Anaesthetics and disinfectants are thought to be a modern medical invention but evidence is coming to light that medieval doctors knew of them too.

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Evidence found at the ancient Soutra Hospital site, in Scotland, suggests the medieval Augustine monks also knew how to amputate limbs, fashion surgical instruments, induce birth, stop scurvy and even create hangover cures. The excavations at Soutra have also unearthed fragments of pottery vessels that were once used for storing medicines such as an analgesic salve made from opium and grease and treatment for parasitic and intestinal worms.

Dressings have also been found, some still with salves or human tissues attached and the scientists have discovered a mixture of Quicklime (calcium oxide) which scientists believe was used as a disinfectant and a deodorant.

Dr Brian Moffat archeo-ethno-pharmocologist and director of investigations for the Soutra Project, studies clumps of seeds from the site.

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Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs - 8/13/2005

At the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum we have a page written in Dutch ca. 1600, that contains a recipe for a salve for wounds. The active ingredient is horseshit ("paardedreck"). From my wife I've heard that in the 1920's her grandmother was advised by her doctor that her foot needed to be amputated, but that her father-in-law, a Wisconsin farmer, advised her to try his remedy for a couple of weeks first. He dressed the foot in a bag of horseshit. After two weeks her foot was healed and no amputation was needed. I suppose that horseshit, being processed grain (generally equivalent to bread in that both are processed grain), must have developed penicillin, which I've heard can arise in bread mold. The page from ca. 1600 is further filled with random jottings and a cartoon-like sketch of a gentleman - so it's not a page from a medical manual. Probably the recipe was fairly commonly known.