Saint Hildegard of Bingen
Credit: Flickr image by hickory hardscrabble

A New System of Healing

In medieval Germany, a Roman Catholic nun established a new system of healing. She had no formal medical training, but, instead, received her education through a series of Heavenly visions that furnished much insight into how the human body works.

While living in a cloistered convent, shut off from the world, Saint Hildegard of Bingen learned that certain herbs could heal certain ailments. She received knowledge about the emotional and dietary conditions that can lead to various illnesses. In many instances, she was able to recommend the correct remedies and lifestyle changes to restore health.

Hildegard's medicine was somewhat revolutionary for the time, but it worked. After her death, in 1179, her work eventually faded into obscurity. Fortunately, though, she left behind a volume of her medical writings known as Physicas. In more recent times, her work has been studied, and then condensed, by two German doctors.

Bingen, the Home of Saint Hildegard
Credit: Flickr photo by roger4336

The Life of Saint Hildegard

Hildegard's life has also received a new look. For many years, some Catholics had heard about a holy woman who knew a lot about herbs. However, in 2012, the German-born Pope Benedict XVI formally canonized Hildegard, making her a saint. In a surprise move, he also proclaimed her the 35th Doctor of the Church, a title reserved only for those who've shown notable sanctity, as well as theological knowledge.

While living a cloistered existence, Hildegard also gained prominence for her writings on theology, penning three books on the relationship between God and man.

Now, many diverse people are drawn to Hildegard, for different reasons. Some are Catholic, while others have an interest in natural healing. For some reason, many pagans are also interested in the life of this remarkable woman, who had talents that extended into the musical realm as well. She also earned fame for composing Ordo Virtutum, a morality play that became extremely popular throughout all of Europe.

Church leaders, who recognized Hildegard's gifts of faith, healing and prophecy, also sought her advice on a number of matters.

Medicine Created by God

Hildegard developed a system of medicine that used the natural elements of the earth as healing tools. She worked with herbal remedies, as well as remedies derived from animals and minerals. She often recommended particular foods for certain illnesses, and fennel and chestnuts were among her favorite healing foods. She was a big fan of spelt, an ancient grain that she believed could often help bring about a restoration of health.

She relied upon the eyes, often called "the windows to the soul," as a means of diagnosis. Bright-eyed people were robust. But those with a cloudy film over their eyes were seriously ill, she concluded.

Much of her healing dealt with the spiritual and emotional sphere. Too much "black bile," a product of sadness, anger and despair, can make us sick. To counter this, she would recommend reconciliation with God, as well as specific medicinal herbs.

Dr. Wighard Strehlow and Dr. Gottfried Hertzka, MD compiled Hildegard's healing into a book called Hildegard of Bingen's Medicine. At their medical practice in Germany, they've applied her findings in their clinic with very good success, they note.

Some of Hildegard's Recommendations

The liver, according to Saint Hildegard, is an organ greatly affected by melancholy and depression. When these forces are set in motion, the result is an accumulation of "black bile" that helps to destroy the liver, and send unhealthy "juices" to other organs. Having a bad liver is incompatible with good health, she explains.

Liver disease can also come from overeating. A liver that doesn't function properly will then create an imbalance in the metabolism. One of the various remedies that she recommends for liver ailments is hyssop, a spice that Saint Hildegard says should be eaten often for those with liver troubles. She said it will rejuvenate this organ, and, if eaten with cooked chicken, can help dispel those dark moods that ultimately harm your health.

Negative emotions and poor diet will eventually catch up with you, Saint Hildegard notes. However, by correcting these vices, you can achieve a greater state of health than you had prior to your state of illness.


The information presented in this article is for discussion purposes, and is not meant to be read for diagnostic or treatment purposes. People with health concerns should discuss them with a physician.