Cannabis chronicles: Ancient Egypt


Majority of the Egyptologists agree that medical cannabis was used in Ancient Egypt, however the big challenge remains – lots of medicines described in ancient papyruses cannot be easily identified. Nowadays it is generally accepted that the hieroglyph symbol pronounced as “shemshemet” means cannabis. [1,2,3]

Ebers papyrus
Ebers papyrus

The oldest original document that mentions cannabis is Ebers papyrus of Egypt, which dates from the 16th century BC. Although there are not many therapeutic details about its medical application, it is documented that cannabis was used for enema, eye preparation and medicated bandage. As methods of administration were described vaginal administration and use as a fumigant. Analysis of hair from Egyptian mummies dating back to 1070BC has revealed surprisingly high levels of cannabis: 800–4100 ng/g, which led to some speculations that it was used in religious rituals as well. Because cannabis is not native to the area there is a hypothesis that it was in short supplies and used mainly by the elite class. [3]

Cannabis was mentioned in several medical papyri, which shows basic knowledge of cannabis properties, however there are not many details about preparation. Authors suggest that the reason for lack of details is that writing was both – labor and resource consuming in Ancient Egypt. The oldest example of medical prescription is Papyrus Ramesseum III dated 1700 BC, which describe glaucoma treatment and possible anti-inflammatory effects. Another papyrus describes cannabis application for toenails infection. [2]

Ramses II tomb
Ramses II tomb

Further evidence of cannabis usage in Ancient Egypt was found during research. Two separate analyses have shown that hemp fibers were present in the tomb of Amenophis IV (Akhenaten) dated 1350 BC. Cannabis pollen was identified in mid-third-millennium BC soil from Nagada and eastern Nile Delta. Cannabis pollen was found even inside the mummy of Rameses II, who died 1213 BC. [2]



2. History of Cannabis and Its Preparations in Saga, Science, and Sobriquet

3. CANNABIS The Genus Cannabis

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