Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Best Served On Toast -


Mellified Man, or human mummy confection, refers to a legendary medicinal substance created by steeping a cadaver in honey. Allegedly from Arabia, mellified man was reported by 16th-century Chinese pharmacologist Li Shizhen in his Bencao Gangmu. It is described in the final section (52, "Man as medicine", tr. Read 1931, nos. 408-444) under the entry for munaiyi (木乃伊 "mummy"). Both European and Chinese pharmacopeias employed medicines of human origin, for instance urine therapy. Read suggests,

The underlying theories which sustained the use of human remedies, find a great deal in common between the Arabs as represented by Avicenna, and China through the [Bencao]. Body humors, vital air, the circulations, and numerous things are more clearly understood if an extended study be made of Avicenna or the Europeans who based their writings on Arabic medicine. The various uses given in many cases common throughout the civilized world, [Nicholas] Lemery also recommended women's milk for inflamed eyes, feces were applied to sores, and the human skull, brain, blood, nails and "all the parts of man", were used in sixteenth century Europe. (1931:n.p.)

Mary Roach publicized the pharmacological use of honeyed mummies in her book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

In the grand bazaars of twelfth century Arabia, it was occasionally possible if you knew where to look and you had a lot of cash and a tote bag you didn't care about to procure an item known as a mellified man. The verb "to mellify" comes from the Latin for honey, mel. Mellified man was dead human remains steeped in honey. Its other name was "human mummy confection," though this is misleading, for unlike other honey steeped confections, this one did not get served for dessert. One administered topically, and, I am sorry to say, orally as medicine. The preparation represented an extraordinary effort, both on the part of the confectioners, and more notably, on the part of the ingredients.

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