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Stefan's Florilegium


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Bruise-Juice-art - 8/6/17


"Bruise Juice Project: Herbal Research for the 14th Century" by Lady Mevanou verch Reys Yriskynit. A&S Entry.


NOTE: See also the files: bruise-cream-msg, handcream-msg, p-medicine-msg, Hand-Lotion-art, cough-powder-art, Hst-Cosmetics-art, Scented-Oils-art.





This article was added to this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium, with the permission of the author.


These files are available on the Internet at:


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at



Bruise Juice Project:

Herbal Research for the 14th Century

by Lady Mevanou verch Reys Yriskynit


Bruise Juice that wonderful creation that lets fighters have relief from pain after fighting for a ladies honor on the field. What a grand thing it is to have a bottle of it handy to fix the creaking joints of that knight after removing his armor! How do you know your lord or lady loves you? They have that bottle handy after you win them the crown, or even if you don’t.


This project was researched for answers to a few questions.


1.              What is a bruise?

2.              Who wrote the Manuscripts that we get our information from?

3.              What were the tools used and who invented them? 

4.              Would a woman have known and used this knowledge?

And finally,

5.         What would people of different economic classes have used if beeswax or oil were too expensive?


First off, what is a bruise?


Forgive me, but I am going to use the modern terminology to keep it simple.


A bruise, also called a contusion, is a type of relatively minor hematoma of tissue in which capillaries and sometimes venules are damaged by trauma, allowing blood to seep into the surrounding interstitial tissues. Bruises can involve capillaries at the level of skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscle, or bone. A bruise may be named by the length of its diameter as a petechia (less than 3 mm), purpura (3 mm to 1 cm) or ecchymosis (1 to 3 cm), although these terms can also refer to internal bleeding not caused by trauma.


As a type of hematoma, a bruise is always caused by internal bleeding into the interstitial tissues, usually initiated by blunt trauma, which causes damage through physical compression and deceleration forces. Trauma sufficient to cause bruising can occur from a wide variety of situations including accidents, falls, and surgeries, the pounding one receives with the duct tape covered rattan sword from one’s opponent in the list field. Disease states such as insufficient or malfunctioning platelets, other coagulation deficiencies, or vascular disorders, such as venous blockage associated with severe allergies can lead to the formation of bruises in situations in which they would not normally occur and with only minimal trauma. If the trauma is sufficient to break the skin and allow blood to escape the interstitial tissues, the injury is not a bruise but instead a different variety of hemorrhage called bleeding, although such injuries may be accompanied by bruising elsewhere.


Bruises often induce pain, but small bruises are not normally dangerous alone. Sometimes bruises can be serious, leading to other more life-threatening forms of hematoma, such as when associated with serious injuries, including fractures and more severe internal bleeding. The likelihood and severity of bruising depends on many factors, including type and healthiness of affected tissues. Minor bruises may be easily recognized in people with light skin color by characteristic blue or purple appearance (idiomatically described as "black and blue") in the days following the injury. There, now you know what a bruise is.


Bruises go through a rainbow of color changes as the body begins to heal itself. The rainbow of color changes mean that your body is breaking down the red blood cells that collect under the skin. As the red blood cells break down, they eventually get flushed away by the body’s natural process. These red blood cells cause the bluish, purplish, reddish, or blackish marks that are typical of a bruise. That's where black-and-blue marks got their name - from their color under the skin. You can pretty much guess the age of a bruise just by looking at its color:


1.              When you first get a bruise, its reddish as the blood appears under the skin. 

2.              Within 1 or 2 days, the hemoglobin (an iron-containing substance that carries oxygen) in the blood changes and your bruise turns bluish-purple or even blackish. 

3.              After 5 to 10 days, the bruise turns greenish or yellowish. 

4.              Then, after 10 or 14 days, it turns yellowish-brown or light brown.


It usually takes 2-4 weeks for bruises to disappear, depending upon the person and how severe the injury is. Bruises can last from just days to months. [[a]]


The Herbals and the People that wrote them


Many of the medieval herbals and health manuscripts were written by people who were putting their own thoughts onto paper or copying what had been written by others many centuries before them. Some of those writer’s thoughts had nothing to do with what those herbs were actually used for or were proven to be useful for in later centuries. Others were putting their religious dogma into the mix with the original wording of text being replaced with the chants and prayers of their faith.


Take heed when looking for a cure for some of the earlier diseases before the coming of Christianity, it’s likely you will not find the original text as it will have been changed to a church approved prayer. To get to an earlier text you will need to be lucky enough to find much earlier manuscripts, and I wish you much luck. When the first council of Nicea convened and decided the fate of the doctrine of faith; a great many manuscripts became anathema and were destroyed. Those that were not destroyed were hidden, and lost. Many are being found, however there are many more that are still hidden in the sands of time.


Thus follow the manuscripts and a sort of who’s who of my journey. There are many more out there, but these four following are a mixture of Unknown’s and Well Known’s.


Bald and his Leech book


Written in the early 10th century in England under the direction of one Bald, who, if he were not a personal friend of King Alfred’s, had at any rate access to the king’s correspondence; for one chapter consists of prescriptions sent by Helias, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to the king.


We learn the names of the first owner and scribe from lines in Latin verse at the end of the second part of the MS.


"Bald is the owner of this book, which he ordered Cild to write, Earnestly I pray here all men, in the name of Christ, That no treacherous person take this book from me, Neither by force nor by theft nor by any false statement. Why? Because the richest treasure is not so dear to me as my dear books which the Grace of Christ attends."


The109 leaves of this book are written in a large, bold hand and one or two of the initial letters are very faintly illuminated. The Leech Book of Bald was as evidence shows, the manual of a Saxon doctor or leech, and he refers to two other doctors—Dun and Oxa by name—who had given him prescriptions.


The position of the leech in those days would have been very difficult, for he was subjected to the obviously inequitable competition of the higher clergy, many of whom enjoyed a reputation for working miraculous cures. The leech being so inferior in position, it is not surprising that his medical knowledge did not advance on scientific lines.


The treatments of many ailments are described within its pages; from being elfshot to flying venoms. The Anglo-Saxons had a love of herbs and there are many recipes for simples in that book used then, that are still in use today, among them: Wood Betony, Vervain, Mugwort, Plantain, Yarrow, Comfrey, Calendula and Juniper.


The recipes and treatments are written in Old English, and translations are few and far between, especially descriptions and meanings of the words. There is a movement to translate all Old English Texts so that the newer generations will be able to see how their ancestors thought, treated and healed ailments. 


Bald was working with recipes and folk medicine drawn from the countryside around him, passed on from mother to daughter, father and son. He had gathered the recipes and treatments; and all evidence points out that this manuscript was the culmination of his knowledge so that he would have it on hand and not need to worry about forgetting any of it in my opinion; since I too have my notebooks written nearly the same way while collecting recipes. This one for coughs, that one for skin ailments, another for my persona’s herbal knowledge.


The Leech book is rare in that it contains instructions for plastic surgery; the recipe in particular prescribes surgery for a hare lip[[b]]. Amazing isn’t it that in the 10th century there was a way to surgically alter a debilitating birth defect?


Hildegard of Bingen


Hildegard was the tenth child of a noble German family. At the age of 8, she was sent to live with Jutta, the sister of a count whom Hildegard's father served as a knight. When Hildegard was 14, she, Jutta, and one or two others, were enclosed as anchorites.[c] At some point Jutta's anchorhold grew into a Benedictine monastery, connected to the adjacent male monastery of St. Disibod. The number of nuns grew to about 10 at Jutta's death in 1136 and to about 20 twelve years later.


Now, at around the age of 42, Hildegard would become famous for her visions, for having told her confessor he bade her write them down and eventually showed them to his abbot. She wrote many things including a medical encyclopedia, Liber simplicis medicinae (later called Physica); and notes for a medical handbook, Liber compositae medicinae (later called Causae et Curae). [[d]]




The first section of which concerns plants is preserved partially in five manuscripts and three fragments. Two manuscripts are from the 13th century; one is housed in Wolfenbuttel; the other in Florence. Another such manuscript from the 14th century resides in Rome. Two are from the 15th century; one resides in Paris, the other in Brussels; then there are the three fragments, Bern, Freiberd, and Augsberg fragments, named for the places they reside.


The comprehensiveness of Physica suggests that Hildegard took particular interest in healing plants and was indeed like many women of her time practicing herbal healing. The plants she used are generally those that could be collected from woods and fields or even grown in her own convent garden.


She even follows the traditional Galeno-Greek view of created things consisting of mixtures of the four elements; Hot, Cold, Wet and Dry. Combining those elements she adds in the ultimately Christian theological notion from Genesis according to which everything was put on earth for the use of humans.


Hildegard makes little attempt to describe the plants in physica assuming as many authors of her time that any able to read her works would know what the herbs were and what they would look like. I say thank goodness for the pictorial herbals left behind by other authors of her time and before her otherwise we might be in the dark as to what herbs she was referring to when as she talked of their properties.


You have a question?


What are the Galeno-Greek views of the four elements? Well in order to tell you I would need to give you some Greek history…Here we go.


The Four Humors and Greek Sciences


The Four humors or elements are Hot, Cold, Wet and Dry, although the origin of these actually had nothing to do with those properties, and was before Galen’s time, in fact Galen got his ideas from someone else.


What, how is that possible; you ask? Yes, the creator of this school of thought was Empedocles.[e] His four elements were earth, air, fire and water. The four elements are eternally brought into union, and eternally parted from each other, by two divine powers, Love and Strife. As the best and original state, there was a time when the pure elements and the two powers co-existed in a condition of rest and inertness in the form of a sphere. The elements existed together in their purity, without mixture and separation, and the uniting power of Love predominated in the sphere: the separating power of Strife guarded the extreme edges of the sphere.  Since that time, strife gained more sway and the bond which kept the pure elementary substances together in the sphere was dissolved. The elements became the world of phenomena we see today, full of contrasts and oppositions, operated on by both Love and Strife. The sphere being the embodiment of pure existence is the embodiment or representative of god. Empedocles assumed a cyclical universe whereby the elements return and prepare the formation of the sphere for the next period of the universe. Yes, even then there were environmentalists warning of impending change!


Okay, now we can talk about our next healing superstar; Galen, really.


He was born in September 129 AD; his father had planned a traditional career for Galen in philosophy or politics and took care to expose him to literary and philosophical influences. However, in around 145 AD his father had a dream in which the god Asclepius appeared and commanded Nicon to send his son to study medicine. Again, no expense was spared, and following his earlier liberal education, at 16 he began studies at the prestigious local sanctuary or Asclepieum dedicated to Asclepius, god of medicine, as a therapeutes, or attendant for four years. There he came under the influence of men like Aeschrion of Pergamon, Stratonicus and Satyrus.


In 148, when he was 19, his father died, leaving him independently wealthy. Like all young men who become suddenly wealthy he traveled around and learned his craft from different masters and philosophers. In 157, aged 28, he returned to Pergamon as physician to the gladiators of the High Priest of Asia, one of the most influential and wealthiest men in Asia. The High Priest chose him over other physicians after he eviscerated an ape and challenged other physicians to repair the damage. When they refused, Galen performed the surgery himself and in so doing won the favor of the High Priest of Asia. Over his four years there he learnt the importance of diet, fitness, hygiene and preventive measures, as well as living anatomy, and the treatment of fractures and severe trauma, referring to their wounds as "windows into the body". Only five deaths occurred while he held the post, compared to sixty in his predecessor's time, a result which is generally ascribed to the attention he paid to their wounds. At the same time he pursued studies in theoretical medicine and philosophy.[f]


Galen contributed a substantial amount to the Hippocratic understanding of pathology, advancing this theory, creating a typology of human temperaments. An imbalance of each humor corresponded with a particular human temperament (blood-sanguine, black bile-melancholic, yellow bile-choleric and phlegm-phlegmatic). Individuals with sanguine temperaments are extroverted and social. Choleric people have energy, passion and charisma. Melancholics are creative, kind and considerate. Phlegmatic temperaments are characterized by dependability, kindness, and affection.


This man wrote so many treatises on medicine that most of our medicine is based on his writings alone. Just a few of his treatises are:


1.     A good physician must also be a philosopher,

2.     Of verbal sophistry (De Sophismatis in Verbo Contingentibus),

3.     Of the art of medicine(De Constitutione Artis Medicae),

4.     On Anatomical Procedures (Investigations- De Anatomicis Administrationibus),

5.     On the subsistence of the Natural Faculties (De Substantia Faculatatum Naturalium),

6.     On Good and Bad Humours (Bon. Mal. Suc.).


And these were just a few of them, just think this one man wrote so many treatises on medicine that it amounts to about six hundred of them and that’s three million words alone. A wordsmith extraordinaire was our Galen. Long after Galen was dust in the wind; he was still so widely read that many later Arab doctors such as Ibn Sina and Al Razi use his works to further advance medicine; it is their work that we still use today along with Galen’s.


But none of these things would have come about without the trials and errors of earlier alchemists, chemical engineers, and inventors. Those people that have been lost in time who made it possible for the healers and philosophers and such to experiment and see with their own eyes the processes that Empedocles started and Galen perfected.


What I am talking about is this; the humors of the blood were re-discovered by many men, one of whom was Robert (Robin) Sanno Fåhræus [[g]]; who called it the Erythrocyte sedimentation rate. All of these layers were observed when blood separated into its separate components in a long glass vial. You can also get a near understanding of it when you see a bruise fade in the skin. In order for Galen to have seen such processes, all he would have needed was a glass bottle clear enough for this to be seen through? Yes, yes he would have.


Blown Glass Bottles


The People in the Mediterranean have been making blown glass for centuries. It has been said that it was invented by the Phoenicians near about 50BC and has spread like wildfire ever since. Pieces of blown glass from those dates have been found from one end of the trading routes to the other. Clear glass, striped glass and every imaginable color in between, have been found at archeological sites that clearly show the love of glass by all people around the Mediterranean.


What is my point? Well, Galen would have had access to clear blown glass tubes and would have had also access to animal blood as well being that he eviscerated them on his tables to show the anatomy within to his students. Therefore, it can stand to reason that his theory of the humors would have been seen out in the sedimentation of the blood separating into its different components. Without the blown glass, it would have been possibly years and someone else that would have seen this phenomena. So, it’s really thanks to the Phoenicians that Galen was able to actually view the process of the humors in the blood. Thank you Phoenicians!


Now it was not just the Phoenicians that were inventing wonderful things that are being used today, oh no; the still for example is accredited for having been created by a woman and the mother of western alchemy; Marie the Jewess.


Alchemy, Pot Still and Double Boiler


According to Egyptian mythology, Alchemy was founded by the goddess Isis.  As Alchemy seemed similar to cooking, the science probably originated with the women who used the chemical processes of distillation, extraction, and sublimation to formulate perfumes and cosmetics in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Likewise, Babylonian women chemists also used recipes and equipment derived from the kitchen. Thus, ancient alchemy was identified with women, and the work of the early alchemists occasionally was referred to as (it was once considered to be a feminine art) women's work (opus mulierum).


This goes a long way toward explaining that one of the earliest alchemists on record is a woman...  She lived in Alexandria in the third century AD.  Her real name was probably Miriam.  In English, she's known as Mary the Jewess.


According to the custom of her day, she concealed her identity by using a legendary name as a pseudonym, signing  Miriam the Prophetess, sister of Moses  (amusingly, this caused a lot of confusion among people who took this literally).  Miriam is also known by many other names, including Maria Prophetissa, Maria Prophetissima, Mariya al-Qibtyya, Maria the Copt, Maria the Sage "daughter of the King of Saba", the Matron Maria Sicula, etc. Her need for purified water and essential oils is what most likely made her seek a way to get as pure a substance as possible.


Aristotle (384-322 BC) already knew that fresh water could be obtained by condensation from evaporated seawater (that's the way Nature produces rain)[h].  Miriam  devised the first true distillation apparatus by letting the vapor escape in pipes through a modified lid which is now called a  still-head  (the learned term is  alembic[i]  which is the Arabic name denoting either that specific part or the whole apparatus)(Figure 1).  The still-head and/or the rest of the pipes are cooled by air or water (wet sponges) to make vapor condense.  Finally, the condensed liquid is collected in receiving vessels. She also invented the kerotakis (Figure 2).


CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90

Figure 1. Alembic                                Figure 2. Kerotakis or Double Boiler


The kerotakis was the precursor to a device used in kitchens today, the double boiler or Bain Marie, meaning Marie's bath. A double boiler is a closed distillation system used to melt chocolate and cook puddings, custards and delicate white sauces. The steam from the bottom pan bathes the top, cooking the ingredients without curdling them. Anyone want custard or pudding? Without this invention we would not have our modern way of making that wonderfully yummy desert!


Mortar and Pestle



The mortar and pestle[j] are common enough, you see them in herb shops and witchcraft supply stores and cooking stores to be used for a variety of uses. I used mine for grinding the herbs before putting them in the oil, thus allowing the oil to soak into the herbs and gain more of the healing value of the herbs as the oil heated.


The antiquity of these tools is well documented in early literature, such as the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus of ~1550 BCE (the oldest preserved piece of medical literature) and the Old Testament (Numbers 11:8; and the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.  And Proverbs 27:22; though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.).


The English word mortar derives from classical Latin mortarium, meaning, among several other usages, "receptacle for pounding" and "product of grinding or pounding". The classical Latin pistillum, meaning "pounder", led to English pestle. The Roman poet Juvenal applied both mortarium and pistillum to articles used in the preparation of drugs, reflecting the early use of the mortar and pestle as a pharmacist's or apothecary's symbol.


Whichever culture created this wonderful accessory to the kitchen and stillroom, many thanks go out to you! We could not make our medicines without it.


Cotton Muslin straining bags


Muslin cloth was traded by ancient Greeks from the Indian port town Machilipatnam, which was called Maisolos or Masalia in ancient times. Some believe that the name 'Muslin' originated from the name Maisolos. Marco Polo, the famous traveller, visited the Kakatiya kingdom in which Machilipatnam was located and praised the muslins available there. Another view was that the fabric was named after the city where Europeans first encountered it, Mosul, in what is now Iraq, but the fabric actually originated from Dhaka, which is now the capital of Bangladesh. In the 9th century, an Arab merchant named Sulaiman makes note of the material's origin in Bengal (known as Ruhml in Arabic).


In 1298 A.D.  Marco Polo described the cloth "Muslin" in his book The Travels.[k] He said that it is made in Mosul, Iraq. Many researchers are working on refuting his claims and the dates in his journals. The muslin which we know today was introduced to Europe from the Middle East in the 17th century. It became very popular at the end of the 18th century in France. Muslin is most typically an unbleached or white cloth, produced from carded cotton yarn. It is often used as material for sewing patterns, such as for clothing, curtains, or upholstery. Because air moves easily through muslin, muslin clothing is suitable for hot, dry climates. In my case it used for cheese cloth bags and for straining bags in the creation of tinctures and infused oils. The weave is perfect for keeping the smallest particles from transferring back into the oil as it is squeezed out of the herbs.



Bees Wax


Since ancient times, the basic recipe for creams and ointments has consisted of a mixture of beeswax and oil in various proportions according to the desired consistency. Beeswax has an irritation potential of zero, and a comedogenicity rating of 0 - 2, which means that when formulated and used correctly in cosmetic formulations, beeswax will not cause a problem or clog the pores, but brings a host of very positive attributes, such as general healing and softening, as an antiseptic, and an emollient to cosmetic products.


In Egypt cosmetologists added beeswax to facial creams, lip balms, nails polish, hair dressings, and medicinal salves for wounds. Beeswax was mentioned in 32 prescriptions, given in the Ebers papyrus. The Greek-Roman doctor Galen, 2nd AD used beeswax in a cooling ointment. In the Tang Dynasty 608 – 907 AD, it was used to coat pills and make them easier to swallow.


Inspired by Bees, humans have used the wax for storage, building and protection. In food storage we envelope our cheese, meats and eggs to keep them fresh and often to age them for better taste. Beeswax is insoluble in water and nonconductive of heat, so will keep out any unwanted moisture and will keep foods sealed in it cool so long as it is kept out of the full sun.


Herodotus, the Roman historian of the 5th century BC, writes that many other early kingdoms wrapped their deceased royalty similarly, in cloths dipped in wax. Another chronicler wrote of the embalming of Ageshilaus, the king of Sparta who died on the battlefield in 360 BC. "Having fallen ill, he died and so that his friends could transport the body more easily back to Sparta, they enveloped his body in the wax of bees."


Now we come to the herbs, surely the most important part of this journey.


The herbs I used in my Bruise Juice will be listed first as their Latin name and alphabetically.


Achillea millefolium – Yarrow

Its name is derived from the Greek hero Achilles, and during the Trojan wars was reputedly used to treat wounds. According to the many herbalists of that time, Yarrow is somewhat warm and dry, and has a discreet and subtle power of healing wounds. If a person be wounded by a blow (bruised), let the wound be washed with wine. Then gently tie warm yarrow, cooked moderately in water and with the water squeezed out, over the bandaged placed over the wound. It will draw out the infection from the wound and the wound will heal. Today yarrow is valued mainly for treating colds and influenza, and also for its effectiveness in treating problems of the circulatory, digestive and urinary systems. I use it for inflamed joints.


Arnica Montana – Arnica

Arnica can be found in many medieval herbals to cure the fires of over exertion and even for stoking the fires of sexual love, according to Hildegard of Bingen. "Arnica is very warm and has a poisonous heat in it. When a man or a woman burns with desire, if that man or woman’s flesh touches the greenness of arnica, they will burn with love for whoever is afterward touched with the same herb. The person will be so incensed with love, almost infatuated, that he or she will become a fool."  I, however recommend using it for its pain relieving properties for osteoarthritis and other joint pain, in an external application due to the fact that taking too much of it internally can cause intestinal hemorrhaging.


Artemisia vulgaris – Mugwort

Related to wormwood, this herb is highly regarded medicinally in both East and West. It was planted along roadsides by Roman soldiers, who put sprigs of it in their sandals for their aching feet on long journeys. Used medicinally in compresses by many cultures for its properties in treating bruises and bites it is included in my bruise juice also for its antibiotic properties to ward off infection.


Calendula officinalis – Pot Marigold

These golden flowers have been a favorite among the herbalists for centuries. It has been recommended for everything from gastritis to inflammations of all kinds. Hildegard used Calendula for crusty scalp by pounding it in a mortar with bacon fat and smearing it on the scalp so that the crustiness falls off after a few days of use.


Hypericum perforatum – St. John’s Wort

Old herbals often refer to tutsan (H. androsaemum), from the French toutsain or heal-all, which was also used to treat injuries and inflammations. I use this herb for joint pain, inflammation and fighter’s elbow.


Juniperus communis – Juniper

Long associated with ritual cleansing, juniper was burned in temples as part of regular purification rites and in homes to ward off the plague. Several Medicinal papyri have survived dating back as far as 1550 BC in which contains Juniper berries. Now many herbalists use the berries for their help for inflamed joints, muscle pain, and gouty joints.


Symphytum officinale – Comfrey

A country name for comfrey was knitbone, a reminder in its traditional use in healing fractures. The herb contains Allantoin, which encourages bone, cartilage, and muscle cells to grow. This recipe contains comfrey to do just that; encourage the healing of damaged muscles, and joints.


The Process


Herbal infusions have been made and drunk throughout history - both for their medicinal properties and culinary attributes. Our breakfast tea is, after all, simply an infusion of an herb in water. Herbal infusions can consist of just one individual herb, or can be made of two or more herbs blended together.


Infusing an herb in oil allows the active fat soluble constituents to be passed into the oil. Hot infused[l] oils are slowly, simmered for a couple of hours, whilst cold infused oils are heated by the sun over several weeks. Both types of oil infusion can be used externally as massage oil or added to creams and medicaments as in a salve.


Bald seemed to prefer the use of butter[[m]]  Or even lard as the base for all of his salves, but in looking at how fast butter goes rancid it would seem a large waste of materials to continually make the salves needed to cover the many ailments.


Women in Medicine: Conflicting Attitudes


Like the lepers and lunatics with whom they were sometimes categorized, women occupied an ambivalent position in the eyes of the medieval Church and the medical profession alike. On the positive side, female saints; headed by the Virgin herself, were venerated for their miraculous healing powers; housewives were expected, as a matter of course, the supervise everything touching the health and welfare of their families; and all the larger hospitals and almshouses employed women to care for the sick, albeit often in mental hospitals.


Yet, although contemporary literature abounds with examples of fictional heroines noted for their medical skills, the authorities were in practice increasingly hostile towards those women who overstepped the bounds of their amateur or domestic role by setting themselves up as empirics of various kinds. Mistrusted by the ecclesiastical establishment, whose fears found expression in a series of legal measures designed to curb, if not completely suppress their activities, women nevertheless continued their freelance practices that were more often than not the inherited businesses from husbands or fathers. The Church unable to completely curb these women set out to vilify them with rumors that these wise women were practicing the black arts.


As said before women were expected to care for the sick and infirm with the preparations of herbal remedies. In the Roman period the women of the family treated the illnesses of ordinary folk, using methods and remedies handed down from mother to daughter for many generations. This practice continued throughout the middle ages with the same remedies being passed from villager to villager all through Europe. The recipes used were the same regardless of whether you were pauper or Pope. These were often written in commonplace books available to any who could read and afford them. Most would often learn the recipes from the wise woman before them, be that their lady mother or a nunnery if they had the money to be accepted.


In the medieval Church’s mind women were so far inferior as to inherit their souls as many as 20 days later than boys while in the womb. Women had to work three times as hard to be taken seriously and often would be punished for trying to clean the slate and show that we were not inferior. This has changed little in the years since AD 380 when the Christian religion was made the official state religion of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine I.


 A woman of the middle classes would have had and education bought for her especially if she were the child of a tradesman. While young she would have been made sure to be able to read and do basic if not minimal mathematics in order to assist her husband in the running of his business, which due to the lifespan of women she would most likely have taken over the running of it after his death leaves her a widow. 




Would my persona have used the tools and herbs in this article to make the oil and the salve? Yes, she would have. Maybe not in the manner I do today, for instance: the electric crock-pot was not in existence, but the double boiler was. The glass jars for infusing the oils were around but would have been a tad expensive; she would have instead had access to at least the clay jars for such use.


Beeswax would have been an expensive commodity, olive oil might have been a bit beyond her means but the fat of geese and sheep and pigs, and suet and tallow from cows, and butter from their milk would have been a fine fat to use for the salve.


She would have heated the fats to make them liquid and added the herbs to make the salves and strained them through scraps of cloth or just left the herbs in the fats as it cooled. The cloth would have been linen, made from the retted fibers of the plant commonly called flax, and indeed she might have even used the scraps leftover from making her own clothes Truly, I myself have used the larger scraps of linen left over from making my garb to make the straining sacks for herbal work.


What I use today


The Recipe


4 ounces Juniper berries

4 ounces arnica flowers

4 ounces comfrey leaves

2 ounces St Johns wort

2 ounces wormwood

2 ounces yarrow

1 gallon olive oil


In a large crock pot place all ingredients. Cook for 8 hours on medium heat then let cool. Squeeze out the oil using muslin or linen bags and bottle.


Use oil to massage painful joints and bruises.


Bruise Balm


8 ounces bruise juice

3 ounces Shea butter

3 ounces cocoa butter

2 ounces beeswax


Heat all in double boiler until beeswax, Shea butter, cocoa butter is fully melted. Pour into a mixing bowl and put a wire wisk blade on the mixer and wait 4 minutes to let the mixture cool. Then turn the mixer on and slowly bring up to high speed and fluff the balm into a good creamy consistency. Spoon into jars and let cool…use on bruises and painful joints. Good to make ahead of time for fighting season; your heavies will love you for it! The rapier fighters will adore you too!!! Okay, don’t forget anyone that may have any physical activities during eventing season…even if it’s just getting up to refill the big mead bucket they call a flagon…


I use a crock pot by modern companies for the better control factor. The need for complete control of heat and time allows me to put all of the ingredients into the crock pot and leave it covered for the amount of time needed and not leave me with the worry of burning down the house or burning the herbs in the oil and therefore making the infusion useless.


I have answered my questions to the best of my ability, and will continue to research herbs and healing. This path sings to a certain part of my soul, which will not be satisfied with just a few moments of time here and there; so I will forge onward just to keep the song ongoing.




Books Consulted


 "The Medieval Health Handbook tacuinum sanitatis" translated and adapted by Oscar Ratti and Adele Wesbrook from the original Italian edition Luisa Gogliati Arano, Tauinum Sanitatis, Electa Editrice. 1976


"The Complete Medicinal Herbal" Penelope Ody, DK Publishing 1993


"Medicine and Society in later medieval England" Carole Rawcliffe, Sandpiper Books LTD, 1995


"Medicine before Science" Roger French, Cambridge University Press 2003.


"The Greek Achievement" Charles Freeman, Penguin Group Publishing 1999


"Greek and Roman Medicine" Ian Dawson, Enchanted Lion Books, 2005


"The History of Medicine Vol. 1 Primitive and Archaic Medicine " Henry E. Sigerist MD. Oxford University Press 1977


"The Genesis of Science" Stephen Bertman, Prometheus Books, 2010


PDF E-Books, Booklets and Reports Consulted


"Herbals: The Connection between Horticulture and Medicine" Jules Janick, HortTechnology April–June 13(2): 229–238


"Medical journals in the Eastern Mediterranean Region"

Report of a conference Cairo, Egypt, 7–9 October 2003


"Otology in Medical Papyri in Ancient Egypt" Albert Mudry, MD, The Mediterranean Journal of Otology 2005


"An Interlinear Transliteration and English Translation of Portions of


Possibly Having to Do With Diabetes Mellitus",

Stephen Carpenter, Michel Rigaud, Mary Barile, Tracy J. Priest, Luis Perez, John B. Ferguson, Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson NY 1998


"The Old Egyptian Medical Papyri",Chauncey D. Leake

Vice-President, University of Texas—Medical Branch Galveston



"The doctor in Ancient Egypt" J.F. Nunn



R. Van Hee Institute of the History of Medicine and Natural Sciences,

University of Antwerp, Belgium. Jurnalul de Chirurgie, Iaşi, 2011, Vol. 7, Nr. 3 [ISSN 1584 – 9341]


"The Papyrus Ebers" Translated from the German version by Cyril P. Bryan. 1930">





JANUARY 12TH, 1893.]."


Physician to the Glasgow Western Infirmary, and to the Royal Hospital

for Sick Children, Glasgow; Honorary Librarian to the Faculty of

Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, etc. page 748 The British Medical Journal APRIL s, 1893..


Books Cited


Leechdoms, wortcunning, and starcraft of early England. Being a collection of documents, for the most part never before printed, illustrating the history of science in this country before the Norman conquest (1864) Cockayne, Thomas Oswald, 1807-1873 Vol. I, II, AND III


"Hildegard’s Healing Plants from Her Medieval Classic Physica" Translated by Bruce W. Hozeski, Beacon Press 2001


Internet Resources: - Galen


Hildegard of  Bingen


1. – Used to start the path to knowledge and so as a minor resource, not a major one.


Marie the Jewess

Mortar and Pestle

Crock pot

Slow cooking

Clay pots


Blown Glass

Ebers Papyrus


End Notes




[[b]] Leechbook i, chapter 13 (pr Cockayne p 56).



1. Anchorite (female: anchoress; adj. anchoritic; from Greek: ναχωρέω anachōreō, signifying "to withdraw", "to depart into the rural countryside") denotes someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, and—circumstances permitting—Eucharist-focused life. As a result, anchorites are usually considered to be a type of religious hermit, although there are distinctions in their historical development and theology.


The anchoritic life is one of the earliest forms of Christian monastic living. Popularly it is perhaps best known from the surviving archeological and literary evidence of its existence in medieval England. In the Roman Catholic Church today it is one of the "Other Forms of Consecrated Life" and governed by the same norms as the consecrated eremitic life.


[[d]]., Hildegard of  Bingen




The concept of four humors may have origins in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, though it was not systemized until ancient Greek thinkers around 400 BC who directly linked it with the popular theory of the four elements earth, fire, water and air (Empedocles).

[[f]], Galen



Robert (Robin) Sanno Fåhræus (1921), a Swedish physician who devised the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, suggested that the four humors were based upon the observation of blood clotting in a transparent container. When blood is drawn in a glass container and left undisturbed for about an hour, four different layers can be seen. A dark clot forms at the bottom (the "black bile"). Above the clot is a layer of red blood cells (the "blood"). Above this is a whitish layer of white blood cells (the "phlegm", now called the buffy coat). The top layer is clear yellow serum (the "yellow bile")


[[h]] Meteorology By Aristotle Translated by E. W. Webster









Please take note that most of my trips to Wikipedia are in search of more questions to ask, and to take a peek at the bibliography of the authors and their sources.

I did not use them as First line sources due to the changeability of Wikipedia itself.



Leechbook i, (pr Cockayne p 91-93). pg 91  A wound salve have waybroad beaten with old lard. Pg 93 and Old Bruised Wound. Groundsel mingled with ribwort, yarrow, and githrife boil in butter and squeeze through a cloth.


Appendix One. The Ebers Papyrus


(There is one critical document in the History of Medicine which was not available during our period but which is so important that it deserves mention as it represents one of the foundations of Ancient Greek medicine: The Ebers Papyrus. Had the ancient Egyptian medical tradition been known in the west perhaps Imhotep, the Egyptian god of medicine, would have been the father of Western medicine rather than Hippocrates.)


 The Ebers Papyrus, also known as Papyrus Ebers, is an Egyptian medical papyrus dating to circa 1550 BC. Among the oldest and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt, it was purchased at Luxor, (Thebes) in the winter of 1873–74 by Georg Ebers. It is currently kept at the library of the University of Leipzig, in Germany. The papyrus was written in about 1500 BC, but it is believed to have been copied from earlier texts, perhaps dating as far back as 3400 BC. Along with the Kahun Gynecological Papyrus (circa 1800 BC), the Edwin Smith papyrus (circa 1600 BC), the Hearst papyrus (circa 1600 BC), the Brugsch Papyrus (circa 1300 BC), the London Medical Papyrus (circa 1300 BC), the Ebers Papyrus is among the oldest preserved medical documents. Although the Ebers Papyrus is the middle sibling of all papyri, it is the only completely intact papyri amongst the collection. The Brugsch Papyrus provides parallel passages to Ebers Papyrus, helping to clarify certain passages of the latter.

It (the Ebers Papyrus) is written in hieratic, which refers to a cursive writing system that was used in the provenance of the pharaohs in Egypt and Nubia that developed alongside the hieroglyphic system, to which it is intimately related. It was primarily written in ink with a reed brush on papyrus, allowing scribes to write quickly without resorting to the time-consuming hieroglyphs. This writing preserves for us the most voluminous record of ancient Egyptian medicine known. It (The Ebers Papyrus) is a collection of 811 prescriptions, interspersed with diagnosis, symptoms, physiological descriptions of the action of the heart, and concluding with the surgical treatment of wounds and sores. The manuscript is an undamaged scroll, over 30 cm × 20 m long, consisting of over 3000 lines of text written in a cursive script called Hieratic. The text, interspersed with spells and incantations, is a compilation and contains remnants of early material; one passage presumes to date from the first dynasty, ca. 3400 BCE. The papyrus contains a "treatise on the heart". It notes that the heart is the center of the blood supply, with vessels attached for every member of the body.


Some of the recipes seem quite fantastic and are composed of a mixture of various substances including botanicals, animal and insect parts, and minerals. Were they efficacious? It seems unlikely that most of them were, but in several of them, it is quite clear that a therapeutic effect could be due to at least one of the ingredients. For example, there are a number of remedies to cure constipation involving castor oil while poppy was prescribed to induce sleep. Crocus, the source of colchicines, is also prescribed in a diuretic medicine but it is unclear if its use to relieve gout was known. Other plant materials used include acanthus, acacia, aloe, Arabian wood, balsam, barley, bean (Vicia faba), caraway, cedar, coriander, crocus, cucumber, Cyprus, date, elderberry, fennel, fig, flax, garlic, grape, juniper, lettuce, linseed, mint, mulberry, nasturtium, onion, palm, papyrus, peppermint, pomegranate, poppy, saffron, sycamore, watermelon, wheat, willow, wormwood, and Zizyphus-lotus, Many of the recipes were quite complex, and carefully proportioned. They were administered as gargles, snuffs, inhalations, suppositories, fumigations, enemas, poultices, decoctions, infusions, pills, troches, lotions, ointments, and planters. The Egyptians seem to have known little about the kidneys and made the heart the meeting point of a number of vessels which carried all the fluids of the body — blood, tears, urine and semen. Mental disorders are detailed in a chapter of the papyrus called the Book of Hearts. Disorders such as depression and dementia are covered. The descriptions of these disorders suggest that Egyptians conceived of mental and physical diseases in much the same way.


 The papyrus contains chapters on contraception, diagnosis of pregnancy and other gynecological matters, intestinal disease and parasites, eye and skin problems, dentistry and the surgical treatment of abscesses and tumors, bone-setting and burns. Like the Edwin Smith Papyrus, the Ebers Papyrus came into the possession of Edwin Smith in 1862. The source of the papyrus is unknown, but it was said to have been found between the legs of a mummy in the Assassif district of the Theban necropolis. Since its discovery, and subsequent sales none of the archeologists or translators have been able to find the name of the author of the Ebers Papyrus. No, the man or woman that meticulously copied the information from other sources did not name themselves anywhere in the texts. In a time when having your name in writing meant that you would have immortality of a kind; one would think that the author would put their name to it. It is my speculation that if the author hid it somewhere; it is for the next (hoping a future) generation to find it.


Appendix Two


Achillea Millefolium, Arnica Montana, Artemisia Vulgaris

Calendula Officinale, Hypericum Perforatum, Juniperus Communis


Symphytum Officinale





Copyright 2012 by Tina Conroe, 4110 Yakima Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98418. <Drgndncr1 at>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


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