Health and Medicine in the Viking Scandinavia

Health and Medicine in the Viking Scandinavia

Thousands of years ago, people were very superstitious, and believed in supernatural powers. With minimum medical knowledge, people would relate illnesses to several unrelated events. It is quite difficult for us to fully comprehend the ancient history of medicine and health in the 21st century. Mostly because all we know about that era is the tip of an iceberg. Learn more about health and medicine in the Viking Scandinavia.

We know for a fact that this was an underdeveloped era so people had no idea about germs, functions of human organs, and the different processes carrying out inside the human body. Therefore, whenever an illness would come, they would try to cure it using different remedies and quackeries.

Health and Medicine in the Viking Scandinavia
Scandinavian Vikings had developed various unique ways to cure the illness

In this article, we will look closely at the history of health and medicine in the Viking Scandinavia. But before that, let’s have a brief introduction of the time period.

The Vikings of Scandinavia
The Viking culture has always been an interesting chapter for many historians, archeologists, and people from the entertainment industry. With some remarkable discoveries leading to the ancient Vikings period, history unfolds some amazing aspects of that age.

The Scandinavian Vikings were portrayed as brutal invaders and raiders. Well, it is very difficult for us to figure out what is true, false, or exaggerated. But we can surely say that the Vikings of Scandinavian origin were great adventurers and very much modern.

Looking back at the year 800s, we see that the Scandinavian Vikings had developed various unique ways to cure the illness. Let’s look at a few.

Health and Medicine in the Viking Scandinavia
Vikings had a well-balanced diet

Many studies from the 11th and 12th centuries show that the people of Skeljastaðir, Iceland were mostly in good health. However, it does not mean that the diseases never existed at that time. It’s just that the ancient remains of Skeljastaðir depicted that people were mostly long-lived and possessed good oral health.

Further detailed analysis proved that those Vikings had a well-balanced diet as compared to modern diets. They used less sugar, took unprocessed food, and ate lesser refined meals. The dental record showed considerable wear with very less decaying. The only serious dental problem was calculus that results in losing teeth and building-up infections in the jaws.

Health and Medicine in the Viking Scandinavia
People of that age used to intake all the necessary nutrients required for their body.

Some of the skeletal remains of aged people show healed bone fractures. This means the Vikings used to take good care of their elders. There were very few dietary deficiencies observed in the remains that shows that people of that age used to intake all the necessary nutrients required for their body.

Rituals to cure diseases
The Scandinavian Vikings used to live in trading towns as most of the trading happened by either sea or land. The dense population of trading towns causes difficulty in adequate sanitation. Hence, resulting in growing diseases. The trading town at Birka showed eggs of human parasites. Scientists claim that people might have suffered from diarrhea and nausea due to poor sanitary conditions.

Related: Historic Viking Longship Discovered in Norway

While there were some ancient methods to deal with the illness, people also used to perform rituals to cure the disease. Back then, people thought that music and delightful poetry can heal the wound. The preventative medications were chants and charms to bring good fortune to the person. The wicked people used to take help from magic to cure the ill. The runic inscriptions were carved over the whalebone and placed under the sick person’s bed to regain health.

Health and Medicine in the Viking Scandinavia
Viking ship body

he people in the Norse era were practicing both magical and medical arts to deal with health issues. Different remedies utilized local herbs to cure the wound, fix a broken bone, in anointing, and bandaging. In some cases, the Vikings would trade herbs to different regions to overcome a certain disease.

Cannabis sativa seeds
The history of CBD creams used nowadays, goes back to the ancient Norse age where they were first used as painkillers. During the digging of some ancient sites, the Cannabis sativa seeds were found in the pouches buried along with the dead bodies. These Cannabis seeds were the primary ingredient of the pain-relieving balms. This brought the scientists to the conclusion that the Scandinavian Vikings made use of Cannabis, marijuana, and hemp for medical purposes.

The skeletal studies revealed that people used some ancient techniques to fix the fractured legs, arms, and ribs. Whereas, in some studies, manipulation of the broken limbs was evident.

The Norse age has also witnessed epidemics such as smallpox, leprosy, and dysentery. Due to the thick population in the trading town, the burst of the epidemics could not be controlled. Therefore, the only way left is to abandon the infected ones.

Educated medical specialists were very rare at that time, so people rely on their own. Few people in every area have some specific skills in dealing with different health conditions. Mostly, medical knowledge was passed on to the precedents because there were not enough literature studies at that time.

Health and Medicine in the Viking Scandinavia – Final Thoughts
The ancient history of Scandinavian Vikings reveals that certain herbal remedies they use at that time are still effective even after thousands of years. They were living a much healthier life and were very conscious of their diet. These hardcore Vikings had incredible medical skills despite the lack of scientific knowledge.

Health and Medicine in the Viking Scandinavia
Shawn Mack

Health and Medicine in the Viking Scandinavia is written exclusively for Daily Scandinavian by Shawn Mack. Shawn is a content writer who offers ghostwriting, copy-writing, and blogging services. His educational background in business and technical field has given him a broad base from which to approach many topics.

All images © Pexels, except feature image (on top), Viking longship: Photo by Steinar Engeland / Unsplash and Vikingship body: Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle / Unsplash

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Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.