Medieval and Renaissance Medicine: An Overview

Handout/Outline for a class taught in the Society for Creative Anachronism
by Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, m.k.a. Jennifer Heise

MYTHS about medieval medicine:
  1. Myth: Medieval medicine had no rational basis, but was merely a collection of superstitions.
  2. Medieval medicine was clearly divided between intrusive scholastic medicine practiced by male physicians and holistic herbal treatments prescribed by village wisewomen.
  3. Almost no one lived to be over 60.
  4. Anatomical dissection was never practiced in the middle ages and Renaissance.
  5. There were no hospitals or public health services.
  6. Major surgical procedures were never performed.
  7. We have no information about medieval medicine or about herbal treatments used in period; or, we have no information about non-scholastic/clerical medicine in period.
    1. All medieval medical recipes involve expensive and/or dangerous ingredients
    2. All medieval medical recipes, being herbal, are safe to use.
  8. Physicians recommended bleeding a person for every complaint.
  9. Illness was universally considered just a punishment for sin. Nobody believed that disease was spread by contagion. The Churches forbade medical treatment.
  10. Medicine was an arcane art in period, and ordinary people were not encouraged to learn medical knowledge.
  11. Reliable herbal contraceptives were covertly available to women from wisewomen and midwives until the Church wiped them out.
Sources
Practitioners
Hospitals

Specific illnesses:
Theories:
 Humoral properties

Hot
Cold
Dry
Yellow Bile
Choleric Temperament
Fire
Black Bile
Melancholic Temperament
Earth
Moist
Blood
Sanguine Temperment
Air
Phlegm
Phlegmatic Temperament
Water
The most important principle of medieval medical advice was moderation in all things.

Treatments:

Bibliography:

Further Reading


Copyright 1999, Jennifer A. Heise. Contact me via email for permission to reprint: jenne.heise@gmail.com
Permission is explicitly granted for limited reproduction as a printed handout for Society for Creative Anachronism demos & classes , as long as I am notified and credited and the entire handout is used.  [Jadwiga's herbs homepage:  http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/herbs/herbs.html ]