74 – Leeches and Leechbooks

Ok, so Anglo Saxon medicine. Before you fans of kings and war hit skip, consider this. Who are you most looking forward to hearing about from this era? If you’re all about kings, my guess is you’re excited to hear about Alfred the Great. Did you know he was sickly? Like… really sickly. There are a variety of theories of what he might have had, but what we can be sure of is that he was forced to avail himself of all that Anglo Saxon medicine had to offer… so aren’t you curious about what he had to deal with? I know I am!

Alright, to start with, if there’s medicine, and we know there was, then there must have been practitioners. But what did that look like? Who were these people and how did they get that position? In the US you have to have a 4 year degree, then go to medical school, then get through residency, pass exams, get licensed, etc etc. There are plenty of hoops to ensure that a doctor has the minimum required knowledge in his or her area of practice. And so we can be reasonably sure that doctors know what a spleen does, are familiar with osmosis, and hopefully know a great deal more than that too. And in large part that assurance is the result of the regulations that force potential doctors to overcome certain hurdles and enforce a certain level of uniformity in medical practice.

4 Responses to “74 – Leeches and Leechbooks”

  1. Terry Stone says:

    Oh yes, and I believe that “cupping” doesn’t involve open wounds. We still do it here in Greece, and I hear they do it in So. America. It does involved heated cups, but it just “draws the bad blood” from your back. No open wounds involved at all. I’ve seen it done and done it myself many times. Silly, but dramatic. A real party stopper!

  2. I LOVED the “scorched earth:chemotherapy” metaphor… Brilliant. Never heard it related that way, but it makes perfect sense. I like to think modern surgeons still have a bit of Anglo-Saxon blood-letting heritage in them. As one physician I know put it “a chance to cut is a chance to save when it comes to cancer, because chemotherapy is just poisoning someone to the brink of death”

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