The History of Herbal Remedies

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Usage of Herbs During the Middle Ages

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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.

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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.

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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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