Why is so little known about women healers and women practicing medicine? The sad answer is that women were consistently squelched over the last 2,000 years simply by not being permitted into the educational systems. All higher learning was male privilege. However there were places of the world where women stood out. In abbeys and cloistered institutions for religious women, some women were allowed to develop intellectual skill.
One such outstanding woman was Hildegard of Bingen in the twelfth century (1098-1179). Some theologians call her one of the greatest mystics of all times.
Her medical writings were scientifically correct and author Jeanne Achterberg writes in Woman as Healer that she had vast intellect, nerve and exceptional intuition. Hildegard’s ideas were advanced for her time. She wrote about the medicinal qualities and properties of plants, yet she did not clinically practice. However, she may have treated and helped her sisters in the abbey. In the latter part of her life, Hildegard went about the country side and with her charisma gathered large crowds preaching about the medicaments she studied. The church hierarchy did allow her work to proceed after they examined and approved it.
Hildegard is credited with three major works, two theological and one medicinal. She wrote chants and music that are stunning works of art. Listen here.
The standard medical schools of that medieval time largely ignored her medical work, but subsequent study reveals her depth of understanding of the body that likely came from an enlightened source.
To read further on Hildegards work read: Woman As Healer by Jeanne Achterberg Shambhala Publications, Boston MA 1990