The Greek playwright Homer famously opined that the Egyptians of his era were “a race of druggists.” While archaeologists have never recovered a fully intact Egyptian herbal or complete record of the spice contents of any Royal kitchen or pharmacy, partial records do exist. Queen Hatshepsut is recorded as sending an expedition south to obtain not only valuable resins, but also the trees that produced them and other recorded expeditions for such commodities are recorded as occurring between 2800 BCE and 2000 BCE.
Here are two examples of aromatic Egyptian medical remedies:
Megaleion: a mixture of balanos oil with burnt resin, myrrh and cinnamon was believed to relieve inflammation caused by any wound.
Metopion: bitter almond oil, cardamom, lemon grass, sweet flag, galbanum, balsamum seed and resin was a mixture used to treat injured muscles and problems with limited range of motion. It was considered “heating” and able to “open vessels,” such as ulcers.
*As a massage therapist by profession and trade I personally would love to try and concoct a modern version of the latter remedy to try at home!
In the ancient world, the Egyptians were renowned for their perfumes and spices. They excelled at enfleurage, which is an ancient technique of layering aromatic flowers and herbs between tallow or fats and heating them until the fragrances are absorbed. To such mixtures, the Egyptians would add ingredients such as bees wax, honey and gum resin to thicken them. This was a typical means of creating an unguent and perfumes commonly included balanos, moringa, olive, almond, castor or sesame oils as a base.
Roman historian Plutarch recorded that the Egyptians burned kyphi in the evening ritual at the temples, drank it to detoxify the body, and as a breath freshener. He also stated that kyphi “seductively brings on sleep … so that it relaxes and loosens the sorrows and cares of daily life.”
Two examples of “well-known” Egyptian perfumes as described by Roman historians are below:
Amarakinum: balanos oil, wood balsam, camel grass, sweet flag, marjoram, costus, nard, myrrh, cinnamon, honey and wine.
Sampsuchinum: green olive oil, marjoram, cassia, thyme, southernwood, bergamot, mint flowers, myrde and kyphi.
If anyone tries to make any of these at home, please comment below or send me an email! I would love to know your thoughts on the fragrance and any benefits you experience and would post your product review on this blog!