Herbs played a major part in Egyptian medicine. The plant medicines mentioned in the Ebers papyrus for instance include opium, cannabis, myrrh, frankincense, fennel, cassia, senna, thyme, henna, juniper, aloe, linseed and castor oil - though some of the translations are less than certain. Cloves of garlic have been found in Egyptian burial sites, including the tomb of Tutankhamen and in the sacred underground temple of the bulls at Saqqara. Egyptians thought garlic and onions aided endurance, and consumed large quantities of them. Raw garlic was routinely given to asthmatics and to those suffering with bronchial-pulmonary complaints. Onions helped against problems of the digestive system. (Link)
The Pharmacy of the Ancient Egyptians
March 1, 2007
The investigation — one of the largest studies of its kind — represents a partnership between England’s University of Manchester and the Egyptian Medicinal Plant Conservation Project in St. Katherine’s, Sinai.
“Around 50 percent of the plants used in ancient Egypt remained in clinical use up to the mid 20th century, and some are still in use today,” Metcalfe, a scientist in the university’s School of Medicine, said researchers are even discovering “new” cures based on old remedies, such as eating celery to help curb inflammation associated with arthritis.
“The ancient Egyptians used a diverse range of plants for an equally diverse range of medical conditions,” lead researcher Ryan Metcalfe told Discovery News. “Laxatives dominated the field, with bulk laxatives, such as figs, bran and dates in common use.”
One ancient remedy, believed to relieve excess gas and indigestion, consisted of cumin, a hefty portion of goosefat and milk. All were boiled together, strained and consumed.
Metcalfe, added that the Egyptians used bowel stimulants such as the bitter fruit coloynth and castor oil, “which remained in clinical use until about 40 years ago.”
The early Egyptians also seem to have recognized that stress could contribute to illness. They established sanitariums where people would undergo “dream therapy” and treatments with “healing waters.”
“For example, acacia was used to treat coughs and eye complaints in ancient times and is still used for that to this day,” explained Metcalfe. “Colic was treated with anti-spasmodics, such as hyoscymus, cumin and coriander, still vogue today.”
The scientists believe Egyptians obtained their medical knowledge from nomadic tribes that united to form ancient Egypt, as well as from people in Mesopotamia and Nubia. Current medical practices by the Bedouin in the Sinai region and by some groups in parts of Egypt show similarities to Pharaonic medicine.
Taylor believes the ancient Egyptians mixed their medical knowledge with spiritual healing techniques, such as incantations and rituals. Metcalfe agreed, and said the Egyptians often prayed for healing, although they believed the gods were not always on their side.
”Some illnesses were thought to be the result of evil spirits or a god’s displeasure,” Metcalfe explained “and in these cases it may have seemed more sensible to use magic-religious techniques to treat the patient.” ( Link)