What Was Used to Treat Insanity in Ancient Times?

Insanity, a broad term used to describe various mental disorders, has been a part of human civilization since ancient times. The causes of insanity were often misunderstood, and the treatment of such conditions was primitive by modern standards. Ancient societies, including those in Greece, Egypt, and India, had their own unique approaches to understanding and curing insanity.

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, insanity was believed to be caused by an imbalance in bodily fluids known as humors. The four humors were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Insanity was thought to be caused by an excess of one or more of these humors.

To restore balance and treat insanity, Greek physicians often prescribed purgatives or emetics to rid the body of excess fluids. Patients were also subjected to various forms of physical therapy such as massages and baths.

Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, the treatment of mental illness was closely tied to religion. It was believed that the gods could either cause or cure insanity.

One common treatment involved wearing amulets inscribed with prayers or spells that were supposed to ward off evil spirits causing mental illness. Patients were also given herbal remedies such as mandrake root and henbane to induce sleep and calm nerves.

Ancient India

In ancient India, mental illness was seen as a result of bad karma or spiritual imbalance. The Ayurvedic system of medicine emphasized the use of natural remedies such as herbs and oils for treating mental illness.

One popular treatment involved using herbs like ashwagandha and brahmi to reduce stress and improve cognitive function. Patients were also encouraged to practice yoga and meditation as a means of restoring balance between mind and body.


While the treatments used in ancient times may seem crude by modern standards, they offer insight into how different cultures approached mental illness. Today, we have a much deeper understanding of the causes and treatments of mental illness, but it’s important to remember that many of the treatments used in ancient times were based on the best knowledge available at the time.