The most important ingredients for human life comes from the ever helpful and life-friendly Plants, which should be revered as our true saviours. Besides providing the ultimate food for humans, i.e. Oxygen, the Plants provide have been in use for medicinal and healing purposes for time immemorial – this study of Plants used for healing and medicinal usage is called Phytotherapy.
Leaves, vines, fruits, seeds and more from ever-helpful and life giving Plants have been in use to heal people from sickness for thousands of years. In the recorded history, for over 3,000 years all medicines were derived from Plants. The word ‘drug’ is means Dried Plant. Hippocrates, the father of modern Medicine has rightfully realised and said ‘let food be your medicine, and medicine your food’.
The history of Indian Medicinal science of Ayurveda comes with over 3,000 years recorded history and Siddha is an ancient Indian system emphasising healing through Herbs, which is dated to be 3rd Millennium BCE or earlier. The Greeks and Romans have maintained records of Plants for thousands of years – for example they use Poppy for relieving pain, and for fighting infections used Garlic, and Belladonna has been used for various medicinal reasons.
When Romans invaded England they taught local healers the use of Plants for cooking and healing much elaborately. Unfortunately, some were superstitious and much knowledge were lost. Later, around 6th century when Christianity spread to England along with various traditions of monastic herbs which the monks were made the keepers, who were also entrusted with many manuscripts which were collected as they travelled across the world in search of medicine, while creating a large database and network of information on Medicinal Plants.
In around 16th Century, Henry VIII, who was a great admirer of Herbal Medicines, had legalised Herbal Medicines which were earlier banned due to some superstitions considering their use as witchcraft. However, he destroyed monasteries and herb gardens which complicated the situation for promotion of Herbal Medicines also.
Around 1652, the English Physician was published by Nicholas Culpeper, an English botanist, who wanted to empower ordinary people by teaching them how to create Herbal remedies on their own as opposed to buying expensive and imported ones and helping them take their health in their own hands.
In later centuries as Industrial revolution was bought on the mineral based medicines such as mercury had become popular with doctors, and began to take humanity away from Natural Plant Medicines.
By the 20th Century, with new breakthroughs and development in chemistry and technology and with the rise of antibiotics, the Plant Medicines began to be forgotten.
However, fortunately, the Plant Medicines are making a comeback, and Herbal medicines are gaining popularity as they have little side-effects and are tailored for individuals. Many researchers are working on Herbal Medicines and many Medical Herbalists being trained at Universities who are able to provide tailor prescriptions to individuals.
Medicinal Plants are also able to increase the efficiency of medicines prescribed by allopathy and are able to reduce side-effects of other medicines. Moreover, they can be easily grown in the back garden.