The use of herbal medicine dates back to the very beginnings of human history. The oldest physical evidence for the use of herbal remedies goes back some 60,000 years to a burial site of a Neanderthal man uncovered in 1960. Led by instinct, taste, and experience, and observation of animals, primitive men and women treated illness by using plants, animal parts, and minerals that were not part of their usual diet. There is also well documented evidence that around 1500 BC the ancient Egyptians used garlic (Allium sativum), juniper (Juniperus communis) and myrrh (Commiphora molmol) for medicinal purposes.
Most cultures have long traditions of folk medicines that include the use of plants. Herbs were often the only means available to treat diseases, and this is still the case to this day in many rural and more secluded communities throughout the world, where treatment from local healers is still common. The WHO reports that up to 80% of the world in Africa and Asia depend on traditional healthcare for primary healthcare. (WHO 2008)
Women have always been central to promoting herbal medicine. Notable characters in Europe include Hildegard von Bingen and Trotula from Salerno. However with the rise of modern medicine, traditional medicine lost its role in many Western cultures and as a result much traditional knowledge was lost, whilst it is still very much integrated or makes up a large part of the medical Systems in Asia, Africa & central America.
Many modern herbalists are trying to rediscover this lost knowledge, but using traditional texts, such as those of Nicolas Culpepper & Ellingwood in the Western Tradition as well as old Ayurvedic and Chinese Reference books to inform the depth of their understanding of Herbal Medicine. In order to bring herbal medicine up to date this knowledge is combined with new scientific findings in order to provide herbal medicine relevant to the twenty-first century.
References: WH) (2008) Traditional Medicince Fact Sheet 134
As research into Herbal Medicine products increases, much evidence is found to support the efficacy of herbal medicine. Often isolated compounds from plants have been the basis of drug development - e.g. an extract of the traditionally used Antiparasitic Herb Artemisia annua was developed into a very effective antimalarial drug. Salicylic acid (=Aspirin) was first found in the humble Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), which has traditionally been used as an antiinflammatory agent. The complexity of the compounds that are found in the plant, rather than their isolated components, as used in modern medicines, are thought to produce a repsonse with fewer side effects. Some of the compounds in the plants are actually protective, Meadowsweet, for example is used to help stomach and gut healing, whilst the potential negative effect of some non-steroidal anti-inflammatories on the digestive tract is well documented.
Mid 17th century Herbalist Nicolas Culpeper was very influential in his time, and somewhat of a medical renegade. He was passionate about plants and their healing powers. A champion of local plants for local people and for healing the poor, I still find his way of describing herbs wonderful to this day.
Using lemon balm as an example, he says: "it doth open obstructions of the Brain and hath so much purging quality in it.. as to expel melancholly vapours from the spirits and the blood which are
in the Heart and Arteries."
Modern research into lemon balm does indeed look promising for its use in Alzheimers and Dementia, and it is still used for its thymoleptic (uplifting) and anti-anxiety qualities by herbalists to this day. It is also a useful carminative herb which reduces bloating and abdominal discomfort.
To support the petition and for more information on Culpeper please go to Spitalfieldslife.com