Medicine During the Elizabethan Era Essay

Medicine During the Elizabethan Era Essay

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Medicine During the Elizabethan Era

The medicinal practices and problems of the Elizabethan Era were very important to the people, although they are very different from those of today. There were many different beliefs and diseases, like the Plague. Medicine was not an exact science and was related to Alchemy (Chemistry). Here, some of the many practices and beliefs of the Elizabethan Era will be discussed.

One of the most widely known and important of the beliefs was the humours. It was believed that every living creature was composed of four elements, the humours. They were blood, phlegm, choler (or yellow bile), and melancholy (or black bile). It was believed that the overall total combination of these four elements determined the person’s characteristics. For example, a person with more blood than other humours was hot and wet in their nature, a person with more phlegm was cold and wet, a person with more choler was hot and dry, and a person with melancholy being the dominant humour was cold and dry. It was also believed that too much of a certain humour caused disease. That meant the removing or avoiding the dominant humour could cure any disease.

Removal could be done by eating corresponding foods. For example, if a person was phlegmatic in nature, that meant that he was cold and wet, he could be cured if he ate hot and dry foods. Medicines like pepper, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, watercress, and mustard would be useful to such a person. A fever, which was believed to have been caused by excess blood, could have been cured in two ways. One way was to eat cold and dry food, and the other was to have excess blood sucked out by leeches.

Another of the many popular beliefs was that every living thing put on Earth by god was for human use. He gave humans control over his creatures. All of them had certain roles, as food, medicine, etc. For example, cows were put on Earth to supply people with meat and milk, and wheat was there to supply bread. Everything on Earth was useful to humans.

Medicine in the Elizabethan Era was associated with many sciences. One of these includes Astrology. It was believed that all living creatures were associated with the stars. It was possible to read a persons past, present and future by the positions of the stars and planets. Therefore, if you were to go to a physician, one of the first things he would ask you wa...

... middle of paper ... They could go to any of those and get help and people used all of these choices, but the amount of money they could spend limited their choices, as some practitioners charged for their help. But if a person didn’t have a lot of money, he still had many choices available. Almost every community had at least one of each type of practitioner.

Medicine was very important to Elizabethan England and was used widely. It played a major part in the life expectancy of people and was widely studied. It was one of the most important sciences of that era and still is today.


Ramsey, Lia. “Medical Beliefs and Practices.” Elizabethan England. Springfield Public School District. .

McLean, Adam. “Articles.” The Alchemy Website. 1995. .

Chamberlin, E.R. Everyday Life in Renaissance Times. London: B.T. Batsford LTD, 1967.

Andrews, John F. William Shakespeare: His World, His Work, His Influence. Canada: Collier MacMillian, 1985.

“Alchemy.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001–04. .

Trimble, Russell, "Alchemy," in The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal edited by Gordon Stein (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1996), pp. 1-8.

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