BRIEF HISTORY ON HERBS
Herbs have long been in existence before the human race, it’s been recorded that it was in use since prehistoric times. Its research started has a rescue for their diseases, hence, people looked for drugs in nature, as at then, the use of medicinal plants was given instinctively as there was insufficient information concerning the illnesses and how it could be cured.
It dates back to five thousand years ago, the first herbal guide which was found on a Sumerian clay slab from Nagpur. It comprised 12 recipes for drug preparation referring to over 250 various plants. The oldest known list of medicinal herbs is Shen Nung’s Pen Ts’ao or Shennong ben Cao Jing (3000 B.C), dried parts of medicinal plants, many of which are used even nowadays such as cinnamon bark, ginseng, jimson weed, the great yellow gentian and lot more.
The first Chinese herbal, the Wu Shi Er Bing Fang (prescriptions for fifty-two diseases), was compiled somewhere between 1065 and 711 B.C.E. it included herbs such as licorice, ginger, and asparagus root.
Nutmeg, pepper, clove, and many more numerous spice plants originated from the Indian holy books Vedas, which are used in treatment abundantly in the country.
The Ancient Romans and Greeks were all renowned herbalists, they crowned their leaders with dill and laurel. The Romans also used dill to purify the air. Surgeons traveling with the roman army spread their herbal expertise throughout the roman empire, in Spain, Germany, France, and England.
In the 5th century B.C, Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, listed approximately 400 herbs in common use. “De Materia Medica” written by Pedanius Dioscorides a Greek physician serving with the Roman army described the medicinal uses of many herbs, which is even to date considered one of the most influential herbal books.
During the middle ages, herbs were passed on from generation to another, used in diverse ways, ranging from preserving meat as well as covering the rotten taste of meals that couldn’t be refrigerated. Although the Catholic Church emphasized faith healing over other forms of healing. The early settlers grew herbs for seasoning their food, as well as, for medicinal properties.
The printing press discovery in the 15th century brought about a revolution that made information more accessible to the vast.
John Gerard, a physician to the Tudor family, published The Herball or General Historie of Plantes in 1597; it was one of the first English herbals. It was quickly followed by Nicholas Culpeper’s’ The English Physician Enlarged, an interesting blend of folklore, astrology, and botanical medicine.
3 Main Herbal Medicine Traditions
They are 3 main medicinal herb traditions that derive from herbal use in ancient times.
- Western, based on Greek and Roman sources
- Ayurveda from Indian
- Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
The western medical establishment however began to turn to chemotherapy and use of chemical drugs in the 1800s. Herbal medicine continued to be in practice and was used by those who preferred it over conventional medical care. The Eclectics, a group of physicians who were prominent in the 1930s, still valued plant medicines. Samuel Hahnemann and other holistic practitioners from the 18th century continued to rely primarily on drugs derived from plants and animals.
The primary source of healthcare for about 80 percent of the world’s population is still herbal medicine.
HERBS: DEFINITION AND ROOT WORD
Herb(n) c 1300, erbe means “non-woody plant”, especially a leafy vegetable used for human food.
From Old French erbe “grass, herb, plant fed to animals”. (Modern French herbe)
From Latin herba “grass, an herb; herbage, turf, weeds” (also of Spanish yerba, Portuguese herva, Italian erba).
Herb is used to refer to any plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic qualities, excluding vegetables and other plants consumed for macronutrients.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HERB AND SPICES
Herbs generally refer to the leafy green or flowering parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), while Spices are usually dried and produced from other parts of the plant, including seeds, bark, roots, and fruits.
USES OF HERBS
Herbs contain numerous properties, one of which is medicinal, this includes diverse health benefits, herbs are also used in culinary in food or drink additives for flavoring or coloring.
- Herbs are rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants absorb oxygen and protect against free radicals that causes severe diseases. E.g. Thyme
- Herbs for boosting health
- Herbs regulate bowel movement
- Herbs possess anti-inflammatory properties
Anti-inflammatory is known to stop the formation of inflammation-causing substances, and combating the factors.
- Herbs for good immune system.
- Herbs for cardiovascular health.
- Herbs to alleviate pain.
- Herbs for healthy bone
- Herbs to fight infections.
- Herbs for a flawless skin.
- Herbs for depression and other emotional problems, and lot more.
- Herbs are used as fragrance.
- Herbs are used for cooking.
- Herbs are used for flavoring.
The uses of herbs in our daily lives and its benefits remain endless, and further research is conducted to discover more values. However, in relation to its medicinal uses for proportioning and accurate prescription, do consult a health practitioner.
1. Herb Bible by Earl Mindell’s
2. Historical collections at the Claude Moore health sciences
3. The US National Library of Medicine
4. Natural food series