|A Roman mosaic depicting a merchant ship in the |
Piazzale delle Corporazioni in Ostia Antica near Lazio, Italy.
Photographed by Mary Harrsch.
Alain Touwaide, historian of sciences in the department of botany at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History obtained the tablets from the Italian Department of Antiquities in 2004.
In the 1980s, divers retrieved several tin containers, 136 vials made of boxwood, a locker and medical tools. The large number of vials suggests the medicines were being shipped rather than being used by the ship's doctor. The tablets, preserved in small tin boxes, are the first remains of ancient pharmaceuticals to be found and successfully analysed with advanced DNA techniques. - Adrian Higgins, Sydney Morning Herald
Samples from two tablets revealed a dried concoction of medicinal herbs, including celery, alfalfa and wild onion, bound together with clay and zinc.
"The tablets might have been used to treat skin conditions or dissolved in water or wine for intestinal ailments such as dysentery," Touwaide observed.
|Image via Wikipedia|
|Strange illumination in a medieval copy|
of Hippocrates' Aphorismi.
Other ingredients found included radish and cabbage, wild carrot or a relative, yarrow, jack bean, a hibiscus species, willow, aster, the common bean and nasturtium.
Use of some of these herbs in ancient times has come down to us in fragments of an ancient Greek medical text called The Hippocratic Corpus.
|Image via Wikipedia|
The benefits of radishes and onions have been known since the time of pyrmaid construction in ancient Egypt.
"The Egyptians made sure that the laborers were fed a diet rich in radish, garlic and onion, which modern researchers have found to be extremely rich in Raphanin, Allicin and Allistatin. These powerful natural antibiotics would certainly help to prevent outbreaks of disease in the often-crowded conditions of the workcamps." - Shuttleworth, Martyn (2010). Ancient Medicine - History of Medicine. Retrieved 03 Feb 2011 from Experiment Resources: http://www.experiment-resources.com/ancient-medicine.html
|Image by mharrsch via Flickr|
|Bust of a young Marcus Aurelius|
2nd century CE. Photographed at
the Palazzo Massimo, Rome, Italy.