In the fall of 2021, after a long year of staying inside due to the COVID-19 quarantine, my family and I were finally able to leave the premises of our home and venture out into the world to explore what it had to offer. The almost one-and-a-half years of isolation left us feeling empty, almost as if we were missing out on the world’s wonders. We collectively decided to travel to Egypt for vacation, a place known for its extensive culture, cuisine, and ancient history dating back to around 3100 B.C. My vacation to Egypt was eye-opening. The vast desert went on for miles and miles surrounding the densely populated city. Apart from the common attractions of Egypt such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Nile River, and the tombs of past Egyptian rulers, something that stuck out to me was a special type of paper used by ancient Egyptians. This was known as papyrus paper. My family and I were shown step-by-step how the ancient Egyptians created this special paper, which many used for scrolls and record keeping. We learned that Egyptians used to cultivate the Papyrus Plant to make this special Papyrus Paper to write down hieroglyphics, paintings, and symbols. This led me to wonder what other uses this Papyrus Plant could yield. Could the plant have been used by ancient Egyptians to improve their health? Did they use the plant not only for its ability to create papyrus paper but its amazing health benefits?
The Papyrus Plant (scientific name Cyperus papyrus) has had several capabilities and uses in ancient Egypt, although not exploited as often in the modern day. One key ability of the Papyrus Plant used in Ancient Egypt was its use of curing certain eye diseases and malignant ulcers in the body. This was done by using the ash from papyrus paper to create charcoal, which was then applied to certain parts of the body to give these effects. Although not researched extensively, the plant is also known to have an impact on diminishing the effect of cancer, minor burns, and other wounds on the body. In addition, the Papyrus leaf can keep the skin moist and hydrated, protecting the skin’s outer layer. A clinical study exemplified the water retention properties of the Papyrus leaf. According to a clinical study conducted by gloskinbeauty.com, “There was a 28% increase in water retention 15 minutes after application and a 29% decrease in water loss. After 30 minutes, there was a 33% increase in water retention, and water loss decreased to 27%. An hour after application there’s an ever greater reduction in water loss, down to 24%, demonstrating the improvement in the skin's ability to hold onto water after a single application.”
Science Behind it:
Although scarcely researched, the extensive and unique properties of the Papyrus plant are mainly due to its containment of a substance called Sesquiterpene. This is a compound that is highly valued for how they support the immune system in numerous ways. One of these is protection from detrimental microbes that could cause infections in the body. These can also assist in cellular repair in the body. Sesquiterpenes are found in many plants and have even been found to prevent the body’s tumor growth. This demonstrates how the Papyrus Plant can have such beneficial properties as a medicinal plant to prevent eye diseases, cancer, and ulcers!
To conclude, I have found that the Papyrus plant isn’t only useful for its consumer use, but it can also be used as an herb to improve health and overall well-being. When my parents and I left Egypt, I purchased a souvenir of papyrus paper with my name on it in hieroglyphs below an awe-striking egyptian painting demonstrating perseverance. This will always remind me of the medicinal properties and capabilities of the papyrus plant. After my research, I have discovered that the Papyrus plant can have numerous medicinal benefits in modern-day healthcare. I hope that the Papyrus plant’s benefits will be used more commonly in the modern day since its properties have most likely been forgotten or seen as less useful as time has passed from ancient Egypt.
Sarah, Dr. “Sesquiterpenes- a Long Word, a Cool Constituent in Essential Oils - Living Well in Saratoga Springs NY: Saratoga’s Holistic Health Forum Blog.” Living Well in Saratoga Springs NY: Saratoga’s Holistic Health Forum Blog, 15 Dec. 2015, www.saratoga.com/living-well/2015/12/sesquiterpenes-a-long-word-a-cool-constituent-in-essential-oils/#:~:text=These%20compounds%20are%20known%20for,and%20assisting%20in%20cellular%20repair. Accessed 8 July 2023.
Mahendran Botlagunta, et al. “A Review on Biological and Chemical Properties of Cyperus Species.” ResearchGate, unknown, 2014, www.researchgate.net/publication/287306062_A_review_on_biological_and_chemical_properties_of_Cyperus_species. Accessed 8 July 2023.
De, Anna. “Benefits of Papyrus Leaf Stem Cell.” Gloskinbeauty.com, Glo Skin Beauty, Mar. 2016, www.gloskinbeauty.com/blog/benefits-of-papyrus-leaf-stem-cell#:~:text=Papyrus%20Leaf%20Stem%20Cell%2C%20found,protective%20barrier%20and%20prevent%20dehydration. Accessed 8 July 2023.
Papyrus Benefits. “Papyrus Benefits.” Comparespecies.com, 2015, gardenplants.comparespecies.com/en/papyrus-benefits/model-1662-7. Accessed 8 July 2023.
“Cyperus Papyrus Papyrus. Papyrus Sedge PFAF Plant Database.” Pfaf.org, 2021, pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Cyperus+papyrus#:~:text=Medicinal%20Uses&text=The%20main%20use%20seems%20to,mouth%20or%20elsewhere%5B269%20%5D. Accessed 8 July 2023.