Now that the festive period of bottomless eggnog and overdoing the mulled wine is over, you’re probably well-versed in how to deal with hangovers. However, an ancient papyrus shows how people attempted to deal with them long before the advent of aspirin and greasy burgers. It’s good to know “the morning after the night before” has been the scourge of humanity since ancient times.
Researchers have deciphered parts of an ancient medical papyrus that contain a cure for the headache associated with a case of “post-cocktail flu.” According to the text, the hungover patient must string together leaves from an Alexandrian chamaedaphne (Ruscus racemosus L.) shrub and, possibly, wear it around the neck.
This remedy was discovered among the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Collection, found by explorers Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt around a hundred years ago in the ancient Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus. Due to the sheer volume of the documents found – estimated to include over 500,000 texts – parts and volumes of the collection are still only just being deciphered, with this latest volume believed to be the the largest collection of medical papyri published.
Along with the ancient hangover cure, the text also offers remedies for toothache, ulcers and hemorrhoids.
Although the texts were found in Egypt, they are largely written in Greek, along with others written in Egyptian, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic, Syriac, and Pahlavi. This particular set was written in Greek, believed to date somewhere within the Hellenistic period of the Mediterranean region after the third century B.C.E. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek-influenced culture spread throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Perhaps by no coincidence, there is a long-standing theory that Alexander the Great actually died from his penchant for heavy drinking, either being poisoned by a toxic wine or perishing from alcohol poisoning.