Now, imagine if you have time-travelled to the ancient world and are walking on Earth from thousands of years ago. How amazing would that be? Think about what you would do! Let’s throw a tiny spanner in the works. Imagine if you fell ill. Do you know where you’d go? Well, we have the answer to that. It would have to be ancient Egypt!
All over the ancient world, Egyptians were known to have the best medical knowledge. Every physician in Egypt had their own specialisation, similar to civilisation today. Even rulers of other empires would request the best Egyptian physician to treat their loved ones! Ancient history suggests that The House of Life, a library for papyrus books, is where they acquired their medical knowledge from. Examples of some renowned texts about Egyptian remedies would be:
- The Edwin Smith Papyrus (surgical diagnosis and treatments)
- Ebers Papyrus (ophthalmology, digestive ailments, head and skin problems)
- Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus (women’s health issues)
In ancient Egypt, physicians were incredibly knowledgeable about herbal remedies and as such, herbs were widely used in treating various ailments. Some examples of herbs that had been mentioned within the Ebers papyrus would be cannabis, frankincense, fennel, thyme, henna, juniper berries and aloe. They usually steeped these herbs in wine which were then consumed orally by their patients. On top of that, garlic and onions were believed to have endurance strengthening properties! Raw garlic was administered to Egyptians suffering from breathing problems while onions were given to people who had complaints about their digestive system. Even today, garlic is used by healers in Egypt!
Here are some examples of how garlic had been used:
As prevention and to cure people with breathing problems (including the common cold), mashed garlic was usually macerated in olive oil which was then applied externally or consumed.
To prevent catching contagious diseases like colds and influenza, freshly peeled cloves of raw garlic were wrapped in muslin/cheesecloth and pinned to a person’s undergarments.
For sore throats/toothaches, fresh cloves of garlic were peeled, mashed and macerated in a water-vinegar mixture which was then either gargled or consumed.
Another common remedy that is still employed now, would be willow which is used for toothaches. Did you know that willow is the basis of modern aspirin? Mint is also consumed today for gastric problems while grease and honey act as an antiseptic when treating wounds.
It is quite fascinating how many of the herbs that had been used thousands of years ago by physicians in ancient Egypt are still being employed by modern herbalists today, as they still show results!
- Ancient Egyptian physicians used moldy bread as an antibiotic until Fleming discovered penicillin!
- Breastmilk from a mother who has just given birth to a boy was used for treating the common cold!
- Onions are also used as a test for pregnancy!
Siti Hafizah, Shankari D/O R. Chantherasegarn, Kiki Halim