"To produce sleep so profound that the patient may be cut and will feel nothing, as though he were dead, take of opium, mandragora bark, and henbane root equal parts, pound them together and mix with water. When you want to sew or cut a man, dip a rag in this and put it to his forehead and nostrils. He will soon sleep so deeply that you may do what you will. To wake him up, dip the rag in strong vinegar."Arnold of Villanova [Arnaldus Villanovanus] was an alchemist, astrologer and magician. He supposedly became rich by means of the transmutation of base metals into gold. Arnold was also a physician, a toxicologist and a proto-chemist. He extracted the active principles of contemporary medicinal remedies with alcohol to make tinctures. Arnold described what would now be known as an anaesthetic. Variations on the spongia somnifera were quite common in the 9th to 14th centuries. Soporific sponges offered a measure of pain-relief. But they did not offer surgeons or their stricken patients controllable general anaesthesia as we would understand the concept in the modern era.
Refs and Further Reading
Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics