Friday, August 31, 2012

History of herbs and spices in ancient Egypt

As long as 3500 BC, the ancient Egyptians were using local spices to flavor their food, in cosmetics and in lotions for embalming their dead.

Egyptian papyri recording the medical uses of herbs, dating from 2800 BC. Papyrus is a kind of paper made from reeds. Some of the scrolls were more than 6 feet long.

The Egyptians in the days of Pharaohs had developed great skill in the use of herbs. The Ebers Papyrus listed 876 herbal formals from more than 500 plants. This present about one-third of the herbs in today’s western herbal pharmacopoeia.

One of the first world physician name Imhotep made medicine from plants and use these remedies to treat people suffering from appendicitis, arthritis and other ailments.

By the time the Ebers papyrus was recorded, Imhotep was worshipped as a hero, as a blameless physician and later still as the god of medicine.

There were many different types of herbs and spices used in ancient Egyptian cooking. The herbs and spices enhanced the flavor of the dishes, but also acted as preservative.

Aromatics woods such as frankincense were burned as incense to purge unpleasant odors and fumigate homes.

While most of cooking used including cumin, coriander, fennel, anise and poppy seed, would have been plentiful locally, there is evidence that by the second millennium BC other spices were already being bought from overseas.

The Egyptians believed that garlic and onion strengthened the body and prevented disease. They ate a lot that the Greek historian Herodotus called them ‘the stinking ones’. They gave their slaves daily rations and onions to keep them string and healthy.

In Egypt the dividing line between medicinal and cosmetic recipes was often blurred. The priests, controlled the manufacture of the substances were also in charge of the offerings of incense and fragrant oil in the temples.

They also in charge the precious ointments that were used for embalming the bodies of high ranking Egyptians. Most of the herbal spices originated in Mediterranean countries and have been used since ancient Egyptian times mainly for the purpose of embalming.

Egyptian medicine was exclusively disease centered rather than person centered.

By the time of Ramses II (1304-1237 BC) Egyptian ships were sailing into Persian Gulf as far as the Euphrates. Egypt then became a lucrative market for spices from further and further afield.
History of herbs and spices in ancient Egypt