When you think of the medieval era, you probably think of castles or knights—maybe even fire-breathing dragons or the Bubonic Plague.
But doctors engineering powerful medicines? Not so much.
While we now know the people back then never actually slayed any giant winged beasts, you might be surprised to learn they were pretty good at killing microscopic ones. Researchers at the University of Nottingham decided to dive deep into history to test a 1,000-year-old treatment for eye infections that used a recipe found in a medieval medical text held at the British Library.
The “eyesalve” recipe they chose calls for cow bile, wine and two species of Allium (garlic and onion or leek) and describes very specifically how to make the topical solution. For example, it calls for the use of a brass instrument to brew it, a strainer to purify it and instructs salve chefs to leave the mixture for nine days before use.
Then all you have to do is smear that disgusting sludge on your eyelid. Yay!
The scientists obviously didn’t expect the concoction to work (after all, this was a time when doctors would treat the mentally ill by cutting open their skull). But once it was tested, microbiologists were amazed to find that the salve didn’t only clear up styes, it wiped out the deadly antibiotic-resistant superbug MRSA.
“I still can’t quite believe how well this one thousand-year-old antibiotic actually seems to be working,” said Dr. Freya Harrison in the video above. “When we got the first results, we were just dumbfounded. We didn’t see this coming at all.”
Interestingly, it’s the recipe itself that seems to be the key to the salve’s success. If taken individually, the ingredients wouldn’t have produced the same effect. In fact, experts still don’t exactly know what the key to this remedy is, but they think it involves a series of chemical reactions.
Dr Kendra Rumbaugh, from Texas Tech University, was asked to replicate the findings, and said the medicine performed “good if not better” than traditional antibiotics.
Not bad for a bunch of peasants and dragons eh?
Check out the video above.