The Deep Roots of Herbal Remedies

The Deep Roots of Herbal Remedies

Plant based remedies are widely used in all cultures and continents on the Earth. We know that Chinese medicine use plants as healers to balance energy flow in the body or QI energy. Qi is a "breath", "air" or "gas", and figuratively as "material energy", "life force" circulating in body.

We use many remedies already in our everyday life as spices, teas, salts, etc, but not always we are aware of full spectrum of their properties.

Ancient cultures used different worts - substances made from plants and herbs, especially those that was meant to use formerly as food or medicinally. In many cultures these ancient healing principles are still alive and is wide used as home remedies. In history we call it herbalism and it over loops with food history as many herbs are used as spices historically and were found useful as remedies. Spices played antimicrobial activity in cooking and helped prevent development of food born pathogens. So, the use of plants as healing agents, as well as clays and soils has very deep roots in ancient world. In Babylonian times, the symptoms and diseases of a patient were treated through therapeutic means such as bandages, herbs and creams. In India, student of Ayurveda was expected to know ten arts that were indispensable in the preparation and application of his medicines: distillation, operative skills, cooking, horticulture, metallurgy, sugar manufacture, pharmacy, analysis and separation of minerals, compounding of metals, and preparation of alkalis - ionic salt of alkaline earth metal chemical element.

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Traditional Chinese Medicine that is based on the use of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage and other forms of therapy has been practiced in China for thousands of years. In Japan the pharmacists—and even pharmacist assistants—were assigned status superior to all others in health-related fields such as physicians and acupuncturists

In ancient Greece, the Temple of Asclepius used spring water that flowed down into an underground room, where people came to drink the waters and to bathe in it because they believed this water has medicinal properties. Mud baths and hot teas, such as chamomile, were used to calm them or peppermint tea to release their headaches. Such type of remedies is still used in many homes till today. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotel divided souls into three groups: a vegetative soul, responsible for reproduction and growth; a sensitive soul, responsible for mobility and sensation; and a rational soul, capable of thought and reflection. Galen, prominent Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, served prominent members of Roman society and that eventually given him the position of personal physician to several emperors.

Opium was widely used, patients entered a dream-like state of induced sleep known as "enkoimesis", that was not unlike anesthesia, under which they either received guidance from the deity in a dream or were cured by surgery.

Hippocrates - ‘‘father of modern medicine’, may have originated homeopathy around 400 BC, when he prescribed a small dose of mandrake root to treat mania. Hippocrates also followed the principles of ancient Greek medicine theory of bodily humors; differences in human moods come as a consequence of imbalances in one of the four bodily fluids - blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Galen also promoted this theory and the typology of human temperaments, he promoted to view imbalance of each humor corresponding with particular human temperament, blood—sanguine, black bile—melancholic, yellow bile—choleric, and phlegm—phlegmatic. Most of the writings of Galen and Hippocrates were lost to the West, with the summaries and compendia of St. Isidore of Seville being the primary channel for transmitting Greek medical ideas.

In 9th century, Islam Golden ages, pharmacists promoted the medical uses of chemical compounds and prepared medicines by sublimation and distillation. Ancient Indians, Greeks, Romans and Byzantine influenced the medical practices in the Islam World, where it was developed further. At the beginning of the 11th century medieval Islam world philosopher and pharmacist Avicenna, traveled from place to place, a cross to Iran and Central Asia, and wrote his huge Cannon of Medicine. There are another important figures from Islamic World, one of them is Al-Muwaffaq, who lived in the 10th century and wrote The foundations of the true properties of Remedies, amongst others chemical compounds, he describing arsenious oxide, and being acquainted with silicic acid. He made clear distinction between sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate, he also warned about poisonous properties of copper compounds, especially copper vitriol, and also lead compounds. He also describes how to turn seawater to drinking water by distillation.

In the early Middle Ages in Europe, Benedictine monasteries preserved medical knowledge in Europe, translating and copying classical texts and maintaining herbal gardens.



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In the 16th century, founder of principles of pharmacology, a branch of biology, Paracelsus declared that small doses of "what makes a man ill also cures him".



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In 1796, the German physician Samuel Hahnemann, created new plant based healing system and called it homeopathy. It is based on his doctrine of like cures like (similia similibus curentur), a claim that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people.

At that time, in the late 18th and 19th centuries, mainstream medicine used methods like bloodletting and purging, and administered complex mixtures, such as Venice treacle and other very powerful substances from dozen different plants and even animal parts and poisons. These treatments often worsened symptoms and sometimes proved fatal.

Hahnemann rejected these practices – which had been used for centuries – as irrational and inadvisable. He advocated the use of single drugs at lower doses and promoted an immaterial, spiritual view of how living organism functions, believing that diseases have mental, as well as physical causes.

Development of modern medicine in Europa was developed in Florence. Medici family who ruled Florence through almost all period of Renaissance was first bankers in Europe and also financed scientific, medical and cultural development. Is it coincidence that Medici is the plural of medico, meaning "medical doctor’’? Florence was first city that brought pharmacy out of monastery walls and opened a first public pharmacy.

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Interesting facts

During the Renaissance, many different substances were used to treat the ‘falling sickness’. The most important of these were: copper (which had already been used by the Ancient Greeks), zinc oxide, silver nitrate, mercury, bismuth and tin, but plants played an important role from this point of view, too, in particular, castoreum, artemisia and rhubarb. As early as ancient Greek and Roman times, a resinous secretion from the scent glands of the beaver (castor sacks) was used as a remedy for the ‘holy disease’; up until well into the 19th century, this substance was widely used as a sedative and a remedy for convulsions and was to be found in every apothecary. Mugwort (Atrtemisia vulgaris) was commonly used as well. In earlier centuries, this was the magical cure-all. Even in orthodox medicine, mugwort was believed to be an effective remedy for epilepsy. Absinth, which has in it the amaroids from mugwort flowers, was also used to treat epilepsy.


In 1930's english homeopath Edward Bach, who made extremely diluted flower material in water and mixed it with brandy in ratio 50:50, claimed that It is claimed that the remedies contain energetic value or frequency of flower and that this frequency could be transmitted to user. Flower Modern medicine do not accept this approach and call it pseudoscience. At the same time so many people use Bach flower pills as vibrational remedies based on water memory. Bach pills are use widely by homeopaths even it does not follow main principles of homeopathy law of similar.

Bach believed that illness was the result of a conflict between the purposes of the soul and the personality's actions and outlook. This internal war, according to Bach, leads to negative moods and to "energy blocking", thought to cause a lack of "harmony", thus leading to physical diseases

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Herbal medicines have been in use since long before modern medicine existed; there was and often still is little or no knowledge of the pharmacological basis of their actions.

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Modern society has turned back to ancient knowledge and almost everyone in science now works in nano level, try to make new compounds and use their properties in modern technology, new materials, and new products.

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Thank you for reading.

Arvis Liepa

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