The Anglo-Saxon Monk takes a look at a thirteenth-century medical recipe for painful and slow urination and decides to give it a miss.
Image: Raphanus sativus, the humble radish, cultivated in Europe in pre-Roman times, is a key component in a 13th-century medical recipe to counter strangury and dysuria. Click on image for picture credit.
I know that you're abundantly aware of my God-given gift of time-travelling. I only mention my transhistoricalness once more because I have a friend and spiritual brother who has a recurring health problem for which he cannot find a cure here in the eleventh century.
So when just this last week my fellow monk complained to me of his somatic tribulations, the obvious thing was for me to call upon the twenty-first-century experience of my alter ego, Dr Chris Monk. And so I made polite enquiry of him to ascertain if there was anything in his world that might just do the trick.
Well, beloved, I'm not sure I should have bothered! The rascal came up with the thirteenth-century treatment below, an item he unexpectedly came across whilst researching, on behalf of Rochester Cathedral, a manuscript about, of all things, monastic revenues.
You will soon gather the delicate nature of my fellow monk's condition once you read the recipe through. And you will soon comprehend, my blessed readers, that I had no intention whatsoever in carrying out this treatment for my ailing brother. I have my limits!
Image above: Custumale Roffense, Rochester Cathedral, 13th-century. The medical recipe to counter strangury and dysuria appears at the top of folio 3r. Image owned by the Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral. To go to the facsimile click here.
Contra stranguriam et dysuriam ... or how to tackle slow and painful urination:
Take and grind a radish root, and then boil it continuously in white spiced wine along with the root of marsh mallow until you reduce the liquor to a third. Into the final decoction add wheat bran and make a poultice, and bind around the male member (Latin, circumliga uirilem uirgam, literally 'wrap around the virile rod'), as hot as the patient can endure. This poultice should be applied three times whilst in bed. The poultice may be sufficiently thickened by more bran.
Well, I'm quite sure, blessed ones, that you can guess my response to Dr Monk's suggested treatment, though I'm not sure I should repeat the exact words of disapprobation I uttered in his direction.
What I do wish to say, however, is that Dr Monk's conscience was pricked and he was moved to explain to me that the sap of one of the ingredients in the medical recipe, namely the root of marsh mallow, was used in nineteenth-century France to make the delicacy known as marshmallow. And then with great swiftness of hand, he produced a bag of the aforementioned confection and handed it to me with the announcement, "He'll probably like those more."
My brother's pain is much the same, I have to report, but he simply loved the gooey mallows and, needless to say, my own sensibilities and reputation are intact.
Marshmallows, no longer made by whipping the sap from the root of the marsh mallow plant. Click on image for picture credit.