From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
p Z7
V31 G1 R5 p
Aa7 p
Determ: "grains"
in hieroglyphs

Kyphi (or: Cyphi) is a compound incense that was used in Ancient Egypt for religious and medical purposes.


Kyphi is latinized from Greek κ̑υφι for Ancient Egyptian "kap-t", incense.[1]


The earliest reference to kyphi is found in the Pyramid Texts: it is listed among the goods that the king will enjoy in the afterlife.[citation needed] Papyrus Harris I records the donation and delivery of herbs and resins for its manufacture in the temples under Ramses III.[citation needed] The Egyptian priest Manetho (ca. 300 B.C.E.) is said to have written a treatise called "On the preparation of kyphi" (Περὶ κατασκευ̑ης κυφίων), but no copy of this work survives.[2] Three Egyptian kyphi recipes from Ptolemaic times are inscribed on the temple walls of Edfu and Philae.[3]

Greek kyphi recipes are recorded by Dioscorides (De materia medica, I, 24), Plutarch (De Iside et Osiride, § 80) and Galen (De antidotis, II, 2).[3]

The seventh century physician Paul of Aegina records a "lunar" kyphi of twenty-eight ingredients and a "solar" kyphi of thirty-six.[citation needed]


The Egyptian recipes have sixteen ingredients each. Disocorides has ten ingredients, which are common to all recipes. Plutarch gives sixteen, Galen fifteen. Plutarch implies a mathematical significance to the number of sixteen ingredients.[3]

Some ingredients remain obscure. Greek recipes mention aspalathus, which Roman authors describe as a thorny shrub. Scholars do not agree on the identity of this plant: a species of Papilionaceae (Cytisus, Genista or Spartium),[3] Convolvulus scoparius,[3] and Genista acanthoclada[4] have been suggested. The Egyptian recipes similarly list several ingredients whose botanical identity is uncertain.

The manufacture of kyphi involves blending and boiling the ingredients in sequence. According to Galen, the result was rolled into balls and placed on hot coals to give a perfumed smoke; it was also drunk as a medicine for liver and lung ailments.[3]

Dioscorides (10 ingredients)[edit]

Plutarch (+6 ingredients)[edit]

Galen (+5 ingredients)[edit]

Egyptian (+6 ingredients)[edit]


  1. ^ E. A. Wallis Budge (1920), "kap-t", Egytian Hieroglyphic Dictionary 2, John Murray, p. 786b 
  2. ^ E. A. Wallis Budge (1902), A History of Egypt 1, Oxford University Press, p. 129 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Victor Loret (1887), "Le kyphi, parfum sacré des anciens égyptiens", Journal asiatique 10 (juillet-août): 76–132 
  4. ^ Immanuel Löw (1881), Aramäische Pflanzennamen, Engelmann, p. 341 

See also[edit]