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Medieval Doctors

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Doctors
Medicine was basic and Medieval Doctors had limited knowledge. Medieval doctors had no idea what caused the terrible illnesses and diseases which plagued the Middle Ages. The Medieval period was devastated by the
Black Death in England (1348-1350)which killed nearly one third of the population of England.

The Medieval doctors were helpless. The underlying cause of many of the illnesses was due to the lack of sanitation. but Medieval Doctors did not make this link until after the outbreak of the Black Death. The Medieval Doctors had no idea what caused the Black Death - the best they could offer was to bled the patient or administer a concoction of herbs. There were no Antibiotics during the Medieval era and it was almost impossible to cure illness and diseases without them. 

Medieval Health
Medieval Hygiene
Medieval Medicine

Medieval Doctors - How did Medieval Doctors tend to their Patients?
How did Medieval Doctors tend to their Patients? The beliefs about the causes of illnesses were based on the ancient teachings of Aristotle and Hippocrates. The Medieval Doctors paid attention to a patients bodily fluids, which were called Humours, or body fluids. The body of the patient was viewed as a part of the universe. There were four  humours which directly related to the four elements and in turn the human body. Physicians diagnosed their patients by close examination of their blood, urine and stools, and determined their complexion or balance of humours. Medieval Doctors related the Humors to the condition or illness of the patient and treated them accordingly. The Medieval Doctors tried to ensure that the four humors were properly balanced - this led to the practice of bleeding the patient or applying leeches to suck the blood of a patient. An extract from a manuscript from the 1200's stated the following:

"Several kinds of medicine may be good such as diet, drink, hot bath (whence sweat is growing), with purging, vomiting and letting blood. These taken in due time, not overflowing each malady and infection is withstood."

The astrological signs of the zodiac were also thought to be associated with certain humours. 

What types of doctors were there in Medieval Times?
What types of doctors were there in Medieval Times? To qualify as a Medieval Doctor of Medicine took ten years  so the numbers of such fully qualified physicians remained comparatively small during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages and there were not enough qualified doctors to treat the numbers of people. Medicine was administered by different people during the Medieval times. The type of doctor depended on the class and whether money was available to pay the fee.

  • Medieval Physicians
    Only the very wealthy would receive the ministrations of a Middle Ages Physician who would have received an education at one of the Universities

  • Medieval Surgeons
    Inferior to Physicians these had a similar reputation to the barbers with whom they associated and belonged to the Company of Barber Surgeons

  • Medieval Barbers
    The Barbers were inferior to the Surgeons, although they also belonged to the Company of Barber Surgeons. They were only allowed to pull teeth or let blood

  • Medieval Apothocary
    The usual route that most people took was to visit the apothecary, or dispenser of drugs. The Apothocaries belonged to the Grocer's Guild and sold sweets, cosmetics and perfumes as well as drugs

  • Medieval 'Wise Woman'
    The local 'wise woman' was often the first person contacted by poor people who used various herbs to produce home made medicines and potions

The church played an important role in the lives of Medieval men and women. It was assumed that diseases of the body resulted from sins of the soul. Many people did not bother with Medieval Doctors instead they sought relief from their ailments through meditation, prayer and pilgrimages.

Women Medieval Doctors
There were some women doctors in Medieval Times, although they were not officially qualified. The development of university faculties of medicine excluded women from the profession in the later Middle Ages. But Medieval women doctors were necessary due to the shortage of male doctors, especially during the frequent outbreaks of the Black Death. The names of the women Medieval doctors have been lost. However any learned women who wrote books were remembered for their contribution to medicine. The  Abbess Hildegard of Bingen wrote the Liber simplicis medicinae (Simple Book of Medicine) in 1160. Another famous woman Medieval doctor, who wrote about the ailments of women, was an Italian woman known as Trotula - who was referred to as Dame Trot in England.

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