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History

Egyptian methods of diagnosis and treatment

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Some Egyptian methods of diagnosis would not be out of place in a modern doctor's surgery, despite the great differences in our understanding of the causes and nature of disease. The treatments are perhaps another matter.

Overview

The Egyptians examined their patients, and made their diagnosis, with reference to medical textbooks. These advised the doctors how to do the examination, and what a patient's disease might be. The doctors asked questions, took the patient's pulse, and touched the affected part.

Egyptian priest mixing medicine, using natural substances

Egyptian priest mixing medicine, using natural substances

For many ailments they had practical treatments using natural substances such as ochre and frankincense from Africa, or cinnamon and pepper from India. They could also include locally found ingredients such as mud, yeast and dung.

The doctors made their medicines carefully, using a unit of measurement called a ro. Some of the recipes include a recommendation, such as: 'A really excellent remedy'.

Many of their cures were based on what historians call the 'Channel Theory'. They thought that they could unblock the 'channels' of the body by making people vomit, or bleed, or empty their bowels, and that this would cure sickness.

Some of their cures used what we call today sympathetic magic. For instance they used a pig's eye to try to cure blindness - they believed that the power of sight in the pig's eye would transfer to the patient's eye.

All the time, however, the Egyptians believed that the gods ultimately controlled their lives. Many cures included a spell to give power to the remedy.

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