c. 1550 BCE
Opium and cannabis mentioned in ancient Egyptian medical texts

The Egyptians were famous in the ancient world for their advanced knowledge of medicine. The Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt, was written about 1550 BCE but is likely copied from older manuscripts dating as far back as 3400 BCE. The Smith Papyrus was written about 1600 BCE but is also based on earlier texts. Whereas the Ebers Papyrus sees medicine as largely based in magic and potions, the Smith Papyrus reflects a more rational stream of Egyptian medicine and surgery in particular.

The Smith and Ebers Papyri present the different medical applications of poppy and cannabis plants recognized in ancient Egypt. Opium was used to make people sleep, to relieve pain and to quiet the nerves because it acts on the nervous system and influences psychic functions. It was used to calm crying children, for external use as eye drops, to cure breast abscesses and in two ointments for hair-care. Cannabis is recommended as a poultice to deal with inflammation around a toe-nail or finger and as a part of a remedy to cause contractions in the uterus.

Source: Rosso (2010) Biomedicine International 1, 81ff; Hanus (2009) Medicinal Research Reviews 29, 213ff.

Drugs: Cannabis (marijuana), Opium (morphine, heroin, opioids)
Regions: Africa, Middle East, Egypt
Topics: Medicinal use of drugs