This article is about 5 plants that were considered in ancient Egypt: Chamomile, Fenugreek, Aloe Vera, Licoricey, and Frankincense. They are all easy to find. Chamomile can be found in the tea section of the supermarkets and is considered a mildly relaxing drink. Fenugreek can be found in Indian shops and is used as a cooking ingredient. Aloe Vera is used as a skin cream (although many mass-produced Aloe products contain no active ingredients). Liquorice is used to flavour sweets packed with sugar and chemicals. Frankincense is mostly recognised through its biblical fame, although few no why it was so prized, and it is usually used a sweet-smelling incense and can be found in many stores selling spiritual products. Not many people know this, but in ancient Egypt, all of these substances were considered sacred and were used to treat a variety of illnesses.
Ancient Egypt is often stereotyped with stories of mummies, curses, and bizarre rituals. If you visit the British Museum and look at the ancient Egyptian artefacts, the descriptions will tell you very little about what they believed and how they lived. You will probably get the impression that they were very superstitious and lacked scientific knowledge. This could not be further from the truth.
The ancient Egyptians were a culture completely dedicated to understanding health and spirituality. What can be more important pursuits? Compare this to today’s world which seems obsessed with so many pointless and harmful things – it seems we could learn a lot from the ancient Egyptians. They possessed a lot of knowledge which today has been completely lost to everybody outside of a few secret mystical societies. But some of their healing knowledge has thankfully been recovered.
In the ancient world, ancient Egypt was the place to go for knowledge. Hippocrates, who is credited as the father of modern medicine, was initiated by ancient Egyptian priests, although today this has been largely forgotten.
Modern science has revealed much about the workings of the body but, as technology has advanced, so has corruption. Pharmaceutical drugs are a lot more profitable than herbs, which literally grow on trees. So, they are considered the gold standard for treating illness, and anybody who disagrees is ridiculed as a conspiracy theorist. But the facts speak for themselves, modern medicine has become so dangerous that it is the third leading cause of death! But thankfully more and more people are waking up to the fact that the so-called “alternative” treatments are really the original, and best, ways to treat disease.
Respecting the ancient Egyptians does not mean we should blindly copy their methods, today we have very vigorous scientific methods for evaluating these treatments. There does not have to be any conflict between ancient knowledge and modern science. We are finding that often scientific research corroborates what ancient records tell us about the healing power of certain plants. We are most interested in plants where there are historical records AND modern-day scientific studies proclaiming their benefits.
This article looks at 5 natural substances used by the ancient Egyptians and researched by modern scientists. They are Chamomile, Liquorice, Frankincense, Aloe, and Fenugreek.
In ancient Egypt, Chamomile was known as “the flower of the sun”, and associated with Ra – the most powerful of the gods. Images of Chamomile flowers can be found in many hieroglyphs, which demonstrates how treasured they were. There are records of Chamomile flowers being used to treat colds and respiratory problems – but we believe it was used for many other conditions.
Today, scientists have analysed Chamomile in-depth and found it to have an incredible number of healing properties. A 2010 study called: “Chamomile: A herbal medicine from the past with a bright future” summarised many of these benefits. Chamomile oil is anti-inflammatory, and deeply penetrates the skin which suggests it could be useful in eczema and other inflammatory skin issues. Extracts from Chamomile have been shown to kill cancer cells. It helps with diabetes in two ways: firstly by lowering blood sugar and secondly by preventing cells from the damage that can be caused by excess sugar. It appears to boost the immune system. It is being investigated, with positive results so far, for many conditions including anxiety, osteoporosis, wounds, and diarrhoea. So, it is much more than just a mildly relaxing tea!
We know that this herb was sacred to the ancient Egyptians because it was found in the Tombs of pharaohs, including King Tutankhamen. There are some surviving records to that show it was used to treat conditions associated with excess phlegm, and to help lactating women. It was a herb much-praised by Hippocrates who, as we have explained, was initiated by ancient Egyptian priests.
Scientists have studied the medical properties of Fenugreek, and the results are quite remarkable. The 2017 study, “A small plant with big benefits: Fenugreek for disease prevention and health promotion” summarises some of the findings.
It is an anti-oxidant, which means it can protect cells from DNA damage (the cause of many cancers and other conditions). In today’s world, we are bombarded by DNA-damaging toxins so anti-oxidants are very important. There has been a lot of diabetes research involving Fenugreek and it has been shown to keep blood sugar levels under control. It can be used for weight loss, it protects the liver, it boosts testosterone in men, and relieves menstrual cramps in women. Extracts of Fenugreek have been shown to kill breast cancer cells. Not bad for a cooking ingredient!
Liquorice was also found in the tomb of Tutankamun. We know it was used to make a popular beverage which is still available today in parts of the world, but it is difficult to find records of its use in any particular cases. It should be noticed that the ancient Egyptians had a holistic view of health, so rather than fixing any particular disorder they were attempting to restore balance to the entire body. Liquorice was prized by the ancient Greeks who borrowed much of their knowledge of health from Egypt, it was used for coughs and sore throats.
These traditional uses mak sense today because it has been shown to have anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. There has been a long-history of liquorice in Chinese medicine, and modern Chinese researches have uncovered many of its healing properties. A 2017 study, “The antiviral and anti-microbiactivities al of liquorice, a widely-used Chinese herb” goes into a lot of depth explaining the way compounds in liquorice are effective against viruses and bacteria. It has been shown, in a laboratory environment, to be effective against some of the most deadly viruses and bacterial infections, including HIV and MRSA. Liquorice also has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to kill cancer cells.
This sweet-smelling tree sap was highly prized in ancient Egypt. It was associated with divinity, was burnt in various religious rituals, and used to embalm the dead. Less well know are its medicinal uses. The earliest mentions of Frankincense are found in the Ebers Papyrus (1500 BC) where it is recommended for Asthma and throat problems.
Few people know this, but today Frankincense has a huge number of health benefits. In this article, https://draxe.com/essential-oils/what-is-frankincense/ much of the scientific evidence is discussed. Frankincense kills harmful bacteria and cancer cells. It seems to boost the immune system, acts an anti-depressant, improves memory, balances hormones and aids digestion.
In ancient Egypt, aloe was a big deal. Its sacred status is evidenced by aloe leaf images decorating sacred temples. When a Pharoah died, to make sure only elite individuals could attend the funeral, the fee was a pound of aloe. The most wealthy families would gift large amounts of this sacred substance to pay their respects. Records show that it was used for internal and external disorders: headaches, chest pains, burns and allergies.
Researches today have discovered a staggering number of clinical applications for aloe. Please see our in-depth aloe vera article for details. It is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and is effective for burns, rashes, eczema, and psoriasis. Its internal uses are not as well known, but this is a real shame because it is incredibly rich in minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. So far, two cancer-killing compounds (aloims and anthraquinones) have been identified in aloe. It also relieves constipation and helps with various digestive issues. Unfortunately, many commercially available aloe products lack the active ingredients. In the ancient world, the importance of using aloe as quickly as possible after harvest was understood so we recommend using fresh leaves.
Natural Medicine is the Original Medicine
As we have said. These days, herbal medicine is often referred to as “alternative medicine” but really it was the original medicine. The advent of pharmaceutical drugs saw enormous campaigns to demonise traditional medicine. But many modern drugs are simply copies of compounds found in nature which have been altered to mean they can be patented and sold for billions. Instead of dismissing ancient cultures as primitive, we should acknowledge that, in some ways, they knew more than we do. The five substances in this article are commonly known, yet few know about their true powers. This reflects the extent to which knowledge has been lost. The natural substances are studied, but normally as a way to find new profitable drugs.
We believe that by studying ancient records and cross-referencing with modern scientific studies we can uncover information that can be of the utmost benefit to peoples’ health.