Witchcraft And Medicine

Modern medicine has greatly improved and saved lives of millions across the world. The innovation of new and improved medicines is all thanks to the advanced technologies that exist today. However, what is interesting is that modern medicine originated from the time when witchcraft was used to cure ailments and save people’s lives. Here is how witchcraft has influenced modern medicine.

The Origin of Witches and Witchcraft

The image of the green goo brewing in a black pot is used as a symbol for witches. The real reason for this is that during the Middle Ages, witches both male and female, were allowed to practice medicine or midwifery. There were not many doctors, and the lower class in Europe needed local healers to cure their ailments. However, by the 13th century women were not allowed to study medicine at universities. Women who continued medicine or midwifery were often labelled as witches, and were hunted down or tried for the illegal practice of medicine.

How Witches Actually Procured The Power To Fly

The myth of witches flying on their broomsticks actually originates from the “flying ointment,” that they used to produce and use. Psychotropic plants such as nightshade, mandrake and hemlock were compounded to form the ointment. The reason it is associated with flying is because the salve they produced could causes hallucinations and delirium, which gave witches the illusion of flight.

The Use of Tropane Alkaloids: Then And Now

The use of these psychotropic plants was proven to be poisonous if consumed at a high dose. However, some of these plants contained a tropane alkaloid that is known as hyoscine. Thorn apple, which is rich in hyoscine, was used by Native Americans as a local anaesthetic. During religious rituals it was also used to induce hallucinations. Hyoscine was the component that basically induced the hallucination that witches were flying.

Atropine, another tropane alkaloid, is also found in these plants, which was used as a muscle relaxant by 19th century chemists to calm patients during surgery.

Hyoscine is still used in low doses today, mainly to treat motion sickness, as it helps to relieve stomach cramps and nausea.

The Witches Brew

Most of the ‘brews’ or potions that witches produced were probably ineffective or lethal, however some of the ingredients they used for healing purposes are still used today:

  • Willow bark was used as a treatment for inflammation. After research it was found that willow bark contains salicin, which is now the famous treatment for acne known as salicylic acid. Salicin was also used to create aspirin.
  • Garlic was used in witches’ brews to treat many things, such as ulcers and snake bites. Now, garlic compounds are proven to act as blood clotting inhibitors.

Of course, most of the components they extracted were for a reason, and their benefits were thoroughly researched, tested and thus proven through modern medicine. We definitely have witch doctors to thank for these cures.

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