Introductory to Medieval Medicine

For the most part, during the Medieval era medical practices included medicinal herbs, prayer, and spells. Yet this was also a time for development of surgical procedures and other more modernized cures. Physicians and surgeons were university trained. The first university was found in Salerno, Italy. Famous philosophers, such as Hippocrates, studied here. Medieval physicians had a similar approach to the Greeks when it came to medicine. They believed the body made up four humors: sanguine (blood), choler, phlegm and melancholia. They also believed that keeping these four components in balance was the key to maintaining health. These physicians would therefore treat illnesses by replenishing or relieving one of the four humors, depending on the balance of the four. I will go in more depth into all of the subjects I have brought up in further posts! Thanks for reading!


1. Picture one. Oxford University Digital Image Library.

2. Picture two. Oxford University Digital Image Library.

3. Picture three. Cambridge University Digital Library.

4.  Stewart, John. “Lesson 11- The Ancient World.” Desire 2 Learn. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.


Common Diseases and Medicinal Herbs

Herbs were a common cure to most diseases during the Medieval period. Common diseases during this time include: epilepsy, dysentery, pneumonia, stroke, heart attack, influenza, and small pox among many others. As mentioned in an earlier blog, during this time physicians believed that the body is composed of four humors and maintaining the balance of them is essential to overall health. Therefore, some of these herbs were used to either purge or starve the humors. Some medicines could also be used as topical creams to directly heal a wound. Some common medicinal herbs include: anise (used to treat gas and induce sweating), Chamomile (used for hand washing and headaches), Flax (helped remove foreign bodies), Mint (used for all stomach ailments as well as for treating venom and wounds), and Saffron (to treat infections). Prescribing these herbal medicines was one essential component of medical practice during this medieval era.


1. “Medieval Medicine.” Medieval Medicine. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

Women Physicians in the Medieval Era

Since as far back as the Classical ages, women have been in charge of their families’ health. Then, beginning in the Medieval period, women became known as healers not only for their family but also for people in the community. For example, it was one of the nuns duties to see sick people and attempt to nurse them back to health. A few famous women physicians during this time are: Trotula, Alessandra Giliana, and Abbess Hildegard of Bingen. One thing that these women and others lacked during this time was a formal university education. Many historians believe that women lack this type of education in total while some believe that their formal learning was limited. It is also believed by some that men and women worked together in the total care of a patient; the man would do surgical procedures and diagnoses while the woman would perform the practical application of the medication. This was only the start to women gaining power in the medical field but it was also a very significant and groundbreaking beginning.


1.”Medieval Women as Physicians.” Wonders Marvels. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

Medieval Medical Practices

In this post we are going to go through several medical practices, in the order of which I believe to be more normal to all out insane! This should be fun 🙂

1. Urine was utilized as an antiseptic

Oxford University Digital Image Library.

This means that all battle wounds were required to be treated with urine. Good luck with that one!

2. Surgery

Medieval surgery

10 Bizarre Medieval Medical Practices

This isn’t necessarily too crazy but the lack of resources they had to complete these surgeries is a rather astonishing statistic. The lack of preparedness during this time often led failed surgeries, or in other words death.

3. Hot Iron for Hemorrhoids

Cambridge University Digital Library.

The monks often completed this procedure as patients were sent to them and then the monks would put a hot iron up the patient’s anus. The monk’s carried out the procedure because it was believed that if one did not pray to the “protector against hemorrhoids” then they would surely obtain one.

4. Bloodletting

Oxford University Digital Image Library.

Excess blood was seen as the culprit for many illnesses during the Medieval era. Therefore, letting a patient bleed extensively was a common cure and practice. This was done in one of two ways, either by letting leeches suck the blood from the patient or the physician would cut a vein and let them bleed out.

5. Trepanning

Digital Public Library of America.

This was the process of drilling a hole into one’s skull in order to expose the outer membrane of the brain. This cure was believed to relieve pressure and treat problems that were localized or originated in the head.

Thanks for reading! Hope you liked learning about these crazy procedures. Until next time!


1. May, Gareth. “10 Bizarre Medieval Medical Practices – Listverse.” Listverse. N.p., 31 July 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

Treating Illnesses

The approach to illnesses and how to treat them was very different during the Medieval era than it is today. Like mentioned in the introduction, medieval era physicians believed the body to be composed of four parts, which they called humors: sanguine (blood), choler, phlegm and melancholia. They would treat illness based upon the balance of these four humors. Each of the components is associated with qualities of heat and moistness. Sanguine was determined to be hot and moist, choler was similar as it is hot and dry, phlegm, cold and moist, melancholy, the opposite of sanguine, cold and dry. Based on these qualities physicians treat the illnesses, either giving more or less depending on the patients’ symptoms. The cures included herbal remedies to either feed or starve a characteristic, or by bloodletting or prescribing laxatives. Physicians also created what is called “The Doctrine of Signatures” which says that the color of plants has a direct effect on the corresponding organ in the body when consumed. Much of these practices were only available to the wealthy but also the lower class was able to often receive aid, simply not as readily.

Again, thanks for reading and I hope you find the blog interesting and intriguing!


1. Picture one. Digital Public Library of America.

2. Picture two. Oxford University Digital Image Library.

3. Stewart, John. “Lesson 13- The Middle Ages.” Desire 2 Learn. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <;.

4. “Medieval Medicine.” Medieval Medicine. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.