The roots of medieval medical practice lay in the teachings of Greek and Arab writers and philosophers. This tradition placed particular emphasis on a holistic form of medicine which sought to treat the patient’s body, mind and soul. People believed that illness resulted from imperfection and imbalance, and treatment rested upon the ability of the patient and physician to restore equilibrium and harmony.
Medieval Londoners put their trust in religion, praying to saints and carrying flasks of ‘holy water’ in ampuallae (small bottles), and many relied on magic, amulets and the potions of apothecaries and quacks.
The revival of ancient learning during the Renaissance brought received medical wisdom into question and physicians began to discover new truths for themselves by direct observation and anatomical dissection.