Herbal Medicine is a system of health-care that relies on plants as the source of remedies and is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. It is a substantial alternative to conventional drug-based medicine. It is based on remedies and techniques tried and tested through generations of use, but increasingly re-evaluated in the light of modern research. A key aspect is that remedies are used to support and modify disturbed body functions, rather than to directly attack the symptoms of disease. It is an holistic health approach incorporating mind and body.
Herbal medicine or Phytomedicine is the first medicine. Herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years. A melange a different cultures from around the world have used this resourceful practice to heal. Archaeology has revealed prehistoric communities using holistic medicine. Bone setting, pharmaceutical herbs and food were used with the belief that spirit pervaded all things.
The first known writings were found in Mesopotamia and Egypt dating around 5,500 years ago. From the late fourth millennium BC until the Persian invasion of 525 BC, Egyptian medicine developed highly advanced practices using simple surgery, dentistry, bone setting, developing an extensive herbal pharmacopeia.
Diet was promoted in moderation, consuming Emmer wheat and barley through baking and fermentation of beer. Vegetables and fruits from the fertile Nile, Linseed oil, spices and herbs with meat (sheep, goats, pigs, wild game) to those who could afford it.3 Some herbs used today are Aloe Vera, Licorice, Parsley, Caraway, Opium that were brought to Europe via the Roman empire and later the Crusades.
Pharmacopoeias were comprehensive and much spoken of by Greek academics Herodotus, Pliny the Elder, Hippocrates and many more as much of Greek medicine was derived from the Egyptians.
State funded Hospitals called ‘House of life’ treated all people. The ancient Edwin Smith papyrus text written around 1600 BC recorded detailed surgery.5,6 All the while spiritual practice played significant roles including prayers and rituals to the Goddesses Isis and Sekhmet.
The Kahun gynaecological Papyrus written for women's complaints includes pre-conception texts. Dating from 1800 BC, it is the oldest surviving medical text. 9 Recipes are recorded; such as ointments made from animal, vegetable or fruit and minerals. "Honey...for its medicinal properties...and the juice of pomegranates served as both an astringent and a delicacy." Honey continues to be recognised by CAM practitioners today. The Ebers Papyrus list over 800 remedies some are topical ointments, others as pills, mouth rinses, and inhalation.6 The Castor oil tree, Male Palm, and Gengent beans were used to treat constipation.
Ancient texts reveal significant Egyptian physicians such as Imhotep, Hesy-Ra, Merit-Ptah a female doctor in around 2700 and around 200 hundred years later, another female physician Peseshet was noted as the Supervisor of Doctors.
Dentists pulled infected teeth and built bridges to replace lost teeth. Physicians used powdered charcoal to absorb poisons such as in food poisoning still practiced today, also applied to wounds to absorb pus, blood and to promote clotting. They practiced hygiene and fasting.
The biggest contribution of Egyptian doctors to medicine was their research on how the human body worked. The foundation of the 300BC Alexandria Library established themselves as leaders in medical research. Their research involved trying to find ways to unblock the "Channels".
Herbal medicine and complementary alternative medicine (CAM) research investigate medicinal components using modern science practice such as the use of randomised controlled trials (RCT). CAM research considers holistic influences such as environmental factors, i.e., diet, the emotion, spiritual and cultural components as well as the physical.
Brindabella Natural Health Centre uses primarily organic or wild crafted plants that a processes called chromatography (no synthetic chemicals used) from reputable Australian companies.
Herbal medicine has stood the test of time. Today, Herbal medicine is central to a Naturopathic practice as it aims to address the many symptoms with specific medicinal herbs. Phytotherapy works well with other CAM modalities and often Biomedicine.
Brindabella Natural Health Centre is located in Canberra. Please click here to make an appointment