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The History of Herbal Medicine

Many of today’s synthetic drugs originated from the plant kingdom, and only about 200 years ago our pharmacopoeia was dominated by herbal medicines. The word “herb” has been derived from the Latin word, “herba” and an old French word “herbe”. Nowadays, herb refers to part of the plant like fruit, seed, stem, bark, flower, leaf, stigma or a root, as well as a non-woody plant. Plants have long been recognized for their therapeutic properties. For centuries, indigenous cultures around the world have used traditional herbal medicine to treat many illnesses. Since time immemorial people have tried to find medications to alleviate pain and cure different illnesses. Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts.

The oldest written evidence of medicinal plants usage for preparation of drugs has been found on a Sumerian clay slab from Nagpur, approximately 5,000 years old. It compromised 12 recipes for drug preparation referring to over 250 various plants, some of them alkaloid such as poppy, henbane, and mandrake. Indigenous cultures such as Rome, Egypt, Iran, Africa, and America used herbs in their healing rituals, while other developed traditional medical systems such as Unani, Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine in which herbal therapies therapies were used systematically.

In the United States, the history of herbal use begins in the early colonial days when health care was provided by women in the home. Initially, they used homemade botanical remedies and later purchased similar products as “patent medicines.” Modern Western herbalism emphasizes the effects of herbs on individual body systems. For example, herbs may be used for their supposed anti-inflammatory, haemostatic, expectorant, antispasmodic, or immunostimulatory properties. Medical herbalism went into rapid decline when pharmacology established itself as a leading branch of therapeutics. In much of the English-speaking world, herbalism vanished from the therapeutic map about a century ago. In contrast, many developing countries never abandoned medical herbalism for example: Ayurvedic medicine in India, Kampo medicine in Japan, and Chinese herbalism in China. And in other countries, Germany and France, medical herbalism continued to co-exist with modern pharmacology, albeit at an increasingly lower level.

In rural areas, there are additional cultural factors that encourage the use of botanicals, such as the concept of an interplay between the environment and culture, a “man-earth” relationship. Although herbs had been prized for their medicinal, flavoring, and aromatic qualities for centuries, the synthetic products of the modern age surpassed their importance, for a while. However, the blind dependence on synthetics is over and people are returning to the naturals with hope of safety and security.

DISCLAIMER: The Information on this website is for informational purposes only and not to be considered as medical advice. This information is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat, or cure any medical condition. Kreed Botanicals and its editors do not provide medical advice.

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