Egyptian Scrolls Reveal Hangover Cure
A 1900-year-old text medical papyri suggests that wearing a leathery-leafed plant will cure a night of drinking. Why the ancient Egyptians may be the best doctor we have.
If a night of revelry has awoken you to a morning of agony, you’re in luck.
According to a medical papyri from ancient Egypt, the leaves of the Alexandrian shrub chamaedaphne are the answer. If you’ve never heard of them you aren’t alone. The directions, from a recently translated 1,900-year-old-text, instruct sufferers to string the leaves into a garland to wear around their neck.
Used by the Egyptians for general headaches, the treatment could prove a successful remedy for whiskey-induced discomfort. The finding is just one potential new cure discovered in the largest collection of medical papyri now sitting at the Egypt Exploration Society at Oxford University’s Sackler Library.
Under translation until now, this current volume was among 500,000 others discovered in Oxyrhynchus—a city in Upper Egypt—in 1915. The papryi made its way to the Egypt Exploration Society and Oxford University’s Sackler Library after Arthur Hunt, a papyrologist, and Bernard Grenfell, an Egyptologist, assisted with the exaction of Oxyrhynchus Papyri with other archeologists.
The documents found at Oxyrhynchus, ranging from literary works to medical ideas, were written in Greek, Latin, and Arabic. The recently translated texts reflect the influence of Greek medical expertise.
Translation of such a tremendous amount of papyri is no small task. Researchers have been working on translations for a possibly headache-inducing 100 years. Volume 80 is fresh off the press with 30 newly translated medical papyri including treatments for ailments such as hemorrhoids, ulcers, tooth complications, and even eye surgery.
“These texts are hugely important as they give us an insight into daily life at the time,” said Dr. Margaret Mountford, a papyrologist at the Egypt Exploration Society to The Daily Mail. “Some were copies of ancient Greek medical texts but there were some original medical texts—which look more like magical spells in some ways.”
One of the treatments involves removing the head of an ant and rubbing into a stye. Rainwater, dried roses, starch, poppy juice, white lead, gum Arabic, copper flakes, antimony oxide, washed lead dross and Celtic spikenard (a plant) apparently cure discharge from the eyes when mixed together.
Though wearing a leathery-leafed plant may or may help after a night of drinking, the discovery of these translations is an “eye-opening” look at the lives of ancient Egyptians and their doctors.
With cures ranging from wacky to brilliant, the findings represent "the largest single collection of medical papyri to be published," according to Vivian Nutton, a professor at University College London.
The distinction is a major one considering the influence that previous Egyptian papyri have had on the medical community thus far. The “Edwin Smith Papyrus,” for example, was one of the first to be discovered in 1862, containing early roadmaps to surgical procedures. Another, the “Ebers Papyrus” brought some of the first knowledge of obstetrics and gynecology.
Whether or not the cures actually work remains to be seen. That people will be testing out a new cure to drinking as soon as possible, however, seems certain.