Medieval Black Death: 10 Historical Cures and Remedies

The Black Death, one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, struck Europe in the 14th century, causing widespread devastation and loss of life.

In the absence of modern medical knowledge, people of the Middle Ages sought various remedies to combat the plague.

Let’s  explore 10 historical cures and remedies employed during the medieval Black Death, shedding light on the desperate measures taken during a time of great suffering.

1. Flagellation

Some believed that self-flagellation, or whipping oneself as a form of penance, would appease a vengeful God and stop the spread of the plague. This practice was based on the idea that the Black Death was a divine punishment.

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2. Aromatic Herbs and Flowers

People often carried aromatic herbs, flowers, and sachets filled with sweet-smelling substances, such as rose petals and lavender, to mask the foul odors believed to carry the disease. It was thought that the pleasing scents would ward off contagion.

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3. Quarantine and Isolation

The concept of isolating the infected was not new, and during the Black Death, it was often practiced. Infected individuals were often confined to their homes, which were marked with a painted sign or a piece of cloth to indicate the presence of the plague.

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4. Fires and Fires of Cleansing

The burning of fires, both large and small, was thought to purify the air. In some cases, bonfires were set ablaze in the streets, and people believed that the smoke would drive away the pestilence.

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5. Bloodletting

Bloodletting, a common medieval medical practice, was often used as a cure for various ailments. During the Black Death, some physicians recommended bleeding as a way to rid the body of “corrupted” blood.

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6. Amulets and Charms

To protect themselves from the plague, many people wore or carried amulets, charms, and talismans. These objects were believed to have magical properties that could ward off evil spirits and disease.

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7. Prayers and Religious Penance

With the Black Death’s devastating toll on human life, religion played a significant role in coping with the crisis. People turned to prayer, penance, and religious rituals as a means of seeking divine intervention.


8. Venomous Creatures

Some desperate individuals believed that introducing venomous creatures, such as snakes or scorpions, into their homes would help drive away the plague. The idea was that these creatures would consume the corrupting agents of the disease.

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9. Medicinal Brews and Potions

Apothecaries and healers concocted various herbal brews and potions to combat the plague. These often contained a mixture of herbs, spices, and other ingredients thought to have healing properties.

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10. Fumigation and Incense

Fumigation was a common method of purifying the air. Incense and aromatic herbs were burned in enclosed spaces, believed to cleanse the atmosphere of miasmas and disease-causing agents

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The historical cures and remedies employed during the medieval Black Death offer a glimpse into the desperation and uncertainty that people faced during one of the darkest periods in human history.

While these remedies may seem superstitious and ineffective in retrospect, they were born out of a profound fear of the unknown and the limited medical knowledge of the time.

The Black Death remains a stark reminder of the importance of scientific progress and medical advancement in combating pandemics.