The Ancient Egyptian mummy as a drug

I’ve just found an amazing 1927 article from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine about the long history of using Egyptian mummies as drugs.

The fact that powdered embalmed corpse from Ancient Egypt has never been shown to have any curative or mind altering properties hasn’t prevented an enthusiasm for the substance which has lasted many thousands of years.

Avicenna (980-1037) describes mumia as useful for a variety of purposes, including abscesses, eruptions, fractures, concussions, paralysis, affections of the throat, lungs and heart, debility of the stomach, disorders of the liver and spleen, and as an antidote for poisons. As a drug, however, he never prescribes it alone, but always mixed with some herb, or in some convenient vehicle, such as wine, milk, butter, or oil.

The demand for mummies as drugs apparently reached such heights that it inspired mass grave robbing and eventually fraud as traders decided it was more profitable to kill slaves, stuff them with bitumen and dry their bodies in the sun. The flesh was fraudulently sold as genuine ancient mummy.

The medicine is mentioned everywhere from apothecary books to Shakespeare and seems to have been thought beneficial well into the 18th century.

Link to article ‘Mummy as a Drug’.

7 thoughts on “The Ancient Egyptian mummy as a drug”

  1. while there where those whom ate mummy flesh the word ‘mumia’ actualy describes a substance that was once thought to be used in the making of mummies. In ancient scripts it might be easy to confuse the two ‘drugs’. unless the work also describes preparation from actual human mummies you likely have are confusing one preparation for another.

  2. I recently read an outrageous story concerning people smoking antri-redroviral (mixed with cannabus)drugs prescribed for aids to get high. Supposedly the combination actually works and is extremely addictive but I’ve been able to find no evidence to support this… Could it be all in the mind? Apparently it’s a growing trend so someone really needs to research this pretty urgently IMO

    On a lighter note, did you see the reporting of “digital drugs” in America… – I almost died laughing

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