Therapies from 1000AD to 1600AD, info help please.

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Mrs. Babyjuice
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Therapies from 1000AD to 1600AD, info help please.

Post by Mrs. Babyjuice »

Does anyone have cited, provenable evidence of the use of any of the complementary/holistic therapies from approximately 1000AD to 1600AD or suitable links that I could have for Mr BJ, please? Written or illustrated - so long as I can cite it. I'm finding it very difficult to find anything relating to this particular time period. We want to be able to give concise, well informed answers and keep to facts not speculation or assumption.

Hope you can help, thanks

Mods, please don't move this thread because I have posted it elsewhere as I wasn't quite sure where to put it, thanks.
Maker of fine bespoke copperfoiled stained glass.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Lady Cecily
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Post by Lady Cecily »

It may be helpful if you can define what you mean by holistic and complimentary.

Mrs. Babyjuice
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Post by Mrs. Babyjuice »

OK, to be more concise, the therapies in particular are:

massage for whatever purpose
sports/injury massage - as opposed to chiropracting or physiotherapy
alternating tempuratures - hot water/ice, hot and cold stones
reflexology; foot, hand, ear
Reiki - hands on Healing Energy-type therapy
chakra work/crystal healing

All of the above are hands-on therapies, which are relevent to us.

I'm after the use of the above in Britain and Europe during the time period specified.

Complementary means alongside, supporting or in addition to a mainstream prescription from a medical practitioner. (Note: not complimentary which means given freely or positive input)

Holistic refers to treating the whole body rather that only the specific symptoms in order to gain a healthy mind, body and spirit (homeostastis)

They are modern terms, but under their umbrella come all sorts of different individual therapies some of which have been around for millenia, some of which I listed above.
Maker of fine bespoke copperfoiled stained glass.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

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Brother Ranulf
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

This is a tricky question to answer, but in the most simplistic terms I have come across no "complementary medicine" in my research into the 12th century. This is only because every type of treatment was at that time considered orthodox and standard. Essentially medicine falls into three categories at that period:

Herbalism - continuing the traditions of Greek and Roman writers.

Surgery - includes leeches, trepanning, bleeding, treating battle wounds, setting broken bones and so on.

The Holy and mystical healing properties of God's creation - this includes Holy water, relics and utilising the almost magical properties of stones as set out at the end of the Aberdeen Bestiary (for example). A brief(ish) extract:

"The diamond, adamas or dyamas, is a transparent stone, like crystal, but having the colour of polished iron, but it cannot be destroyed by iron, fire or any other means, unless it is placed in the hot blood of a goat; with sharp pieces of diamond other stones are engraved and polished. It is no greater than a small nut. There are six kinds, however Adamant attracts metal; it expels venom; it produces amber [and is efficacious against empty fears and for those resisting spells]. It is found in India, in Greece and in Cyprus, where magicians make use of it. It gives you courage; it averts apparitions; it removes anger and quarrels; it heals the mad; it defends you from your enemies. It should be set in gold or silver and worn on the left arm. It is likewise found in Arabia.

Acates is a stone so called from the name of a river flowing through the middle of Sicily. It is a black stone with white lines, having several images, sometimes of a king, sometimes of beasts, placed there by nature. Another kind is found in Crete, similar to coral, having veins like gold. This stone is used against poison.

Another kind is found in India; it is marked with veins like the branches of a tree, and in the form of men. This stone removes thirst and strengthens the sight.

There is another kind which has the scent of myrrh when it is placed in fire.

Another kind has marks the colour of blood.

Another has the colour of wax. But because there are so many kinds, it is of less value. It defends a man, however; it gives him strength; puts colour in his face; it endows him with good counsel; and it makes him persuasive.

Electorius grows in the stomach of a fowl after it is three years old and grows until the bird is seven. It is no bigger than a nut or a bean; it is clear like crystal or water; it gives victory to the man who wears it; it takes away thirst if it is placed in the mouth of the thirsty; it summons back those who are scattered; it acquires friends for him; it makes him eloquent and loved. It bestows love between a man and a woman. It has all these virtues if it is carried in the mouth.

Sernatites is a black stone of such a nature that if it is placed in the mouth and held under the tongue, a man can perceive what people think of him, and no woman can withstand his will. You can test its nature by smearing someone with honey and milk and placing him in the midst of a swarm of flies; if he has the stone
he is not bitten; remove the stone and the flies bite him ceaselessly. There are seventeen kinds of jasper; it has many colours; and it grows in parts of Sicily. The green and translucent kind is better and of more virtue than the rest. Jasper defends any chaste person wearing it from fever and the dropsy, and from apparitions; it strengthens friendship, keeps you safe and gives you courage. It is of greater virtue if set in silver rather than gold.

Sapphire is of such virtue that it is called the gemstone of gemstones. In colour, it is like the sky when it is cloudless. It is called serc[t]ites because it is found on the shore of Libya in front of sandbanks. This kind is clear; but a better kind is that found in the land of the Turks, although it is not so clear. Its virtue strengthens him who wears it, preserves his limbs intact, overcomes envy and deception, takes away fear, brings him out of prison, and loosens his bonds. It gets rid of an ulcer and cools you if you are overheated internally. Ground up with milk, it serves as an emollient; it is good for the eyes and for an injury to the tongue, and it takes away a headache. If you wear it, you should behave in a chaste fashion.

Smaragdus surpasses everything in its greenness. There are six kinds: from Scythia, from Britannia [Bactria], from the Nile, which flows from Paradise; one is found in the veins of mines; one is called Chalcedonian. The one from Scythia is so clear that you can see through it; it colours the air around. It is the better kind. Smaragdus does not change its colour on account of the sun or moon or shade; it is so even that you can look through it, as Nero used to do; you can use it to find things under water. It brings wealth if it is worn chastely; it endows you with persuasive eloquence if it is worn on the neck. It cures fever; it gets rid of the hemitertian fever and epilepsy; and it banishes storms and wantonness. It also takes on colour: if it is discoloured and washed in wine and anointed with green oil, the discoloration is dissolved.

Crisapacion comes from Ethiopia; its colour is like gold and at night it shines like fire etc.

Sardonyx gets its name from two stones, and from these it gets three colours. Its first colour is black; above the black is white; above the white is red. This stone has five types, but the one which has the three colours not mixed together is worth more. It does not stick to wax; it has no other virtue, but you must be chaste and humble for it to have this virtue. The stone comes from Arabia and India. If worn on the neck or finger, it brings deep sleep, cures strife and also makes infants somewhat sharp-sighted. There are five kinds."

I am not aware of the use of massage or the other examples you cite, but we are speaking about a time just before the influence of much more advanced Middle Eastern medical practices were felt in England. It is entirely possible that such things gradually became commonplace - but they would still not have been classed as "complementary" or "holistic".
Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

phil ainsley
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Post by phil ainsley »

the book, "the greatest benefit to mankind", by roy porter offers a very good account of the development of medicine through the ages. however, it doesnt focus of england, and it looks at the main theories and models of the throughout history. it probably isnt approrpiate to use modern conventional terminology such as complimentary/holistic/orthodox as medicine is these times was far from the conventional well defined models and theories we have today. the book is well referenced, and chapter 5 focuses on the medieval west. well worth a read.

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Post by Benedict »

I would strongly recommend looking at M.L Cameron's 'Anglo-Saxon Medicine' ( ... 861&sr=8-1).

Cameron takes a very balanced look at the tenth/eleventh century herbal and medical texts which survive, and basically concludes that most of them had a pretty good grounding in science. Quite a few 'herbal' recipies are used as the basis for modern treatments (albeit in different format).

Interestingly, the 'magic/miracle' treatments tend to be used in cases where treatment has only become possible very recently - eg cancer. There is a strong medical argument for the 'placebo effect' (you believe that you are being cured, and so you get better), which shouldn't be underestimated.

I'm not sure how far the 'complimentary' therapies you're interested are discussed, but if there is any evidence I would expect Cameron to mention it.


Marcus Woodhouse
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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

I don't see how the notion of complemenatry medicine has any corelation in this. From our viewpoint every aspect of medicine in the period you are talking about is "alternative", however there was a "science" and understood system behind balancing humours, using spells/charms, herbs and bloodletting. Doctors studied what they understood to be effective cures even if that involved casting horoscopes, runes, whatever.
There are lots of medieval books about medicine around if thats what you want.

Sue Green
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Post by Sue Green »

Google Galen/Galenic Medicine, Paracelsus and Humoural for an overview of medical practice during this period.

The writings of the classical period dominated practice although there was also a tradition of herbal remedies that would be peculiar to each country and based on its own flora and fauna.

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