Stuffed and roasted puppy a cure for gout in mediaeval times

It is perhaps an opportune moment to discuss the gruesome medicine of mediaeval times in the UK including treatment for gout (stuffed puppy) because gout complaints have risen by 15% in the UK after the Covid pandemic. It is believed that the increase has been caused by overeating during the pandemic which I suspect has also increased the number of obese people in the country which is the exact opposite to what is desired. Too much time on their hands. Too much furlough money chucked at them by the government leaving the country in massive national debt with interest payments of £100 billion annually. I am digressing.

Stuffed puppy as a salve in medieval times in the UK
Stuffed puppy as a salve in medieval times in the UK. Image: Cambridge University Library.

Today, puppies, kittens, dogs and cats provide emotional support to millions of people. There are therapy animals and just by their company they do a lot of good health wise. But back in the day, in mediaeval times (14th and 15th century in this instance) the prescription for gout included the following.

You take a puppy, kill it (brutally no doubt), and then stuff the body with snails and sage before roasting it. The rendered fat was used as a salve to help cure gout. This is one of the cures as set out in 180 manuscripts which are being digitised and released to the public by Cambridge University Library.

In mediaeval times, the manuscripts “show mediaeval people trying to manage their health with the knowledge that was available to them at the time, just as we do,” said Dr. James Freeman, mediaeval manuscripts specialist at the Cambridge University Library.

He also said: “They are also a reminder of the pain and precarity1 of mediaeval life, before antibiotics, antiseptics and pain relief as we would know them all today.”

They look bizarre and horrific today. Another cure involved baking an owl until it could be ground into a powder and mixed with boar’s fat. This made a rub to be put onto the patient’s body.

The treatment for cataracts at the time involved mixing a hare’s gallbladder with honey. The concoction was applied to the eye with a feather over three nights.

The manuscripts contain 8,000 treatments. The documents will be available in high resolution images combined with detailed descriptions and transcriptions. The project is being funded to the tune of half a million pounds by the Wellcome Trust.

I don’t want to go on but I’m reminded of Chinese traditional medicine 😒. The body parts of many animals both wild and domestic are used in this medicine. It is unsupported by science and is based on superstition. For example, rhino horn is used to “dispel heat, detoxify and cool the blood and treat febrile diseases”. Pure mumbo-jumbo but it is causing the destruction of the rhino in the wild.

And what about tiger penis? This ancient medicine suggests that if you eat a cooked tiger penis you are going to be better in bed. Like I said, there’s not much difference between Chinese traditional medicine and the ancient concoctions of mediaeval times in the UK, which is why it is staggering that the president of China, Xi Jinping, supports it so vocally when it should be entirely dismantled and unceremoniously stopped in China.

P.S. It makes me wonder how humans will view today’s medicine in 1000 years’ time. Will it look as barbaric? And will China still be locked into using their ridiculous medicine?

Note: 1. the state of being precarious or uncertain.

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