Unusual Medieval Medicine Practices

Caduceus symbol
The Halloween season is upon us and it’s always fun to take a look at some unusual and sometimes gruesome medieval medicinal practices that we are all very glad are not used today. Many of them did more harm than good and have since been replaced with more practical, effective, and humane alternatives. A few however still exist at least in theory.
  1. Blood Letting – There was a huge belief that many illnesses were caused by bad blood. So this practice involved the draining of blood which would often result in accidental death from blood loss, this could either be accomplished through cutting the skin or using actual leaches. It is not entirely a bad idea though, today many hospitals still use leaches when re-attaching things like fingers or ears as their saliva is a natural anticoagulant. They also encourage blood flow through the reattached body part.
  2. Trepanation – You had to be careful not to complain about headaches too much in medieval times lest you find yourself on the receiving end of this procedure. Trepanation involved boring a hole through the skull to release evil spirits. Amazingly enough evidence shows that many patients actually survived this procedure.
  3. Mercury – We now know that this is a highly toxic substance, but back in the day it was believed to prolong a person’s lifespan and increase their vitality. It was also believed to treat anything from syphilis to infection. Unfortunately this would often result in an untimely death as the mercury destroyed the patient’s kidney and liver.
  4. Babylonian Skull Cure – Definitely the weirdest, but least damaging “cure” on our list. This practice was based on the belief that sleeping by a human skull would offer protection from evil spirits. This was prescribed to patient’s suffering anything from sleepless nights to grinding teeth. It was believed the skull would prevent spirits from contacting you while you slept.
To read more interesting and gruesome medieval medicine practices please click here. If you would like to explore a career in modern medicine please contact us today. Our curriculum doesn’t cover sleeping by skulls or drilling holes in people’s heads, but we have help thousands of students start successful careers in healthcare over the past 56 years.

Leave a Reply