Herbs for health
Plant it in a mud pot and watch the magic unfold. It is nothing less than wondrous to dig a tiny seed in the earth and witness all the benefits it bestows on mankind. From flour to cotton, fruits, grains, vegetables, trees, they have all aided man to survive and build the greatest civilization in history. As we count all of nature's blessed bounty, we often overlook herbs. Call them what you will, like the French with a silent 'h,' or like the Brits who blow away heartily at most of their 'h' sounds, each language has a name for it, and each culture has used it in so many ways.
How are herbs useful to mankind? Let us count the ways. They cure his ills, improve the taste of his food, keep away undesirable critters, serve in religious ceremonies, and are pretty to look at. Wherever they are planted they fill your kitchen doorway or garden with their delicate foliage and refreshing aroma.
No one knows exactly when early cultures used herbs for medicinal value. A 60,000 year old burial site in Iraq contained evidence of eight different medicinal plants, probably intended to be taken along for health in the afterlife. They have always remained steeped in magic and superstition. They also produced results which made them precious to man. With thousands of years of experimentation, early man discovered the many curative powers of herbs.
It was ancient Egyptians who began to associate herbs less with magic and more with medicine over 5,000 years ago. By 2,700 BC, the Chinese started to use Herbs in a more scientific manner. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC), founder of the Hippocratic Oath, developed a system of diagnosis and prognosis using herbs, and maintained that medicine should be given without magic. Herbs continued to be a medicinal aid until the Middle Ages when all progress came to a halt. Those dark years banished knowledge and enlightenment hiding them in obscure corners and mournful monasteries. Herbs were reviled victims of the times and superstition found its way back in the human soul. Basil, for example, was believed to hold a scorpion under every pot, and if inhaled, would drive the scorpion into the brain.
Folk medicine in the homes and villages continued uninterrupted. "Wise woman" prescribed herbal remedies often along with magic spells. With obvious results, those women were targeted as witches and burnt at the stake.
The discovery of the New World was fuelled by the quest for herbs and spices. Western culture eventually turned away from herbalism in favour of chemical cures. Herbs were banned in some parts of Europe. China holds the oldest and longest unbroken record for the use of medicinal herbs. Hindu herbal practice also continued to thrive to this day. Native Americans live longer and healthier than Europeans using herbs for cures.
So much hope was invested in antibiotics to fight germs and infections. When the realization that they were not the magic bullet and carry undesirable side effects, we saw a return to herbalism and ancient Chinese botanical cures. The first Chinese herbal book "The Chenong Bencao Jing," was compiled during the Han Dynasty, but dates back as far as 2,700 BC. It lists 365 medicinal plants and their uses including "Ma-Hung" the shrub that introduced the drug ephedrine to modern medicine. Arab traders had access to plants from distant places like China and India. Muslim botanists and physicians expanded on their earlier knowledge. In the ninth century, Al Dinawari described more than 637 plant drugs, and Ibn Al Baytar more than 14,000. The experimental scientific method was introduced in medicine in the 13th century by Arab and Andalusian botanists including Abou Abbas Al Nabaty. This allowed the study of 'Materia Medica' to evolve into the science of pharmacology.
Plants as cures have seen many ups and downs throughout history and especially early in the 20th century. Black Death began a slow erosion of herbalism. A century later, toxic drugs like arsenic, mercury and sulfur were introduced because of the urgent need to treat syphilis. By the end of the 20th century a number of traditions of herbal medicine became scientifically established. At least 7,000 medical compounds in the modern pharmacopeia are derived from plants. According to the World Health Organization, 25% of modern drugs are derived from plants.
While quality control is unavailable, herbalists maintain that traditional remedies have a long history of successful results. Since the 60s, herbal medicine has grown in popularity with antibiotics losing ground in the treatment of certain germs and viruses. People turn more and more to that pot-full of magical herbs.
Some of the tried and true herbs for health include mushrooms which show promise in lowering the risk of cancer, growth of cancer tumours, promotes immune functions, wards off viruses, helps balances blood sugar levels, and treats liver ailments, specifically, Maitake, Shitaki, and Reishi mushrooms.
Aloe Vera heals burns and wounds.
Artichokes reduce cholesterol levels, so does garlic and honey
Head for the berries, they are full of antioxidants
Blackberries slow skin wrinkling
Black raspberries prevent oral cancer
Cranberries treat women with urinary tract infections
Aldenberries speed the recovery of A and B influenza
Grape fruit may prevent obesity
Green tea inhibits the growth of breast cancer
Irritable stomach benefits from peppermint
Tests have shown that pomegranate inhibits cancer growth in mice -- maybe in humans too, besides they look good and taste better.
Soy treats menopause symptoms,
Valerian roots treat insomnia
Hungry for more? Hundreds of books, ancient and modern, are available with sufficient backing to all such claims. With the exception of a few herbs feared to cause adverse effects, herbs are pleasant, harmless and may help without breaking the bank. They have been in use for at least 6,000 year, and that is testimonial enough.
Plant a herb this spring, it may hold the secrets of good health.
The art of medicine is my discovery.....
And all the potency of herbs is known to me
-- Ovis (Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 BC-17AD)