Herbs

Herbs have been used form antiquity and were the first medicine used by man, while allopathic medicine ( the use of minerals to treat disease) is only about 500 years old.

The use of herbs in the written record actually dates back for several thousands of years B.C. The Chinese, Sumerians, and Egyptians all used plants for medicinal purposes.  A Chinese Book on herbs, dated around 2700 B.C. lists over 300 plants with their medicinal uses.  In Old Testament times, several herbs are mentioned, including aloe.

In 1926 a large stone slab was discovered in the tomb of an Egyptian official, located near the great pyramids.  The figures carved into the stone indicate that the man buried here had been named Iry and was the Chief of Court Physicians.  Also revealed on the slab is that “doctor” Iry, and probably other physicians during this same period of Egyptian history, was a specialist.  Among other things he was called the Eye Doctor of the Palace, and the Doctor of the Abdomen.  Herodotus, often called ”the father of history,” seems to endorse this concept of specialization among Egyptian physicians.  He wrote the first account of Egyptian medicine that we have available (c.450 B.C.).  In it he notes that each Egyptian “physician treats a single disease and no more.”

The painstaking work of deciphering Egyptian papyri has shown that probably one-third of the medicinal plants and herbs listed in a modern pharmacopoeia were known and used by the Egyptians.  Among these are garlic, flaxseed, fennel, juniper, sycamore, pine, senna, thyme, celandine, cinquefoil, black helleabore, tamarisk, celery, mandrake, henbane, willow, mulberry, myrrh, saffron and onion, to name but a few.

In the first century A.D., a Greek physician by the name of Dioscorides composed a long treatise on the properties and uses of over 500 medicinal plants.  This exhaustive and authoritative reference work remained in use until about the seventeenth century.  The preservation of the knowledge of herbal medicine during the Middle Ages can be attributed to the monks, who not only copied the ancient manuscripts, but also cultivated their own herbal gardens in the monateries and used the herbs for the treatment of many common disorder.

In Englad during the Elizabethan era, herbalism experienced a golden age, from which most of our present day herbal lore derives. Following the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century, a large number of books on herbs were printed.

In 1551, William Turner published his Newe Herball with detailed illustrations of a variety of medicinalplants, and this initiated a renaissance in herbalism.

By far the best known and best liked of the English herbalists, however, was John Gerard, who published his herbal book, The Herball or General Historie of Plantes, in 1597.  Gerard was a Tudor surgeon, apothecary to James I and superintendent of the gardens of the court of Queen Elizabeth, where he cultivated over 1,000 herbs.  Gerards’s herbal lists 2,000 plants.  Common and scientific names are given in a variety of languages, descriptions of each plant, and finally the virtues of each herb, in a noble attempt to separate effective folk medicine from fiction.

The next noteworthy English herbalist was John Parkinson, director of the Royal Gardens at Hampton Court, who in 1640 wrote Theatrum Botanicum, Man encyclopedic work covering over 3,000 plants and their medicinal uses.

…The introduction of naturopathy in America can probably be attributed to Samuel Thomson.  Along with herbs, Thomson used steam baths, diet, and massage.  Samuel Thommson’s motto was “To make every man his own physician.”  Many people followed the theories of Thomson after he died.  His ideas of relaxation, stimulation, and the use of astringents were used by many doctors because they were satisfied with the correctness of the results.

Dr. Curtis of Cincinnati, Ohio, chartered one of the first colleges that followed Dr. Thomson’s teachings from the Ohio legislature and W. H. Cook took charge of another.  When Dr. Curtis died, the institution was moved to Chicago under the name of College of Medicine and Surgery.

Along natural medical lines, England and many other countries are far ahead of the United States.  Many years ago naturopathic doctors were given permission to practice in England, and herbal doctors are fast growing in popularity and favor with the people.  Even English royalty now employs herbal doctors.

For centuries the American Indians, as well as natives of other countries, have used all kinds of herbs, roots, and barks in the healing art, and they are still using them today.

As more and more settlers arrived in the New World from Europe, their knowledge of herbs was combined with the herbal lore of the Americans and this combination produced a distinctly American folk medicine.  But during this same time, the orthodox medical establishments in Europe and America are moving farther away from natural methods of healing and relying more on chemicals, leeches, and bloodletting.

The above text was taken from Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss originally published in 1946 by the Kloss family.

 

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