Traditional Remedies

Reading a book (A Dictionary of Sussex Folk Medicine by Andrew Allen) the other day I came across an interesting old-time remedy to reduce the bleeding from cuts and wounds. lt seems the most popular Sussex remedy for a bad cut used to be a bandage made from cobwebs!


This remedy dates back to the ancient Greeks who used pads of cobweb moistened with olive oil to staunch wounds on the battlefield. lt’s not known when the practice came to England but in the 15th century the English soldiers at Agincourt carried little boxes of cobweb into battle to stop bleeding. The web also served as a protective gauze-like covering for the wound to prevent infection.

From the 16th to 18th centuries the use of cobwebs to heal wounds was standard in both folk and ‘official’ medicine until surgeons and doctors decided their use was unhealthy and stopped the practice. But cobwebs remained the most popular of all folk cures for wounds and their use in rural Sussex is recorded well into the early 20th century.


Why cobwebs? Like cotton wool, cobweb pads provide an intricate 3-dimensional network of fibres which both absorb and aid the coagulation of blood. Research has shown that some of the proteins on the surface of the web act as nuclei for blood clotting and the static electricity charge contained within the web actively repels bacteria from the wound.

Despite earlier reservations, the medical world is aware of the benefits, and hand-held sprays have been tried which mimic the natural web by producing a fine web of electrically charged biodegradable fibres which, on contact with the skin, form a matrix not unlike the cobweb.

lt is easy to see why cobwebs were the most popular of all the rural wound cures. They were effective, easy to remember and identify, and spiders’ webs are available all year round. Many of the other rural cures were effective too, but their ingredients (frogs, snails, woundworts) were not always available all year round.

An interesting remedy. Now, l just need a volunteer to test it...!

Geoff Westcott
June 2006

(Originally published in Yapton News & Views, July 2006)

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