During the Middle Ages, surgery was performed by Monks and sanctioned by the church. However, in Medieval times, starting about 1215, the Pope said that Monks had to stop practicing surgery, so they instructed peasants on how to become surgeons. They chose farmers, as they had experience with procedures such as animal castrations and removing painful teeth from their ill stock.
While undergoing surgery by a farmer could be incredibly painful, and was only for life or death situations, the peasant farmers did come up with mixtures of anesthesia for their patients. Some of the potions used to relieve pain or induce sleep during surgery were potentially lethal. One example was a concoction of lettuce juice, gall from a castrated boar, briony, opium, henbane, hemlock juice and vinegar. This was mixed with wine before being given to the patient to induce sleep.
Several important surgeries were actually developed during Medieval times. Cataract surgery, believe it or not, was performed during this time by peasant surgeons. A hollow syringe was placed into the eye to remove the cataract, and then suctioned out. Needless to say there was a high complication rate.
Metal tubes were developed during Medieval times in order to drain the bladder. Hemorrhoids were treated with hot cautery irons (branding irons). Enemas were also developed during this time.
Childbirth was a particularly dangerous undertaking in Medieval times. Midwives were sanctioned by the Bishop, and swore to use no magic during childbirth. Prior to delivery, women were told to prepare their shrouds and ask for forgiveness of their sins because the mortality rate was so high from childbirth.
Bloodletting was a very common procedure during Medieval times, and was believed to cool the body and to aid the body by removing excess fluids. It could be performed by opening a vein or by using leeches.
Overall during Medieval times, spells and rituals continued to play a major role, as it was believed that most illnesses were caused by the patient’s past sins.