Nubian Medicinal Beer – An Ancient Medical Remedy

Beer has been used for stress relief and relaxation for thousands of years. That's certainly not news. However, it seems that some ancient cultures actually used their beer as more of a medicinal application than most would think. While modern medical specialists have begun touting the heart-healthy benefits of drinking alcohol in moderation, it seems that the ancient Nubians new a thing or two that we don't. In fact, they used beer as an antibiotic. How was Nubian brew used to treat wounds and infections? 

The entire conundrum boils down to the presence of tetracycline in Nubian brews. More specifically, a study of 2,000-year-old Nubian bones showed enormous concentrations of tetracycline, a very effective antibiotic (and one that is still used today, as a matter of fact). From studying the bones of ancient Nubians, archaeologists were able to determine that the individuals were consuming considerable quantities of antibiotic-infused beer. This required an incredibly complicated brewing process, but one that the Nubians seemed to have mastered. 

While antibiotics are usually thought of as being something invented by modern science, it seems that the ancients truly did know a thing or two that we don’t. The entire brewing process was very different from what we know today, though. The Nubians actually brewed their beer from bread, as opposed to the way modern brewers operate (or even medieval brewers, for that matter). The grain to be used in the brewing was first sprouted, then dried and ground into flour. Then, it was turned into a loaf of bread, with a hard, crusty exterior, but a raw interior. This was then broken into vats of tea that had been brewed with grain. This entire mixture was then fermented and consumed – more like gruel or oatmeal than a pint of what you'll find today.

Today, beer doesn't have quite the same medicinal properties, though it is increasingly viewed as being "good for you." However, while this might be a new trend for modern medicine, it is not a new trend for beer. Even modern brews have been touted as offering health benefits, as far back as the 17th century. Hops were supposed to provide health benefits, and who hasn't heard the catchphrase, "Guinness is good for you"? Of course, modern brewers aren't jumping on the "medicinal" bandwagon. However, that doesn't mean that a beer a day is not good for you – hoist a pint in honor of those ancient Nubian brewers.

Posted on March 16, 2011 and filed under Beer Styles and Trends, Facts & History.