What Drugs Did They Use in Ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece is well known for its contributions to the fields of art, literature, philosophy, and politics. However, not many people are aware that the Greeks also made significant advances in medicine and pharmacology.

In fact, the use of drugs was an important aspect of ancient Greek medicine. Let’s take a closer look at what drugs the Greeks used in their medical practices.

Ancient Greek Medicine

Greek medicine was based on the belief that diseases were caused by natural phenomena and not by supernatural forces. The Greeks believed that diseases could be treated through a combination of diet, exercise, rest, relaxation, and medication. They believed that each person had four humors or bodily fluids – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile – which needed to be balanced to maintain good health.

Herbs and Plants

The Greeks used a variety of herbs and plants for medicinal purposes. One of the most widely used herbs was opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), which was used to relieve pain and induce sleep. Other commonly used herbs included mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), and belladonna (Atropa belladonna), all of which were used as sedatives or pain relievers.


In addition to herbs and plants, the Greeks also used minerals for medicinal purposes. One such mineral was sulfur (S), which was used to treat skin diseases such as acne and eczema. Mercury (Hg) was also used as a disinfectant for wounds.

Animal Products

The Greeks also made use of animal products for medicinal purposes. For example, honey was commonly used as an antiseptic for wounds. Additionally, snake venom was believed to have medicinal properties and was even used in small doses to treat certain ailments.


In conclusion, the Greeks used a variety of drugs in their medical practices. Their knowledge of herbs, plants, minerals, and animal products allowed them to treat a wide range of illnesses and ailments. While some of their methods may seem primitive by today’s standards, it is important to remember that the Greeks made significant contributions to the field of medicine and pharmacology, which have helped shape modern medical practices.