Pre historic times : since the beginning of time , man has been using herbs. The herbs were used as food and also to fight illnesses. Somehow, these had been believed to have some curative powers. These powers were though attribute to supernatural causes.
Period of Vedas : since the beginning, man and nature have been in conjunction. Living with nature, a number of herbs and plants had been used by men for the purpose of fulfilling the requirement of food as well as a medicine in treating illness. Many illustrations can be seen in our ancient Vedas.
‘Atharvaveda’, from which ‘Ayurveda’ is derived, contains a detailed knowledge on the herbs along with their scientific evolution that were used in those times. Herbs have been specified as medicine in treating and curing a disease. Many herbs have been specified for curing ailments like fevers, tuberculosis, stones etc. the number of medicinal herbs described in Vedas is approximately 150.
Charak Sanhita (1000 B. C.) : during this period , many more herbs had been identified and believed useful both for diet and medicinal purposes. It came into faith that the herbs existing in the Himalayas are the best in properties as well as abundance. There had been determined a clear-cut differentiation between the herbs used as food or ‘Aahar dravyas’ and those used as medicine or the ‘Aaushad Dravyas’.
According to their utility and mode of action on various body systems, the herbs had been classified into 50 categories. For example – those acting on the nervous system like Bhrami, white gourd, those acting on the digestive system like asafetida, ginger etc. the medicinal plants or herbs mentioned in Charaka Sanhita are approx. 526.
Sushrut Sanhita (100 B. C. ) : Approx. 573 medicinal herbs have been described in this Sanhita. More detailed classification of the drugs was assembled in the period.
Ashtang Hridaya : About 902 medicinal herbs have been mentioned.
Herbs Around the World
Herbs have been always popular all over the world and with different communities. There are illustrations in the Bible about the use of various herbs for the benefit of health of the body. In Genesis, God has said, “ I have given you every herb bearing seed, which Is upon the face of the earth. And every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”
Egyptians : The ancient Egyptians had a good knowledge of herbs. An ancient text called ‘ The Papyus Ebers’ written in 1500 BC contains references to more than 700 herbal medicines & knowledge on herbs like galic, aloe, caraway seeds and poppy.
Greeks : Hypocrites, who is regarded as the ‘ Father of medical literature’ has written and taught that the nature has the strength to cure a disease. He often used various herbs and diets as the basis of treatment of disease.
Chinese : The Chinese have practiced herbal use for about 5000 years. A Chinese medicinal text written in 1700 BC contains thirteen herbal prescriptions. Herbs like ‘Ginseng’ are a pride possession among the Chinese and they believe that regular use of herbs prolongs life.
Romans : the medical inheritance of ancient Egypt passed to Greece and then to Rome. The Roman Empire extensively used herbal medicines. A herb called ‘Mandrake’ was used as an anesthetic.
Now a days : herbs, today, are believed to be pure and natural sources that assure the fruit of good health. It is a known fact now that the herbs help to cleanse and purify the body and also help the body in preparing its own defense system against a disease. Not only this, herbs also provide nutrition to the body. Unlike the synthetic drugs, herbs might not produce instant results, yet in the long run, these offer a way to put the body in tune with the nature.