Anglo-Saxon Medicine by Malcolm Laurence Cameron

By Malcolm Laurence Cameron

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It is easy to see that a diet such as that of the Anglo-Saxons and the effects of endemic malaria would almost inevitably lead to iron deficiency. The worst aspect of this deficiency is that it leads to bodily weakness, greatly decreased ability to do a good day's work, difficulty in maintaining normal body temperature where the ambient temperature is low and, even more importantly, leads in growing children to central nervous problems and possible permanent damage to the brain with consequent lowering of intelligence.

In this it follows the pattern of medieval books of its kind and probably reflects (to some extent) the order in which remedies were gathered for inclusion. In it the number of remedies containing only native ingredients is high and these ingredients are usually given native English names, not Anglicized Latin ones. This implies that they are native remedies, not borrowed from Graeco-Roman cultures. The fact that the proportion of remedies which can be certainly traced to Latin texts is relatively small leads to the same conclusion.

9 It is tempting to see in the words larde and tcehte a reference to physicians who instructed others in their art. Is it just possible that physicians in Anglo-Saxon England trained students in medicine? A certain Baldwin was personal physician to Edward the Confessor, but his name shows that he, like so many others about Edward, was not an Englishman but was from the Continent, and so cannot count as an Anglo-Saxon physician. Although we know so little about who the physician was or how he lived and practised his profession, we can form an estimate of his competence from his surviving writings.

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