If you ever travel to Egypt, in a Cairo museum you will find a dental bridge made of gold – it’s 4,500 years old. Millennia before gold became money, it had a number of other uses. Some historical studies suggest that ancient Egyptians put gold dust into their food for purifying body, soul and mind.
In the ancient city of Alexandria, alchemists created an ‘elixir’ of liquid gold, because they believed that gold had mystical properties that represented perfection. In the human body, it would rejuvenate and cure a multitude of diseases, besides restoring perfect health.
Legend has it that in medieval Europe, gold-coated pills and ‘gold water’ were very popular. Alchemists mixed gold powder into drinks to ‘comfort sore limbs’ (which may explain why it was used as a cure for arthritis). In the 15th and 16th centuries, Paracelsus, who is considered the father of modern pharmacology, created many medicines using precious metals, including gold.
Paracelsus is credited with having founded the school of latro-chemistry or the chemistry of medicine, the predecessor of modern pharmacology. Faith in the medicinal properties of gold persisted all the way into the 19th century. Europeans have been buying gold coated pills and ‘gold waters’ over the counter for more than a hundred years, according to some writers.
Even in modern-day, in rural China, gold is still used as a natural medicine; peasants put a gold coin into the rice they cook, ostensibly to take advantage of its restorative properties. And in many restaurants in the cities, Chinese chefs reportedly put a 24-karat gold leaf into their dishes.
To the modern scientific mind, this might seem an exaggeration. But consider this: in the July 1935 issue of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, an article written by Dr Edward Ochaner, a surgeon from Chicago, had the following to say: “When the condition is hopeless, colloidal gold helps prolong life and makes life much more bearable, both to the patient and those about them, because it shortens the period of terminal cachexia (general physical wasting and malnutrition usually associated with chronic disease) and generally reduces pain and discomfort and the need for opiates in a majority of instances.”
The ‘lust for gold’ has been called a disease, but, as it turns out, gold actually heals.