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Jun 21

Herbs Have an Ancient Medical History

Folk medicine has a history in all cultures. Even the Neanderthal man over 60,000 years ago used plants for healing. Many of our modern-day prescriptions have their roots in ancient ayurvedic medicine. Evidence has been found in every civilization known of herbal medicines or of herbal remedies that were used.

The Egyptian Papyrus detailed the use of herbs in the treatment of illnesses in the Middle East. Other early documentation includes material medica written by Diocles of Caryotos who was a pupil of Aristotle. Although we have evidence of the medica, it has been lost through time.

The Muslim stored their information in the text of Jami of Ibn Baiar who died in 1248 A.D. Christian doctors introduced this medica to Europe while traveling with the Crusaders. Trade in herbs was a vast international commerce. Herbs from China and Japan found their way into the hands of healing practitioners in Europe. Ayruvedic medicine emerged during the rise of Buddhism and other schools of thought in India.

Many people during these times viewed illnesses or sickness in a manner similar to Egypt in that it was looked upon as a punishment from the gods for a sin. Even still, healing was performed using natural herbs, minerals, and animal products. Products or extracts were used for teas and rubs to heal either internal and external illnesses or injuries.

Prescriptions for Fifty-Two Ailments was recovered from a burial site dated 168 B.C. It is mostly a pharmacological work and names more than 250 medicinal substances derived from herbs and wood, grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and animal parts. This medica feels that disease is a manifestation of evil spirits, ghosts, or demons so they must be repelled by incantations, spells, or rituals in addition to using the natural remedies.

People grew more confident of their ability to observe and understand the natural world by the late Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.) and medication changed dramatically in China. People believed that health and disease were subject to the principles of natural order. Herbs played an important role in later systems of medicine.

The traditional Chinese material medica have steadily increased in number since the writing of the Classic of the Materia Medica almost 2,000 years ago. The increase has been a result of the integration of herbs and folk medicine from China as well as from other parts of the world. There are many substances used today in traditional Chinese medicine that originated in places such as Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and the Americas.

The Japanese adapted Chinese-influenced Korean medicine brought to Japan by way of Korea (adapted from traditional Chinese medicine) during the reign of Emperor Ingyo (411-453 A.D.). Throughout the next century, medical envoys continued to arrive from Korea. The Empress Suiko (592-628 A.D.), sent Japanese envoys directly to China in order to study traditional Chinese medicine. The Japanese began to develop a new modified form of traditional oriental medicine called Kampo medicine toward the end of the Muromachi period (1333-1573 A.D.). Herbal medicine was markedly simplified as traditional Chinese medicine was modified into Kampo medicine.

Modern medicine has a firm foundation that is has been built upon, but it was built upon the use of natural remedies and substances. Some prescription medications may be necessary for some of the new diseases that we have created over time but many of our ailments can be helped by using natural herbal remedies.

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1 comment

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