Sample Essay on Leprosy

The medicines in the Middle Ages more often than not would take the form of herbal remedies. In accordance with the humor theory, most plants, food substances, and commonly found house items were specified as either cold, hot, dry, or wet so that they could be used to balance out the humors. For example, pasta (hot) would be used for hot stomach, and cold and dry linen was applied to dry up infections. Many of these herbal remedies came from the church were the brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church were trained in this medical area.

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The Black Death and Leprosy were widely infectious and well-known diseases during the Middle Ages. In early 1347 a fearful epidemic of bubonic plague broke out in Constantinople. From then on the great plague took over Europe and killed approximately 1/4 to 9/10 of the population in its affected area. There is much to tell of this disease, so in sort it was a highly infectious disease that would be transmitted by inhalation abrasion of skin or ingestion.  Lung lesions, were a common in a person with the plague as well as death from heart failure. “The walls of blood vessels are attacked frequently causing hemorrhages and acute blood poisoning.”, states one web site. And this Black Death was fatal in almost all cases.

Another disease that swept across Europe was Leprosy. It is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprea, a first cousin to tuberculosis bacteria. We cannot be sure that Leprosy was actually the disease that was “found” in the middle ages but it was often a diagnosis to many patients with disfigurements. It was almost as if a doctor that had a
patient that he could not properly diagnose had leprosy. It was almost a if leprosy became a scapegoat. Although this disease was not as fatal as the plague it caused the leper to be isolated. Lepers were usually be banded to leper hospitals or leper communities. In many cases leprosy meant separation from ones family.

Aside from herbal remedies, the Catholic church was a cure for almost anything. Eventually the Catholic church would take over the medical aspects of the society providing sources for healing rituals. (Amundsen 6). De Medicamentis Liber by Marcelli (1536) taught how to cure ills using plants, gems, and other natural substances. Although this was frowned upon by the Church, it was considered bearable as the importance of medications grew. The use of drugs was permitted as long as no non-Christian incantations were used. The tension between the church the folk medicine arose had its basis in the dependence of the latter upon sources that were non-compatible with Christian faith.

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