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The History of Herbal Remedies

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The History of Herbal Remedies

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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.


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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 includes 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.


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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.


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