Medieval Doctors: Misdiagnosing The Hell Out Of Everything

Bless you modern medicine. If you’re home sick with the flu, take comfort in the knowledge you live today.

1. Before we get started, let me put on an official Doctor-ing costume.

Plague doctor costumes were a terrifying but common sight. The defined bird-nose mask didn’t become universal until the 1600s, but we’re going to run with it.

The traditional costume consisted of a mask stuffed with herbs to ward off bad humors and also to scare away spirits because those bastards were always making people sick. Doctors used the cane to touch infected patients because honestly, who wants to touch plague infested people? Gross.

2. If you want to observe without getting sick, hold this.

As medieval theory held, sickness was spread by bad smells. Pomander balls were a super popular upper class accessory. They held a wide assortment of disgusting ingredients meant to ward off pestilence. The most common mixture included deer musk and ambergris, otherwise known as a by-product of whale poop. Because, obviously, inhaling fecal matter and deer hormones will keep you healthy.

3. Now that we’re properly armed, time to consult the urine charts!

Urine charts helped physicians determine an illness based on the quantity, color, smell, and even taste (oh God really??) of the patient’s urine. Combined with an astrology table about planet and star alignments, doctors were totally able to 100% accurately diagnosis many diseases.

4. Let’s get to diagnosing these poor (rich) people!

Peasants didn’t get medical care, except maybe from witches. Doctors ain’t running no charity. You’ve got to pay for this kind of specialized ignorance.

5. Diagnosis: The Common Cold.

Well, you could try any number of herbal mixtures. Or you could pray. Because clearly you have angered God and he is punishing you. You’re going to Hell.

6. Diagnosis: Headache.

Nothing some good old-fashioned electroshock therapy won’t fix. Let’s just get you settled into this tank of electric eels.

7. Diagnosis: Stomachache.

Blocked bowels, you say? Well let’s just use a clyster to cleanse your colon and get you fixed right up.

8. Diagnosis: Influenza.

Fever? Chills? Yes, yes. You’ve got bad blood. Would you prefer blood-letting, leeches, or cupping?

9. Diagnosis: Pregnant.

Expecting a son? Hahaha, I jest. Like anyone ever expects a daughter. The best remedy is to have an extended lying-in with the windows blocked and shuttered and the fire stoked. It’s like a sauna that last two months!

10. Diagnosis: Smallpox.

Just hang red drapes all over your room. Should pull the pestilence right out of you. Pestilence, much like bulls, love red.

11. Diagnosis: Blocked Bladder.

Blocked bladder from that meat and wine heavy diet? Should you eat more fruit? Lol no. We’ll just jam this rigid metal catheter in to drain it all out. Should only hurt a lot.

12. Diagnosis: Consumption.

Coughing up blood and wasting away due to tuberculosis can be cured by a healthy dose of milk. Yep, you heard me. Milk.

13. Diagnosis: Leprosy.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, this disease is very contagious and you are now shunned from society. Please feel free to never touch anyone again and kindly move into a leper colony.

14. Need surgery? Here. Drink this. It’ll knock you right out. Might kill you.

Mmmm, dwale. A rudimentary anesthesia made of opium and hemlock. No big deal.

15. Diagnosis: Cataracts.

Hold still. We’re just gonna forcibly cut these things off your eyes.

16. Diagnosis: Insanity.

We have to get these evil spirits out of your head. We’re taking a blunt approach. We’re just gonna drill into your skull until you feel better. Say when.

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