Strange Medieval Elixirs

We take medicines for granted nowadays… Tylenol for fever… Advil for pain relief… Aspirin for headache and inflammation. We have so many different kinds of pills for the same problem. But what did people do before all these came to exist? They had some strange, natural potions they would make to treat a variety of ailments.

To treat a cough

‘The juice of horehound to be mixed with diapenidion and eaten’

Horehound [a herb and member of the mint family] is good for treating coughs, and diapenidion is a confection made of barley water, sugar and egg whites, like cotton candy strings.

For the stomach

‘Take cumin and anise, equal amounts, and lay it in white wine to steep, and cover it over with wine and let it stand still for three days and nights. Allow it to dry with fire in an earthen pot and make a powder. Mix it in food or drink and consume’.

Both cumin and anise are considered carminatives (relieve flatulence) so these would have helped with stomach bloating problems. Fennel could also have been used as an alternative.

For migraines

‘Take half a dish of barley, one handful each of betony and vervain; boiled together and wrapped in a cloth and lay them to the sick head’.

Betony ( a herb) was used in different amounts to cure internal as well as external ailments.

To treat burns

‘Take a live snail and rub it’s slime against the burn and it will heal’.

Recent research has shown that snail slime contains antioxidants, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral properties, as well as collagen and elastin, vital for skin repair.

A few cures for other ailments such as gout or throat infections involved using the guts of cats and internal organs of birds. These were boiled with other herbs and dried and made into a powder to treat the resulting ailment. The poor animals were killed unnecessarily and the patients were definitely not cured. In fact they became worse with possible eventual death. However, a lot of the treatments involved natural herbs and plants that are used even today in some cultures to treat common ailments successfully. 

via Daily Prompt: Elixir


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