Medieval Medicine.

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Bad Viking
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Medieval Medicine.

Postby Bad Viking » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:54 am

How do !
I have been collecting some bits and bobs of surgeons kit and gotten my head around the Humours and some basic herbal cures, but I have been persuaded to give a short talk on Medieval medecine and the role of the doctor.
I have trawled through the net trying to find something simple - a kind of 'Dummy's Guide to medieval Medicine' an overview type of thing - as going indepth into stuff I feel can make people glaze over a bit -

Dose anyone have any thoughts where I could get a rough guide to being a Doctor in the medieval period ?

ta

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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Medicus Matt » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:56 am

Bad Viking wrote:
Dose anyone have any thoughts where I could get a rough guide to being a Doctor in the medieval period ?




Which bit....it lasts for a 1000 years?
Serious question, as I can point you in the right direction for stuff up to 12th century.


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Kairra » Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:12 am

I was thinking of eventually doing something similar myself - you could have a look at the Islamic medicinal texts too. Certainly for the general medieval periods, a lot of the information gathered about the biology of man, the nervous system etc was borrowed from Islamic scholarly studies, as well as medicenes (although the availability of native species and ingredients changed the way medicene worked in Europe). It might be a good starting point to lead you on to more western resources?


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Phil the Grips » Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:15 am

Kairra wrote:It might be a good starting point to lead you on to more western resources?
or you could simply just start with Galen as he was the Western standard for centuries


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Medicus Matt » Mon Apr 30, 2012 12:19 pm

Phil the Grips wrote:
Kairra wrote:It might be a good starting point to lead you on to more western resources?
or you could simply just start with Galen as he was the Western standard for centuries



And one of the key texts used by medieval arabic physicians as well. We wouldn't have copies of most of his works if it weren't for their preservation in Arabic libraries.


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Apr 30, 2012 12:33 pm

I have started to do talks at events and one thing I would point out to people is that the medieval notion of what was a doctor is different to our own, most medieval "doctors" were doctors of law or theology for instance.
A medieval doctor normally didn't cut people up or fix bones, that was the job of a surgeon. A surgeon could not diagnose or advise on a course of treatment, that was the role of a doctor. Neither of them could mix up drugs, that was the job of an apothacry, who shouldn't advise or treat patients without consultation from a doctor.
Most people, rich or poor, had recourse to various traditional cures which ranged from herbs that might work to magic, blessings etc that may have only worked as a placebo (the mind can do amazing things), and women usually were taught about making poultices and how to use herbs and such like.
What we might call a doctor didn't turn up until late in the middle ages when what we would call doctors were allowed to start operating on patients as physics. A lot of Islamic medicine and ideas did not start to have any impact upon western medicine until the fall of Constantinople and a diffusion of Greek/Arab ideas that was initially enheirited by Venice and northern Italy, even though Jewish/Christian and Muslim scholars had studied and worked together in Iberia for several centuries. Even then the ancient Roman ideas of Galen would still influence medicine in the 16th and 17th century.
And never let your audience under-estimate the power of the "p*ss of a ginger haired boy."


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Apr 30, 2012 12:40 pm

And as Matt says you should not be too romantic over the "Golden age of Islamic Science". Most of what has/was claimed by Muslim scholars as thir own was in fact rehashed Greek/Roman/Persian/Chinese ideas that were often as in accurate as the notions of the West.
Whenever I get asked if I would like to travel back in time I always use the standards of medical science to illustrate why I am happy to live here (and where) I am now. The only big difference between a barber surgeon in 14th century England and his equiavalent in 14th century Eygpt was that the latter might be a bit cleaner!


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Kairra » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:07 pm

Although Islamic texts did take a lot from prior civilisations, they did do a lot of further exploratory and diagnostic work themselves and built on top of what they did take from others. In the same way, all civilisations took medical information from others, then built on top of it, often seemingly coming up with the same sort of things over and over again only more and more refined.

Unfortunately I just don't know enough about this subject to say anything else, which is annoying. I shall have to get some books on the subject because I do find it fascinating myself.

I would also like to add that so far 'modern medicine has been a total let down for me. Not only have I struggled to find doctors who are even capable of diagnosing any of my issues (such as the one two weeks ago who failed to diagnose H.Pylori in my gut and gave me laxatives instead. I now have stomach ulcers because of his bad judgement) but chemical medicines often don't work naturally with the body, rather supressing and inhibiting the body's natural functions, to work. Of course, I'm not wanting to be generic - there are some VERY good modern medicines out there that are badly needed, vaccinations are plentiful and our knowledge of the body and of diseases now is exceptional compared to anything in the past. However, for an every day person who has no major ongoing or terminal illnesses, herbal meds seem to work far better for me than any modern meds - plus the fact that so far herbal doctors have actually been more successful in diagnosing real issues. My Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome was diagnosed by a herbal doctor two years before the 'other' doctors would even test me for it, and after several 'inconclusive' tests they then agreed that I had it. Same with the Reynauld's. I think on a personal level, I trust plants and old medical knowledge more than your average 'modern' doctor these days.

That's just me though.


“When you pass by the meadows of Paradise indulge freely in it.”
They said: “O Messenger of Allah, what are the meadows of Paradise?”
He replied: “The circles of knowledge.”
Excerpt from the Qu'ran.

I'm not religious, but if it makes sense...

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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Bad Viking » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:24 pm

Medicus Matt wrote:
Bad Viking wrote:
Dose anyone have any thoughts where I could get a rough guide to being a Doctor in the medieval period ?




Which bit....it lasts for a 1000 years?
Serious question, as I can point you in the right direction for stuff up to 12th century.


Hi Medicus Matt
You are a God send -- I would grateful if you know of anything relevant to the 11+12 centuries especially - and in particular Herbs + poultices that may have been common and what diseases they treated !! :thumbup:

Thank you !


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Medicus Matt » Tue May 01, 2012 10:46 am

Bad Viking wrote:
Medicus Matt wrote:
Bad Viking wrote:
Dose anyone have any thoughts where I could get a rough guide to being a Doctor in the medieval period ?




Which bit....it lasts for a 1000 years?
Serious question, as I can point you in the right direction for stuff up to 12th century.


Hi Medicus Matt
You are a God send -- I would grateful if you know of anything relevant to the 11+12 centuries especially - and in particular Herbs + poultices that may have been common and what diseases they treated !! :thumbup:

Thank you !


Buggeration, I just wrote a very long reply and then lost it.

In a nutshell,, any physician wanting to be taken seriously in the post Conquest period would train in the methods taught at the School of Salerno, where the humours were kept in balance by a healthy diet, bloodletting, purging and medicine.
Start with this version of Harrington's history of the school (read online or download as a pdf) :- http://archive.org/stream/schoolofsalernum00hariiala#page/n7/mode/2up
Then read this, the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, which details the schools principles of maintaining health :- http://www.godecookery.com/regimen/regimen.htm

You also need to read up on the Doctrine of Signatures.

As for commonly used herbs/poultices...big subject. You can find a list of the most commonly used medicinal herbs and what they were used for here:- http://www.mostly-medieval.com/explore/plants.htm

There's a common misconception that there was no understanding of the need for cleanliness when in fact it had been understood for centuries that washing of hands was beneficial, that wounds needed to be cleaned out with vinegar and that medical instruments should be sterilised by heating them.

I can do you a reading list if you want to go further but the info in the links above should be enough to get you started...and remember:-
"Do not retain your urine nor tightly compress your anus.
Do these things well, and you shall live along time. "
Last edited by Medicus Matt on Tue May 01, 2012 11:24 am, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Kairra » Tue May 01, 2012 11:15 am

May I just ask how one does tightly compress their anus, just so that I know not to do it? :p


“When you pass by the meadows of Paradise indulge freely in it.”
They said: “O Messenger of Allah, what are the meadows of Paradise?”
He replied: “The circles of knowledge.”
Excerpt from the Qu'ran.

I'm not religious, but if it makes sense...

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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Tue May 01, 2012 11:41 am

The University of Pisa recommended wine as being the best thing for cleaning wounds and instruments.


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Medicus Matt » Tue May 01, 2012 12:30 pm

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:The University of Pisa recommended wine as being the best thing for cleaning wounds and instruments.


It's usually 'strong wine' or 'astringent wine' in original texts, essentially wine vinegars. Theodoric Borgognoni and William Saliceta used it extensively; washing instruments, cleaning out wounds, dressings etc helping to counter the previously commonly held idea that pus formation was to be encouraged in wounds. That's 13th century though, in the 12th century the view that a pus-filled wound was a healthy wound (one of the things that Galen got wrong) held sway.

This is worth a read.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1437561/pdf/jrsocmed00251-0064.pdf


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby hobbitomm » Thu May 03, 2012 7:00 am

There's also been work done on the middens from Soutra Aisle looking at the pollens and herbal remnants, and working out from then what materia medica was in use. Fascinating stuff

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-enter ... 84182.html



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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu May 03, 2012 8:40 am

As for compressing your anus- I find that being a London Irish fan works for me.


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Re: Medieval Medicine.

Postby Langley » Thu May 03, 2012 4:10 pm

Lots of general stuff as well as the specific in the book "Ouch! - A History of the Treatment of Arrow Wounds" by a certain barber surgeon who hangs around this forum. (I may have paraphrased the title a bit as writing this at work not at home with the book in front of me. You would probably also need to brush up on your Astrology for most periods loosely described as Mediaeval.




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