Old English

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Old English Medicine

Old English Medicine (pronunciation: /oʊld ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ ˈmɛdɪsɪn/) refers to the system of healing and health maintenance that was practiced in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest in 1066. The etymology of the term "Old English" comes from the Old English language itself, which was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century.


The history of Old English Medicine is closely tied to the Anglo-Saxon culture and their understanding of health and disease. They believed in a balance of the four humors (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) and used various herbs, charms, and rituals to treat illnesses.


Old English Medicine involved a combination of spiritual and physical treatments. Herbal remedies were commonly used, often in conjunction with charms and prayers. The Leechbook, one of the earliest known Old English medical texts, contains a wealth of information about these practices.

Key Terms

  • Leechbook: An Old English medical textbook containing a collection of medical remedies, prayers, and charms.
  • Humorism: The medical theory that health was maintained by a balance of the four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.
  • Herbal remedies: Treatments made from plants and herbs, often used in Old English Medicine.

Related Terms

  • Anglo-Saxon: The people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe.
  • Norman Conquest: The 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army of Norman, Breton, Flemish, and French soldiers led by Duke William II of Normandy.

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