According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of medicine is:
- the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease (in technical use often taken to exclude surgery).
- a drug or other preparation for the treatment or prevention of disease:
- a spell, charm, or fetish believed to have healing, protective, or other power
It could probably be said that the majority of medicine in the Medieval period falls into category three, simply because they had a distinct lack of knowledge of cause and effect when it came to illness, let alone how to cure it. Causes ranged from unbalanced ‘humors’ (related to earth, air, fire and water) in a person’s body to repayment for sin.
And because the causes were so misunderstood, the cures were also: bloodletting, prayer and/or meditation were common, as was the use of herbs, faeces and other remedies to turn the stomach of those of us in 2017. Surprisingly, it would appear that there was more chance of mending injury due to the knowledge that was gained from war injuries than an illness.
Of course, if you were wealthy, you may have access to someone who did have some medical knowledge that they had gleaned from the Roman, Greek or Islamic tradition, but even that was rare.
Here are some interesting links with far more information – some interesting reading: