Call it a marvel of ancient medicine or the world’s greatest home remedy, but a “potion” made from relatively common ingredients concocted from a recipe found in a 1,000-year-old book has proven to be more effective than antibiotics in fighting a modern superbug.
The remedy comes from the ninth-century Bald’s Leechbook, considered one of the world’s first medical textbooks. Christina Lee, who works at the University of Nottingham, chose to translate the remedy because it seemed relatively straightforward and came highly regarded: It was referred to in the text as one of the “best of leechdoms,” according to a video posted on the university’s website.
The ingredients are relatively basic, essentially utilizing garlic, onion or leek, wine and bile from a cow’s stomach. But despite this seeming simplicity, scientists didn’t just gather up items from their kitchen; the process was replicated as exactingly as possible, matching not only specific processes in the book—such as brewing the combination in a brass vessel—but also searching for authentic ingredients, like using wine from a vineyard known to have existed during the time period.
Though expectations were tempered, the results have proven to be relatively amazing. Researchers tested the remedy on cultures of MRSA, a staph bacterium that has proven difficult to treat with antibiotics. Amazingly, this “potion” proved effective, killing up to 90 percent of the bacteria in mice. “The big surprise was that it seems to be more effective than conventional antibiotic treatment,” stated one researcher.
Scientists are still unsure whether the early lab results mean these findings will lead to an antibiotic that can be used in humans, but Lee hopes the results will at least help shed some new light on the Dark Ages. “I just wanted to do something that explains to me how people in the Middle Ages looked at science,” she said.
If garlic can be turned into an antibiotic, it makes you wonder if there’s any science behind the claim that it can also ward off vampires.