Folk medicine and herbal cures typically get only a sneering glance from the medical establishment if they get any notice at all. We are surprised, for some reason, whenever we are reminded that the people who came centuries before us may have actually known a thing or two about the world around them and how to treat certain conditions and illnesses. In an Anglo-Saxon book of remedies, a formulation of onion, garlic and bovine salts has actually been tested in a lab and found to be astonishingly effective at killing the bacteria staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium is behind several antibiotic resistant infections that afflict people around the world. Scientists believe this concoction may actually be a key player in the fight against antibiotic resistant organisms in general.
That a book of remedies over 1,000 years old may hold the key to fighting off a bleak future in which resistant bacteria could claim untold lives must be extremely humbling to modern medicine. MZWeb says that of course, our opinion of ancient medicine is not helped by the fact that the book this remedy was found in was called “Bald’s Leechbook.” Leeches were definitely one of the many misses in the hit or miss world that was ancient medicine. This finding, however, does show us that we can not be too dismissive of ancient remedies, and that scholars and scientists around the world had better start dusting off other old texts and readying experiments to see if there may be some more medical gems that we only need to rediscover.