How Were Gallstones Treated in Ancient Times?

Gallstones are painful and can cause severe discomfort. They are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that form in the gallbladder. The treatment of gallstones has evolved over centuries, and ancient civilizations had their unique ways of treating them.

Ancient Egypt: The ancient Egyptians believed that the liver was the most critical organ in the body and was responsible for producing blood. They believed that gallstones were caused by an imbalance in the four humors – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. To treat gallstones, they used natural remedies such as herbs and tinctures.

Ancient Greece: Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, described gallstones in detail in his medical texts. He believed that diet played a significant role in preventing and treating gallstones.

He suggested a diet low in fat and high in fiber to prevent stones from forming. To dissolve existing stones, he recommended drinking a mixture of bile salts.

Ancient China:

In traditional Chinese medicine, gallstones were seen as a result of an imbalance between yin and yang energies. Herbs such as dandelion root and fringe tree bark were used to treat gallstones.

Ancient Rome:

In ancient Rome, laparotomy was used to remove the gallbladder surgically. This procedure was risky because it involved making a large incision on the abdomen. A famous Roman physician named Galen suggested using a mixture of rose petals, myrtle berries, pomegranate peel, and honey to treat gallstones.

  • Middle Ages:
  • In medieval times, surgery was rarely performed due to the high risk of infection. Instead, natural remedies such as lemon juice mixed with olive oil were used to dissolve stones.

  • Renaissance:
  • The Renaissance period saw a resurgence in surgical techniques, and the first successful removal of the gallbladder was performed in the 17th century. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that laparoscopic surgery became a popular treatment for gallstones.


In conclusion, ancient civilizations had their unique ways of treating gallstones. Some used natural remedies, while others relied on surgical procedures.

Today, modern medicine has advanced significantly in treating gallstones, and laparoscopic surgery is considered a safe and effective treatment option. However, it’s essential to consult with a doctor before attempting any form of treatment for gallstones.