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History and Use of Herbal Remedies

Updated on March 1, 2010

Cave Painting from Lascaux, France

Cave Painting captured herb use.
Cave Painting captured herb use.

In the Beginning

When we reach for the chamomile tea at night to enjoy a hot, calming brew, we are using an herbal stress remedy. Culinary and medicinal herbs have been used since at least the time of Neanderthal man and continues to this day in many forms. Jean Auel depicted the medicine woman Iza in her book, The Clan of the Cave Bear, as a skilled healer who knew every plant intimately for its curative powers against any ailment. Historians and archeologists agree that Ms. Auel’s story is a reasonable account of the interaction between Cro-Magnum, Ayla, and the Neaderthal tribe of Brun. Indeed the story begins by Ayla being adopted by the loving Iza and nursed back to health by the use of her many pouches full of potent herbal remedies.

Ginger Root

Ginger is warming and stimulating and so animated!
Ginger is warming and stimulating and so animated!

Far and Wide

This ancient traditional use of herbs to help heal body and spirit has continued to morph as pharmaceuticals become more involved in searching for the perfect drug derived from these natural sources. Many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to Western physicians have a long history of use as herbal remedies, including opium, aspirin, digitalis, and quinine. Our ancestors had a true respect and reverence for these plant forms that include the seeds, bark, flowers, leaves, stalks and roots. They knew these natural remedies treated the Whole person, not just a specific pain. Many traditions including Ayurvedic, Chinese medicine and Western indigenous cultures include the energy systems when treating ailments. That’s the biggest difference. Yes, herbs have specific outcomes, like Echinacea that helps cold symptoms, or St. John’s Wort that can ease depression. There is an herb that can assist in any ailment known to man I’m sure.  Garlic helps detox the blood, ginger aids circulation, hawthorn cleanses the blood, milk thistle cleanses the liver, dandelion is an effective diuretic, and fennel improves the appetite. There are hundreds of antioxidants in herb form; green tea, ginkgo, turmeric, aloe vera, and bilburry are a few. The list is huge.

Ancient Text

Arabic Herbal Medicine from the 13th Century
Arabic Herbal Medicine from the 13th Century

Soothing Chamomile

Personally I will always look for a natural, herbal remedy before I take any pharmaceutical. Sometimes I do swallow an ibuprofen pill if I just can’t shake that headache fast enough, but I also drink soothing chamomile and peppermint tea to help even more. Prescription drugs can be very beneficial, of course, especially antibiotics and painkillers. But their overuse by Americans is becoming addictive. Big Pharma seems to create maladies to be able to treat them with their new drugs. That’s another story.  I’m glad that medical marijuana is allowed in most states, as that is really an amazing plant with so many uses. It eases stress, reduces painful glaucoma pressure, increases appetite in AIDS patients, relieves indigestion and generally induces a sense of calm. Now that’s a great herbal remedy!

There are presently numerous bills circulating in Congress trying to limit our access to these highly effective natural products, herbal remedies, vitamin supplements and organic foods. You can read more about these efforts at several online sites:

Healing Quest with Natural Herbs


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