History of Herbal Medicine

By | May 6, 2014

When reviewing the history of herbal medicine, it has been noted that herbs have been used by man almost as long as man has been on the earth. The practice of herbal medicine involves the use of elements of plants, trees, or shrubs. These parts can be prepared as extracts, poultices, herbal teas, and in many other ways.

Herbs are the foundation of modern pharmacology and have been used to make many mainstream medicines. One of the most mainstream medicines made from herbs is aspirin which is derived from White willow back. Morphine is another herbal medicine and is a product of the opium Poppy.

Herbs are also used as a method to fight cancer. Leurocristine is one of these cancer fighting herbs which is extracted from the Madagascar periwinkle. Other common herbs such as Rosemary and Parsley have cancer fighting agents in them.

Ancient Herbal Medicine

Early human tribal societies used herbs as medicines. Many of these ancient humans chewed on grasses to ease the pain of stomach. Other early human tribes had herbalists who became their specialists when using herbs and plants as medicines.

Ayurvedic Medicine and Herbal Medicine

When examining the history of herbal medicine, many experts in the field look to the use of herbs in Indian and southeast Asian cultures. These cultures have used preparations from herbs and plants for over 6,000 years. One of their traditions of healing was called Ayurvedic medicine.

The word ‘Ayurvedic’ means ‘the complete knowledge for long life’ and this approach follows along with principles and strategies for extending longevity and providing a healthy life. This tradition has its roots in the Hindu religion.

Herbal Medicines in Greek and Egyptian Cultures

Herbal medicines have been used by a wide variety of other cultures across time. In reviewing the history of herbal medicine, you can see that there are many examples in the ancient Greek society of people using herbs for medicinal purposes. Historians have also discovered the uses of herbs and plants in ancient Egyptian society.

Use of Herbal Medicine in China

Older Chinese cultures practiced the life philosophy of yen and yang — the balancing of life energies. There are many examples in the history of their culture where they used herbs and other techniques as healing methods; Chinese herbal remedies. They also used herbs as a way to treat the whole body in such a way that the whole person was brought into balance and harmony with themselves and nature.

Modern Use of Herbs

It has been estimated that up to seventy-five percent of the human population of the earth still use herbal medicine techniques and preparations as either their only source or as a major source of healing. Another lesser known fact is that a large amount of our traditional western medicines are derived from plants and herbs that exist in nature.

Many modern herbalists practice a syncretic approach when they use herbs for healing. This approach respects different religious practices and philosophies and takes from them all to formulate and use herbs in medicinal ways.

The history of herbal medicine cannot be denied. Herbs have played and will continue to play a major role in our society’s medical systems and will have a major role in healing the sick and providing ways to manage illness in a holistic and effective way.