New book explores early medieval medicine

First, for the effect of the treatment, you need a dead eagle.

But that cannot be the case Which Dead eagle. You have to somehow kill it with a reed, while reciting specific prayers at a specific time. Then you have to preserve its various parts, most likely for use by the Dark Age equivalent of the apothecary.

Medical treatment in the 9th century Carolingian Empire was not much like the care you receive today in a modern doctor’s office. Early Medieval Medicine is considered a sacred art, and is the subject of the first book by Binghamton University Associate Professor Meg Lega, Embodiment of the Soul: Medicine and Religion in Carolingian Europe, Published this year with University of Pennsylvania Press. The empire included regions that now include France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and northern Italy.

Lega said if you look at the course offerings of most universities in the history of medicine, they usually begin in the 16th and 17th centuries, and few books explore the medical practices of earlier periods. Early Medieval medicine was considered traditionally superstitious, a deteriorating remnant of the Greco-Roman tradition of medicine.

“In the early Middle Ages, everything was filled with religion, which puts medicine in a different context. However, it can still be recognized as a logical form of healing within that environment,” Lega said. “It was their understanding of the way the world works.”

The treatments addressed a wide range of familiar complaints: headaches, baldness, eliminating unwanted hair, and dry eyes, to name a few. Carolingian healers relied on theories from the Greco-Roman world regarding four bodily humors, different types of fevers, and the differences between male and female bodies. However, the practices were not identical to those of antiquity and much textual knowledge was lost.

“Because this is after the Roman apocalypse and much of it was written in Greek, the whole system of knowledge has become quite fragmented,” Lega explained. “They have snippets of Greek knowledge that they have tried to synthesize, reconstruct and extend. So the medicine of the Dark Age seems a bit classical, but it does not look like it was in a treatise from Hippocrates or Galen.”

In general, medical practices remained relatively constant from antiquity until the nineteenth century. Bloodletting was common, along with herbal remedies, skin patches and regimens including fasting, rest and diet changes to prevent and treat disease.

“Sometimes these recipes can have a lot of steps and include exotic ingredients that can be hard for you to get hold of,” she said.

While the medical practices of the 9th century may seem strange to us today, they are based on some form of logic. Words, especially those associated with faith, had a special power, as at the different times of the day or phases of the moon, which are thought to affect body fluids much in the same way as the moon affects tides.

Often times, people dismiss these practices as witchcraft and superstition. But they were important in their day. Significant resources were devoted to transcribing these medical texts on manuscripts at a time when books were extraordinarily expensive. For practitioners of the ninth century, these techniques were the pinnacle of medical science.

These practitioners are still largely a mystery. History records the names of only a handful of period physicians, such as those associated with the royal courts. Some monasteries also set aside resources for healing. Building plans for one of these facilities included rooms dedicated to bloodletting, administering analgesics and storing the period’s equivalent of medicines.

For this reason, some monks seem to have had medical training, as well as priests. Some books, for example, include both instructions on how to perform Christian baptism along with ulcer healing techniques. The Paramedic Or a doctor, he appears as a spiritual figure who can see the divine world, predict the future and heal the soul as well as the body.

We shouldn’t automatically rule out the effectiveness of these treatments either. While it’s beyond the scope of Lega’s book, a researcher at the University of Nottingham has found a thousand-year-old recipe for an eye infection written in Old English. When a team of microbiologists literally took the recipe — including instructions that might seem strange to modern eyes — they produced an ointment that proved effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“It hints at the idea that some of these things were really effective, that we should be more humble,” Lega said. “If we dismiss these prescriptions as ignorant superstitions, we may actually be missing out on something important.”

Lega is currently working with an international group of researchers to catalog Latin manuscripts with medical content prior to 1100. In addition to medical letters, treatments and remedies can appear in unusual places, such as religious texts.

“What we see when we take it on a larger scale is that people may have had access to some educated medicine here and there across a broader cross-section of society. Perhaps medical knowledge was common in different parts of the empire, among people of very different backgrounds.” They kept a prescription or A little information about a plant wherever they can.”

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