Cooper, S. M., and R. P. R. Dawber. "The history of cryosurgery." Journal of the royal society of medicine 94.4 (2001): 196-201. claims:

The benefits of cold have been appreciated for many thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians, and later Hippocrates, were aware of the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of cold.

What cold object/water/etc. did ancient Egyptians use for analgesic and anti-inflammatory purpose? I am surprised they could have objects that were cold enough for this use.

  • $\begingroup$ There are other interpretations to that quotation. First, not all cold is "ice-cold". In a dry climate, you may lower your skin temperature quite a lot by the evaporation of water (or even better, distilled alcohol). Nowadays, the "cold packs" used for relief of injuries are not quite cold, either. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Nov 10, 2014 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ Second, even accepting that the quotation refers to "ice-cold", they could have discovered the effects of "ice-cold" in nearby mountains like those of Lebanon or the Golan Heights, which were relatively near. They could have noted the effects and written about it, even if they had no way of using those properties with the general public. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Nov 10, 2014 at 23:26
  • $\begingroup$ What cold object/water/etc. did ancient Egyptians have (as you alluded to in your last sentence)? I'm guessing the Nile wasn't too cool. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Nov 14, 2014 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Well that's the part that puzzled to me :-) I thought about underground water and mountains. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2014 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, we come up on the first page of a google search. That's not good for finding information, but good for site publicity. . . $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Nov 14, 2014 at 19:48

1 Answer 1


The claim that Egyptians were aware of the benefits of using cold objects appears to be from the Edwin Smith Papyrus, a famous Egyptian scroll on ancient medicine. I found the abstract of a paper here that goes into some detail:

As long ago as 300) BC, the use of cold compresses to treat compound skull fractures and infected wounds were mentioned in an Egyptian papyrus, identified by the historian Breasted as the Edwin Smith Papyrus.

It goes on to quote from the papyrus:

The portion of cryotherapy is translated by Breasted as follows:

Thou shalt make for him cool applications for drawing out the inflammation from the mouth of the wound.

So it appears that the Egyptians would create a compress filled with something slightly cooler, such as water, and use it to treat the wound.

This isn't yet a full answer; I'll add more later.

  • $\begingroup$ Note: I'm actually having trouble finding more; I haven't abandoned the question. It's a work in progress. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Nov 17, 2014 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ @SabreTooth I notice that you did not actively award the bounty. I think that's a perfectly reasonable action (I would have done the same), because my answer doesn't quite get to the meat of the question. Any suggestions on how to improve? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Nov 22, 2014 at 20:14

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