Where Did the Use of Herbs in Medicine Start?
Who Found Herbs First Do You Imagine?
Anyone who has read “The Clan of the Cave Bear” by Auel was quickly and wonderfully addicted to the use of herbs as medicines. It is not unknown that herbs, plants, parts of different botanicals have been studied and put to use for medicinal uses since Homosapiens and their ancestors first walked this earth. Imagine being the ‘nurse’ of your clan or tribe and having everyone coming to you for their continued well-being! Nursing has always been a stressful vocation but goodness think of what those first women had to do to find out what worked on what illness and how much to give for it to be effective!
It is a more than probable idea that they used themselves as guinea pigs…watched the animals as they ate the plants, watched to see what could be used safely; and think of the heartbreak if a herb failed to work at all! No wonder the sacred smoke, prayers, and other mystical events surrounding the use of herbal medicines were employed and still are in the world today. Those women, shamans, wise ones needed all the help they could get! Shoot! This nurse always says a little help me Lord, whenever I have to start an IV, get blood or do a painful wound dressing. None of us is alone; all of us depend on ones living and dead to help us.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to prove beyond a doubt that herbs and women have been tied together with their family’s health since prehistory began. This is a theory only, but one which I have wondered and imagined over for many years. I can see the women and their families as they make their way from one place to another, nomads, following the herds and the safe shelter from the weather. I can hear their cries of pain when one of their own was injured or sick. Even a common cold could have dire consequences when you have to move from one place to another every four to six months. Those women, mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and friends all had to depend on one another, work together as a team and gather all the plants they would need as the plants were at their peak. Once gathered, the nurse or wise woman of the tribe would create the tinctures, poultices, powders or allow the whole plants to dry naturally, depending on what the plant was to be used.
The part that has always fascinated this author is the research of finding a new herb. If we look again at a common cold we know it is going to make any one miserable for a few days then that person will cough for another one to three weeks and that will finally be it. Except if you are living with 20-30 other people and it begins to spread from one to another, then the nursing hours will increase exponentially!! So, in order to learn how to shorten the duration, ease the symptoms and of course, keep the well among the tribe as well as possible! I have imagined a very curious child or young woman; tasting the leaves and fruits and seeds on the many variety of plants found along their migration. I myself, cannot pass a creosote bush or a rosemary bush without pulling my hands down its branch to smell the scent these plants leave on my hands.
“Rosemary, that’s for remembrance” And oddly enough, rosemary and creosote can BOTH be used for the common cold!
As if not all of that were enough the first wise woman had to start thinking and looking for her replacement from a very early age! In addition, all of her knowledge had to go into the head and heart and hands of the one she called to be her follower. It is possible that, just as in Jean Auel's book, "Clan of the Cave Bear” that follower was her own daughter but it is just as probable that some were chosen from the tribe itself. It would have been a great honour to be chosen for that task as well as very difficult. The child would need to have the same natural curiosity and extensive memory of the wise woman in order to succeed. If the child could not grasp all of the knowledge, not only the health and well-being of the tribe would suffer; the tribes very existence may have depended solely on the memories and abilities of the wise person with knowledge of the herbs themselves.