A drug that was used to treat rheumatism in ancient Egypt has been shown to be effective in fighting heart inflammation, also known as pericarditis, in the sac surrounding the heart. Colchicine has also been used to treat gout for centuries, and is commonly used in treating familial Mediterranean fever and Behcet’s disease.

According to a new study, which was presented at the annual scientific sessions at the American College of Cardiology in Washington, colchicine cuts the rate of recurring pericarditis in patients by half. The study measured the drug’s effects against a placebo among 240 patients, showing that chest pain reappeared in 42.5 percent of people taking placebo pills and 21.6 of those taking colchicine. The researchers also found that the drug decreased hospitalizations among people with the condition.

Pericarditis is the swelling of the pericardium, which is the sac membrane surrounding the heart; it causes chest pain but is typically acute, or short-lived. The chest pain is often caused by the two inflamed layers of pericardium rubbing against one another. Though trauma, certain medications, and systemic inflammatory disorders are known to be risk factors of pericarditis, the cause of the condition is often difficult to figure out. Typically, people with pericarditis take ibuprofen or aspirin — both of which are anti-inflammatory pills — as treatment. In the study, participants took 0.5 milligrams of colchicine once or twice daily, which significantly reduced the inflammation.

Colchicine was originally extracted from autum crocus plants, also known as “meadow saffron.” The drug dates back to 1500 BC, where it was written about in an ancient Egyptian medical papyrus known as the Ebers Papyrus. Colchicum plants were used to treat gout throughout the early centuries and Middle Ages, and were brought to America by Benjamin Franklin, who himself suffered from gout.

It’s not, however, entirely new that colchicine is suspected to be an effective pericarditis drug. One study out of the American Heart Association pinpointed its positive effects on the condition back in 1998. And in 2013, researchers released another study that highlighted colchicine’s effects upon a “wider spectrum of cardiovascular diseases than previously suspected,” hoping to explore and “rekindle the interest in this old drug.”

According to the American Heart Association, colchicine has also been found to reduce postoperative atrial fibrillation (POAF), which is the most common type of arrhythmia, or an unusual heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart “fibrillate,” or move too fast and irregularly.

“Health care providers should feel confident with the use of colchicine as a first line drug in patients with multiple recurrences of pericarditis,” Dr. Massimo Imazio, a cardiologist at Maria Vittoria Hospital in Torino, Italy, told Reuters. He added that it can be an addition to traditional treatments like common anti-inflammatory pills and corticosteroids.