The History of Herbal Medicine

No one is truly sure that the origins or history herbal medicine began or when humans started using plants as medicine, but some prehistoric sites show that Neanderthals used healing herbs more than 60,000 years ago. Prehistoric humans probably noticed ill animals eating plants they normally ignored and that the plants made them better. The humans probably sampled the plants themselves and discovered by trial and error which plants helped and which plants harmed.

The healing herbs have not changed over the years. Plants still have the same biochemical properties that they had thousands of years ago. The same plants have been used and documented for more than 5,000 years in such ancient cultures as the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Chinese. Many Native American cultures also have historical documentation of the uses of many healing herbs.

The use of herbal remedies continued for centuries around the world until the birth of modern medicine. The new medical practices pushed aside the old. Wise women who made and passed out herbal remedies became witches. Healers were old-fashioned and useless, and medicine became a predominately male and strictly scientific community.

Many pharmaceuticals are still derived from herbs. Aspirin was derived from the bark of a willow tree. Oral decongestants containing ephedrine are made from the ephedra plant. At least ¼ of all drugs that doctors prescribe contain active ingredients derived or synthesized from plants. Scientists learned how to isolate the active ingredients in herbs and produce more potent, faster-acting medicines. Unfortunately, with more potent medicine comes more powerful problems and side effects. With all the added chemicals, preservatives and synthetic formulations, the safety of the original herb is gone. The naturalness of the herb is taken away.

Herbal remedies are regaining their popularity because they are natural and less toxic. The medicine of the past is quickly becoming the medicine of the future.

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While herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years, not all herbs are safe for everyone. As with any medication you're taking, herbs have the potential to interact with each other as well as with prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Having knowledge of the benefits of medicinal herbs and their properties can prove very useful in helping you through a difficult situation, either by resolving the problem or providing relief until you are able to see your healthcare provider.

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