Bloodletting or Bleeding Bowls

Bloodletting or Bleeding Bowls


Aren’t they pretty? Yes indeed! Too pretty, one might say, for what they were used for. A fair argument, of course, but then again, if one HAD to be bled, perhaps a lovely porcelain bowl with colorful pictures had a calming effect? Based on the illustration below, that idea falls flat. Or maybe it instilled confidence if the surgeon could afford a costly pewter or silver bleeding bowl?

Whatever the case, as the above examples show, decorative bloodletting bowls were very common. The shapes varied widely and many of them had lines with notations for the volume of blood removed.

Bloodletting was, for centuries, the most common treatment/cure for just about every illness, particularly for those diseases and medical conditions believed to arise from a “plethora” or build up of blood, especially if a fever was a symptom. Surprisingly, as abhorrent as the practice of bloodletting sounds to our modern mind, it did often work, at least to some degree.

Right or wrong, as the number one, go-to treatment, it makes sense that a surgeon would have a compliment of tools to preform the task. This would include an array of blades, obviously, as well as the receptacle for the blood. The more skilled and professional surgeons would have equipment befitting their reputation and status, and while hardly up to our 21st century standards of sterilization, they would keep them clean and in good repair.



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Phew! Thank goodness this treatment is not used today! I’m not particularly squeamish and have regular blood tests but I’m not sure I would be happy with blood pouring from my arm no matter how pretty the bowl!

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