- The word Herb is defined as a non-woody plant that dies down
to the ground after flowering. The term herb, however, is more
commonly applied in general to a plant or part of a plant that
is used medicinally, in textiles(such as cloth, cosmetics, or
dying) or in food.
- Historically, herbs were known for their medicinal properties
as well as for cooking. The study of herbs can be dated back
some 5000 years to the Sumerians. The first dated herb was from
China and was written in 2700 B.C. The book lists 365 medicinal
plants and their uses. Herbs were also commonly used by Physicians
in Egypt, Rome, & Greece.
- The first European compilation of the properties & uses
of medicinal plants, called De Materia Medica, was done by the
Greek Physician Dioscorides in the first century A.D. This compilation
of more than 500
plants remained an authoritative reference well into the 17th
century. The use of plants for medicine & other purposes
have changed little during the Middle Ages. The early Christian
church discouraged the formal practice of Medicine, preferring
faith healing. Many Greek and Roman writings were preserved by
the diligent hand coping by monasteries. Therefore monasteries
became the local centers of medicinal knowledge. With their gardens
providing the raw materials.
- Meanwhile folk medicine home and village continued uninterrupted
supporting numerous wandering and settled herbalists. Among these
were the wise-women, who prescribed ancient secret
herbal remedies along with
spells and enchantments. They were the target of the witch hysteria
of the Middle Ages. Medical Schools began in the 11th century.
- During the Middle Ages an herb know for its healing properties
might be prescribed by a peasant grandmother, sold by a wandering
herbalist, charmed as an ingredient in a magic potion or charm
by a wise woman a quack; or it may be compounded into some complex
& vile concoction dispensed by a physician in the hopes that
it would drive out whatever possessed the victim. Above all,
these plants are burdened by both Pagan and Christian superstition
that often was more important than their actual properties.
- The 17th century also began the slow erosion of plants as
the sources of therapy. The introduction of active chemical drugs
such as arsenic, copper sulfate. iron, mercury, and sulfur; by
the physician Paracelsus, and the
rapid development of chemistry and other physical science in
the 17th, 18th, & 19th centuries led to the dominance of
chemotherapy (chemical medicine) as the orthodox system of the
20th century. This change was challenged by Samuel Hahnemann
in the 19th century who believed that the symptoms are the way
of the body acts to eliminate the cause of disease. The German
physician-priest Father Sebastian Kneipp, who combined herbs
with his world-famous natural water-healing directed
Dr. Benedict Lust to take his method of healing to America. Dr.
Lust opened his first health food store in the US in 1895. Affiliated
with it he had 2 Yungborn
Sanitariums, one was in Butler New Jersey and the other in Tangerine,
Florida; thereby providing Naturopathy to thousands of natural
- Naturopathy relies on simple herbal remedies in conjunction
with fasting, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, water and diet.
Both Homeopathy and Naturopathy took hold in the US in the 19th
century, however it did not stop
the triumph of chemotherapy, but has survived because it offers
something that chemotherapy lacks, simplicity and a treatment
that is harmonious with life, not antagonistic to it.