Drug Therapy in Ancient Egypt

Drug Histories
Drug Histories
Drug Therapy in Ancient Egypt
the great sphinx
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In this episode we are reviewing drug therapy in ancient Egypt, between 3,300 BC and 525 BC. We draw our information from publications in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, The US National Library of Medicine[1], The World History Encyclopaedia and other sources.

This follows our discussions on drug use in China, Babylon and Assyria, and Jewish culture as rereleased in the Bible.

Here are some excerpts from the episode:

“The ancient Egyptians practiced medicine with highly professional methods. They had advanced knowledge of anatomy and surgery. Also, they treated a lot of diseases including dental, gynaecological, gastrointestinal, and urinary disorders. They could diagnose diabetes and cancer. The used therapeutics extended from different plants to include several animal products and minerals. Some of these plants are still used in the present day.” 

In most cases, doctors prescribed a remedy of different drugs, not a single drug. The routes of drug administration were basically five; oral, rectal, vaginal, topical, and fumigation. Treatments were given in different forms like, pills, cakes, ointments, eye drops, gargles, suppositories, fumigations, and baths.

“…the famous Ebers Papyrus, written around 1550 BC, … was a compilation of 328 different ingredients (most of them are derived from plant species) to make 876 prescriptions for use in helminthiasis, ophthalmology, dermatology, gynecology, obstetrics, dentistry, and surgery.”

Medical practice in ancient Egypt was so advanced that many of their observations, policies, and commonplace procedures would not be surpassed in the west for centuries after the fall of Rome and their practices would inform both Greek and Roman medicine.

[1] Metwaly AM, Ghoneim MM, Eissa IH et al (Online 19 June 2021). Traditional Ancient Egyptian Medicine: A Review. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, 2021 Oct; 28 (10): 5823 – 5832. DOI. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.sjbs.2021.06.044.  Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8459052/. Accessed 10 Jan 2022. 

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