The Use of Plants in Medicine is as Old as Mankind
From the beginning of humanity man has always made use of plants to cure and heal his wounds, illnesses and even to elevate his mood. The use of medicinal plants dates back to prehistoric times, being one of the most common forms of medicine, and it has been present in all known cultures. Archaeological evidence dating back more than 60,000 years found in Iraq, shows that the Neanderthal man was already using medicinal plants. This indicates that the use of herbal medicine is as old as man himself.
For many centuries, the use of herbs for therapeutic purposes was associated with magic and religious rituals, and healing was attributed to the divine forces. But it must be stressed that this use was mainly based on a good knowledge of plants, empirically acquired and transmitted from father to son through many generations. Before there was writing, this knowledge was transmitted orally. The first writings on the subject of botany date back over 4,000 years.
Many of the drugs used today such as opium and quinine, are replicated synthetically or their active ingredients isolated from traditional herbal remedies known since prehistoric times. The evidence of their origin persists in their etymology as in the case of salicylic acid, which derives its name from Salix or Willow, from the bark where it is extracted. Only rarely, the entire plant has medicinal value. Usually, medicinal compounds are found in either, the leaves, flowers, roots, seeds or bark.
This ancient tradition of using plant products in medicine and a contemporary reaction against synthetic drugs, have led to a resurgence of herbal remedies. The use of plants to prevent and relieve ailments is still a common practice among peoples of various parts of the world who see this as the most logical way to cure their ailments. Some countries are rescuing these ancient practices bringing them to health centers of villages and towns.
Just like many medicinal plants can be harmless, others may even be poisonous if consumed in the wrong manner or dosage. As with all things, cautions is advised when using these natural medicines and remember that it is very important not to self-medicate.