Bathing in puppies
Here’s another snippet of life in the 14th century, discovered during research for 1322. The physician John Mirfield wrote a handbook of cures, and as a cure for scrofula he advises the drinking of women’s milk, sucked directly from the breast. If a willing donor is not available, then the milk of an ass or goat sucked from the udder itself may suffice.
In addition, sufferers should take a medicinal bath prepared as follows: “take blind puppies, remove the viscera and cut off the extremities, then boil them in water and bathe in the water four hours after you have eaten, keeping all the while your head covered and chest wrapped in the skin of a small goat as a preservation against a sudden chill”
He also, like many other doctors of the time, relied heavily on astrology and numerology. A quick way of diagnosing the seriousness of an illness is, according to John, to “take the name of the patient, then the name of the messenger and also the day that he/she came to tell the doctor about the condition of the patient. Count all the letters together and if you have an even number the patient will die, if the number is odd the patient will recover.”
Thank God for the NHS.