Loxwood Joust: Try honey, snails and cobwebs for a bit of Medieval folk healing

Loxwood Joust's folk healer Emily Osbourne
Loxwood Joust's folk healer Emily Osbourne

What would you do if you were ill or injured in Medieval times?

As part of the build-up to this year’s Loxwood Joust, at Loxwood Meadow on August 5&6 and 12&13, organisers have come up with a series of interesting facts about this fascinating period in history.

Here, the event’s own Folk Healer reveals her secrets.

• They used honey on wounds to help them heal. This is effective due to the antibiotic nature of honey; honey contains hydrogen peroxide and height sugar content which kills bacteria by drawing the fluids out of the bacteria. The stickiness of honey also helps keep the wound closed.

• Wounds were also stuffed with cobwebs; the stickiness held the wounds closed. Cobwebs are naturally antiseptic and anti-fungal and contain vitamin k which helps the blood to clot.

• Sphagnum moss, known as Blood moss was used to mop up blood all through the mediaeval times and up to the First World War as its many times more absorbent than cotton wool, it deodorises the wound too which would have been important in the medieval times. But what they didn’t know in the medieval period was that penicillin moulds grow on the moss which we know is a powerful antibiotic.

• Live snails were used on minor cuts and burns. Snails have to travel over broken ground so must get small abrasions to their body all the time, this is why their slime contains: antioxidants, antiseptic, anaesthetic, anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antiviral, collagen and elastin. Snail gel is still used today. This is also an ancient aboriginal remedy.

• If all else failed then strong liquor or cauterisation (burning with a hot poker) of the wound was necessary.

• Medical diagnosis was based around the four humours, Blood, Phlegm, Yellow Bile and Black Bile, if you had too much of one then herbs for the opposite were given to balance you. Balance of the humours meant good health. The humours had personality types:

Blood: Sanguine, courageous, hopeful, playful and carefree.

Yellow Bile: Choleric, ambitious, leader like, restless and easily angered.

Black Bile: Melancholic, despondent, quiet, analytical and serious.

Phlegm: Phegmatic, calm, thoughtful, patient, peaceful.

• Tongue diagnosis, by the change in coating on different areas of the tongue medieval physicians could tell which organ was affected and to which humour was out of balance. A study of the urine was also made; the colour and sweetness (yes they tasted it!) proved which humours were out of balance.

• From China came the spices cloves and star anise. Cloves were used for numbing a toothache and star anise for bad breath.

• Olive oil dripped in the ear for ear ache to relive the pressure, a remedy still used today.

• Barbour surgeon’s pole with the red and white stripped spiral began by mediaeval Barbour surgeons putting up bandages on a pole to advertise their business; soon the bandages were just painted on a pole and then the typical Barbour red and white spiral still seen today.

For full details and to buy tickets visit www.loxwoodjoust.co.uk