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• Medical knowledge in ancient Egypt had an excellent reputation, and rulers of other empires would ask the Egyptian pharaoh to send them their best physician to treat their loved ones. Egyptians had some knowledge of human anatomy, even though they never dissected the body. Egyptian physicians were aware of the existence of the pulse and of a connection between pulse and heart. They developed their theory of "channels" that carried air, water and blood to the body by analogies with the River Nile; if it became blocked, crops became unhealthy and they applied this principle to the body: If a person was unwell, they would use laxatives to unblock the "channels”.
• Quite a few medical practices were effective, such as many of the surgical procedures given in the Edwin Smith Papyrus. Mostly, the physicians' advice for staying healthy was to wash and shave the body, including under the arms, and this may have prevented infections. They also advised patients to look after their diet, and avoid foods such as raw fish or other animals considered to be unclean. • Many practices were ineffective or harmful. Michael D. Parkins says that 72% of 260 medical prescriptions in the Hearst Papyrus had no known curative elements, and many contained animal dung which contains products of fermentation and molds, some of them having curative properties, but also bacteria posing a grave threat of infection. Being unable to distinguish between the original infection and the unwholesome effects of the faeces treatment, they may have been impressed by the few cases when the patient's condition improved.
Magic and Religion
• • Magic and religion were an integral part of everyday life in ancient Egypt. Gods and demons were thought to be responsible for many ailments, so often the treatments involved a supernatural element, such as beginning treatment with an appeal to a deity. There does not appear to have existed a clear distinction between what nowadays one would consider the very distinct callings of priest and physician. The healers, many of them priests of Sekhmet or Selket, often used incantations and magic as part of treatment. The widespread belief in magic and religion may have resulted in a powerful placebo effects; that is, the perceived validity of the cure may have contributed to its effectiveness. The impact of the emphasis on magic is seen in the selection of remedies or ingredients for them. Ingredients were sometimes selected seemingly because they were derived from a substance, plant or animal that had characteristics which in some way corresponded to the symptoms of the patient. This is known as the principle of simila similibus ("similar with similar") and is found throughout the history of medicine up to the modern practice of homeopathy. Thus an ostrich egg is included in the treatment of a broken skull, and an amulet portraying a hedgehog might be used against baldness. Amulets in general were very popular, being worn for many magical purposes. Health related amulets are classified as homeopoetic, phylactic and theophoric. Homeopoetic amulets portray an animal or part of an animal, from which the wearer hopes to gain positive attributes like strength or speed. Phylactic amulets protected against harmful gods and demons. The famous Eye of Horus was often used on a phylactic amulet. Theoporic amulets represented Egyptian gods; one represented the girdle of Isis and was intended to stem the flow of blood at miscarriage.