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ANSWERED on Tue 15 Dec 2015 - 5:38 pm UTC by Leli Crawford

Question: Medieval war medicine or first aid related to: sword cut, bruises, abrasions, broken ribs

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 8 Dec 2015 05:41 UTCTue 8 Dec 2015 - 5:41 am UTC 

I'm looking for some details that would give character or flavoring to some writing. I'm open to medical ideas from approximately the 11th to the 13th century. (Since I'm looking for flavor as much as fact, I'd also be open to literary quotes from the 18th or 19th century writers who described the medieval ages in highly idealized fact and fiction.) 

A good answer would include 2 or 3 of any of the following

* description of medical technique for any of these injuries
* quotes about such an injury or it's care from an actual historical source or from a 19th century semi-fictionalized source (Middle English, Middle English translated to be more modern, or 19th century English)
* a recipe for a salve or medicine for one of these conditions
* quotes about related medical beliefs (Middle English, Middle English translated to be more modern, or 19th century English)
* any information about blood letting being used for any of these conditions

Also, knowing the source of the quote or information is a big plus. Anonymous sources are just fine. I'd just want to know what book/manuscript/ballad or rough era it came from.




 8 Dec 2015 10:51 UTCTue 8 Dec 2015 - 10:51 am UTC 

When I said that "a good answer would include 2 or 3 of any of the following," I meant two or three things total, NOT two or three things from each category.




 8 Dec 2015 14:41 UTCTue 8 Dec 2015 - 2:41 pm UTC 

A Google search with:  battle injuries medieval 

turned up lots of links about the wounds. 

A search with:   medieval battle OR war + surgery 

also turned up what looks like interesting information. 

This one has illustrations of the medic's tools: 

For flavor;  in a Hornblower novel,the patient is given a piece of leather to bite, and my father mentioned the sound of the surgeon's bone saw, when he once was in an anatomy theater.  

This is not an "answer", of course, just a prod for a researcher.


Rob Bowler 


 8 Dec 2015 23:05 UTCTue 8 Dec 2015 - 11:05 pm UTC 

There are a number of books on the subject, some of which are partially or completely available through Google Books:

Medicine in the Crusades: Warfare, Wounds and the Medieval Surgeon by Piers D. Mitchell



Medieval Medicine: The Art of Healing, from Head to Toe



Medieval Medicine: A Reader



This discussion forum also has some good info:


Rob Bowler 


 8 Dec 2015 23:08 UTCTue 8 Dec 2015 - 11:08 pm UTC 

Also, here is a recipe for Calendula Salve, used for treating cuts, abrasions, bruises, sore, etc.:



Leli Crawford 


 11 Dec 2015 09:28 UTCFri 11 Dec 2015 - 9:28 am UTC 

Lanfranc of Milan (c1250–1306) wrote about treating wounds, but I haven't found his work in modern English, only in medieval English with notes from 1894:

On page 33 he starts by discussing a simple flesh wound made with knife, sword, spear or arrow. Basic treatment involves bandaging, applying white of egg to avoid swelling, and rest.

A long, shallow  wound that needs no stitching can be treated with a powder of 1 part frankincense, 2 parts sanguis draconis, and 3 parts quicklime [surprising?!], laid around it but not in it, and left for four days. The wound should be held in place with triangular "plumaciols" (pads), fixed with binding, over a linen cloth moistened with a mixture of 2 parts egg-white and 1 part oil of roses. (Page 35 - see diagrams.)

More detail follows about deeper wounds, needles and sewing. Stitches should be spaced apart by the width of a little finger, and made with twined, waxed, un-knotted thread  and a triangular needle (page 36).  There are other recipes for ointments, powders etc. throughout, with opium (page 41) added to a paste of oil of roses and bole armoniac if required for pain.

Next he talks about healing wounded sinews. Wounds with a discharge should have a small “tent” (roll of soft absorbent material - Oxford English Dictionary) inserted, but it must not touch the sinew. They can be treated with a mixture of 3 drachms of rose-flavoured honey and a little barley flour, boiled and then beaten for a long time before adding 1 drachm of white terebinth. A little frankincense, mastic and sanguis draconis should be added later, once the wound is almost dry. (Page 46)

He discusses blood letting in the chapter about bruising from sticks, stones, and accidents with horses. (Page 51- see notes in margin.)

If Lanfranc meets your needs, I could offer to help with a particular section that interests you, but I’m not a fluent reader of this kind of text!

Lanfranc aka Lanfrank:

Middle English dictionary:




 14 Dec 2015 19:58 UTCMon 14 Dec 2015 - 7:58 pm UTC 

Sorry I've been slow to respond. This sounds like some wonderful stuff, and I'll be taking a good look later today.




 15 Dec 2015 10:47 UTCTue 15 Dec 2015 - 10:47 am UTC 

myoarin, thank you for those fantastic images of medical tools. Suddenly modern dentistry doesn't look so scary! Also thanks for the flavor suggestions.

Rob Bowler, those look like interesting books. Sadly, I don't have time to absorb a book right now, though I may return to them later.

Leli Crawford, this manages to hit several things I was hoping for with a perfect bulls eye. Thank you so much for the rough summary and page numbers. I wouldn't have been able to wade through it without that. (I also find this kind of reading slow going, but I think I got what I needed out of it.)




 15 Dec 2015 14:07 UTCTue 15 Dec 2015 - 2:07 pm UTC 

Henry V underwent surgery. See this page it refers to original sources.


Leli Crawford 


 15 Dec 2015 17:38 UTCTue 15 Dec 2015 - 5:38 pm UTC 

I'm glad we managed to find some of the details you were looking for.
Rose honey is obviously the thing, going by the gruesome story of Prince Harry's surgery.





 7 Mar 2016 01:38 UTCMon 7 Mar 2016 - 1:38 am UTC 

So much fabulousness in concentrated form. Thank you again Team Uclue.


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