Some medieval English medical recipes, from British Library, Harley MS 2378

copyright Martha Carlin 2005; updated 21 November 2020
all rights reserved not to be reproduced without permission.

A volume of 184 parchment folios containing medical recipes and related materials, in English and Latin, in hands of the 14th-15th cent.  Many other recipes from this manuscript are printed in G. Henslow, Medical Works of the Fourteenth Century (London, 1899), available from the Internet Archive at <> (seen 21 November 2020).

Among the medical recipes are the following, written on folios14v-15v in a single hand of the late 14th – early 15th century.  These recipes are given in prose form in the manuscript but, as they are written in rhymed couplets, I have transcribed them as such below:

(f. 14v)
For bolnyng [= swelling] of the genitales of man. [In left margin: For boling of the pyntell’ (=penis).]

A fayre medecyn tell’ I can bothe for zonge [=young] and for olde and for all’ maner of brennyng’ [=burning].

Leves of lorere [=laurel] and rewe thou take,
and smale thou brysse hem [=bruise them] and make.
Take three handfull’ of the tone
and of the tother als mekyll’ one [i.e., take 3 handfuls of the one, and as much of the other].
And make a playster ther of clene,
a bout the genitales thou bynde be dene [=indeed].
And if this helpe will’ nought’,
a nother medecyn shall’ be wrought.
Take the leves of a rede dok
and tendrnus amyds a way thou knoke.
Sethe them in wyn hole in a panne
and lay them about thi bollokes than.
Also take garleke and comyn

(f. 15r)
with ache [=smallage, parsley, or other celery-like plant] and benys [=beans] sothen [=seethed] in wyn,
and bynde them about thi ballokes fast,
and the boling shall’ swage [=be assuaged] in hast.For boling of knes.If thi knees be bolynde grete,
take the fayre flour of whete,
and boyle it in water till it drye be,
and in a cloute [=rag] lay it to thi kne.

Folios 17r-61v consist of numerous medicinal recipes, mostly in English, with a few in Latin, written in hands of perhaps the early 15th century. At the end of this collection, on f. 61v, is written, in a ?contemporary hand: “Secundum Dompnum Nicholaum de Spaldyng quod s. d. c.” (Nicholas Spaldyng is identified on f. 135v as the owner of this volume.) The following recipes are transcribed from this collection:

(f. 17v)
For to make her [=hair] growe.

Take lynsed and brenne [=burn] it and medle [=mix] the poudre with oyle and a noynte the hed. Item take
verveyne and aloyne [=aloes] and seth hem wel In lye and wasch’ wel the hed ther with oft tyme.

(f. 18r)
For man that may nouzt for castynge [=vomiting] holde his mete [=solid food].

Take hulewort [=pennyroyal or wild thyme] and horhoune and peper and seeth’ hem wel in water and gyf hym ofte
to drynke and he shal sone hele.

(f. 18v)
For the fever tercyane [=tertian fever, one that comes every 3 days].

Take iij leves of weybrode after the sonne be y go to grounde and sey iij pater nosters and take the juys and drynke it
with haliwater whan the evel the taketh [=when the sickness takes thee].

(f. 19r)
For the cancre in the teth’ also.

Take oke appul [=oak galls] and drye it well’ and make pouder ther of and take that pouder and medled [sic] with’
vynegre and make a plastre and leye up the sore and it shal hole.

(f. 20r)
An oynement for the crampe.

Take in the laste ende of may the juys of camamylle and cattes grece [=rendered fat of a cat] of eche lyche moche [i.e., the
same amount of each
] and fry it to gedur and kepe it in a box and as the crampe the greveth’ enoynte the same
place ther with.

(f. 38v)
For to maken tethe whyte that ben blake or zelwe [=yellow].

Take flour of rye salt and hony and medle hem wel to gedere and therwith’ frote [=rub] wel the tethe, iche day ij or iij
[=twice or thrice] and after wasche hem wel with fayre water and that schal don a wey al the blaknese and alle the

(f. 39v)
For stynkyng brethe that comes out of mannes stomake.

Take ij handful of comyn [=cumin] and bet it in a brasyn morter to poudre and sethe it in good wyne fro a potel [=half-gallon]
to a quart and lat the seke drynke ther of at morwe and even [=morning and evening] as hot as he may suffre it and he schal
ben hool with innen xv dayes on warantize and ich day drynke a pynt.

(f. 59v)
For vermyne in a mannys ere.

Take the jus of lovache and put it in the ere the space of a myle wey [i.e., for as long as it takes to walk a mile]
and it salle bryng out the worme quyke [=alive] or dede certayne.