The Use of Medicine in Antiquity

Herbal Medicine in Ancient Egypt

Researchers have discovered that the ancient Egyptians added herbs to their wine in order to produce medicines that could cure a host of diseases.

According to a study of more than 700 jars found at Abydos in Egypt and dated to 3100 B.C., some of these jars contained wine mixed with tree resin, which was used as a preservative and for medical purposes, and other chemicals extracted from various herbs.

Egyptian pharmacological texts reveal that many herbs were added to wine for medicinal purposes. According to these medical papyri, resins and different types of herbs were added to wine, beer, and water for use as pain relievers, laxatives, diuretics, or aphrodisiacs.

Some of the ingredients added to wine and other beverages are still part of the herbal medical tradition of many countries. Among the herbs that were added to the wine are coriander, balm, mint, sage, senna, germander, savory, and thyme.

Maybe now we can understand Paul’s advice to Timothy:

“Do not take only water as your drink, but take a little wine for the good of your stomach, and because of your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).

Read the Article, “Herbal Medicine in Ancient Egypt.”

NOTE: For other studies on the history and archaeology of Egypt, read my post Egypt, The Land of the Pharaohs.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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