Written record of history bear testimony to their use in the earliest known times.
One of the longest medical paypri - Papyrus Ebers, dating back to the second century B.C. describes various ailments and their herbal remedies like myrrh, cumin, peppermint, caraway, fennel, olive oil, etc. Licorce was possibly a prized herb as it was discovered in abundance from the tomb of king Tut that dates to 3000 B.C. The earliest Chinese book on medical herbs, written around the same time epitomises ginseng, besides listing numerous other herbs. The Arabs, Greeks, Persians, Babylonians and Romans were adept in herbal healing.
Pliny, Horace, Theophrastus, Aristophon, Virgil, among others were the ancient writers who recorded herbs and their place in the life of their times. Where ever man went, herbs were there for him, marking their intimate tracery through his history. Mithridates eating each morning his cakes of rue, to counter poison which might have been in his food; Casanova chewing sweet herbs to perfume his breath; Charlemagne choosing the herbs for his royal gardens; the companions of Columbus sowing borage on Isabella Island.
¤ Traditional Use of Herbs
Traditionally, herbs have come to be understood as those plants whose leaves, stems, or seeds have aromatic or medicinal qualities, so that they may be used as perfume, food seasoning, medicine or were used as dyes and cosmetics.
There is quiet a pleasure in herbal aromas that is difficult to describe. They are strangely ethereal, yet robust and earthly, and that is reward enough for growing them. Today, herbs and the shops that sell them are a common sight.
Believe it or not, traditional medicines coming from plants keep 75 percent of the world alive. We also have hundreds of books on herbs and how to grow them. Large scale nurseries have mushroomed everywhere that take care of local needs and exports. Herbs have replaced salt, sugar, sweeteners and caffeine loaded beverages. Adverse medical reports form the world of medicine has given rise to a whole new industry- herbal teas, herbal honey, herbal soap, herbal toothpaste, etc.
¤ Travel Kits With Herbal Remedies
Today we have travel kits packed with herbal remedies which can put you back in good health much more gently than drugs can. These kits can treat a range of minor ailments - from cuts and scrapes to motion sickness.
Today’s medicine chest goes beyond the dettol, vicks and asprin. Aloevera, ginger, garlic peppermint, echinacea, etc are given special place of honour. Several such herbs have gained their reputation by proving themselves to human beings repeatedly over the course of centuries.
As with good friends, their reputation is the result of the constant caring effort they show us, and the human level delights they shower upon us in quiet ways that delight the heart. The connection we’ve formed with herbs may seem indefinably magical, yet it is undeniably real.
¤ Drugs In Their Pure State
Upto the 19th century, the only ‘drugs’ available as cures were in the pure state as nature’s bounty. In reality, the boundary between natural and synthetic is, at best, a little fuzzy. Did you know for example, that the ubiquitous asprin was synthesized from the weeping willow tree? and its pain easing properties have been known since the first century ? Morphine, as you known, is extracted from the poppy and, try as they might, scientists have found it impossible to duplicate or better its marvellous, life saving, pain suppressant qualities in the laboratory.
Four out of five children with leukaemia survive, thanks to the chemicals - vincristine and vinblasstine which contain extracts from the rosy periwinkle from the Madagascan rainforest which tribal healers have been using for hundreds of years as a medicine. Cancer of the lung, kidney and testes responds to etoposide, a drug synthesized from mayapples. Mandrake, mentioned in the Bible and by Pluto, who wrote of it ‘chaining up the noble captain’s senses’, yields an important sedative, hyoscine. Now called scopolamine, it remains the standard preoperative medication. Watercress leaves applied to the temples are reputed to ease headaches. Spirit of rosemary massaged into joints is said to relieve aches. Inhaled basil oil can help clear sinuses and an infusion of sorrel cleanses kidney and blood.
¤ Herbs-The Essence of All Medicines
Over a quarter of all prescribed medicines are based on plants. Yet, of the estimated 250,000 flowering plants alone that are believed to be in existence, only around 5000 have been tested extensively for their pharmaceutical attributes. Thanks to our growing concern for ecology that has stirred our interest in plants.
While for many years synthetic drugs have been considered the only reliable and effective way of treating illness, herbalism is now undergoing a revival. The WHO promotes it as a relevant therapy even though health standard authorities are skeptical because of difficulties controlling testing and standardization. In America, for instance, federal law makes it tricky for manufacturers to say much about the benefits of herbs on their labels, leaving consumers to help themselves. Comparatively Germany is way ahead where 70 percent of the country’s general practitioners regularly prescribe herbal remedies. In Asian countries, herbal remedies have a still greater hold and people selling herbals are considered as good a herbalist.