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Consider the many cultures on the planet, within each culture, there is a deeper tradition, historically documented, handed to others either verbally or written. This was a time of nature when using herbs medicinally was as common as the sun rising in the morning, hence the pharmaceutical industry had not yet been created.
These medicinal traditions have developed based on the plants available in their geographic area, spiritual and ancestral beliefs, language and other variables. Since millennia ago villages, tribes, all had someone with knowledge of the old ways to turn too in moments of illness or disharmony. A great example, the indigenous nations, of the now named the USA, before the settlers arrived, there were at least 2000 indigenous tribes, each of which had their own unique method of using medicinal herbs for the healing of illness, wounds, and also purification of the spirit and environment.
This also led to the knowledge of the eclectics and the physio-medical movements. Eclectic is defined as a mix, whatever worked, during the 1830s to the 1930s using herbal medicines and homoeopathy and other methods. Luckily their successes were documented and can be found in the great botanical library in Ohio, USA.
A wonderful herbal resource is the South West School of Botanical Medicine, thanks to Michael Moore, full of eclectic historical works from various backgrounds and experiences.
Present day knowledge of herbalism medicine is attributed to the Arabic worlds, through to India, bringing the Unani, and Ayurvedic traditions, as well as Greco-Roman tradition, not forgetting the African and South American traditional practices of herbalism.
Most people know of the physicians, Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides based on the educational system. let's not forget and importantly, the wise elders and shamans, however, there are many great and knowledgeable people whose names will never be known or are never credited for their contributions to herbal traditions.
Herbal Medicine / Herbalism is a modality of healing medicines that relies on plant-based materials, herbs as the source of remedy. Let's define our terms, a herb differs from a tree or shrub, as it does not have a permanent woody stem.
Substances made from the roots, leaves or bark of a plant are called Botanicals, also sometimes referred to as Botanical medicine or Phytotherapy. Phyto- refers to plants, a term usually heard in Europe, related to prevention and treatment of illness in the same way.
In the past knowledge of medicinal herbs were mainly due to experimentation and observation using the senses, termed today as empirical knowledge. In my opinion that is a good thing as many of this empirical data has been documented, it may be considered an earlier version of clinical trials and being realistic this is as worthy a method of learning as any other.
However present day society dictates a more scientific approach, with the refinement of a hypothesis with confirmation or determination of a null hypothesis and although regarding western herbs much of the research is Chinese or Indian based, keeping in mind many Chinese and Indian herbs are used in western herbal medicine just with different names.
So for evidence-based healthcare plant-based medicines also have scientific validation just follow this link for a brief overview.
There is sufficient confirmation with today's modern science that medicinal plants assist in aiding immunity, digestion, waste removal, enhances stamina, mood, well being, aids sleep, assist heart health, has antiviral and antibacterial properties plus many other health and skin complaints. There exists a number of peer-reviewed studies, and painstaking scientific research demonstrating activities of constituents against a specific bacterium, as well as the synergistic capabilities of herbs.
Present day herbal medicine practice integrates historical doctrine and current clinical knowledge whilst having an inclusive awareness of scientific research.
There are thousands of species and plants around the world, many still undiscovered, yet many of those that have been discovered still have not been scientifically studied, however, those plants species that have been studied via randomised clinical trials and other scientific means, demonstrate remarkable qualities and potential.