Medicine, sometimes referred to as Herbalism or
Botanical Medicine, is the use of herbs for their therapeutic
or medicinal value. An herb is a plant or plant part valued
for its medicinal, aromatic or savory qualities. Herb plants
produce and contain a variety of chemical substances that
act upon the body.
medicine is the oldest form of healthcare known to mankind.
Herbs had been used by all cultures throughout history. It
was an integral part of the development of modern civilization.
Primitive man observed and appreciated the great diversity
of plants available to him. The plants provided food, clothing,
shelter, and medicine. Much of the medicinal use of plants
seems to have been developed through observations of wild
animals, and by trial and error. As time went on, each tribe
added the medicinal power of herbs in their area to its knowledgebase.
They methodically collected information on herbs and developed
well-defined herbal pharmacopoeias. Indeed, well into the
20th century much of the pharmacopoeia of scientific medicine
was derived from the herbal lore of native peoples. Many drugs
commonly used today are of herbal origin. Indeed, about 25
percent of the prescription drugs dispensed in the United
States contain at least one active ingredient derived from
plant material. Some are made from plant extracts; others
are synthesized to mimic a natural plant compound.
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 billion
people, 80 percent of the world population, presently use
herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. Herbal
medicine is a major component in all indigenous peoplesí traditional
medicine and a common element in Ayurvedic, homeopathic, naturopathic,
traditional oriental, and Native American Indian medicine.
WHO notes that of 119 plant-derived pharmaceutical medicines,
about 74 percent are used in modern medicine in ways that
correlated directly with their traditional uses as plant medicines
by native cultures. Major pharmaceutical companies are currently
conducting extensive research on plant materials gathered
from the rain forests and other places for their potential
derived from the plants remain the basis for a large proportion
of the commercial medications used today for the treatment
of heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, asthma, and other
problems. For example, ephedra is a herb used in Traditional
Chinese Medicine for more than two thousand years to treat
asthma and other respiratory problems. Ephedrine, the active
ingredient in ephedra, is used in the commercial pharmaceutical
preparations for the relief of asthma symptoms and other respiratory
problems. It helps the patient to breathe more easily.
example of the use of a herbal preparation in modern medicine
is the foxglove plant. This herb had been in use since 1775.
At present, the powdered leaf of this plant is known as the
cardiac stimulant digitalis to the millions of heart patients
it keeps alive worldwide.
Medicine can be broadly classified into various basic systems:
Traditional Chinese Herbalism, which is part of Traditional
Oriental Medicine, Ayurvedic Herbalism, which is derived
from Ayurveda, and Western Herbalism, which originally
came from Greece and Rome to Europe and then spread to North
and South America.
and Ayurvedic Herbalism have developed into highly sophisticated
systems of diagnosis and treatment over the centuries. Western
Herbalism is today primarily a system of folk medicine.