The tale of medicinal plants is an ancient one that shapes many cultures into a prevalent pattern from around the earth.
Herbs, crops, roots, flowers, and fungi were the first therapeutic medicines.
Archeologists have discovered information, including symbolic representations and fossilized plant sediments depicted, revealing the use of medicinal herbs in the Paleolithic Age 60,000
The first legitimized herbal remedy record starts with the Sumerians in old Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), who lived over 5000 years ago. They carved recipes on clay plates or tablets,
which included drug preparations for over 250 plants.
Some of these texts suggest a sophisticated knowledge of plant components such as the alkaloid content of poppy, henbane.
These herbs must have been tested as no one would have guessed the plants ' comprehensive benefits during that time.
Initially, the Sumerians, considered one of the first urban cultures in the world, were described as a matriarchal society that perceived everything from a natural perspective, knowing that nature governed everything and was abundant.
Similar to the Daoists, for therapeutic methods, the Sumerians looked at nature and its motions to correlate similar patterns within the human body.
In China, people also collaborated with the plant's kingdom for medication.
Around 2500 BC Emperor Shen Nung wrote the first Chinese herbal, Shen Nung Pen t'sao ching; emphasizing grasses and roots, 365 herbs were documented.
An impressive and committed herbalist, Shen Nung sampled each of these herbs personally and sadly died in the service of plant medicine owing to a toxic overdose.
He gained popularity from a background in agriculture and was often referred to as the Yan Emperor, or divine farmer. His work is perceived as the foundation of Chinese herbalism, adopted widely in China and practiced worldwide.
Many of the plants listed are still commonly used today, including camphor, podophyllum, jimson plant, cinnamon leaves, ginseng, gentian and ma huang (the ma huang tree introduced the substance ephedrine to contemporary medicine for the first time).
Ayurveda's East Indian traditions and the Vedas scriptures are endowed with extensive
references to plant-based medical procedures.
Charaka (around 800 BC) and Sushruta (about 500 BC) were two of the first to create a plant,
mineral, and animal preparations.
These were the first compounds to produce medicinal prescriptions or herbal blends.
Sushruta classified herbs into subdivisions by disorder and plant treatment.
Ayurvedic methods are among the most practical when it comes to utilizing herbs with food,
recognizing the basic knowledge that food is medicine.
Healing spices like nutmeg, pepper, clove, caraway, and turmeric all come from the culture of
Ayurveda and are frequently used nowadays.
In another region of the world, Egyptians, mainly because of their close association with
Babylonia, were no strangers to the use of plant medicine.
Some, like Chinese healers, introduced to their recipes animal elements, insects, and other
components. In the latest decades, by researching the contents of old royalty graves in Egypt and
China, archeologists have gained a significant understanding of the importance of these
And there is increasing data that ordinary people were also relying on herbs for healing.
For example, the 5,000-year-old mummified "iceman" who has been discovered in the Alps was
carrying a bag of herbal medicines.
A short look at Western medicine's progress demonstrates the critical function of plant-based
healing, or phytomedicine (Phyto for "plant" in Greek).
Hippocrates ( 460 to 400 B.C.), was called the father of Western Medicine and was one of the first to recognize the connection between diet and health.
While researchers are unable to distinguish reality from myth concerning Hippocrates, the
Hippocratic school's enduring heritage is evident.
His writings set the foundations for future scientific medicine by dismissing superstition and the concept that illness was a result of the punishment of gods and could be healed through divine help and magic.
Instead, Hippocrates instructed that diet and lifestyle established the framework of health and wellness, and the physician must know the nature of the disease and prescribe the suitable cures to handle a person.
Doing otherwise could be more harmful than good. To this day, new doctors are taking the
Hippocratic oath, which includes the assertion: "First of all, not harm." His advice to "honor the healing power of nature" is also being heeded by an increasing number of followers today.
One of the first European texts of herbal medicine was written in the early century A.D., De
Materia Medica (The Materials of Medicine) by the Greek physician Pedanios Dioscorides who served in the Roman legions.
His travels with the armies of Nero enabled him to study and adopt medicinal plants and their
uses from the far stretches of the Roman Empire – from North Africa and the Eastern
Mediterranean to North Europe.
Modern pharmacologists who investigated the Phyto formulas of Dioscorides acknowledge that there are many ingredients that are useful for the therapy of pain, infection, digestive problems, and several diseases.
For his considerable knowledge of anatomy and medicines, Galen,( in the second century. ) another Greek physician who studied and traveled widely through the ancient Roman empire, is remembered.
Galen codified herbal medicine into more than a dozen texts, and even though many other aspects of Greco-Roman medicine fell out of favor during the Middle Ages, doctors used Galen's writings until the so-called Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,
which marked the beginning of the age of discovery, scientific experiments, and increasing chemical knowledge.
The renowned medicinal botany written accounts originated about six thousand years ago.
Excavations revealed some Sumerian clay tablets from Nippur that were cuneiform botanical
The Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, despite their understanding of mathematics and
science, related disease to supernatural forces and emphasized the role of priests and priestesses
in divine cures.
The involvement into the practice of herbal medicine was left to specialists and practitioners or
scholars, such as the experienced Assyrian King Ashurbanipal, who left behind tablets recording
three hundred medicinal plants, including opium and myrrh.
The ancient Egyptians mentioned in the Ebers papyrus, a medical scroll 70 feet long, more than
850 plant treatments and remedies. The papyrus was sold by an Arab to George Ebers in the
The scroll dates back to around 1500 B.C. (Translation from Ebell, 1937). Such familiar
medicinal plants as mandrake, aloe, castor bean, and opium were included in the Egyptian
Garlic was thought to repel snakes and prevent tapeworms, and Lebanon juniper berries were
placed in mummies and used over bodies in purification rituals.
To avoid infections, the slaves who built the pyramids were given garlic and onions, while
royalty members were buried in a set of herbal medicines, perfumes, and cosmetics to meet their
obligations during their afterlife journey.
The Rig Veda is a poem that describes medical data among the oldest Sanskrit texts of about
1500 B.C. These Hindu scriptures include mention of snakeroot (Rauvolfia serpentina), a plant
that has been used for thousands of years in India for sedation therapies, to cure snakebite and
Notwithstanding ancient uses, only about the middle of the twentieth century did Rauvolfia first
become known to Western medicine. The main valid principle of Reserpine depresses central
nervous system activity, making it a valuable therapy for hypertension and schizophrenia.
The Rig Veda created the grounds for the Ayurvedic medicine system practiced to this day.
Civilization was not represented only by the pyramids and tombs in ancient Egypt, but it covered
all elements of human existence. Health and well-being were one of the pharaohs ' most
accounted arts. Both doctors and magicians were involved in the medical care field.
They perceived health and diseases from a holistic perspective as an unceasing struggle between
good and evil. Most of the approaches of complementary medicine did come from ancient
One of these methods is herbal medicine.
Not all of Egyptian medicine was based on wishful thinking much was the result of experimentation and observation and physical means supplemented the Magical ones. Apart from spiritual healing and herbal medicine, Ancient Egyptians practiced massage and manipulation and made extensive use of therapeutic herbs and foods, but surgery was only rarely part of their treatments (Zucconi, 2007, Medicine and Religion in Ancient Egypt, Religion Compass 1 (1):26–37)
According to Herodotus, there was a high degree of specialization among physicians (Halioua B, Ziskind B, DeBevoise MB (2005). Medicine in the days of the pharaohs, Harvard University Press.)
The Egyptians were advanced medical practitioners for their time. They were masters of human
anatomy and healing mostly due to the extensive mummification ceremonies.
This involved removing most of the internal organs including the brain, lungs, pancreas, liver,
spleen, heart and intestine (Millet N, Hart G, Reyman T, Zimerman A, Lewein P (1980).
"ROM I: Mummification for the Common People," in Mummies, Disease, and Ancient Cultures (eds.) Aiden and Eve Cockburn (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge).
To some extent, they had a basic knowledge of organ functions within the human body.
Their vast knowledge of anatomy, as well as (in the later dynasties) the crossover of expertise between the Greeks and other culture areas led to an extensive experience of the functioning of the organs and branched into many other medical practices.
Herodotus and Pliny were among Greek scholars, who got benefit from this cross over and further contributed to the ancient and modern medical records, reached from the time of Ancient Egypt and into the modern era (Sanders JB (1963). Transitions from Ancient Egyptian to Greek medicine. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence.)
Ancient Egyptians were as equally familiar with pharmacy as they were with medicine.
According to historical records, Ancient Egyptians involved in the medical and
pharmaceutical profession used to recite certain incantations while preparing or administering
They were also familiar with drug preparation from plants and herbs such as cumin, fennel, caraway, aloe, safflower, glue, pomegranates, castor, and linseed oil.
Other drugs were made of mineral substances such as copper salts, plain salt, and lead. Eggs, liver, hairs, milk, animal horns and fat, honey and wax were also used in drug preparation (Rosen G (1979).
Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences, Yale University. Dept. of the History of Medicine, Project Muse, published by H. Schuman)
Herbs served a substantial role in medicine in Egypt.
For example, opium, cannabis, myrrh, frankincense, fennel, cassia, senna, thyme, henna, juniper,
aloe, linseed and castor oil are the plant medications listed in the Ebers Papyrus-although some
of the translations are less than confident.
Garlic cloves were discovered in Egyptian burial locations, including Tutankhamen's tomb and
the sanctuary fo the bulls at Saqqara.
There were plenty of herbs distilled or immersed in wine, which was then consumed as oral
Egyptians believed that garlic and onions worked to help endurance and consumed significant
amounts of them. Asthmatics and those suffering from bronchial-pulmonary problems were
regularly provided raw garlic. Onions assisted with digestive system issues.
Garlic was then an essential healing factor just as it still is for the modern Egyptian and most
Mediterranean people: fresh cloves are peeled, mashed, and macerated in a mixture of vinegar
Another method to take garlic is to macerate several mashed garlic cloves in olive oil for both
protection and therapy.
Applied as an external liniment or taken internally it is beneficial for bronchial and lung complaints Including colds. A freshly peeled clove of raw garlic wrapped in muslin or cheesecloth and pinned to the undergarment is hoped to protect against infectious diseases such as colds and influenza (Kathryn A, Steven B, Shubert B (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Routledge).
Another plant used by Egyptians is Coriander.
It was believed that Coriander, C. Sativum had refreshing, stimulating, carminative, and digestive characteristics.
Both the fruits and the plant were used in boiling as a spice to deter and eliminate flatulence; they were also used as a tea for stomach and all sorts of urinary problems including cystitis.
To temper their annoying impacts, coriander leaves were frequently introduced fresh to spicy ingredients.
Cumin, Cumin cyminum is an umbelliferous herb indigenous to Egypt. The seeds were considered to be a stimulant and effective against flatulence.
They were often used together with coriander for flavoring. Cumin powder mixed with some wheat flour as a binder and a little water was applied to relieve the pain of any aching or arthritic joints. Powdered cumin mixed with grease or lard was inserted as an anal suppository to disperse heat from the anus and stop itching (Zucconi L.M. (2007). Medicine and Religion in Ancient Egypt, Religion Compass 1 (1): 26–37).
Leaves from many herbs have been used in poultices and related compounds, such as willow, sycamore, tree or Ym-tree. Tannic acid obtained from acacia plants was widely used to help cool the vessels and cure burns.
As laxatives, castor oil, figs and dates have been used. Tapeworms were handled with an infusion of pomegranate root steeped in water, strained and drunk.
The alkaloids inside it blocked the nervous system of the worms and gave up their grip. Ulcers and stomach ailments were handled with yeast.
Some of the medications were produced from imported plant products from foreign countries.
Mandrake, brought from Canaan and cultivated locally since the New Kingdom, was considered an aphrodisiac and caused unconsciousness if combined with alcohol.
Cedar oil, an antiseptic. comes from the Levant.
Since the Middle Kingdom, the Persian henna has been cultivated in Egypt and used against hair loss.
They cured catarrh with aloe from East Africa. Frankincense, containing tetrahydro-cannabinol and used like hashish as a pain killer, was imported from Punt.(Rosen G (1979). Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences,
Yale University. Dept. of the History of Medicine, Project Muse, published by H. Schuman,)
Additionally, minerals and animal products were also used. Honey and grease form part of many wound treatments. Mother's milk was regularly provided against viral illnesses such as prevalent cold, fresh meat set on open injuries and sprains, and animal dung was sometimes believed to be efficient.
For their medicinal characteristics, lead-based chemicals such as carbonates and acetates were common. Malachite also had therapeutic importance as an eye-liner. The impacts of its
germicidal features have been valued in a nation where eye diseases were prevalent.
It is important to remember that some other drugs, frequently referred to as family drugs
(pesticides), were designed by ancient Egyptian chemists in order to eliminate domestic pests.
A standard pest control recipe was to wash the home with Nitron water and firewood coal,
combined with ground pipit plant. Goose fat was used to safeguard against fly bites and fresh oil to heal mosquito bites.
To constrain reptiles and rodents, other intriguing recipes were obtained. A dried fish, for instance, or a piece of Nitron at the entrance to the pit of a serpent will hold it inside. A part of cat fat distributed throughout the house keeps rats away.
Medical prescriptions were written with high skill.
An order usually began with a description of the medicine, e.g., " Medicine to discharge blood out of wounds," followed by ingredients and measures used in addition to method of preparation and usage whether in tablet form, ointment or by inhaling (Silverburg, 1966).
Herbalism: An Ancient Medicine - Workman Publishing.
Herbal medicine in ancient Egypt - Jonn's Aromatherapy.
Herbal medicine in ancient Egypt - orikhu.com. https://www.orikhu.com/wp-
Medicine in ancient Egypt - blogspot.com. https://sharobim1.blogspot.com/2016/06/medicine-in-
Papyrus — Toxipedia. https://www.asmalldoseoftoxicology.org/papyrus
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