New! Free 15 minute consultations!

Hours : Monday to Friday - 9:00am to 6:00pm
  Phone : 416.261.8181

All Posts in Category: Ancient Medicine

Castor oil: the myth and mystery

Castor oil, derived from the castor seed, has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of health conditions, although scientific studies are sparse.


Introduction and historical use

Castor oil comes from the castorbean seed, binomial name Ricinus communis, and has a chemical composition consisting of mostly triglycerides (40-60 % fatty acids) 90 percent of which is ricinoleic acid, believed to convene its healing properties. It is mostly cultivated in regions from India, China and Mozambique. The plant is also called Palma Christi, meaning the Palm (hand) of Christ, due to its likenesses of a human hand and its healing properties.

Castor seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 4000 BC; the slow burning oil was used mostly to fuel lamps. Cleopatra is reputed to have used it to brighten the whites of her eyes. The Ebers Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian medical treatise believed to date from 1552 BC. Translated in 1872, it describes castor oil as a strong laxative.

Traditional Ayurvedic medicine considers castor oil the king of medicines for curing arthritic diseases. It is regularly given to children orally, for removing of parasites (worms) from their digestive tracts.

A remarkable (and gruesome!) aspect of its use in history was the usage of Castor oil as an instrument of coercion by the paramilitary Black Shirts under the regime of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Dissidents and regime opponents were forced to ingest the oil in large amounts, triggering severe diarrhea and dehydration, which could ultimately cause death. This punishment method was originally thought of by Gabriele D’Annunzio, the Italian poet and Fascist supporter, during the First World War.


The toxicity

Castor beans contain a potent toxin called ricin—so deadly that it’s used for chemical warfare—but don’t worry, ricin is NOT present in the commercial oil you can usually find in the stores. The toxin provides the castor oil plant with some degree of natural protection from insect pests. The poison can (and will) be extracted from castor beans by concentrating it with a fairly complicated process similar to that used for extracting cyanide from almonds.

The lethal dose in adults is considered to be 4-8 seeds, but reports of actual poisoning are relatively rare in the world.

Castor beans (Ricinus communis)

Symptoms of overdosing on ricin, which can include nausea, diarrhea, tachycardia (heart beats faster than normal), hypotension and seizures can persist for up to a week and they are troublesome.

If ricin is ingested, symptoms may be delayed by up to 36 hours but commonly begin within 2–4 hours. These include a burning sensation in mouth and throat, abdominal pain, purging and bloody diarrhea. Within several days there is severe dehydration, a drop in blood pressure and a decrease in urine output. Unless treated, death can be expected to occur within 3–5 days, however in most cases a full recovery can be made.

Once poisoned, there’s no antidote, which is why ricin has been used as a chemical warfare agent. Even though such a toxic component is also derived from this seed, castor oil isn’t considered dangerous.

The U.S. FDA gives castor oil a “thumbs up,” deeming it “generally regarded as safe and effective” for use as a stimulant laxative.

The Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives has established an acceptable daily castor oil intake of up to 0.7 mg/kg body weight. This amounts to, roughly, one tablespoon for adults and one teaspoon for children. Taking castor oil orally usually results in a “purging” of the digestive tract in about 4-6 hours.

Medicinal uses of Castor Oil      

In general, the oil’s benefits can be derived by topical application; the reported medicinal uses of castor oil fall into the following five general categories:

  • Gastrointestinal remedy (very strong laxative, which makes it very effective against constipation)
  • Antimicrobial (antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal)
  • Labor stimulant (induces labor, so pregnant women should always consult a doctor before using it)
  • Anti-inflammatory and analgesic (excellent massage oil for relieving arthritic joints, nerve inflammations, and sore muscles)
  • Immune system and lymphatic stimulant

Advocates claim castor oil is most effective for strengthening your lymphatic system when it is applied topically in a “castor oil pack,” a treatment popularized by the late psychic healer Edgar Cayce in his famous “psychic readings”. A physician William McGarey MD of Phoenix, Arizona, a follower of Cayce’s work and the author of The Oil That Heals, reported that, when used properly, castor oil packs improve the function of your thymus gland and other components of your immune system. More specifically, he found in two separate studies that patients using abdominal castor oil packs had significant increases in lymphocyte production compared to placebo packs.

Castor Oil by Heritage Store (Edgar Cayce Canada)

The topical absorption of castor oil is the basis for more modern “castor oil packs” which we, the natural doctors, employ here at the Family Naturopathic Clinic for a variety of conditions. For how to make and use an Castor Oil pack, please click here.

Lymphatic congestion is a major factor leading to inflammation and disease. This is where castor oil comes in. When castor oil is absorbed through your skin (according to Cayce and McGarey), your lymphocyte count increases. Increased lymphocytes speed up the removal of toxins from your tissues, which ultimately promotes healing.


Other modern uses

Whether natural, blended, or chemically altered, castor oil still has many uses. For example:

  • It remains of commercial importance as a non-freezing, antimicrobial, pressure-resistant lubricant for special purposes, either of latex or metals, or as a lubricating component of fuels.
  • Castor products are sources of various chemical feedstocks.
  • In Brazil, castor oil (locally known as mamona oil) is a raw material for some varieties of biodiesel.
  • Castor oil has long been used on the skin to prevent dryness. Either purified or processed, it still is a component of many cosmetics today.
  • Castor oil is the major raw material for Polyglycerol polyricinoleate, a modifier that improves the flow characteristics of cocoa butter in the manufacture of chocolate bars and thereby the costs.
  • Castor oil is used in the USA to repel moles and voles for lawn care
Read More

Cordyceps: the killer fungus!

Cordyceps sinensis is a very interesting medicinal mushroom that has been used for medicinal purposes in Asia for centuries. It is used mainly to restore lost energy and vigor and to stimulate a fatigued immune system acting like a general tonic for the body.

In addition to the English term “caterpillar fungus” there are other interesting names of this killer fungus. In Tibetan it is referred to as Yartsa gunbu. The Chinese name is dong chong xia cao (meaning “winter worm, summer grass”). The Latin name cordyceps means “club head”, and sinensis is “from China”. According to the recent DNA review of the genus Cordyceps, the new name for Cordyceps sinensis is actually Ophiocordyceps sinensis.

It grows only in the mountains of Himalaya, on the Tibetan plateau, at the altitude of 3,000-5,000 m in cold snowy marsh lands of China (Tibet), Nepal, India or Bhutan.

This fungus is also known for its unique way of reproducing. It sprouts from the body of dead caterpillar in the wild, entering the body of a live caterpillar while it is in the larval form of a large moth (Thitarodes spp.) native to the region. Upon infection from the spores, strands of filaments called “hyphae” begin to sprout from the spores that then leads to the death of the caterpillar. That’s a parasite with no scruples! The hyphae grow longer and multiply and develop into a relatively large stalk-like fungal fruiting body that emerges from the insect’s carcass after having sapped the caterpillar’s body of all nutrients thus killing and mummifying the remains. This horror movie action makes Cordyceps one of the coolest mushrooms around!

The killer fungus in action!

The fruiting body is usually up to 4 inches (around 10 cm) long and 0.3 inches (1/2 cm) wide. Unlike a typical mushroom, these are curved and finger-shaped like a small cane. They’re usually orange or brown. It can be a very important source of income for people living in rural Tibet.

Cordyceps sinensis – sprouting from buried caterpillars

BBC News reported a few years ago that some Himalayan villagers make their living by collecting the fungus along the mountainous regions of Tibet to sell to a Chinese market that can be as high as tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram. In fact, the money to be made is so lucrative that it resulted in multiple homicides as villagers from one region tried to prevent outsiders from cashing in on their limited supply. It was estimated that the price of Cordyceps sinensis on the Tibetan Plateau rose dramatically by 900% between 1998 and 2008 due to the demand from the Western hemisphere and Europe Today, in order to meet this demand, Cordyceps is grown in climate-controlled greenhouses within a grain-based substrate.

Tibetan mountains

Cordyceps fungus has a long history of use in traditional medicine in China and now worldwide. It has numerous bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and nucleosides (organic molecules that will be converted into building blocks of the genetic material DNA) which have been studied for their broad range of biological activities. Its main constituents are Unsaturated fatty acids, Amino acids and Adenosine, Adenine, Uracil, Uridine and Cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine). It is usually standardized to 4% cordycepic acid and 0.25% adenosine (Metagenics). Cordycepin is known as a nucleotide analogue, due to its structural similarities to adenosine.

It is sweet in flavor, slightly warm in nature and in Traditional Chinese Medicine this fungus mainly manifests its therapeutics actions in the Lung and Kidney meridians (enhances Kdnney Yang and replenishes Essence, invigorates the Lungs, stops bleeding and dissolves Phlegm).

In the Western medical world, the health benefits of Cordyceps sisnesis are:

  • Stimulation of the immune function
  • General adaptogen, resulting in more energy, strength and stamina
  • Anti-tumor properties (good for cancer)
  • Anemia (builds bone marrow)
  • Persistent cough (reduces excess phlegm and increases oxygenation in the lungs)
  • General sexual tonic and libido/performance enhancer (“Viagra” of Asia)
  • Reduces cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, VLDl and increases HDL
  • Improves Arrhythmia
  • Improves Tinnitus
  • Hypoglycemic effects (reduces blood glucose and benefits insulin resistence)
Read More

Immunotherapy in Cancer: a new concept?

Cancer. A dreadful word. People shrug in dislike when they hear it. For some it evokes the closeness of death and the fear of the great unknown. For others it is just a word that need to be fought against and conquered.

Where did this word, by the way, cancer, come from?

It means crab, from the Latin karkinos and it was first named like this by Hippocrates, the father of Medicine. Initially he described the many tumors he encountered as being hard as a rock and reminded him of the hard shell of a crab. It was later translated as cancer (the Latin equivalence of crab) by the two other famous Ancient doctors in medicine, Celsus and Galen, whom, upon inspection and dissection, noticed that all the veins and tributaries of malignancy around that mass of tumor cells look just like a crab’s legs extending outward from every part of its body. And so the term really stuck in Medicine.

The term Oncology is another Hippocratic term and it originated from onkos, is a Greek word, and it simply means masses. I think that’s probably a lot better word than cancerologist!

Now, there is a growing body of research in the field of cancer called immunotherapy and it’s on the rise these months. Simply explained, Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses substances either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.

There are several types of immunotherapy, the most promising being: Monoclonal antibodies; Non-specific immunotherapies; Oncolytic virus therapy; T-cell therapy and Cancer vaccines.

And even though the medical establishment is saying that this approach is new and promising, I can’t stop thinking that we, the complementary healthcare practitioners, we were way ahead of them on this! Seriously? It is mostly what we do! The most of the bulk treatments we offer to our patients are, by this definition, immunotherapies! And they are as old as Medicine itself!

What else was the employment of herbal medicine in Ancient Greek? Of the use of Acupuncture in Ancient China? Or the water treatments in Europe 100 years ago? If not immunotherapy, what else? It was always in the philosophy of the ancient healers to Strengthen the terrain!…Alkalinize the body!…Improve the functioning of the body!…Detoxify and purge the systems!…to have a better chance of surviving when confronted to all kinds of malignancies, cancer included. These are all immunotherapies!

Immunotherapy as a concept is not new, my dear medical doctors colleagues. It has been used at least by naturopaths in last 100 years with good results. Our forefathers, from Priessnitz, father Kneipp, Felke, to Otis Carroll, Benedict Lust and Henry Lindlahr, all preached these concepts and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in their time through immunotherapies!

Read More

Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms are awesome and a fascinating life form!

They belong neither to the plant nor animal kingdoms, and they actually share more DNA with animals that they do with plants. Adding to their strangeness, the largest organism ever discovered on the planet is a network of mushroom mycelium that weaves across a colossal 2,200 acres underneath Oregon’s ancient Malheur National Forest!

Human use of medicinal mushrooms has a long and rich history, and the valuable medicines of mushrooms are important elements in protecting our health. Fungi have developed incredible properties to ward off bacteria and mold that would compete with them. When humans consume these fungi, most of all they are imparted with a strong immunity. This will be an important theme throughout the article and in general, and of vital importance in our day and age. These benefits and many more can be yours when you embrace the mushroom medicine! I did!

A large amount of the world’s population live on a mostly vegetarian diet. Especially in Asia, they consume Mushrooms as a staple food. This could well be the secret to their longevity and success!

One of the misconceptions about mushrooms is that they carry little nutritional value. However this is further from the truth. Apart from being a low calorie highly nutritional food source, mushrooms carry unique compounds such as for example an antioxidant called L-ergothioneine and are choked-full of B vitamins. Also 5 little button mushrooms contain more potassium than an orange!

But the most important here is that mushrooms have been scientifically proved to having anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties which assist the body in fending off diseases like Polio, Hepatitis B, HIV, Influenza, HSV-1 and HSV-2 as well as the small pox virus. There is a number of compounds in fungi that can stimulate immune function and inhibit tumor growth. In particular, compounds called polysaccharides, which are large, complex branched chain-like molecules built from many smaller units of sugar molecules, have been intensively studied since the 1950s. Time and time again they have been shown to have antitumor and immune-stimulating properties, not only from many of the medicinal mushrooms studied, but also from lichens (such as usnea), bacteria, and even from the cell wall of a yeast (called zymosan). Recently, German researchers have demonstrated that immune-activating polysaccharides similar to those found in many fungi are also found in other plants, such as the widely popular Echinacea, and Astragalus (an important Chinese herb).

One of the most important and researched polysaccharide is called beta glucan and it was studied for its effects on the immune system and its anti-tumor properties. An assay to detect the presence of beta-D-glucans in the human blood is marketed as a means of diagnosing invasive fungal infection in patients.

The polysaccharides are not the only immune-modulating compounds found in mushrooms but only the most important one. There is seven primary constituent classes, or “pillars”, that all together add up to the immunity enhancing effects of mushrooms. These are:

  • Polysaccharides (ex. Alpha & Beta-glucans): Immunomodulating effects
  • Glycoproteins (ex. PSK): Immunomodulating effects
  • Triterpenes (Sterols, ex. sistosterols, stigmasterols, campesterols)
  • Lipids: Cholesterol modulating effects
  • Proteins (Enzymes): Antioxidants properties
  • Cyathane derivatives (ex. erinacines & hericenones, nerve growth stimulant factors)
  • Secondary Metabolites

Beside the immuno-modulating properties, mushrooms also offer other potentially important health benefits, including liver protection, antioxidants, anti-hypertensive and cholesterol-lowering properties, as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. These properties have attracted the interest of many pharmaceutical companies, which are viewing the medicinal mushroom as a rich source of innovative biomedical molecules.

Shiitake mushrooms

The Chinese and the Egyptians were among the first people to appreciate the value of the mushroom. Egyptians associated mushroom with immortality and since they revered their Pharaohs, they included mushroom as a specialty in the diet of the royal family. Many countries in Asia and Eastern Europe too have been fascinated by the mushroom for centuries. China in particular associated it with longevity, a good immune system and strength.

Others like the Romans, however, went to the other extreme by chastising the mushroom for its poisonous potency since it apparently killed their Emperor Claudius in a premeditated murder.

Today, outside the medicinal use, the mushroom is part of expensive cuisines in luxurious restaurants all over the world. Mushroom is also used as an effective leavening and fermentation agent in food processes.

An in-depth analysis of mushrooms a few decades ago also led to some interesting discoveries. Scientists discovered that some enzymes present in the stipe (the stem of the mushroom) can be used in the manufacture of detergents. On the other hand, toxic elements in some mushroom species that the plant presumably uses to deter predators (including humans), can be used to produce environmentally friendly pesticides.

Mushrooms also seem to have great potential in the field of biotechnology. It is already being used to spur plant growth and or lower the level of bacterial contamination in water. The US Patent and Trademark Office has registered different patents in relation to the specialized fields of myco-remediation, (“myco-“ means fungus) a cleaning process where contaminants are biodegraded to clean the environment and myco-filtration, a filtration process that gets rid of disease causing elements like the bacteria, e.coli and the protozoa plasmodium falciparum.

It is therefore evident from all its various uses, dietary and most importantly medicinal use that the mushroom is the most significant fungus after penicillin.

In the end, I just wanted to introduce here six of the most well-researched anti-cancer mushrooms rich in polysaccharides and beta glucans, the primary active immune-enhancing constituents: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) “The Mushroom of Immortality”; Shitake (Lentinula edodes) – Black Forest Tree Mushroom; Coriolus (Trametes versicolor) “Turkey tail Mushroom” ; Cordyceps sinensis – Chinese Caterpillar Fungus; Maitake (Grifola frondosa) – Cloud Mushroom; Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) – Black Tree Fungus.

Read More

What is Cupping and why the Rio Olympic athletes use it?

I don’t know if you are a sports fan or not, but I am and I wanted to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the athletes competing in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with mysterious purple, round blotches on their bodies, especially the back or the shoulders. It was very ostensible with swimmers and Michael Phelps was the leading trooper that re-ignited this discussion. What are those, people asked?
It is an ancient technique called Cupping and it’s been used traditionally around the globe because of its effectiveness and safeness. Its origin is shrouded in mystery. None knows where it actually originated. It was documented in Asia, Middle East, Northern Africa, and American First Nations throughout history. Now called Cupping Therapy, also called Suction Cup Therapy, or Fire Cupping, or Chinese Cupping Therapy it as mostly associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine and many Eastern practitioners use Cupping in their daily treatment protocols. I use it too sometimes in our clinic, here are the details.
Cupping therapy has been effectively used to treat lung and respiratory conditions, including asthma symptoms and the common cold. In fact, respiratory ailments are among the earliest recorded conditions for which cupping therapy was deemed beneficial.
The technique is done by lighting flammable liquid (alcohol) in a glass cup. The flame burns away the oxygen in the cup, which creates a mild vacuum. Once the flame goes out, the vacuum creates suction which sticks the cup to the body. You need to do it fast before the vacuum starts disappearing.
Along with the drop in temperature, this sucks the skin away from the body and draws blood to the surface. The red/velvet spots, which typically last for three or four days, are caused by ruptured capillaries beneath the skin. The cup is typically left in place for 5 to 15 minutes at a time and the therapist may choose to use several cups on different points at the same time. Patients receiving cupping therapy can be rest assured that there is rarely any burning of the skin. Just those eye-catching red marks that that have been so visible on Phelps as well as members of the United States men’s gymnastics team. If the bruising effect looks oddly familiar, it’s because it’s the same thing that happens when someone sucks on your neck and leaves a hickey.
Why are the athletes doing it?
Athletes say they are using it to ease aches and pains, and to help with recovery from the physical drudgery of constant training and competing. It’s just another recovery modality and there is nothing particular about it, we were told by the USA team. It is safe, it helps them and it is fast. It makes them feel better and that is enough for most of them.
Supporters of this technique also believe that cupping therapy can reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body. Cupping can also promote mental and physical relaxation and well-being.
Or, as someone has put it …very funny!!…Michael Phelps just fell asleep on his medals!!!!

Read More

Blood – sacred fluid or commodity?

The history of blood in medicine and its symbolic meaning is as old as medicine itself.
Human beings, from ancient times, have viewed blood as miraculous, sacred, have been terrified of it, killed because of the “purity” or “impurity” of it and have died rather than betray it.
Blood is the ultimate symbol of life – a sacred fluid associated with birth, nobility, purity, fortitude, fertility and death. The ideas of monarchy and royalty rest upon the (outdated) notion of “blue blood” or pure blood that some members of our society acquire by simply being born from “noble” ancestors.
As a side note, a popular theory is that the phrase “blue blood” describes a condition caused by a rare genetic defect that is carried by the royal families of Europe due to their habit of only marrying from the same breeding pool, thus leading to a blood condition called hemophilia. In reality, the actual origin of the term “blue blood” comes from Spanish and it used to describe that when conquering lands held by Moors, the Spanish nobility displayed the fact that they had very white (never labored) untanned skin, though which blue veins were easily seen, in contrast with the darker skinned Moors.
All major cultures have used and treated blood in ways that reflect its symbolic importance. The Egyptians were mystified of blood and offered wine as “blood of the gods” for rituals; the Nile waters were turned to blood in the Ten Plagues of Egypt; the Egyptians bathed in blood to regain powers lost through illness or injury. The Mayans viewed blood as the supreme nourishment for their deities and the most important rituals culminated with a blood (human) sacrifice, either by decapitation or by heart removal.
Blood also plays a central role in the Christian sacramental traditions, where it is transformed into wine and consumed as the essence of life, the very presence of the “living God”, in the real belief that is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The science of blood took a major leap forward with the discovery of (by an English physician named William Harvey) the actual circulation of blood in humans, clarifying the role of the heart, lungs, arteries and veins in the circulatory system in a pamphlet called De Moto Cordis. It was 1628. Before this, it was presumed that the liver was the organ responsible for the “spontaneous” creation of blood from ingested food, a theory that lasted more than 1,000 years due to the crushing influence of Galen in this matter and in medicine in general.
The history of the blood as commodity begins with its value in saving lives through transfusion. According to some historians, the first attempt to transfuse blood from one human to another took place more than 500 years ago, when a dying Pope Innocent III received blood from 3 healthy boys with a disastrous results: the boys died, the Pope died and the physician fled the country!
Fast forward 500 years later, the technology has come to age. Countless lives are saved by transfusions all over the world. The science has started to de-mystify the blood and use it as a new commodity, with a market that started to come alive after the WWII. The years of 1950’s to 70’s were a boom in this market with blood being sold in USA at an ever growing pace. Then the ethical and moral issues started to become more prevalent and the desire to protect against the exploitations of those selling blood (usually poor, from low-income class). The open sale of blood created one of most bitter controversies over the ethics of establishing a commercial market for human body materials.
The boom in the increase worldwide sale of blood prompted various international agencies to act, encouraging governments and people alike for non-paid blood donations as a compromise to the problem. Was blood a “gift”, retaining some of its symbolic sacredness, to be donated by and to a community as an act of social benevolence? Or it was a new commodity, a product, like a car, that could be advertised and sold like any other commodity?
The “gift concept” of blood donation and the blood volunteerism belief slowly advanced over the next two decades (70’s to 90’s) and finally triumphed in the USA, when an sustained campaign by the numerous agencies have managed to change the mindset from blood as commodity to blood donation in order to express compassion for their fellow men and women and to show devotion to their community.
This was a long journey for blood. From the magical, sacramental definitions of antiquity to the market definition of today. Blood and blood products (plasma, antibodies, clotting factors) are still being sold and bought around the world as a growing part of the pharmaceutical industry, becoming over the last 15 years a major medical commodity.
The debate over the paid versus non-paid blood donations is still on.

Read More

The effectiveness of Ancient Medicine is exaggerated and romanticized

I encounter in my practice patients from all walks of life and sometimes, in my discussions with them, this idea comes often along: that the Ancient Medicine was evolved somehow in diagnostics and therapeutics and that the healers of the ancient past were really skillful in restoring one’s health and that, somehow, we are losing this knowledge.
Well, I beg to differ. My theory is the history of the medicine up to the beginning of the 20th century was largely the history of the placebo effect. What does that mean? It means the majority of the plants, substances, concoctions used in medicine were ineffective and employed for the wrong conditions (as we know today based on scientific studies). This is, largely, the definition of the placebo effect.
What is the modern definition of the placebo effect?
Placebo effect is the nonspecific psychological or psycho-physiological therapeutic effect produced by a placebo, but may be also the effect of spontaneous improvement attributed to the placebo. A placebo therapy may be used with or without knowledge that it is a placebo. Also, treatments that are given in the belief that they are effective but that actually are placebos by objective evaluations.
With these definitions in mind, let’s succinctly examine the main drugs used in 2 major civilizations, Babylonia-Assyria and Egyptian civilizations.
Babylonia and Assyria – of the 250 drugs of vegetable and animal originally described in the Sumerian tablets only a handful we still use today (or at least have knowledge about them): anise, cardamom, coriander (as carminatives); castor oil and colocynth (as drastic laxatives – not used today anymore) mandrake and henbane (as sedatives/purgatives – not used today any more because of their strong side effects); cannabis for depression and neuralgia (now cannabis is having a comeback); poppy for pain (but we don’t know if the seeds were used, in which case it was worthless); belladonna for pain (not used today anymore due to the severity of its side effects)
Egypt – the Ebers Papyrus, estimated to have been written about 1,500 BC is one of the most important medical papyri and it is a compilation of recipes for different illnesses. It contains more than 800 prescriptions and has more than 700 drugs of vegetable, mineral and animal origin, all, with a few exceptions, worthless and placebos. The exceptions were: colocynth, castor oil, senna (as purgatives/cathartics); turpentine, hyoscyamus, pomegranate were vermifuge (for expelling worms); ox liver for night blindness (plausible effective due to high concentration of vit.A in the liver); copper salts and honey as antiseptics; carminatives like chamomile, coriander, mint, fenugreek, thyme, aniseed; almond (as demulcent); molds that covered bread or wood long soaked in water, which provided antibiotics extracted from the fungi. Willow leaves (which contain very little salicin) were also used for antisepsis but now we know that it was ineffective. Honey was the most extensively mentioned drug in the Egyptian papyri, used primarily for wound healing.
In Egypt patients were treated with dirt and fly-specks scraped off walls. Blood of various animals was often employed (lizards and cats); fat of goose, ox, cat, snake, hippo, mouse; grated human skull; tortoise shell; teeth of swine etc. were also the norm in the Ancient Egypt.
Also, the Egyptian healers were very fond of dung, recommending excrements from humans and eighteen other creatures, such as the crocodile, the cat, the ass, the dog, the pig, the sheep, the gazelle, the pelican and the fly. Human and animal dung and urine were used to repel bad spirits, in line with the concept that disease was viewed as a curse cast on an individual by an evil spirit. Bloodletting was also employed to purify the body of evil spirits.
Next to nothing is known about the effectiveness of the ancient drugs. There is no explanation of the exact reasoning that led the ancient healers to prescribe what they prescribed, or clues about the frequency with which they prescribed them and no clue about their true therapeutic efficacy.
All the facts exposed here has led me to my conclusion that the effectiveness is Ancient Medicine is grossly overstated and romanticized.

Read More