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Herbalism


Herbalism



The use of plants as medicines predates written human history. A 60 000-year-old 

Neanderthal burial site, "Shanidar IV", in northern Iraq has yielded large amounts of

pollen from 8 plant species, 7 of which are used now as herbal remedies[16]

In the written record, the study of herbs dates back over 5,000 years to the Sumerians,

who described well-established medicinal uses for such plants as laurel, caraway, and

thyme. Ancient Egyptian medicine of 1000 B.C. are known to have used garlic, opium,

castor oil, coriander, mint, indigo, and other herbs for medicine and the Old Testament

also mentions herb use and cultivation, including mandrake, vetch, caraway, wheat,

barley, and rye.

In Indian Ayurveda medicine has used many herbs such as turmeric possibly as early as

1900 B.C.[17] Many other herbs and minerals used in Ayurveda were later described by

ancient Indian herbalists such as Charaka and Sushruta during the 1st millennium BC.

The Sushruta Samhita attributed to Sushruta in the 6th century BC describes 700

medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources, and 57 preparations based on

animal sources.[18]

The first Chinese herbal book, the Shennong Bencao Jing, compiled during the Han

Dynasty but dating back to a much earlier date, possibly 2700 B.C.[citation needed],

lists 365 medicinal plants and their uses - including ma-Huang, the shrub that

introduced the drug ephedrine to modern medicine. Succeeding generations augmented on

the Shennong Bencao Jing, as in the Yaoxing Lun (Treatise on the Nature of Medicinal

Herbs), a 7th century Tang Dynasty treatise on herbal medicine.

The ancient Greeks and Romans made medicinal use of plants. Greek and Roman medicinal

practices, as preserved in the writings of Hippocrates and - especially - Galen,

provided the pattern for later western medicine. Hippocrates advocated the use of a few

simple herbal drugs - along with fresh air, rest, and proper diet. Galen, on the other

hand, recommended large doses of drug mixtures - including plant, animal, and mineral

ingredients. The Greek physician compiled the first European treatise on the properties

and uses of medicinal plants, De Materia Medica. In the first century AD, Dioscorides

wrote a compendium of more than 500 plants that remained an authoritative reference

into the 17th century. Similarly important for herbalists and botanists of later

centuries was the Greek book that founded the science of botany, Theophrastus’ Historia

Plantarum, written in the fourth century B.C.







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