Herbs and Gardens of Ancient Egypt
Last month archaeologists from the Spanish National Research Council discovered an ancient funerary garden while excavating near Luxor in Egypt.
The garden is thought to be 4,000 years old.
As a child I had a fascination for ancient Egypt. I would watch every television documentary and read anything I could about it. I remember my excitement when my aunt Yvonne gave me a gift of a Nefertiti pendant which I still have and often wear today. Another time my mother went on a pre-Christmas shopping trip to Edinburgh. There was some Egyptian display on at the time. As a result, one of my Christmas gifts was three papyrus pictures. These I had framed and still have.
Eventually I was fortunate enough to visit Egypt on a few separate occasions when I was in my twenties. This long held desire of mine since childhood was finally accomplished, for the first time, when I was 21 years of age. Oh what a long time ago. I remember on arrival I was so excited I was actually shaking and was physically sick.
Over my visits I have travelled from Cairo to Abu Simbel and there is so much more I would still love to visit.
There are many tomb paintings and papyri depicting the importance of herbs and gardens of ancient Egypt. However, few actual discoveries. This recent find of an actual funerary garden is particularly exciting.
Researchers found evidence of a Tamarisk shrub in the garden. They have also found some seeds from other plants which they plan to have analysed.
There are some tomb paintings which include the tamarisk (Tamarix nilotica). These trees or shrubs are indigenous to Egypt so it is no surprise to find remains of one in a funerary garden. Commonly known as the Nile Tamarisk.
Tamarisk is mentioned in some medical papyri too. The ancient Egyptians used it in a medicinal remedy for drawing out inflammation. In addition, it was considered aphrodisiac and sudorific. There is some evidence the ancient Egyptians used the wood in carpentry.
More recent traditional medicinal uses include relieving headaches, reducing inflammation and as an antiseptic.
Research conducted by Ahmed Abdelgawad (Tamarix nilotica (Ehrenb) Bunge: A Review of Phytochemistry and Pharmacology) was published early in 2017 in the Journal of Microbial & Biochemical Technology. Abdelgawad found major constituents of flavonoids, tannins and phenolics in T. nilotica. The leaves exhibited significant antioxidant, anti-viral, hepatoprotective and anti-tumour activities.
One can’t help but wonder how much medicinal knowledge the Ancient Egyptians understood about the Tamarisk.