NURSING FUN FACTS: Medieval Remedies | Salter School of Allied Health and Nursing
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NURSING FUN FACTS: Medieval Remedies

medieval nursing remedies nursing history medical history fun facts These medieval remedies show how far the nursing field has come!

Over the last century, the nursing care industry has evolved into the practices we know and use today. There are always new changes in the field which help to improve the healthcare of patients.

If you’re currently enrolled in a nursing program, you’ll likely be learning some facts about the history of nursing in your courses. You could learn about ancient healthcare practices and the progression that has developed from older medieval European healing techniques and remedies. In medieval times, patients worried about their health and how they could ward off illnesses. Some therapies included typical herbal remedies, while others originated out of superstition or peculiar ingredients.

In an article in BBC's History Extra author Toni Mount describes the following unusual homemade remedies.

Here are some unusual medieval remedies that may fascinate you:

1. Stomach

Nowadays, we have Tums or Pepto Bismol to assist an upset stomach. However, Mount says that in medieval times it was advised that cumin and anise should be mixed in white wine and steeped for three days and nights. Then it would be laid on an ash board to dry. Nine days later, it would be put in an earthen pot and dried over the fire to make a powder that would be put in pottage (soup) or used in a drink. This would help to relieve gas, bloating, and other stomach-related symptoms. Today, cumin and anise are used in some medicines because they help to relieve excess gas from the stomach. 

2. Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis that can affect anyone. It may cause severe pain, redness, and sore joints. In medieval times, it was advised that victims of gout take a dead owl, pluck its feathers and clean the insides with salt. They were to put it in a pot, cover it with a stone, and put it in an oven until it was burnt. They would then cover it in boar’s grease and spread it overe the affected area! Nowadays, we can be thankful that there are newer ways to treat gout!

3. Eye sties

An original recipe from Bald’s Leechbook, a medicinal medieval book, recommended taking equal amounts of onion, leek, and garlic and mixing them together. Then wine and bull’s gall were mixed with all these ingredients. The mixture was then put in a brass bowl to sit for nine nights. After the liquid was strained with cloth, it would be applied to the eyes with a feather at nighttime.

4. Burns

Although unusual by today’s standards, the remedy for burns in medieval times could actually help! Old documents suggested to take a living snail and rub the slime over the burn for healing.

According to Mount, recent studies have shown that snail slime does contain antioxidants, and includes antiseptic, anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-irritant properties. The slime also includes antibiotic and antiviral compounds along with collagen and elastin which are crucial for skin repair.

5. Cough

Sometimes, we still use some original ingredients for modern medications. Mount's research reveals that when it came to a cough, medieval people would make juice from horehound, an herbal plant similar to mint, and mix it with barley water, sugar, and egg whites which would look like candy floss or sugar strands. This concoction would have tasted good and sugar is good for opening up the chest. Today you can still find this medicine as an over-the-counter cough mixture called linctus simplex.     

The world of nursing has taken a long journey from the medieval times. Learning how the nursing industry has progressed over time can help you build a foundation of nursing history and gain more respect for the progress nurses have made in the past century. We hope these interesting medieval remedies help you appreciate the evolution of your field more!

Salter School of Nursing & Allied Health offers three nursing programs at our Manchester, NH campus. If you’d like more information on our Practical Nursing, Licensed Nursing Assistant, or Patient Care Technician programs, contact us today!