Medical practices in the Middle Ages were making some progress but were still a far cry from what people today would want to experience. Some of the medicines and mixtures used did work and are still in use today. One concoction might even prove to be the answer to MRSA and other bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. Leeches are currently approved by the FDA for use in treating blood pooling under the skin. But a few successes does not mean that there was not a whole lot of bad and quite a bit of weird in medieval medical practices.
Boar Bile Enemas
By the Middle Ages, enemas were growing in popularity. They had been used throughout history, but the Middle Ages truly saw the enema become something of a regular medical procedure. By the 15th century, there was even the invention of simple piston syringe enemas that made the process much easier for physicians.
As time went on there were devices created that would allow for self-administration by the 17th century and devices that would hide most of a woman’s backside so that the physician would only see what was necessary to administer the enema. The enema became very popular as it was so easy to use and it was quite versatile. It could be used with just lukewarm water, or in cases where something stronger was needed, thinned boar’s bile or vinegar was used.
Enemas became all the rage in France and were so popular that King Louis XIV was said to have as many as 2,000 enemas over the course of his life. He was even said to have an enema administered while he was sitting on the throne. He would just allow the ceremony to progress while his physician placed the clyster in his rectum and pushed the chosen fluid in using the syringe.
The procedure was often done for the same reasons that people have chosen to get enemas throughout history, as a way to relieve constipation. In the Middle Ages it was also thought to be useful in treating stomach aches or a range of other illnesses that often varied from physician to physician. Some believed that regular enemas would keep them in good health, which would explain the frequency of Louis XIV’s enemas, or perhaps the French King was perpetually constipated.