Medieval Viagra and the Curtain of Time

When writing historical novels I find myself as immersed in research books as I am with the writing. Research is one of life’s joys to me. It’s like stepping through a sparkling curtain into the past, and suddenly I’m in another time. If it’s during the nineteenth century, it’s a world in sepia, that soft brown tone of antique photographs, a world of fresh air and horses and carriages, of genteel life and graceful courtesies, a time unencumbered by the dizzying pace and choices we must constantly make with our careers, our life styles, our leisure time.

If it’s the fifteenth century, in which my Gypsy series is set, it’s the verdant world of England, lush with vegetation, dotted with romantic castles, peopled with strong characters and strict religious and social orders. At the same time, the lack of technical sophistication in communication and law enforcement allowed more freedoms for those who chose the path of adventure. And who is more adventurous than the Gypsies (now known as Roma)?

Herbs for food, medicine, perfume ... and libido? Photo courtesy pixabay.com
Herbs for food, medicine, perfume ... and libido? Photo courtesy pixabay.com

I’m researching herbs for chapter 17 of THE RED BRIDGE, book four in my Coin Forest series. I hoard notes from past studies, and I’m enjoying revisiting the fascinating information about the role herbs played in daily life. Like over-the-counter meds today, they provided relief from daily ailments like headaches and upset stomach. The Gypsies were known for their resourcefulness with herbs, but they weren’t the only ones in tune with the secrets and benefits of various plants. One could find sophisticated herbalists and physicians at England’s monasteries.

Rhubarb, for example, was used by the monks as a laxative, in place of the more expensive imported rhubarb root. Sea holly was a favorite medieval flavoring. The root of sea holly was used as an aromatic “chewing gum” recommended against plague infection.

And how about a medieval version of Viagra? This was likely of more interest at Henry VIII’s court than in the monasteries he destroyed. The mandrake root was thought to be a masculine tonic, capable of enhancing potency. The information becomes more and more interesting: it’s said that the mandrake root screams when pulled from the earth; it was advised to have the root dragged out by a black dog.

Ah, but it’s time for me to step back through the curtain of time and return to my chapter seventeen.

Do you have fun research facts to share? If so, please do, and I’m wishing you a pleasant, productive week.

Janet Lane
Janet recently released Crimson Secret, the fourth book in the international award-winning, #1 Amazon Bestselling historical romance series. Her novels are set in fifteenth century England during the so-called “Gypsy Honeymoon” decades. She graduated with honors from the University of Colorado, completing their Creative Writing program.

In addition to the awards mentioned above, Tabor’s Trinket, is a #1 Amazon Bestselling novel. Emerald Silk, part two in the Coin Forest series, was reviewed by the Historical Novels Review, which noted that it “goes beyond simple romantic suspense by including serious issues such as racism, homophobia, and clerical greed. However, the love story and the quest for the stolen chalice take center stage throughout.” #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author Lara Adrian called it “..an enchanting medieval romance filled with passion, intrigue and vividly drawn characters that leap off the page. I loved this novel!” Crimson Secret is the first novel in the series to be released as both a Kindle and as a paperback.

Janet was a featured author in RMFW Press’s Tales from Mistwillow anthology, and co-chaired the editorial board for that press’s anthology, Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was nominated for the Colorado Book Award.

Janet lives with her husband in Colorado, surrounded by a forest of conifers, herds of deer, and an occasional black bear. She welcomes your comments and feedback via her blog at http://janetlane.wordpress.com or on Twitter at @janetlaneauthor.

2 thoughts on “Medieval Viagra and the Curtain of Time

  1. Greta post. I love to hear how writers research. Mine usually consist of reading nursery rhymes or fairytales. Historically writers like yourself always amaze me. Merging fiction with facts makes me love a work so much more.

  2. Excellent post, Janet. I love reading historical novels but know how much work and research is involved in writing one, so I usually stick with contemporary settings. I’ve only written one historical novel (to be published someday, I hope), and all that research was for Illinois prairie life in the early 1800s. The most intriguing thing I discovered was about the 1811-1812 earthquake centered at the New Madrid Fault in Missouri. The quake was so severe it sent the Mississippi River running backwards for a short time. I imagine that was a big shock to anyone piloting a barge (or canoe) at the time.

Leave a Reply