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Modern Medicine Originated in Egypt, Not Greece

The origins of modern medicine lay along the Nile in ancient Egypt and not with Hippocrates and the Greeks, a recent research by the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester has revealed.

The research team discovered the evidence in medical papyri written in 1,500BC, about 1,000 years before Hippocrates was born.

"Classical scholars have always considered the ancient Greeks, particularly Hippocrates, as being the fathers of medicine but our findings suggest that the ancient Egyptians were practising a credible form of pharmacy and medicine much earlier," said Dr Jackie Campbell from the university.

"When we compared the ancient remedies against modern pharmaceutical protocols and standards, we found the prescriptions in the ancient documents not only compared with pharmaceutical preparations of today but that many of the remedies had therapeutic merit," he said.

The medical documents, which were first discovered in the mid-19th century, showed that ancient Egyptian physicians treated wounds with honey, resins and metals known to be antimicrobial.

The team also discovered prescriptions for laxatives of castor oil and colocynth and bulk laxatives of figs and bran.

Researchers further found evidence of treatment of diseases like colic with hyoscyamus, which is still used today, and of intestinal carminatives with cumin and coriander.

Further evidence showed that musculo-skeletal disorders were treated with rubefacients to stimulate blood flow and poultices to warm and soothe.

They used celery and saffron for rheumatism, which are currently topics of pharmaceutical research, and pomegranate was used to eradicate tapeworms, a remedy that remained in clinical use until 50 years ago. Other ingredients endure and acacia is still used in cough remedies while aloes forms a basis to soothe and heal skin conditions, said Dr Campbell.

In fact, many of the ancient remedies we discovered survived into the 20th century and, indeed, some remain in use today, albeit that the active component is now produced synthetically," he added.

"These results are very significant and show that the ancient Egyptians were practising a credible form of pharmacy long before the Greeks, added Prof. Rosalie David, Director of the KNH Centre.


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