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.

Like this story? Connect with Beth on Twitter or StumbleUpon!

More from Care2:

Image Credit: Flickr - brostad


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers1 years ago


Kamia C.
Kamia T2 years ago

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.

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago

Loved this article - and good beer.

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Gina Denholm
Gina Denholm4 years ago

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.....

Terry V.
Terry V4 years ago


Noel B.
Noel B7 years ago

Cheers to good health!

julie v.
julie v7 years ago

made beer and gihger beer for years alot cheaper as well

Katherine B.
Katherine B7 years ago

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