Herbal remedies have been known to man for thousands of years, right from early civilization, though it is impossible to put a date on their discovery. The oldest records of herbs being used as medicines date as far back as 2800 BC; these records were discovered in China.
It is well known that people belonging to Persia, India, China, Egypt and even the Red Indians (America) used herbal extracts to treat the ailing members of their community. Scientists also have evidence that animals, especially apes, know about the medicinal properties of some plants and therefore, scientists reason that herbs could have been used as medicine even before the first human evolved on our planet.
After humans discovered the medical values of plants, herbal medicine became part of folklore and it spread by word of mouth and other antiquated means of communication through the centuries. In the 15th century, the printing press was invented, which helped in spreading the popularity of herbal medicine – herbal medicine recipes were printed on paper and passed around; naturally, they caught on like wildfire. By the 17th century herbal medicine was all over the place. Then allopathic medicines caught on and proponents of the allopathic chain of thought rubbished herbal medicine and claimed that it was too weak as compared to the stronger and effective allopathic medicines.
In 1985 the World Health Organization (WHO) was of the view that herbal medicines are an important constituent of health-care. Even today, debate rages on over the efficacy of herbal medicines. Here are a few herbs whose natural healing properties have been scientifically validated:
Ephedrine was an early asthma drug that was derived from the herb, Ephedra.
The plant Meadowsweet contains salicyclic acid and polyphenols – salicyclic is related to aspirin and polyphenols protect the stomach.
St. John’s Wort is known to be effective in treating depression.
The plant, Echinacea, has been proven to be effective in boosting the immune system.
Garlic is recognized for its effective cholesterol-lowering qualities.
The goodness of ginger helps protect against heart disease and fight cholesterol too.
Digoxin, a heart medicine, comes from the foxglove plant; Quinine, used to treat malaria, comes from the bark of the Cinchona tree; and, Morphine, the painkiller, comes from the poppy plant.
Though herbal medicines are effective, doctors prefer to stick to the regular medicines because there are many unknown qualities of herbs that still need to be known. Only time and effort will tell how and when the medicinal properties of herbs are fully understood.