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Researchers Find 2,000 Year-Old Beer Was Used as Medicine

Researchers Find 2,000 Year-Old Beer Was Used as Medicine

Researchers at Emory University discovered that ancient Nubians consumed regular doses of sickness-fighting antibiotics, most likely in their beer.

The study, led by anthropologist George Armelagos and medicinal chemist Mark Nelson of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is the strongest evidence yet that the art of making antibiotics, which officially dates to the discovery of penicillin in 1928, was common practice nearly 2,000 years ago (

During chemical analysis of human bones from Nubia dated between A.D. 350 and 550, Armelagos and Nelson found traces of tetracycline, an antibiotic still used to treat bacterial infections, including pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections, acne, and infections of skin, genital and urinary systems.

Armelagos and his fellow researchers believe the source of the antibiotic to be beer, a beverage regularly consumed by the Nubians. The grain used to make the fermented gruel contained the soil bacteria streptomyces, which produces tetracycline.

The researchers are convinced that these ancient people knew what they were doing, and purposefully perfected the fermentation practice so that they could take advantage of this powerful natural medicine.

According to Nelson, even the tibia and skull belonging to a 4-year-old were full of tetracycline, suggesting that they were giving high doses to the child to try and cure him of illness (eScienceCommons).

And the Nubians aren’t the only culture to achieve better health through an occasional home brew.

In ancient Greece, Hippocrates used beer as a remedy to facilitate diuresis, reduce fever and heal wounds. Aretus of Capadocia also recommended it for diabetes and migraine.

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4:36PM PDT on Mar 17, 2015

It always cracks me up when scientists seem soooo amazed that ancient peoples actually understood their world, paid attention to things that healed, and took care of themselves. Like we're the only ones that can do that.

1:32PM PDT on Apr 1, 2014

Loved this article - and good beer.

8:07AM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

7:12AM PDT on Mar 12, 2013

Whilst I agree that drinking homemade beer is pretty good, I get a little cheesed off of having to remember when the fermenting bucket is at the top of the stairs!!! We only have a small house lolol.....

5:50PM PDT on Mar 11, 2013


6:24PM PST on Jan 20, 2011

Cheers to good health!

2:57PM PST on Jan 20, 2011

made beer and gihger beer for years alot cheaper as well

11:17PM PDT on Oct 21, 2010

Common sill on my travels to India was to drink a beer a day... I think it is the alcohol in it that gives one the idea it will keep sickness at bay... but really, I never got sick when I practiced this! :D

4:01PM PDT on Oct 15, 2010

interesting, thanks!

5:11PM PDT on Oct 5, 2010

Weird. Drinking alot of beer always use to GIVE me a headache. I guess I should keep drinking then to remedy it? Deal!

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