Palacio Real

Madrid for kids

Health and Medicine in Medieval and Renaissance times

The most common diseases were dysentery, epilepsy, influenza, diphtheria, scurvy, typhoid, smallpox, scabies, impetigo, leprosy, pneumonia, stroke, heart attack, tuberculosis, St.  Vitus' Dance [a temporary brain disorder causing loss of motor control and coordination), and St.  Anthony's Fire (caused by a fungus that infests rye and can lead to gangrene, convulsions, hallucinations, and severe psychosis), oh, and the bubonic plague.

Gout the 'Disease of Kings'

Lots of Kings suffered gout including Carlos I and his son Felipe II [it is unusual for women to suffer gout].  It is caused by eating too much organ meat and not enough vegies and fruit.  The sufferer usually feels the onset of a fiery pain in big toe at night.  His toe will be swollen, hot and any weight on it will be unbearable.  One remedy for Gout was a mixture of mallow and sheeps' tallow [fat].  Mallow was also believed to keep witches away when mixed with vinegar and linseed.

Common ailments and courses of treatment

Cures for ailments from gout to the bubonic plague were concoctions made from plants, minerals and animals or bloodletting [usually done by placing leeches on the body to suck out 'bad' blood].  In the pharmacy are drawers and jars that one day held various ingredients.
bloodletting was used to treat everything from fever and madness to, amazingly, anemia.  As one can imagine, treating an anemic patient by removing even more blood was not the best of ideas.  The popular belief that George Washington [an American President] was bled to death proves that even 'nobility' was not spared.  Patients could be cut and bled into cups until they fainted or leeches could be used to suck out their blood until the leech was full and dropped off.  Doctors would carry a supply of leeches around with them and pharmacists would have big jars full of them.  Totally gross!
Outfits of this type were worn by medieval physicians to protect them from the plague.The garment was made of cloth or leather and the bird-like beak contained spices and vinegar-soaked cloth to mask the stench of death and decay and make the physicians' work less unbearable.  The stick he is holding was used to try and monitor the pulse etc and prevent the patient having to be touched.
freckles
Cover them with blood froma bull or hare

earache
put a roasted onion in the ear


insanity
wear a bag of Buttercups around the neck

fever
St.  John's Wort was most effective especially if found by accident on Midsummer's Eve

insomnia
Eating nettles mixed with the white of an egg

ague
Swallow a spider wrapped in a raisin.

evil
Wear an amulet of senna, mint, and rue as a bracelet
baldness
Rub goose droppings over the affected area
cataracts
Put a gold or silver coin into water, dip in blades of grass and let seep.  Pass the blades of grass across the eye, then pour water from the basin into the eyes.

cramps
Tie an eel skin around the knee

toothache
Touch a dead man's tooth

stye
Rub with the tail of a black tom cat

plague
Eating mustard and garlic or ground up diamonds and pearls [if you were rich] or a special treacle brewed over many years or a little bloodletting were among the cures.  

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