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Ancient Egyptian
medicine
by
Kiran Goushika
Introduction
• Ancient Egypt (3300BC to 525BC) is where we
first see the dawn of what, today, we call "medical
care". The ...
Unlike prehistoric peoples, ancient Egyptians were able to document their
research and knowledge, they were could read and...
Imhote
p
The earliest physician whose name has been
recorded, Imhotep," was the wazir of Zoser,
founder of the Third Dynas...
The channel theory and how the
gods impacted on human health
The Channel Theory - thiscameby observing farmerswho dug out
...
TheGodswerethecreatorsand controllersof life, theEgyptiansthought. They
believed conception wasdoneby thegod Thoth, whileB...
Ancient medicine was highly
advanced
• Egyptian doctorsweresought after by kingsand queensfrom
faraway landsbecausethey we...
The medical knoweledge
•  A few papyri havesurvived, from which wecan learn about Egyptian
medicine:The Edwin Smith Papyru...
Edwin Smith Papyrus
The treatments in these texts are often
organized into groups. The Edwin Smith
Papyrus for instance op...
.. the membrane enveloping his brain, so that it breaks
open his fluid in the interior of his head.
The Edwin Smith papyru...
The Disease
Thevariousdiseasefound during thoseperiods
are:
 Bilharzias
Malaria
Trachoma
Bubonic plague
Tuberculosis
...
Remedies
 Everyday complaintslike stomach upsets, bowel trouble and headaches went
probably mostly untreated, even if thep...
Cure for Cataract
Mix brain-of-tortoisewith honey. Placeon theeye
and say:
Thereisashouting in thesouthern sky in darkness...
Common cold
  The common cold plagued theancient Egyptiansasit
still doesustoday, and their remedy, themilk of amother
who...
Fertility diagnosing test
Fertility wasdiagnosed by placing agarlic in theverginafor one
night. Thenext day if thewoman ca...
Pregnancy test
Diagnosisof pregnancy and sex determination of
futurechild wasbased on thefact thepregnant
urinegerminatesc...
Delivery wasperformed in thesquatting position, with the
woman supporting her armson kneewsand sitting on the
brick. Diffi...
Contraception
It wasperformed by theinsertion of crocodial
oil, gum acaciaor honey conspergeand natron
into thevergina. Gu...
Herbal Medicines
• Herbs played a majo r part in Egyptian medicine. The plant
medicines mentio ned in the Ebers papyrus fo...
Garlic and Onion
Egyptiansthought garlic and onions aided endurance, and consumed largequantitiesof
them. Raw garlic wasro...
Coriander
•   Coriander, C. Sativum (e.g. pHearst 102, 124 )
wasconsidered to havecooling, stimulant,
carminativeand diges...
Cumin
•    Cumin, Cumin cyminum (e.g. pHearst 28, 55,
125 ) isan umbelliferousherb indigenousto
Egypt. Theseedswereconside...
Malachite
• It is used as an eye –lineralso had
therapeutic value. In a country where
Eye infection were endemic, the effe...
Surgery
 At Saqqara there is the tomb of Ankh-Mahor, known as The Tomb of the Physician. 
In one of the wall pictures two ...
Suturing
TheEdwin Smith Papyusshowsthesuturing of non-
infected woundswith aneedleand thread. Raw meat
wasapplied on thefi...
Mummification
Egyptiansbelieved that their bodieswererequired for
theafterlife, and so they practised mummificationto
pres...
1934
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1934

  1. 1. Ancient Egyptian medicine by Kiran Goushika
  2. 2. Introduction • Ancient Egypt (3300BC to 525BC) is where we first see the dawn of what, today, we call "medical care". The Egyptian civilization was the first great civilization on this planet. Egyptians thought gods, demons and spirits played a key role in causing diseases. Many doctors at the time believed that spirits blocked channels in the body, and affected the way the body functioned.  Their research involved trying to find ways to unblock the "Channels". Gradually, through a process of trial and error and some basic science, the profession of a "doctor of medicine" emerged. Ancient Egyptian doctors used a combination of natural remedies, combined with prayer.
  3. 3. Unlike prehistoric peoples, ancient Egyptians were able to document their research and knowledge, they were could read and write; they also had a system of mathematics which helped scientists make calculations. Documented ancient Egyptian medical literature is among the oldest in existence today. Until the 19th century, the main sources of information about ancient Egyptian medicine were writings from later in antiquity. Homer c. 800 BC remarked in the Odyssey: "In Egypt, the men are more skilled in medicine than any of human kind" and "the Egyptians were skilled in medicine more than any other art"
  4. 4. Imhote p The earliest physician whose name has been recorded, Imhotep," was the wazir of Zoser, founder of the Third Dynasty, in the thirtieth century was a personal doctor to the Pharaoh c. 2600 BC. Imhotep was a learned man, astronomer, physician, architect (he may have been the builder of the first pyramid, the step pyramid of Saqqara). In later times he was worshiped as a hero, as a blameless physician, and later still as the god of medicine, the prototype of Asclepios (even as the learned God Thoth was the prototype of Hermes and Mercury. He was made a god and worshipped as the founder of Egyptian medicine. People believed that leaving gifts before his statue in temples would ensure a cure for their illness.
  5. 5. The channel theory and how the gods impacted on human health The Channel Theory - thiscameby observing farmerswho dug out irrigationschannelsfor their crops. They believed that asin irrigation, channelsprovided thebody with routesfor good health. If thechannelsbecameblocked, they would uselaxativesto unblock them. They thought theheart wasthecenter of 46 channels- typesof tubes. To acertain extent, they wereright, our veins, arteries, and even our intestinesaretypesof tubes. However, they never cameto realize that thesechannelshad different functions.
  6. 6. TheGodswerethecreatorsand controllersof life, theEgyptiansthought. They believed conception wasdoneby thegod Thoth, whileBes, another god, decided whether childbirth went smoothly. Blockagesin thehuman "channels" werethought to betheresult of theevil doingsof Wehedu, an evil spirit. Thechannel theory allowed medicineto movefrom entirely spiritual curesfor diseasesand disorders, towardspractical ones. Many medical historianssay thischangewasamajor turning point, abreakthrough in thehistory of medicine.
  7. 7. Ancient medicine was highly advanced • Egyptian doctorsweresought after by kingsand queensfrom faraway landsbecausethey wereconsidered asthebest in the world. Archeologistshavefound Papyri (thick paper-likematerial produced from thepith of thepapyrusplant) whereEgyptians had documented avast amount of medical knowledge. They found that they had fairly good knowledgeabout bone structure, and wereawareof someof thefunctionsof thebrain and liver.
  8. 8. The medical knoweledge •  A few papyri havesurvived, from which wecan learn about Egyptian medicine:The Edwin Smith Papyrus describing surgical diagnosisand treatments, • the Ebers Papyrus on ophthalmology, diseasesof thedigestivesystem, the head, theskin and specific maladieslike aAa, which somethink may have been aprecursor of aidsand others, perhapsmorereasonably, consider to havebeen adiseaseof theurinary tract, acompilation of earlier worksthat containsalargenumber of prescriptionsand recipes, • the Kahun Gynaeco lo gicalPapyrus, • the Berlin MedicalPapyrus, • the Lo ndo n MedicalPapyrus. • the Hearst medicalpapyrus repeatsmany of therecipesfound in theEbers papyrus. • the Demo tic MagicalPapyrus o f Lo ndo n and Leiden containsanumber of spellsfor treating physical ailments.
  9. 9. Edwin Smith Papyrus The treatments in these texts are often organized into groups. The Edwin Smith Papyrus for instance opens with eight texts concerning head wounds, followed by nineteen treatments of wounds to the face (forehead, eyebrows, nose, cheeks, temples, mouth, chin), six descriptions of how to deal with injuries to throat and neck, five dealing with collar-bones and arms, and seven with chest complaints. It appears that all this knowledge dates to the third millennium BCE, even though the papyrus itself is of a much later date. Some important notions concerning the nervous system originated with the Egyptians, a word
  10. 10. .. the membrane enveloping his brain, so that it breaks open his fluid in the interior of his head. The Edwin Smith papyrus, case 6 Acting conservatively, they knew how to treat injuries to the brain without killing the patient, but on the whole their understanding of the brain and its functions was superficial: they considered thinking to be a function of the heart.     Their dissection of bodies during mummification seems not to have added greatly to their knowledge of the inner workings of the human body, possibly because mummifiers and physicians did not move in the same circles, but also because of the way the organs were removed: ripped out through a small incision in the corpse's flank or, in the case of the brain, scooped out in small portions through a nostril. They had some anatomical knowledge though, had made the connection between pulse and heart, but did not have
  11. 11. The Disease Thevariousdiseasefound during thoseperiods are:  Bilharzias Malaria Trachoma Bubonic plague Tuberculosis Elephantiasis Trichinae(worms) Small pox Polio Pneumonia Arthritisetc.
  12. 12. Remedies  Everyday complaintslike stomach upsets, bowel trouble and headaches went probably mostly untreated, even if thephysicianscould offer remedies: For the evacuation of the belly: Cow's milk, 1; .grains, 1; honey 1; mash, sift, cook; take in four portions.   To remedy the bowels: Melilot (?), 1; dates, 1; cook in oil; anoint sick part.   To refresh an aching head: Flour, 1; incense, 1; wood of wa, 1; waneb plant, 1; mint (?), 1; horn of a stag, 1; sycamore (?) seeds, 1; seeds of [ (?)], 1; mason's plaster (?), 1; seeds of zart, 1; water, 1; mash, apply to the head.   To renew bowel movements in a constipated child: An old book, boil in oil, apply half on the belly to reestablish evacuation.
  13. 13. Cure for Cataract Mix brain-of-tortoisewith honey. Placeon theeye and say: Thereisashouting in thesouthern sky in darkness, Thereisan uproar in thenorthern sky, TheHall of Pillarsfallsinto thewaters. Thecrew of thesun god bent their oarsso that theheadsat hissidefall into the water, Who leadshither what hefinds?I lead forth what I find. I lead forth your heads. I lift up your necks. I fasten what hasbeen cut from you in its place. I lead you forth to driveaway thegod of Fevers and all possibledeadly arts.
  14. 14. Common cold   The common cold plagued theancient Egyptiansasit still doesustoday, and their remedy, themilk of amother who hasgiven birth to aboy, wasprobably aseffectiveas anything wehavegot today . Moreover they had atried and truespell to go with it May you flow out, catarrh, son of catarrh, who breaks the bones, who destroys the skull, who hacks in the marrow, who causes the seven openings in the head to ache.
  15. 15. Fertility diagnosing test Fertility wasdiagnosed by placing agarlic in theverginafor one night. Thenext day if thewoman can feel or tastethegarlic in her mouth then sheisfertile. Thisisbased on theconnection between thegenital part and interior part of thebody. Such connection would belost in caseof obstructed Fallopian tube. In modern medicine, phenolphthalein injected in theuteruswould appear in urinebased upon thesameprinciple. A test known to gynecologistsas“Speck’sTest”
  16. 16. Pregnancy test Diagnosisof pregnancy and sex determination of futurechild wasbased on thefact thepregnant urinegerminatescerealsmorerapid then non- pregnant one. If thechild wasamale, theurine will germinatewheat, and if afemale, it would germinatebarely. Thesametestshavebeen used in Europeup till themiddleage.
  17. 17. Delivery wasperformed in thesquatting position, with the woman supporting her armson kneewsand sitting on the brick. Difficult labors Wereaided by burning resin, or Massaging theabdomen by saffron powder and beer. Abortion wasdoneby introducing Oil and fat in thevergina. Delivery
  18. 18. Contraception It wasperformed by theinsertion of crocodial oil, gum acaciaor honey conspergeand natron into thevergina. Gum acaciawhen dissolved produceslactic acid, very effectiveknown spermicidal. TheEberspapyrussay: “To cause a woman to stop being pregnant, be it one, two or three years: part of acacia, colocynth, dates, finely ground in a hin of honey, fibers are moistened therewith, introduced into her virgina” .
  19. 19. Herbal Medicines • Herbs played a majo r part in Egyptian medicine. The plant medicines mentio ned in the Ebers papyrus fo r instance include o pium, cannabis, myrrh, frankincense, fennel, cassia, senna, thyme, henna, juniper, alo e, linseed and casto r o il- tho ugh so me o f the translatio ns are less than certain. Clo ves o f garlic have been fo und in Egyptian burialsites, including the to mb o f Tutankhamen and in the sacred undergro und temple o f the bulls at Saqqara. Many herbs were steeped in wine, which was then drunk as an o ral medicine
  20. 20. Garlic and Onion Egyptiansthought garlic and onions aided endurance, and consumed largequantitiesof them. Raw garlic wasroutinely given to asthmaticsand to thosesuffering with bronchial- pulmonary complaints. Onionshelped against problemsof thedigestivesystem. (e.g. pEbers192)      Garlic wasan important healing agent then just asit still isto themodern Egyptian and to most of thepeoplesin theMediterranean area: Fresh clovesarepeeled, mashed and macerated in amixtureof vinegar and water. Thiscan beused to gargleand rinsethe mouth, or taken internally to treat sorethroatsand toothache. Another way to takegarlic both for prevention aswell astreatment isto macerateseveral clovesof mashed garlic in oliveoil. Applied asan external liniment or taken internally it isbeneficial for bronchial and lung complaintsincluding colds. A freshly peeled cloveof raw garlic wrapped in muslin or cheesecloth and pinned to theundergarment ishoped to protect against infectiousdiseasessuch ascoldsand influenza. 
  21. 21. Coriander •   Coriander, C. Sativum (e.g. pHearst 102, 124 ) wasconsidered to havecooling, stimulant, carminativeand digestiveproperties. Both the seedsand theplant wereused asaspicein cooking to prevent and eliminateflatulence, they werealso taken asateafor stomach and all kinds of urinary complaintsincluding cystitis. Coriander leaveswerecommonly added fresh to spicy foods to moderatetheir irritating effects. It wasoneof theherbsoffered to thegodsby theking, and seedswerefound in thetomb of Tutankhamen and in other ancient burial sites. 
  22. 22. Cumin •    Cumin, Cumin cyminum (e.g. pHearst 28, 55, 125 ) isan umbelliferousherb indigenousto Egypt. Theseedswereconsidered to bea stimulant and effectiveagainst flatulence. They wereoften used together with coriander for flavoring. Cumin powder mixed with somewheat flour asabinder and alittlewater wasapplied to relievethepain of any aching or arthritic joints. Powdered cumin mixed with greaseor lard was inserted asan anal suppository to disperseheat from theanusand stop itching. 
  23. 23. Malachite • It is used as an eye –lineralso had therapeutic value. In a country where Eye infection were endemic, the effects Of its germicidal qualities were appreciated even if the reasons forits effectiveness were not understood.
  24. 24. Surgery  At Saqqara there is the tomb of Ankh-Mahor, known as The Tomb of the Physician.  In one of the wall pictures two men are having their extremities treated variously  explained as manicure, massage or surgery. In the accompanying text the patient  implores the physician: Do not let it be painful. The answer was ironical: I do (it) so you will praise it, (O) king! perhaps not in the best Egyptian bedside manner.      At any rate, people at least occasionally survived surgery. Bodies of amputees from  as early as the Old and Middle Kingdoms have been found which display signs of  healing. Prostheses which show signs of wear, have also been discovered. The reasons  for these amputations are unknown and none of the surviving medical texts mention  the possibility of, let alone reasons for amputation as a therapeutic treatment.
  25. 25. Suturing TheEdwin Smith Papyusshowsthesuturing of non- infected woundswith aneedleand thread. Raw meat wasapplied on thefirst day, subsequently replaced by dressing of astringent herbs, honey and butter or bread. Raw meat isknown to bean efficient way to bleeding. Honey isapotent hygroscopic material (absorbswater) and stimulatesthesecretion of whiteblood cells, the natural first body defensemechanism. Theapplication of sour or moldy bread waspracticed in European medicineuntil theRenaissance.
  26. 26. Mummification Egyptiansbelieved that their bodieswererequired for theafterlife, and so they practised mummificationto preservethebodiesof thedead. Thisinvolved removing all theinternal organs, except theheart, treating the body with spices(embalming) and then wrapping it in bandagesasamummy. Through themummification processtheEgyptianslearnt something about themake up of thebody (anatomy).

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