During the medieval ages, medical treatments were fairly basic and mostly made use of natural ingredients. Medieval healers and doctors borrowed from a number of sources when determining the right treatment for a given disease.
They borrowed, for instance, from the Greeks as well as Romans and also consulted the sizable medical treatises penned by early medieval Muslim scholars in Moorish Spain.
Superstition and religion also played a major role in the diagnosis and treatment of a disease. Medieval cures were fairly effective until many towns and cities such as London and Paris came to house huge populations. A lack of hygiene in such urban centers led to numerous disease outbreaks and in the face of such outbreaks, conventional cures often failed.
Bloodletting was one of the most frequently employed medieval health cures. It was supposed to relieve a wide range of health issues. Bloodletting tied in with the medieval belief that health issues were caused by an imbalance in the vital fluids of the body. This belief was common among the Greeks and Romans and became a part of Western medicine during the medieval ages.
As a result, doctors would prescribe bloodletting for a wide range of diseases including serious illnesses such as the plague. During the medieval period, bloodletting became so common a medical recourse that barbers began offering it as a part of their services. The amount of blood to be removed through bloodletting often depended upon the nature of the ailment that was to be treated.
Different kinds of surgery were common throughout the medieval ages. During the early medieval period, monks at Christian monasteries extensively performed surgeries, including head surgery. Although few details of medieval skull surgery are known, it has been historically established that skull surgery was frequently performed and proved to be life-saving for patients in many cases.
Skull surgery was typically performed by boring through a part of the skull and then performing an operation as demanded by the condition of the patient. Medieval skull surgery was popularly called trepanning and was often used to relieve unusual pressure on the brain of the patient, often a result of an accident.
Eye surgery was also a common cure during the medieval ages meant to relieve cataracts. During the early medieval period, eye surgery was performed by inserting a knife through the cornea of the patient and forcing the lens of the eye to the bottom in order to help the physician remove cataracts.
In the later medieval period, eye surgery methods developed by Moorish physicians gained widespread currency in Europe. As a result, physicians began removing cataracts by inserting a hollow hypodermic syringe into the white portion of the eye and sucking out cataracts.
On the battlefield, the most serious wounds for the injured were those caused by arrows. Arrows would typically pierce the body of the victim and lodge themselves inside. It was then up to the physician to attempt to remove the arrow without causing further internal damage and to close the wound as soon as possible.
One way of doing this was to use a curious spoon which was inserted into the wound and wrapped around the corners of the arrow, making it possible for the physician to pull out the arrow with minimal internal damage. As soon as the arrow was successfully removed, hot irons were used to cauterize the wound and seal it shut to mitigate the possibility of infection.
Broken bones were a common type of injury for soldiers during sieges. Sieges typically involved many soldiers scaling the walls of a hostile castle and of these, many would fall to have their bones broken. Medieval physicians would then heal such bone breakage by attempting to realign the bone along with its natural position or as close as possible and then hold it there with the aid of a plaster mold. Medieval plaster molds were often made by using egg whites and flour and were aimed at immobilizing the bone so that it could recoup at its original position.
Simply blade wounds were cured with the help of potions and bandaging by medieval physicians. However, if the blade of a knife or a sword penetrated deep into a part of the body, it often occasioned an amputation. Medieval physicians would then securely place the damaged limb of the patient on a piece of wood and then cut through the soft tissue, eventually sawing through the bone. This operation was completed in nearly a minute and in another few minutes, the bleeding was stopped and the wound was bandaged securely.
Mental disorders were directly tied with superstitions and religious beliefs during the medieval period. It was believed that a person with a mental disorder was plagued by a demon or some other supernatural force. Alternatively, some physicians held mental disorders such as depression or schizophrenia as a result of the imbalance in body fluids, specifically an excess of black bile.
Consequently, a range of remedies was applied in order to quell the supernatural cause. One popular cure was to recommend the patient make a pilgrimage to a saint’s shrine and spend a day or more there. Other methods involved exorcism, a specific type of skull surgery called trephining, bloodletting, the use of laxatives, and emetics.
Herbs were a popular cure for a variety of ailments during the medieval ages. They tied in with the medieval belief of the balance of fluids in the body. Medieval use of herbs borrowed significantly from the pre-Christian pagan cultures of Europe which extensively used herbal cures.
By the high middle ages, herbs were popularly used by monasteries to treat different illnesses. However, herbal cures were mostly applicable in the case of internal diseases such as headaches, depression, and tuberculosis. Although herbs were also used to treat external wounds, they were scarcely effective in healing such wounds.