The Crude Medicine Practice in Tudor England: Superstition, Folk Remedies and Evolution

The Crude Medicine Practice in Tudor England: Superstition, Folk Remedies and Evolution


In Tudor England, medical treatment was a far cry from the advanced medical practices of today. Physicians relied on outdated theories of medicine, as well as superstitious beliefs, to diagnose and treat their patients. This resulted in a crude and often ineffective approach to medicine that could be harmful to patients. Despite this, Tudor physicians played an important role in the development of modern medicine.

Medicine Practice in Tudor England: An Overview

During the Tudor era in England, the practice of medicine was crude and often ineffective. Physicians and surgeons had limited knowledge of the human body and relied on outdated theories and treatments. The lack of sanitation and hygiene also contributed to the spread of diseases and infections. Women often turned to midwives for childbirth, but their lack of expertise and training resulted in many fatalities for both mother and child. The use of herbal remedies and bloodletting were common, but often did more harm than good.

Despite the criticisms, medical professionals played an important role in society and the development of modern medicine can be traced back to the practices of Tudor England. Though the crude and often dangerous methods used in Tudor England, medical practice continued to evolve during this period. Some physicians began to advocate for more scientific and evidence-based approaches to medicine, while others focused on improving sanitation and hygiene practices in hospitals and other medical settings. The Tudor era thus saw a shift towards a more modern understanding of medicine, laying the groundwork for the advances that would come in later centuries.

Theories of Medicine in Tudor England

Tudor physicians subscribed to the ancient Greek theory of the four humors, which held that the body was composed of four fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. According to this theory, an imbalance of these fluids was responsible for illness. Physicians attempted to correct these imbalances by prescribing treatments such as bloodletting, purging, and emetics. These treatments could be dangerous, and often did more harm than good.

Superstition and Folk Remedies

In addition to the four humors, Tudor physicians also relied on superstitious beliefs and folk remedies to treat their patients, with many of them relying on charms, amulets, and other unscientific methods to ward off illness or promote healing. For example, they believed that certain plants and animals had healing properties, and prescribed them accordingly. They also believed in the power of charms and amulets to ward off illness. These practices were often ineffective, and could even be harmful.

Medical Profession of Tudor England

In Tudor England, medical practice was crude, with limited knowledge and techniques available to physicians. Despite advancements in anatomy and medical theory, medical treatment remained based on the use of natural remedies, superstition, and trial and error. The medical profession was not regulated, and there were few formal qualifications required to practice medicine. Surgery in Tudor England was also a crude practice. Though Surgeons were often regarded as skilled practitioners who played a vital role in the medical profession.


Physicians were the most highly trained and respected medical practitioners in Tudor England. They were university-educated and had an extensive knowledge of medical theory, anatomy, and natural remedies. However, their practice was still crude by modern standards. They relied heavily on the use of purging, bleeding, and sweating patients to restore the balance of the humors. These methods were often harmful, and many patients died from excessive bleeding or other complications.


Surgeons were responsible for performing surgical procedures, such as amputations and bloodletting. They were not as highly regarded as physicians, as their practice was seen as being more manual and less intellectual. Physicians had limited knowledge of anatomy and surgical techniques, and often performed procedures without anesthesia or antiseptics. As a result, surgery was painful and dangerous, and often resulted in infection or death.


Barber-surgeons were a hybrid profession, combining the skills of both barbers and surgeons. They were responsible for minor surgical procedures, such as tooth extraction and lancing boils. They were also responsible for bloodletting, which was believed to be an effective treatment for a range of ailments. However, their practice was criticized for its lack of expertise and sanitation, often resulting in fatal outcomes.


Midwives were responsible for the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth. They were highly respected within their communities and were often called upon to provide medical care beyond their traditional role. They had a limited knowledge of medical theory and relied heavily on herbal remedies and natural childbirth techniques. Many times, this resulted in the death of either the mother or the child or both.

The Legacy of Tudor Medicine

Despite the crude practice of medicine in Tudor England, Tudor physicians made important contributions to the development of modern medicine. They studied anatomy, and made important discoveries about the human body. They also developed new surgical techniques and instruments, such as the forceps and the ligature. Their work paved the way for the advancements in medicine that we enjoy today.

However, the practice of medicine in Tudor England was crude and often harmful. Medical practitioners relied on outdated theories and methods, many of which were based on superstition and trial and error. Despite the limitations of their practice, medical professionals in Tudor England played an essential role in the health and wellbeing of their communities. Their work laid the foundations for the advancements in medical knowledge and practice that would come in future centuries.

Despite the dangers and limitations of Tudor medical practices and surgeries, some significant advances were made during the era. For example, the use of herbal remedies and the development of new surgical techniques helped to improve the outcomes of some treatments. However, it was not until the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century that the medical profession underwent a significant transformation and moved towards a more scientific and evidence-based approach.


The crude practice of medicine in Tudor England was a reflection of the limited knowledge and superstitions of the time. However, it was also a period of great innovation and discovery, as physicians made important contributions to the development of modern medicine. While we may cringe at the crude practices of Tudor physicians, we owe a debt of gratitude to their pioneering work.

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