A MEDIEVAL WOMAN'S LIFE - AT HOME
- BIRTHS - WEDDINGS - DIVORCE - DEATHS - MANNERS - EDUCATION - EMPLOYMENT
CLOTHES - ITEMS OF CLOTHING - DRESS ACCESSORIES FABRICS & SEWING BEAUTY, HEALTH & HYGIENE MY TALKS MY SEWING MY ARTIFACTS BIBLIOGRAPHY LINKS
General Medieval Healthcare
HEADACHES - WEIGHT LOSS - WORMS - WARTS & CORNS - MOSQUITO REPELLENTS - ANTISEPTICS - TOILET PAPER
Perhaps the best-known medieval medical journal is the late 14th century Tacuinum Sanitatis, shown above, which was a medical codex with almost full-page, colour illuminations, written and illuminated for the Cerruti Family. It was probably made from Verona. The Tacuinum Sanitatis dealt with many aspects of healthcare- herbs, substances, emotions and types of fabrics. Much of what we know today about medieval healthcare comes from this book. There are five or six existing copies of this book which vary slightly, but contain, for the most part, the same information.
The detail at left, is from the Tacuinum Sanitatis and shows a man purchasing medicine from an apocathary. The scales on the bench were used to give correct measure for may of the complicated recipes used.
Only a few textbooks survive specifically dealing with women's health, although it must be supposed that medieval women faced the same kind of daily complaints as the modern woman. Headaches, ringworm and warts were seen as curses from a displeased God, but home remedies went hand in hand with prayers for the cure of many ailments.
Looking at an image of Saint Christopher was devoutly believed to give protection from sudden death for the next 24 hours. Wearing a ring or brooch with the names of the three wise men- Caspar (or Jaspar), Melchior and Balthazar- was also good to epilepsy preventative. Many 13th and 14th century rings were also inscribed with the letters A.G.L.A. which were to aid against fevers.
Hildegard Von Bingham, a twelfth century German woman physician, wrote on women's health, as did Gilbert the Englishman in the 13th century. His compilation of remedies are based on a Latin medical textbook and is known as The Sickness of Women.
Bloodletting was believed to release vile humours from the body through the wound and was widely practiced on both men and women. The picture at right is a detail form the 14th century illumination, the Luttrell Psalter and shows a doctor releasing blood from an ailing patient.
Many herbal remedies were utilised throughout the Middle Ages, some of which persist today. Taking honey for a sore throat in these modern times certainly does not raise any eyebrows and was a common remedy in the middle ages. Listed below are home herbal preparations recorded for use from as early as the 12th century. Please don't try these at home. They made be injurious or inflict harm.
Another cure is made thus:
Take lime and twice as much chalk and with wine or water, make a thin cement. Apply with 5 days with a feather to the area where the worm is. On the fifth day, take aloe and a third as much myrrh, crush and with fresh wax, prepare a plaster. Use hemp cloth and tie on for 12 days.
and corns tinctures
Banckes' Herbal written in 1525 suggests rosemary rosmarinus officinalis as a medieval antiseptic writing:
It seems that toilet paper, and indeed the idea of toilet paper, was unappealing to early Europeans and the use of paper squares was not adopted back home. Obviously, some kind of wiping system or device was used during the middle ages. There appear to be two that we know of today- gomphus or the gomph stick and torchcut or torche-cul. The gomph stick was a curved stick and used as we use toilet paper- to scrape. The torche-cul refers to straw which was used in the toilet. It literally translates as 'arse-wipe' or 'arse-torch' indicating that the straw was used either for lighting in the toilet or as a substance to wipe with. Some people assert that Spaghnum moss was used to wipe with but I have no concrete evidence of this.
Perhaps water was supplied for washing down below as well as for the hands and face, but if so, it is not mentioned anywhere I've seen.
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