|Herbal in Sumerian and Egypt|
Herbal in Sumerian and Egypt
The Sumerian Civilization began in Mesopotamia in3400 BC and one of its most important contributions was the invention of writing. During peacetime, this state was run by priests who made written records on tablets of baked clay with the point of a graver or sculpting tool. Thus, there still exists today a clay tablet dating from 3000 BC giving formulas for poultices made from mixing water, wine, and milk with herbs such as thyme and mustard.
Medical knowledge developed gradually and it is from the Egyptians that we have an idea of how the herbs were first used. Archaeologists discovered detailed prescriptions written on papyrus, dating from after 1800 BC. Known as the Ebers Papyrus, this lists the symptoms of diseases and instructs how to mix up and administer the cures. Religion and healing were still fused together, combining the god Thoth, believed to have imparted medical knowledge, and Imhotep, the first known physician of Egypt, worshiped as a god after his death.
It was in the ceremonies of death that the Egyptians could really draw on their plant knowledge, and the practice of embalming used fragrant resins and gums from trees such as myrrh, frankincense or Balm of Gilead. They also used anise and marjoram for mummification and buried herbs in the tombs when they were sealed. The mummies were often wound in linen, woven from the fibers of the flax plant. The builders of the pyramids in Egypt were given onion and garlic every day to prevent scurvy and to keep them healthy for work.
The Egyptians were also highly skilled in preparing cosmetics and perfumes and they imported many aromatics from the East. Cedarwood oil was massaged into the body after bathing to keep the skin supple; henna was used as rouge for the cheeks and for dying finger- and toenails red, and a cream from quince fruits was used as a moisturizer for the face. Queen Cleopatra is famous for her lavish use of perfumes.
Hebrew medicines had much in common with those Egypt, using many resins and spices and, in the temples; holy oils were used to anoint the sacred utensils while aromatics were burned during services. There are many Old Testaments references to herbs, such as anise, mint, lavender, and cumin, as well as more exotic species, such as spikenard from India.
Parallel cultures in India and China recorded the use of herbs in medicine. The Rig-Veda of India and the later Ayurveda were great works of learning, detailing the use of herbal remedies, and were the basis for the Indian system of medicine. In China, the earliest herbal dates from around 2700 BC and describes many toxic plants as well as herbs like the Chinghai Rhubarb which is still used in China for treating constipation. The Chinese were practiced in the difficult skill of mixing up many different herbs into one prescription.