Esmat Abd El-Fattah Hassan
Botany Department, Division of Agricultural and Biological Research, National Research Centre,
Folk medicine knowledge and practices of Egypt were mainly found in Ebers papyrus dated to ca.1500 BC as medical scrolls contained about 700 magical formulas and folk remedies and suggested high integration of medical treatments with religion. Other sources of folk medicine were brought from different nationalities by those who came and lived in Egypt and through exchanging commercial activities with foreign merchants. From the records, the plant kingdom appears to be the main origin for material(s) used in folk medicine. In this respect, Queen Hatchepsoot was the first to cultivate plants for medicinal use in the Temple gardens of Karnak. At the present time, flora of plants which are used in folk medicine in Egypt are distributed in following phyto–geographical regions: the Libyan desert on the western side of the Nile, the Arabian Desert including Sinai, the Northern Mediterranean coast belt which belongs to the “Mediterranean Province”, the Nile - Valley and the Delta and the St. Katherine Protectorate in Sinai. The popularity of folk medicine had greatly increased until present days in Egypt that can be regarded as market-driven opportunities of health belief practices originating from inherited folk traditions. For example, honey was used by the Pharos in mummification of the kings and is taken today, on basis of religious beliefs, to be as a full pharmacy. It is widely used in folk medicine for smoothing skin, healing diabetic foot and increasing energy. In the Sahara, from the tradition of those who inhabit the Oases in Egypt, the processed date is used to cure rheumatic fever, teeth protection, anemia and skin healing. Fenugreek “helba” whose seeds were found in Tutankhamun`s tomb, is believed to transcend the body; it was used as aphrodisiac and its oil was believed to turn an old man into a young one. The seeds of this plant are a part of Egyptian society tradition, “as a must “to be taken to increase mother`s milk production.
Keywords: Aencient, folk, medical treatments, plants, traditional.