Since ancient times, herbalists have been skilled at using whole plants or plant extracts that occur in nature to address a symptom or illness
People in all continents have long used hundreds, if not thousands, of indigenous plants for treatment of various ailments dating back to prehistory. There is evidence that suggests Neanderthals living 60,000 years ago in present-day Iraq used plants for medicinal purpose, and they remain in use today.
The first generally accepted use of plants as healing agents was depicted in the cave paintings discovered in the Lascaux caves in France, which have been radiocarbon dated to between 13,000 – 25,000 BC.
In the early tribal communities, and over time, with trial, error and human observation, a small base of knowledge would have been acquired by key people (the first master herbalists) . As this knowledge base expanded over many generations, the specialized role of the master herbalist emerged in varying manners and name across a wide diversity of cultures and continents.
Use of whole plant herbs to address disease
The use of herbs to treat disease is almost universal among non-industrialized societies. A number of traditions came to dominate the practice of herbal medicine by master herbalists in the Western world at the end of the twentieth century:
- The Western, based on Greek and Roman sources
- The Ayurvedic from India
- Chinese herbal medicine from China
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the world population, presently use herbal medicines for some aspect of primary health care.
Herbs and the herbalist in traditional medicine
Herbal medicine is a major component in all traditional medicine systems and a common element in Ayurvedic, homeopathic, naturopathic, traditional Chinese medicine, and Native American Indian medicine. In all cases, master herbalists would and do carry forward the learning’s of countless generations past.
There are almost 12,000 specific plants identified for their medicinal qualities and they represent about 10% of the planets plant population.
The modern pharmaceutical approach in utilizing plants is to isolate and extract the single active element from the plant with the object of synthesizing it chemically. This tends to introduce solutions that address symptoms and the drug is typically a compound chemical substance, introduces toxicity the body is unable to process and in many cases can not eliminate leading to complications, typically referred to as side-effects.
Herbal remedies remain common throughout Europe
In Germany, the term apothecary (Apotheke) is still used and next to prescription drugs one can order essential oils, herbal extracts, or herbal teas. Outside North America, herbs are typically seen as a preferred treatment over the unnecessary overuse of industrialized production of chemical medication.
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