‘Recipes’ for Treating the Eyes: The Papyrus Ebers & My Opthalmic Shingles

Revised 19-07-2012

Wajet eye.  Source:  Wiki.

It has now been two years since my encounter with opthalmic shingles, and while the searing pain has lessened, it is still very much with me.  Earlier this year a doctor from the States was here and perscribed a drug that is actually for nerves (depression and so forth) – and since it is directed to managing ‘nerves’ it does reduce the opthalmic pain somewhat.  The down-side, however, is that it also affects my balance, so that I constantly trip.  Especially going up stairs, and sometimes falling.  This is not so good.. 

Well, if all else fails by way of more effective treatment, as commented about a year ago (an older edition of this post) there are a variety of entries in the Papyrus Ebers ( http://www.medizinische-papyri.de/PapyrusEbers/1024/index.html) for treating eye diseases [2nd. mill. BC] that I could try.

In ancient Egypt, constant irritation from sand and dust resulted in numerous eye problems – which is still the case today in the Nile Valley.  Here are some of the treatments, together with reproductions of the appropriate texts in the Papyrus Ebers, in the original hieratic ( a form of hieroglyphic script), then transcribed into hieroglyphic and – finally – translated first into German and finally into English.

This has been an interesting little project:  the only complete source of the Papyrus Ebers on the net seems to be the Biblioteque of the University of Leipzig.  In quite a Germanic turn of mind (in my way of thinking) the organization of the papyrus on the website is not always easy to follow.

My German is now very ‘rusty’ (it was a graduate school requirement – a good many of mainstream Egyptologists are German) and my hieratic is also rusty.  And so that made the little project all the more interesting…  But it’s been fun.

Below is given :

1.  Facsimile of the hieratic
2.  Hieratic into hieroglyphic
3.  Translation into German
4.  Rendering into English

1.  Facsimile of the hieratic (read right to left):

Page of the Ebers Papyrus on which most of the treatments for eyes are given. Tafel 057

2.  Hieratic into hieroglyphic (read left to righ):

Hieratic (above) transcribed into hieroglyphics. hiero057

3. Translated into German:

Eb 344 (56, 21 – 57, 2)
… Koloquinthe 1, yellow Ocker 1, Krokodilskot 1, sA-wr-Mineral 1,
rotes Natron 1, Honig 1, machen zu einer einheitlichen Masse, geben an
die Lider.
Eb 345 (57, 2 – 57, 4)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Zusammenziehen der Iris des Auges:
Harzperle vom Ebenholzbaum 1, oberägyptisches sjA-Mineral 1, zerstoßen in Wasser, geben an die beiden Augen, sehr oft.
Eb 346 (57, 4 – 57, 5)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Beseitigen der wHAt-Krankheit in
beiden Augen: schwarze Augenschminke 1, roter Ocker 1, gelber Ocker 1, rotes Natron 1, geben an die Lider.
Eb 347 (57, 5 – 57, 6)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Beseitigen der Albugines der beiden
Augen: Galle der Schildkröte 1, Honig 1, gegen an die Lider.
Eb 348 (57, 6 – 57, 8)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Beseitigen von Blut in beiden Augen:
Trw-Ocker 1, grüne Augenschminke 4, schwarze Augenschminke 1, xt-awA 1, Koloquinthe 1, Wasser 1, fein zerreiben, geben in beide Augen.
Eb 349 (57, 8 – 57, 9)
Ein anderes Heilmittel, das gemacht wird für eine txn-Verletzung, sie
hat sich festgesetzt im Auge: Kot, der befindlich ist im Bauch eines
Kindes, getrocknet 1, Honig 1, geben in Pflanzenschleim 1, geben [an]
die Lider.
Eb 350 (57, 10 – 57, 11)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Beseitigen der nHAt-Krankheit in
beiden Augen: Galle der Schildkröte 1, Ladanum 1, geben in die beiden
Eb 351 (57, 11 – 57, 12)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für die SArw-Krankheit in beiden Augen: Leber
des Rindes, die gebraten und ausgepreßt ist, geben daran (=an das
Auge). Eine erfolgreiche Methode.
Eb 352 (57, 12)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Beseitigen von Blut auf beiden Augen:
Weihrauch 1, Sellerie 1, geben in beide Augen.
Eb 353 (57, 13 – 57, 14)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Beseitigen einer Hitzeballung in
beiden Augen: Koloquinthe 1, schwarze Augenschminke 1, Früchte der
tntj-Pflanze 1, geben [an] die Lider.
Eb 354 (57, 14 – 57, 15)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Beseitigen von Fett in beiden Augen:
schwarze Augenschminke 1, grüne Augenschminke 1, roter Ocker 1,
sA-wr-Mineral 1, Honig 1, geben an die Lider.
Eb 355 (57, 15 – 57, 17)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Beseitigen eines Gerstenkorns im Auge:
snn-Balsam 1, schwarze Augenschminke 1, xt-awA 1, schminken die beiden Augen damit.
Eb 356 (57, 17 – 57, 21)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für die Blindheit: Augen des Schweines 1,
entfernen das [darin] befindliche Wasser, echte schwarze Augenschminke 1, roter Ocker 1, Gärungsprodukt des Honigs 1, fein zerreiben, machen zu einer einheitlichen Masse, gießen in das Ohr des Mannes, so daß er gesund wird sofort. Tue es und Du wirst sehen: eine erfolgreiche Methode. Dann sollst Du sagen als Zauber: Ich habe gebracht dieses und gegeben an die Stelle von diesem, ersetzt das Leiden, welches wütet, zweimal.
Eb 357 (57, 21 – 58, 2)
Ein anderes [Heilmittel] für das Beseitigen von Blindheit in beiden
Augen durch …
sA-wr – ein kupfer- oder eisenhaltiges Mineral
sjA – ein nicht näher bezeichneter, mineralischer Stoff
Trw – Ocker, aus Elephantine, vielleicht von roter Farbe (verwendet
u.a. als Material für kleine Götterbilder)
xt-awA – Holzstein (versteinertes Holz)? faulendes Holz?
tntj – eine nicht näher bezeichnete Pflanze
snn – ein nicht näher bezeichnetes Balsam/Harz (Mekka-Balsam?  Myrrhe?)


4. Rendered into English:

Eb 344 (56, 21-57, 2)

… Koloquinthe 1, yellow ocher 1, Krokodilskot 1, sA-wr-mineral 1, baking soda 1, red … 1.  Form with honey  into a mass, apply to eyelids.

Eb 345 (57, 2 – 57, 4)

Another [medicine] for the contraction of the iris of the eye: A bead of resin of  the ebony tree 1, the Upper Egyptian Mineral SJA 1, crush these in water, apply often to the eyes.

Eb 346 (57, 4 – 57, 5)

Another [medicine] for eliminating the wHAt disease  in eyes: black eyeshadow [khol] 1, red ocher 1, yellow ocher 1, red soda 1, apply to the eyelids.

Eb 347 (57, 5 – 57, 6)

Another [medicine] for eliminating the albugines from the eyes: bile of the tortoise 1, honey 1, apply to the eyelids.

Eb 348 (57, 6 – 57, 8)

Another [medicine] for the removal of blood in both eyes:

Trw-ocher 1, green eyeshadow 4, black eyeshadow [kohl] 1, xt-awa 1, … 1, Water 1, pulverize and apply to both eyes.

Eb 349 (57, 8 – 57, 9)

Another remedy that is made for a txn injury that has established itself in the eye: feces, which is located in the belly of a Child, dried 1, honey 1, ….. mucilage 1, apply to the eyelids.

Eb 350 (57, 10 – 57, 11)

Another [medicine] for eliminating the nHAt disease in

both eyes: bile of the turtle 1, labdanum 1, put into the two eyes.

Eb 351 (57, 11 – 57, 12)

Another [medicine] for the SArw disease in both eyes: Liver of cattle, which is roasted and pressed. Enter it (= apply to the eyes). A successful method.

Eb 352 (57, 12)

Another [medicine] for the removal of blood in both eyes:

Frankincense 1, celery 1, (mix and) apply into both eyes.

Eb 353 (57, 13 – 57, 14)

Another [medicine] for removing heat concentration in both eyes: Koloquinthe 1, black eyeshadow [kohl] 1, the fruits of the tntj plant 1, apply to the eyelids.

Eb 354 (57, 14 – 57, 15)

Another [medicine] for the removal of fat (?) in both eyes:

black eyeshadow [kohl] 1, green eyeshadow 1, red ocher 1, sA-wr mineral 1, honey 1, apply to the eyelids.

Eb 355 (57, 15 – 57, 17)

Another [medicine] for the removal of a barley grain in the eye: snn balm 1, black eyeshadow [kohl] 1, xt-awa, 1, makeup the two eyes with it.

Eb 356 (57, 17 – 57, 21)

Another [medicine] for Blindness: Eyes of the Pig 1,

Remove [these] and place in water (?), real black eye make-up [kohl] 1, red ocher 1, a fermentation product of honey, finely grind, make a uniform mass, pour into the ear of the man, so that he immediately becomes healthy.   Do it and you will see: a successful method. Then, you should say (this) spell two times: ‘I have brought this, replacing the suffering that is raging.       

Eb 357 (57, 21-58, 2)

Another [medicine] for the removal of blindness in both

Eyes by …

sA-wr, ——, or ferrous mineral
sjA – … mineral material
Trw – ochers, from Elephantine, maybe from red color,…
xt-awA – wood stone (petrified wood)? rotting wood?
tntj – … plant
snn – not in more detail marked Balsam/Harz, Mecca balsam? 

The Papyrus Ebers, written in the last quarter of the 16th C.B., and is the most important – and best preserved medical papyris from ancient Egypt, containing approximately 700 remedies.

 The papyrus is composed of a total of 46 sheets with about 2 inche-wide bonds. The bonds are (with one exception, see Plate 65/66) so carefully executed, that it is difficult to find them. The width of the single sheet varies 33-42 cm, the height is fairly constant 30 cm. …  The number of lines per column is 20 to 23 (except on the last column 110, where there are only 9 lines).

Source: Papyrus Ebers, Leipzig University

English: Papyrus Ebers, column 38 Deutsch: Pap...

English: Papyrus Ebers, column 38 Deutsch: Papyrus Ebers, Kolumne 38 (Photo credit: Wikipedia).  38 = “Remedies for the Ears”

Remedies are divided into the following sections:

 Section 1: ….  Drinking and remedies
 Section 2: Cures for diseases of the abdomen
 Section 3: Ointments for skin diseases
 Section 4: Recipes for pain and diseases of the digestive tract
 Section 5: Recipes for diseases of the chest
 Section 6: Recipes for stomach diseases
 Section 7: Recipes from the demonic aAa disease
 Section 8: The six “mean Gods”
 Section 9: Cure for diseases of the head
 Section 10: About the Rhizinuspflanze  [Rizinuspflanze – Castor Bean…?]
 Section 11: Remedy in diseases of the urinary tract
 Section 12: Drugs for appetite stimulation in digestive disorders
 Section 13: Remedy against mucins
 Section 14: Single, unassigned remedies
 Section 15: Remedy against cough and asthma
 Section 16: Cure for eye ailments
 Section 17: Remedy against bites
 Section 18: Remedy against oozing rash (head)
 Section 19: Remedies for hair treatment
 Section 20: Cures for treatment of the liver
 Section 21: Remedy for burns
 Section 22: Remedies for treatment of bruises by strokes
 Section 23: Remedy to treat wounds
 Section 24: Remedy to treat blisters
 Section 25: Remedy against ulcers
 Section 26: Remedy against the wSaw disease, etc.
 Section 27: Remedy for wound secretions
 Section 28: Cure for the legs
 Section 29: Remedies for fingers and toes
 Section 30: Cure for the “vessels”
 Section 31: Cures for the tongue
 Section 32: Cure for the Spn disease
 Section 33: Cure for treatment of the body surface
 Section 34: Remedies for the Teeth
 Section 35: Cure for the treatment of diseases of demonic …
 Section 36: Cure for the right half of the abdomen
 Section 37: Remedies for colds
 Section 38: Cures for the ears
 Section 39: Remedies for Hair Loss
 Section 40: remedies for gynecological disorders
 Section 41: Forecasts for newborns
 Section 42: home remedies
 Section 43: treatise on anatomy and physiology of the heart and blood vessels
 Section 44: discussion of pain substances
 Section 45: A treatise on tumors

Source: Papyrus Ebers, Leipzig University

See Also on this terrible Eye Experience:

About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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7 Responses to ‘Recipes’ for Treating the Eyes: The Papyrus Ebers & My Opthalmic Shingles

  1. Melody Elliott Koontz says:

    Um…You amaze me Diana. (I do know where to get a bunch of turtle shit. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Nutsedge – perhaps the oldest managed ‘weed’ in Predynastic Egypt « Dianabuja's Blog

  3. Pingback: Brief History of Hypnosis | Uncategorized | Information about Careers

  4. dianabuja says:

    Noelle Jacqueline Ingledew, a friend on Facebook, explained the use of a traditional medication in Jamaica – cobwebs, which is very interesting and so I’m putting it up here:

    “My grandmother (East Indian descent, first generation born here in Jamaica) was the Nana (traditional midwife) for her village in the early part of the last century. Her recipe for preventing infection in the eyes of a new born, which had been handed to her by her mother, was to mix cobwebs with the soot collected from the roof of the kitchen (wood… See More fires back then) and apply around the eyes of the babe.

    If my memory serves me correctly she called this “kah-jur” (well that is the pronunciation she used). One of my lecturers (also of East Indian descent, but from Trinidad) remembers his mother using the same thing.”


  5. Bile of a turtle and excrement that has settled in the stomach of a child…Hmmmm.

    That stuff should be easy enough to find. 🙂

    It is true though that there is so much in the way of herbal remedies that we don’t know of. I just know something can help. When I was in Jamaica during the winter I started learning the basics and bought a thin volume with various names for herbs. Really fascinating. I hope you will write more on the subject.


    • dianabuja says:

      Ah, yes. It seems the more exotic and hard the obtain, the better the medicine. I understand a good many herbal remedies continue to be used in Jamaica.


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