Monthly Archives: July 2016

Animals in medieval medicine

In the entries for eye salves, we first start to see an odd trend in these traditional remedies. While most of them use herbs, a few use fat or gall from animals. Is this medicine or magic? Both of the … Continue reading

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Worms in the eye

In traditional pre-Christian European ideas, outside attacks caused many illnesses. This idea was probably considered primitive by Roman-trained doctors, who had a more scientific system based on imbalance of the body’s humors. In our time, we can see merit in … Continue reading

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The raven’s eyes

Until more researchers at places like Nottingham University recreate Anglo-Saxon medicinal recipes, we won’t know if there are hidden secrets like the surprisingly effective antibiotic made from leeks and garlic. Some of the others sound possibly effective, now that we … Continue reading

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Bald’s eye salve: a modern story

After remedies for head pain, the medical books turn to eye problems. It’s very clear that swollen and infected eyes were a serious issue in that time, because both books have a number of remedies. And here, we find a … Continue reading

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Herbal remedies for head pain

I’m going to take some Anglo-Saxon herb lore books as representative of medieval herbal medicine. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms took to literacy fairly readily, especially after King Alfred made a serious initiative to teach reading and build up libraries. During a … Continue reading

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Natural magic

Natural magic was inseparable from what we’d consider “real” herbal lore. Since the chemistry of why some plants were medicinal was very, very far out of reach, “that’s just how its natural magic works” was the best explanation. In pre-Christian … Continue reading

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Medieval idea of disease

In the Middle Ages, what was disease? Everyone agreed that health was wholeness: it was the body functioning as it ought to. I guess our contemporary writers who talk about “wellness” are taking a similar view. So loss of health … Continue reading

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Spices as medicine

Imported spices fit very well into the Greco-Roman theory of the Four Humors. We still refer to many spices as “hot” in informal conversation, even if we mean nothing particular by it. They just took it seriously. In the early … Continue reading

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Roman medical theory

When the Celtic and Germanic tribes of Europe converted to Roman Christianity, they adopted a long-established written tradition of scientific principles. Their own herb lore continued, probably in many cases without reference to the new “science.” But it became, increasingly, … Continue reading

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Judeo-Christian medical care in early Rome

In reference to medical history, Christianity must be seen, first, as a Jewish movement. Within a few centuries, root and branch had become hostile to each other, so it’s hard to bear in mind just how fundamentally Jewish the early … Continue reading

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