Almost 100 years ago, the English archaeologist, Howard Carter – funded by exceedingly wealthy Lord Carnarvon of Highclere Castle in Hampshire – discovered the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun – the boy king who reigned for roughly a decade from the age of nine or ten.
When the tomb was opened, it revealed cinnamon, juniper berries, honey, frankincense and myrrh. These plants, revered historically, are still used today to treat illnesses and to bring about vitality.
Cinnamon has a long history both as a spice and as a medicine. It is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree, which is available in its dried tubular form, known as a quill, or as ground powder which can both be found in the supermarket.
Renowned for its ability to regulate blood sugar levels, cinnamon is the perfect spice to add desserts and high-carbohydrate meals as it slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar after eating.
Juniper berries are the classic ingredient in the summer-time, on-your-back-deck drink gin and tonic, however, in the 17th century, they were used as a medicine to treat arthritis, rheumatism and gout.
We don’t have to walk to far to find manuka. It is not understood what kind of honey was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb but the belief was that the honey had antibacterial properties and helped in the mummification process.
Now famed worldwide for these properties, the honey made from manuka flowers is measured in UMF5+ through to UMF20+. The higher the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor), the more potent the honey is. And the more expensive.
The liquid gold honey is so sought after that one British supermarket has taken to stocking jars of New Zealand manuka honey in tagged security cassettes to deter middle-class shoplifters.
Myrrh is mentioned several times in the Bible’s Old Testament in writings as old as Psalms and the Song of Solomon and it is well-known as one of the three gifts presented at the birth of Jesus.
Although better known as a religious accompaniment in ritual and incense-burning, myrrh can treat infections through its antiseptic action. Topically it can be used to treat gingivitis, mouth ulcers and minor wounds and abrasions.
Thankfully, some remedies have not carried on. The Egyptian “cure” for blindness was to mash a pig’s eye, mix it with red ochre and pour it into the patient’s ear and, a bag of mouse bones, fastened round the neck was supposed to cure bed-wetting in children.