People have always been looking in the nature for remedies and cures that could heal and solve problems they had. In many of the most well known ancient cultures, medicinal herbs have had an important role, either in a medicinal or some other sense.
During history, the knowledge of medicinal plants and their uses, expanded slowly over time, so that nowadays there is already a vast collection of useful information in favor of treating many diseases by using plants. In relation to many natural herbal remedies, scientific research was made, and with the help of this kind of study, the biological activity of many medicinal plants has also been scientifically verified. Of course, the herbal treatment methods can not always compete with the artificial products made by the pharmaceutical industry, but in many different ways they can indeed help, and in many cases, they actually represent a more healthy and a cheaper alternative.
Medicinal herbs are a important part of modern civilization. Many of the drugs that we use today for healing various conditions have their roots in herbs, either because the drug itself is based on a herb, or because an active compound was discovered first in herbs, and was later researched to find more substances that work in a same or similar way.
However, medicinal plants are not a recent discovery, they have been in use since ancient times. One of the first civilizations that extensively used plants for healing, were the Sumerians, over 5000 years ago. They were known to use herbs like caraway and laurel very often.
Ancient Egyptians also used many medicinal herbs like mint, coriander, opium, garlic and many other. Even the Old Testament mentiones the cultivation and use of herbs like mandrake, caraway, rye, wheat and barley.
Indian and chinese civilizations were also known to use many herbs. The Indian Sushruta Samhita, which is a Sanskrit redaction text on all of the most important factors of ayurvedic medicine mentions over 700 different medicinal herbs, along with preparations from mineral and animal sources. The first Chinese book concerning medicinal herbs, Shennong Bencao Jing, mentioned even more plants – around 365 different plants, along with their uses.
Concerning the western civilization, the most important literary works were left by ancient Greeks and Romans. Theophrastus left the most important Greek book concerning medicine based on herbs called Historia Plantarum. Even more important was a compendium called Materia Medica, written by Dioscorides, that had more than 500 plants described and remained as one of the most important literary works regarding medicinal herbs.
The ancient civilizations already set the basis of this interesting field of science, and thanks to them and their work, today we have many medications that are based on the knowledge that they set thousands of years ago. The modern science is starting to pay more and more attention to these natural herbal remedies, although the competition with the artificial products of the pharmaceutical is making the whole process a bit slower, but we hope that somehow these two branches of science and industry will find a way to work in synergy.