Every once in a while, as it diversion, I like to engage in a self-education project. This time I am doing a study on herbs and herbalism. I am engaging in this study through universalclass.com which I access for free through my local library (otherwise one must pay). My first assignment was to write at least 250 words where I define “herbs” and provide a brief history of herbalism. Not to brag– oh, who am I kidding? I’m bragging– the instructor gave me 100% on the assignment. Here is the essay:
A Brief History of Herb Usage
An herb, in culinary usage, is comprised of the green leaves of any non-woody plant. Other parts of the plant would be classified as spices. For example, the leaves of a coriander (cilantro) plant would be is an herb while the seed of the coriander plant would be a spice. However, the definition of an herb for medical uses is much broader, with an herb being any part of any type of plant used as a medical application.
The use of herbs for both cooking and medicinal applications goes as far back as the Upper-Paleolithic period. Though the lesson article states that the use of herbs for healing was derived through much trial and error, my personal opinion is that humans were far more intuitive in prehistoric times and probably “knew” — perhaps through observing animals’ interaction with herbs– what plants were safe and how they might be effective.
A large body of information on herbal healing was gathered and transmitted by the ancient cultures of the middle-east, Mediterranean, and north Africa regions. The Greeks created a large body of knowledge which they passed on to the Arabs in the middle ages. Europeans developed their own herb-knowledge which was kept primarily by the clergy, but also by the wise women of the land. European herbs and healing traditions were brought to North and South America where they took hold and mingled with indigenous traditions.
Herb-craft fell by the wayside after the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods. And today there is much criticism from the Western medical establishment of the use of herbal remedies. Though the stated intention of such criticism and the regulation by governments of herbal supplements and remedies is to protect the consumer, it also serves to withhold other viable solutions to various health conditions.
I, myself, take herbal supplements prescribed by a Traditional Chinese medical practitioner. These supplements are based on centuries-old, tried-and-true formulae which I can attest have helped me. TCM has become mainstream along with its Indian counterpart, the Ayurvedic tradition. Given that access to quality standard health care is not affordable by many people, returning to the ancient tradition of herbal healing may be the answer.
Postscript: Today’s Daily Post prompt, Tantrum, has absolutely nothing to do with this article. Sometimes I’m inspired on my own.