Lady Matilda’s Guide to Home Health

My darlings! It’s me, Lady Matilda. I’m sorry it’s been so long, I’ve been travelling on the continent, looking for ways to help and inform my loyal readers. I did send a few thoughts I’d jotted down your way but, sadly, King Philip of France seized my letters in a case of mistaken identity. But that’s such a long and tedious story so let’s get on, shall we?

As every good mother and homemaker knows, life in and around the manor can be fraught. Accidents happen and injuries result. And who wants to spend all that silver or chickens on an expensive physician when you can heal yourself and your family?

(By the way, if you DO decide a physician is needed, my article on how to choose is here:


French Box, 1400, Victoria & Albert Museum

That’s right, we here at Lady Matilda’s have spoken to some of the most sought-after physicians in the country in order to compile a list of modern treatments and cures, just for you, our readers.

The first thing any lady of the manor should have is a box of commonly-used medical items. I’ll share a little secret with you, my dears: my ancestors possessed remarkable healing abilities! And your very own Lady Matilda has inherited some of these skills. My own box contains the following:

– a small, sharp knife
– linen bandages – have your maid cut them into big and small squares so you can be ready for anything
– a good all-purpose salve – lavender, olive oil, and honey can be used for most injuries
– plenty of dung – replace regularly to ensure freshness
– snails
– a solid beer-dreg poultice
– a talisman or two
– a crucifix
– a stone made of jet to keep demons away


No matter how much you preach caution and care to your family, accidents and illness do happen. Sometimes you just need a little extra help.


French Breviary, 1320-25, Getty Museum

Let’s start with children. They get bored, they get restless, they get hurt. Here are cures for a few of the most common childhood maladies and injuries. (Many of these remedies can also be used on adults so take note!)

To keep teeth strong while they’re growing, rub a hare’s brain soaked in water over the gums. This will ensure they are clean and healthy. Your children will try to wiggle out of it, but threats of hell and damnation should keep them still.

Sometimes your little angels will be drawn into fights with the other, less civilised, children. To stop a bleeding nose, grind a little goat’s blood down to dust and apply to each nostril.

Heartache. It happens to us all. When your child suffers their first heartbreak, boil a little ribwort in milk and have the poor dear drink it for nine mornings in a row.

The Wounded Man, Fasciculus Medicinae, Venice, 1491

Cuts and scrapes– they appear daily, without warning, usually accompanied by tales of daring and bravado from the sufferer. Just rub some warm dung from a calf or old ox on the injury and your child will be on his or her way.

Every parent’s worst nightmare, dreaming of apparitions is a real risk. If this happens to your child, draw a mountain goat’s brain through a golden ring and give it to your child to swallow. Once again, some reticence is to be expected.


It’s not only children who get injured or possessed! Adults are often stricken too, especially the clumsier of your servants or those born with a disposition toward ungainliness, like Lord Marlborough, who still denies falling off his horse during the king’s progress, poor dear. Here are treatments for familiar accidents and illnesses, many tried by my own family.


Quinta Essentia, L Thurneisser

Unbalanced humours
It happens to all of us, and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
– try drinking a little goat’s blood to set everything to rights.

Boils and Sores
Bothersome boils and stubborn sores are a fact of life. No matter the caution, you and your family will have sores at some point.
– drinking a little bull dung in hot water is a solid preparatory step.
– mix some earthworms, pigeon’s dung, swine grease, and sour bread together and smear the paste on the sore. This salve is very effective for those times young men and women suffer from those socially embarrassing facial eruptions!

Dance of Death, Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

It seems everywhere you turn these days, the plague is there, interfering with your life. But you need not let it! Here are some tips that will keep you safe and allow you to get on with your day.
– serve rustic meals with no strong odours, as these will aggravate what may only be a mild case of the plague. Be sure to include mustard, mint sauce, and horseradish, as well as arsenic and mercury, this season’s most recommended plague-chasing ingredients.
– for your extra special guests, keep plenty of crushed emeralds on hand to sprinkle liberally on their roast pigeon.
– try hosting your renowned dinner parties in an open sewer – the fumes are sure to chase away that nasty plague!

One last tip: before you go out, smear yourself with excrement (your own, not a servant’s!) and add a little urine to your pulse points for extra peace of mind.

Eye Complaints
Whether from today’s lighting and the smoke and ash from hearths and fireplaces, or from forcing your eyes to stay open to appear attentive during the bishop’s sermon, eyes can certainly be an issue.
– fatigued eyes – wine with hare’s liver should be used to bathe the eyes.
– another good treatment uses wine and pepper. Put them into a horn and into your eyes when you wish to rest.
– for dimness of eyes, mingle together a wood goat’s gall and a little wine; smear your eyes three times and they’ll be healed.

Tacuina Sanitatis

The baker’s demanding his money, the kids are running around yelling, your lord’s dogs are barking, and you had a little too much wine at Lady Beufort’s book club last evening. Before you know it, your poor head is aching.
– goat’s cheese bound to the head – use a new one, not an old one. And remember to buy local!
– a dead mole strapped to head if cheese isn’t your thing, try this cure recommended by our Arab cousins
– if the smell of dead mole bothers you, try boiled heather or a boiled egg placed on the head
– incense, pigeon dung, wheat flower, and white of egg mixed together and bound to your head

Wells Cathedral

– pesky tooth worms bothering you again? Burn a candle close to the mouth and the worms will emerge on their own
– smear raven’s dung on the aching tooth, it’ll soon be right as rain
– drive a blessed nail under the bad tooth, then take the nail and hammer it into an oak tree – remember to carve the name of the sufferer into the tree or else this treatment will fail!
– toothache wine – pulverised grapevine ash mixed with fine wine (one of Lady Matilda’s personal favourites)

Aching Feet
Run off your feet by the children? Standing too long listening to the bishop’s Sunday mass? Try this:
– boar’s lung beaten very small and mixed with honey makes an excellent salve – just rub on your feet and relax.

– the best remedy for any burns is live snail slime spread over the area, repeated until the burn clears. Easy and quick, just apply and go!

Beatus of Santo Toribio

Sore Throat
For when you’ve been yelling at the servant’s all day.
– swallow a few young frogs
– add some snail slime to help the frogs go down!

Codex Manesse

For those times when it’s the world keeping you from sleeping, not Lady Agatha and Lord Smythson’s midnight music sessions.
– a goat’s horn laid under the head turns your waking time into sleeping time
– for more severe cases, a wolf’s head under the pillow works wonders (a bit lumpy, in my opinion but very effective)

Horae ad Usum Parisienem

Snake Bites
A creature lurking everywhere, and evil if you believe the bishop’s sermons.
– mix goat grease, goat dung, and wax together, and form into small pills the patient can swallow – this might be the time to break out the nice wine
– boar’s brain sodden and mingled with honey is another very effective treatment

Dog Bites
This should probably be in the children’s section – if your kids are anything like my own cherished darlings, they tease the dogs mercilessly until the poor creatures fight back.
– pound earthworms well and lay the paste on the bite (bonus: earthworms are also good for ruptured sinews!)
– if the bite is severe, boil ants in water and bathe the affected area

Beatus of Liebana

Apparitions & Demons
Another condition one shouldn’t be ashamed of, despite the gloom-and-doom prognosis given by the bishop. Unless you’ve been deliberately courting the dark angel, these treatments will work!
– at the first signs of possession, a bit of well-dressed wolf flesh should set things right
– wash down that wolf meat with a drink of white hound’s dung in bitter ley

Note: never be afraid to seek the bishop’s help with this one. As our French cousins say, this is in his maison de la roue!


There you are, sweet readers, a list so well-researched and tested, your knowledge will be the envy of everyone in the village! In fact, I’m sure your skill will ensure guaranteed invitations to every major party and event for years to come.

Until next time, my darlings, I wish you balanced humours, healthy days, and demon-free nights!


Copyright © 2019 Kelly Evans


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