Use of Herbal Remedies – A historical perspective Reviewed by Momizat on . Herbal Chikitsa The usage of plants as a form of medicine has existed since prehistoric times. A number of cave paintings, such as those found in caves in Franc Herbal Chikitsa The usage of plants as a form of medicine has existed since prehistoric times. A number of cave paintings, such as those found in caves in Franc Rating: 0
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Use of Herbal Remedies – A historical perspective

Use of Herbal Remedies – A historical perspective

Herbal Chikitsa

The usage of plants as a form of medicine has existed since prehistoric times. A number of cave paintings, such as those found in caves in France, are testament to this fact. Many anthropologists believe that various animals evolved in a manner which would allow them to consume plants to combat diseases.

The written record indicates that humans have been studying herbs for at least 5,000 years, and it was the Sumerians who were first responsible for recording the various medical uses of different types of medicine. Some of the plants which they described were thyme, caraway, and laurel. Even the Old Testament makes mention of various medical herbs.Another area in which herbs are heavily discussed is within Indian Ayurveda medicinal treatments. Some of the herbs which are highly important in this field include curcumin and turmeric, which have been used for thousands of years.

The Chinese have also used various herbs for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and the very first book on the subject is called Shennong Bencao Jing. This book lists as many as 365 plants which can be used to treat various ailments. In the West, the ancient Greeks also took a great interest in herbs, and much of their knowledge is contained within the writings of Hippocrates as well as Galen.

These writings would go on to form the foundation for western medicine. Hippocrates devised a number of simple uses for the herbs, along with large amounts of rest and a solid diet. In contrast, Galen felt that the herbs should be taken in larger quantities, and he also felt that the medicines should be a mixture of mineral, plants, and other materials.The De Materia Medica is an important work which describes the mixture of plants, minerals, and animals for medical purposes.Usage of herbs during the middle ages

During the early part of medieval European history, herb medicine did not change a great deal. Much of the information which was passed down from the Greeks and Romans was maintained through the duplication of manuscripts via copying. This was often done in monasteries, which had become centralized places of knowledge.
The various monasteries that existed in Europe would often construct herb gardens based on the knowledge contained in the ancient manuscripts. However, the uses of herbal medicine were not limited to these monasteries, as many villages had herbalists who practiced folk medicine.

Many of these herbalists were women, and would often add chants and spells to their work. In fact, these female herbalists would later go on to become known as witches. One woman who played an important role in medieval herbal medicine was Hildegard of Bingen, a nun who wrote a manuscript named Causes and Cures.

In addition to Europe, the Islamic world made a number of important contributions to the development of herbal medicine. In fact, the Middle East had a herbal tradition which was much more advanced in comparison to its European counterpart.
Since the Arabs spent a great deal of time trading with both the Chinese and the Indians, they picked up a large amount of information which was related to herbal medicine, and built upon this knowledge with their own experiments.

The Arabs would go on to establish medical schools which were known as the Bimaristan, and these schools were highly advanced. Upon studying the Materia Medica, Muslim doctors begin to build on the knowledge contained in it, and doctors such as al-Dinawari was able to describe as many as 600+ plant herbs during the 9th century, while Ibn al-Baitar described 1300+ herbs.
Out of these, at least 300 discoveries were solely made by him. Many herbalists begin applying the scientific method to their research by the 13th century, and this allowed many rapid advances to be made. Al-Nabati was responsible for the introduction of empirical techniques which could be used for the identification and testing for plant medicines.

This would eventually lead to the field which is today known as pharmacology. In the year 1025, another ground breaking book, The Canon of Medicine, was published, and it lists a grand total of 800 different types of drugs.
This book is considered by many historians to be the very first pharmacopoeia, and a number of additional books were written during the 11th century. Even as the university system begin to become a more dominant power in the educational world, herbal medicine continued to develop in parallel.

Herbal medicine today
While modern medicine has maintained a monopoly over curing many illnesses today, many people, both in first world and third world nations, have continued to use plants for medicinal purposes, particularly because of their low cost and ease with which they can be grown.

Additionally, the many side effects and fatalities which have resulted from the use of synthetic medicine has caused many people to take a second look at medicinal herbs.

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