HERBAL REMEDIES

What do we mean by a remedy? 

A remedy is something we use to alleviate or cure a disease or incapacity which causes pain or distress.  Since man first walked the earth he must have encountered natural material which he noticed made a difference to the way he felt. Imagine early ‘Hunter Gatherers’ going about their daily lives .. It was the women who gathered vegetation they needed for food, fuel, clothing, from their environment.

Hunter-gatherer culture developed among the early hominins of Africa, with evidence of their activities dating as far back as 2 million years ago. Among their distinguishing characteristics, they devised ways of setting aside vegetation for consumption at a later date. Today we distinguish between food and medicine but for so many cultures their food indeed was their medicine.

Many cultures throughout the world began to develop their knowledge of the benefit of certain plants either ingested directly of made into potions which were applied to various part of the body.

We are looking at the beginnings of an understanding of herbal remedies some 5000 years ago. In Mesopotamia, records of their findings were made on clay tablets and later in Egypt.  Papyri have been discovered citing  lists of ailments and their treatments, ranging from “disease of the limbs” to “diseases of the skin”.  Indeed. the The Ebers Papyrus (c. 1550 BCE)  has information on over 850 plant medicines. These include garlic, juniper, aloe cannabis, castor bean, and mandrake. Treatments were mainly aimed at ridding the patient of the worst symptoms because in those times, the symptoms were largely regarded as the disease itself.

For those of you who are interested, there is an accessible paper “The Traditional Medicine and Modern Medicine from Natural Products” which was published in 2016, outlining the use of natural biological material in the development of ‘remedies’.

So using herbs as medicines is not a new idea! 

Humans have been gathering and utilising knowledge about the medicinal uses of herbs for at least 60,000 years.

Let’s face it, that’s all they ever had – the resources around them where ever they were in the world. Just imagine not being able to drop into your nearest chemist for some Paracetamol if you have a headache or cough mixture if you have a cough keeping you awake at night.

But natural herbs provided equally effective remedies for many common ailments. Much of the information that was gathered was initially simply passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, Medicine Men, Witchdoctors, Wise Women … but a host of wonderfully illustrated and detailed “Herbals” were created over time, many of which still provode valuable references today.

So many of the drugs that have been developed today are derived initially from plant material, endemic in specific parts of the world. There are pockets of peoples derived from ancient tribes that still access these.  However, the human race has destroyed so many natural habitats that our sources of new plant materials are becoming very limited. We now depend on the inventiveness of phamaceutical companies to create synthetic drugs and it seems those options are running out.

Drugs used in medicine, today, as you will be aware, are controlled by a limited number of these powerful drug companies. The drugs they produce are issued under licence at sold on,  making immense profits. They are effectively withheld from many people who need them on the grounds of cost.  That is evidenced by the availability of some drugs in this country available in some Health Authorities and not others .. the so-called Post Code lotteries.

The medical profession is generally scathing about the use of herbs  although occasionally their caution is valid. Any chemical, and we ARE talking about chemicals whether they be herbal or synthetic drugs, have to be used with great care whether we ingest them or use them topically (on the skin). We need to make ourselves as fully informed as possible about their effects on our body.

Here we will compare the Eastern and Western attitudes and uses of herbal preparations …. It is essential we are aware of “How to Use Herbs Safely” and the guidance that is available to help us make decisions about our health.

My Great Granny was really knowledgable about the use of herbs for medicinal purposes and I will pass on some of the anecdotes that she left behind which have been given to me.

I will also from my knowledge of an aspect of Biochemistry, called Phytochemistry (plant chemistry) that I have studied, explain why herbs can be effective at treating some ailments. This is an area of my own passion and expertise.

We cannot omit some discussion and information here on HOMEOPATHY either, including Bach Flower Remedies.          

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