The history of herbal medicine

Learn the history of herbal medicine

Page Content
  1. Introduction
  2. Mesopotamia and medicine
  3. Ancient egypt medicine
  4. Herbs and Ayurvedic medicine
  5. Chinese herbal medicine history
  6. Roman and Greek herbal medicine
  7. herbal medicine today



The history of herbal medicine goes back a long way, perhaps it as old as life itself. Read the origins of herbal medicine and Zoopharmacognosy pages to find out about the early history of herbalism.

Mesopotamia and medicine


Written evidence of herbal medicine dates back four thousand years to Sumerian clay tablets which recorded various plant remedies for numerous illnesses.

A tablet at the British museum dated 668-626 BC has a note which says it was duplicated from a tablet that was written in the 2nd year of King Enlil Bani's reign which was around 2201-2177 BC.

Ancient egypt medicine


In ancient Egypt numerous physicians used plants as medicine this is recorded on papyri. It is believed Egyptians were the first ones to try and take away the magical and mystical element from herbal medicine practices.

The Ebers papyrus dates from around 1500 BC mentions various formulas for specific conditions and also mentioned herbs which are still used today, such as Myrhh, elderflower and wormwood.

Herbs and Ayurvedic medicine


Herbs like turmeric are believed to be used in Ayurvedic medicinein around 1900 B.C, numerous other herbs used in Ayurveda were described by Sushruta and Charaka throughout the first millennium BC. Charaka and Sushruta were ancient Indian herbalists.

The Sushruta Samihta is an ancient medical text which describes seven hundred medicinal plants is attributed to Sushruta.

Chinese herbal medicine history


Chinese herbal medicine goes as far back as the Zhou Dynasty, Early Iron/Late Bronze Age.3000 to 2500 years ago, early Iron Age. Shennong Bencao Jing, was the first Chinese herbal book and it was assembled in the Han Dynasty period. It does date back though to possibly 2700 B.C.It lists three hundred and sixty five medicinal plants as well as their uses.

Roman and Greek herbal medicine


The ancient Greeks and Romans knew all about the medicinal quality of plants.Hippocrates advocated the use of herbs like fennel, rosemary and saffron along with massage and exercise and other like minded therapies.

The Roman doctors were influenced heavily by Greek physicians. Before the Roman soldiers went to fight their doctors would cover the soles of their feet in garlic oil. This was done in order to make their immune system stronger and make them heal quicker. A doctor called Dioscorides assembled a compendium of more than five hundred plants

Herbal medicine today


In the second millennium the popularity of herbal medicine decreased and chemical drugs- chemical medicine became popular and accepted.

Today however herbalism is enjoying a renaissance as more and more people are discovering the benefits of herbal medicine.

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