medicine through time - the middle ages

HideShow resource information



  • zodiac man - avoid cutting parts of the body dependent on where stars are
  • cure insanity by tieing buttercups around their neck
  • trepanning to release bad spirits from skull
  • pilgrimage - cripples collect holy oil at shrine of st William of York

4 humours:

  • use leeches to blood let
  • aloe prescribed as laxative

common sense:

  • urine chart
  • tooth ache - burn candle near 'worm' or needle in tooth to kill 'worm' (nerve)
  • aloe used for wounds and hair loss
  • motherwort to treat depression
  • trepanning - hole in skull releases pressure

desperate measures - blood from a rabbit/bull to 'treat' freckles

1 of 7


  • when roman empire fell doctors became less professional and knowledgable due to lack of communication and education
  • wealthy landowners built cathedrals and universities (eg: oxford 1167, cambridge 1209)
  • physicians were highest ranking doctors, they were trained at the universities
  • one of the most famous was at Salerno, Italy
  • by 1300 still less than 100 physicians in England due to expense
  • trained by attending dissections where one man read from books of Galen and Hippocrates while another man dissected (no hands on experience and learnt Galens mistakes as well as truth)
  • trainee physicians given Vademecum (informed them of zodiac man, urine chart and blood letting, they used this when diagnosing)
2 of 7


Barber Surgeons

  • mostly do blood letting

Wise Women

  • thought to be witches. Used natural remedies and rituals and sometimes blood letting. Trained by their mothers and their own experimentation.


  • properly trained and educated. Made natural potions and remedies from herbs and anything else they assumed would help.


  • university trained doctors that use a Vademecum to diagnose


  • trained on the job. Were allowed to be women.
3 of 7


The townspeople wanted to improve their own living conditions so they contributed to the new measures and wanted to prevent miasma. The towns council also made new laws to keep the town clean and prevent disease.

New measures include:

  • removing sewege by horse and cart
  • open sewers
  • latrines
  • fines for not removing waste, littering and throwing rotten animal blood
  • butchers had to butcher meat in a segregated area

The people didn't see it as much of a problem until the black death because they didn't understand about germs. The king felt it wasn't his job to clean up the town, he was in a protected area away from the uncleanliness. If disease broke out then he just moved to Windsor to escape it.

4 of 7


Bubonic Plague:

  • fever of 38-41 degrees c
  • headache
  • painful aching joints
  • nausea and vomiting
  • buboes which oozed pus and blood (commonly in armpits and groin)
  • 4 out of 5 who contracted it died within 8 days

Pneumonic Plague:

  • fever
  • cough and blood tinged sputum
  • as disease progressed, sputum was free flowing and bright red
  • 95% died 

Septicaemic Plague:

  • painful blackened skin and fever
  • almost invariably fatal
5 of 7


  • bad digestions or blockage (herbal remedies and potions given to purge body)
  • the buboes reek of the bodies infected humours and spread the disease (ointments made of figs and onions mixed with yeast and butter to be spread on buboes which should then be opened)
  • touching the sick or dead (those infected should be locked away with their families, all over suits to be worn, plague victims burnt, ships to wait 40 days before landing in the country)
  • miasma and the earthquake from 1348 that corrupted the air (make a wood fire in the house, place your head in cess pit or toilet and inhale fumes, streets to be cleaned, fumigate house, wear a mask containing herbs)
  • the jews poisoned people (anyone found in posession of powders or ointments was made to swallow them)
  • God sent disease to punish for sins (flagellantes walked through the village whipping themselves and singing hymns)
  • the coming together of saturn, jupiter and mars which signals terrible things to come (wearing amulets and chanting spells)
6 of 7


10% actually tried to cure the sick

The kind of treatements given included food, rest, prayer, nursing care from nuns and herbal remedies

Hospitals were funded by the church and acted like care homes, it was believed God sent illness as punishment.

Had no professional doctors or surgeons

Often people with apparently incurable or infectious diseases were denied entry

Hospitals were mainly for the poor as the rich were treated in their own homes by physicians

7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Medicine through time (OCR History A) resources »