Interesting side item while I’ve been reading through this book on PH in 19th century Egypt. At one point, the author mentions that the three most common health complaints of 19th century Egyptians were ophthalmia, dysentery, and plague. Dysentery is well noted amongst us who’ve been there. The first one, ophthalmia is probably Egyptian ophthalmia or an eye infection with the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. . .that chlamydia. He notes that Pierre-Charles Rouyer, a pharmacist with the French army, noted that there were many treatments the Egyptians used on ophthalmia including kohl powder which was used as an eyeliner.
Now, I recall linking to an article on this not too long ago, but I can’t find it right now. The constituents of ancient kohl probably varied, but most of what I’ve read had it including copper and antimony, the former at least having antibiotic properties — the article I’m vaguely remembering makes me thing lead was an ingredient as well. I’m guessing this was a common ailment elsewhere as well, and I’ve seen a reference or two to some form of kohl being used elsewhere, notably Sumeria. I imagine it couldn’t have worked all that well as a prophylactic if the disease was that common, although I suppose it could have kept it at least somewhat in check and perhaps only for that segment of the population that could afford to use it on a regular basis.
Still, interesting how the tradition was maintained down through the centuries, apparently.