The Middle Ages

Medicine & Remedies

God & Medicine

  • Medicine was dominated by religion

  • Sickness was believed to be a punishment from God for sins

  • Doctors were priests or other religious scholars

  • Hospitals sprang up in monasteries and other religious establishments

  • Patients given food and comforted by religious nursing staff

  • Little less was done to cure their illness

  • Traditional cures use herbal remedies & potions were seen as witchcraft and banned from the church

  • Laws stated that only trained and registered people could practice medicine

  • Schools and universities began to educate wealthy individuals in religion, the arts, law and medicine

  • Generally men, and occasionally a few women, were trained and allowed to become physicians


  • Surgery was a crude practice during the middle ages but operations such as amputations, setting broken bones, replacing dislocations and binding wounds were relatively common

  • Opium was sometimes used as an anaesthetic while wounds were cleaned with wine to try and prevent infections.


  • The biggest challenge to medieval medicine came in the form of the Black death, or Bubonic Plague

  • In 1347, an outbreak of bubonic plague broke out in Istanbul

  • Traders soon carried the disease throughout Europe and records show that in some areas it killed up to 90% of the population

  • We now know that bubonic plague is a form of highly contagious and fatal pneumonia

  • During the middle ages, the only treatments were superstitious remedies, prayer, herbal medicines and recipes for clearing the air of miasma or poison.

  • The plague was considered to be a punishment from God and so public health was not considered to be important

  • There was never any attempt to control the many rats that infested villages and towns and carried the disease