Medieval methods of getting rid of “love fever”

In the Middle ages the expression “love is” meant not a figure of speech, but a very real disease, for treatment that was medical methods.

Love really can hurt. And although we often romantisize love the suffering, the harsh reality is that almost all of us have experienced unrequited passion caused by unpleasant symptoms. Dizziness, feeling of hopelessness, palpitations, loss of appetite, insomnia, tearful mood – sound familiar?

Thanks to advances in biochemistry modern scientists know how the neurotransmitters dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin affect the brain of a person in love, sometimes causing unpleasant symptoms. However, the relationship between love and physical condition of the person was noticed a long time ago. In medieval medicine it was considered that body and soul are inextricably intertwined and body can reflect a state of mind.

Humoral imbalance

Medical ideas of the middle ages was based on the doctrine of the four bodily fluids, or humorou: blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile. It was believed that in a healthy person all four liquids are in equilibrium, and the imbalance causes the disease.


Description and images of bodily fluids according to Galen. The illustration of manuscripts, 1420

At the core of these ideas was a theory of the ancient scientist Galen, who developed a communication system between a person’s temperament and dominant in his body fluid. For example, the melancholic temperament corresponds to an excess of black bile, which the body dry and cold. During the middle ages it was believed that people with a melancholic warehouse is more than just predisposed to loving suffering.

The doctor and the monk of the 11th century Constantine the African translated the treatise on melancholy, which was popular in medieval Europe. He clearly outlined the relationship between the excess in the body of black bile of melancholy and a tendency to love suffering:

“Love, also called Eros is a disease affecting the brain. Sometimes the reason that love becomes a natural a natural need to get rid of excess bodily fluids… the disease that causes thinking and anxious, while the patient is looking for ways to gain the object of their desires”.

Treatment of unrequited love

Whatever the object of desire – and in the religious middle ages, for many women, they became Christ – the inaccessibility or loss of the object delivered suffering, from which the medieval melancholic find it difficult to get rid of.

But since the state of melancholy of love was considered to be having such deep roots, it was medical treatment. Recommended that the patient get plenty of light and fresh air, and rest, inhalation, a warm bath with moisturizing the skin with plants (like water lilies and violets). To eat followed by lamb meat, lettuce, egg, fish, ripe fruit. Since the time of Hippocrates used hellebore root. An excess of black bile melancholic treated with laxatives and bloodletting to restore the balance of bodily fluids.


Bloodletting. Illustration for the manuscript Aldobrandino di Siena “Solid Charter”, France, late 13th century

The history of suffering

It is not surprising that in the literature of medieval Europe the history of thorny love and love suffering often contain medical references. Sick of sorrow character is very common figure. Such, for example, the Black knight from the works of Chaucer, “the Book of the Duchess,” or two lovers from the poem of Mary French, the lovers are described as “serious meal”.


The lover and the priest. Illustration for the piece “Confessions of love”, early 15th century

The poem of the 14th century “Confessions of love” and John Gower revolves around the melancholy young man who is sick from love so that he wants death, and asks a cure for her disease Venus and Cupid. Regretting the accident, Venus creates a cooling balm and puts on his “wounded heart” whiskey and kidneys. Thanks to this cure his unbearable pain finally passes.

Look at love from a medical point of view exists to this day. In 1621 Robert Burton published a voluminous work entitled “Anatomy of melancholy”. Sigmund Freud developed similar ideas in the book “Sorrow and melancholy” in the early 20th century. The problem of the suffering of the heart clearly has deep roots. So if your heart pierces love flour you can try one of those medieval recipes.