Saturday, 12 January 2013

Middle Ages' Medicine


During the middle ages, medical knowledge declined meaning that the life expectancy decreased. Many people believed in superstitions to explain the cause of disease. For example:

·         They believed in astronomy to explain the cause of disease, meaning they believed that the position of the stars and planets stated what disease they had.

·         They believed that illness and disease was a punishment from God

·         They believed in miasma, (bad air caused by rotting meat and burnt wood).

·         They believed that the Jews were poisoning them.

Obviously, none of these beliefs were correct. Also, the Church played a big part in the beliefs of disease; they taught the people of Western Europe that disease was only for the evil, but they also died of illnesses too.

When the people of Western Europe decided to fight the Middle East to claim the ‘Holy City’ they found out about Galen’s ideas of ‘The Theory of Opposites’ and his anatomically incorrect drawings of the body. Because he mentioned that the body had a creator, the Church decided that he was right and they stopped anyone who objected to this idea. Due to this, medical never increased for a while. The Church also banned the dissection of human corpses which made it even harder to prove Galen wrong.

The cures to disease were even worse, they believed that herbs and spices could cure illnesses, prayer and pilgrimage cured disease, holding a bag of lavender cured disease. They also used these ideas to cure the Black Death.

The people of Western Europe during the middle ages had many people who treated them:

·         Physicians – they were trained and qualified, but only the rich could afford them. Also, they were usually male

·         Apothecaries – they trained, but not qualified. They were cheaper and they were also male

·         Barber-Surgeon – they usually just amputated limbs and practiced blood-letting. They also could cut your hair

·         Monks and Nuns – they ran hospitals, but they weren’t like modern hospitals; they were only for the old and those with specific diseases, like leprosy.

·         Wise Woman – the local village elderly woman mixed herbs to treat those who were ill.

·         Flagellants – they whipped themselves because they believed that God was punishing them with a disease, and so they punished themselves to stop God from punished them.

By Aynan Muse

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