In the earliest times cures worked mostly by chance.  The ancients may not have understood why a remedy worked, but once it did, they repeated that cure.  Eventually every culture accumulated a vast historical and cultural sourcebook of proven cures.

As Herodotus, the Greek historian, describes medicine in the ancient civilization of Babylonia:

They bring out the sick to the market place, for they do not use physicians.  People walk by and those who have suffered the same ill as the sick man’s or seen others in like case, come near and advise him about his disease and comfort him, telling him by what means they have recovered of it, or seen others to recover.  None may pass by the sick man without speaking and asking what is his  sickness.

Ancient ways of healing is a journey into antiquity to recapture some of the safe and practical healing remedies of the past and to adapt them to the needs of the modern men and women.

Th ancients were keen observers.  A 4,000 year old Sumerian clay tablet, one of the oldest medical manuscripts in the world, shows a series of astonishingly modern  procedures;  wounds were first washed with a kind of liquid soap made of beer and water, poultices or plasters applied and finally bandages.  In to-day’s laboratories time and again scientists find that ancient herbs used to treat wounds are usually effective against staphylococcus or E.coli bacteria or both.  Egyptians used honey in most of their wound recipes. Why?  Current researchers discovered that honey breaks down to a common household disinfectant, hydrogen peroxide.


In 1536 French explorer Cartier’s party was saved from scurvy by the Canadian Iroquois who showed the Europeans how to make a vitamin C drink with either hemlock or white pine needles,  At that time the Iroquois exceeded even European surgeons’ skill at healing wounds and setting fractures.  Amputations were cauterized with an ember wrapped in a leaf of Indian corn and left in a poultice made of roots or barks.

In 1865 Dr  Joseph Lister revolutionized surgery with the sterilization of instruments and by using carbolic acid, a simple phenol as an antiseptic.   If only surgeons before his time had known the practice of the early Greeks.  They washed the wounds of the sick with red wine, a powerful antiseptic and a complex polyphenol.   Modern chemists seeking an anti-inflammatory drug took their inspiration for aspirin from the African and Native Americans use of the willow tree.  Over four thousand years ago the Egyptians applied rotten mouldy bread to control infected wounds, it took us until this century to discover a similar antibiotic.

Early twentieth century tranquillizers are patterned on a Nigerian witch doctor’s success with rauwolfia.  There are dozens of such illustrations throughout medical history.