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History

Medieval methods of diagnosis and treatment

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Treatment of disease was a hit-or-miss affair in Medieval Europe. You might get offered a hot bath to balance your 'natural heat', a prayer said over your bad tooth, or a leech clamped to your skin. Superstition ruled, and knowledge was in short supply. Nevertheless, doctors were learning to be more observant of people's symptoms - the first step to treating sickness.

Summary

Many Medieval doctors carried with them a vademecum (meaning 'Go-with-me') book of diagnoses and a urine chart. Usually, they examined the colour, smell and taste of the patient's urine, and made an on-the-spot guess as to what they might be suffering from. Pictures from the time make it clear that doctors also did clinical observation, and took their patient's pulse.

Other essential doctor's equipment included posies, oranges or lighted tapers. Since they believed that bad smells carried disease, they believed that they could protect themselves from catching the disease by carrying something nice-smelling.

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