizes the nasty smell associated with wound healing

Urine Sample

One of the few things Hippocrates got right was that he examined a patient’s urine to detect illness. To this day, doctors still look for blood and other discoloration in urine to detect kidney disease and other issues.

Maggot Therapy

Believed to have originated during the Renaissance, maggot therapy involves using live maggots to clean wounds before stitching.

This method actually works because maggots eat dead and infected tissue without harming healthy tissue. Maggots also produce secretions that help the human immune system fight pathogens.

Maggot therapy, used by soldiers in WWI and WWII who lacked access to basic first aid supplies, was approved by the FDA in 2004.

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