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GREEK NEWS

Medical Recipes of Hippocrates Discovered at Ancient Library in Egypt

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St Catherine Monastery on Mt. Sinai. Credit: Joonas Plaan/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Monks at the St. Catherine’s Monastery in South Sinai, Egypt, have discovered what is being called the oldest-to-date medical recipes from Hippocrates, who is universally referred to as the “father of Western medicine.”

The discovery of the 6th century AD manuscript, which contains many medical recipes written by the ancient physician, occurred amidst restorations at the monastery’s library.

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The manuscript, which was written by an anonymous scribe, also contains other medical recipes as well as illustrations of medicinal herbs.

Hippocrates medical recipes found at famed monastery on Mt. Sinai

The library at the monastery, which is considered to be the oldest continuously operating library in the world, contains some 6,000 manuscripts written in Arabic, Ethiopian, Coptic, Armenian, Syriac and Greek.

The oldest manuscript at the library, which mainly houses works of history and philosophy, is thought to date back to the 4th century AD.

Along with the text from Hippocrates, a manuscript featuring biblical passages was also found during restoration efforts at the monastery.

In total, this discovery revealed a medical recipe attributed to Hippocrates, as well as three recipes with pictures of herbs. The manuscripts were then examined by researchers at the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library (EMEL).

“The manuscript, which contains three medical texts, will be enlisted among the oldest and the most important manuscripts in the world,” Michael Phelps, a researcher at the EMEL recently told the Egyptian newspaper Asharq Al-Aswat.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine

Born on The island of Kos, c. 460 BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates is considered the father of medicine, as he was the first known physician who believed that diseases were caused by some type of natural action instead of being instigated by the spirits or gods.

In addition to recognizing that disease is not caused by supernatural forces, Hippocrates invented clinical medicine and what we know today as the doctor-patient relationship.

Perhaps most amazingly of all, he was the first known physician to recognize that thoughts and emotions arise in the brain — rather than the heart.

Hippocrates also was the medical practitioner who created an oath of conduct for physicians which has remained influential for 2,500 years.

Hippocrates was the first physician to name cancer (“karkinos,” Greek for crab). The word came from the appearance of the cut surface of a solid malignant tumor, with the veins stretched on all sides as a crab’s claws are.

Hippocrates’ conception of cancer centered around the “humoral” theory, as he believed that the body contained four humors (body fluids) — namely blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.

Any imbalance of these fluids would result in disease and an excess of black bile in a particular organ site was thought to cause cancer.

The ancient Greek physician believed that diet is important in a person’s life and a good diet could keep them healthy.

He also believed that a proper diet could have healing qualities for certain ailments. He placed great importance to what a patient eats or what foods he should avoid. He often used lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise to treat diseases such as diabetes.

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