Saturday, August 31, 2013

Do you know the history of medicinal herbs?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that nearly 80 percent of the world population (or 4 billion people) use herbal supplements for a variety of health ailments. The use of herbs has become one of the most utilized form of complementary and alternative medicine (Freeman, 2009).  However, how did the use of herbs begin? What is the history of herbal use?

Have you ever noticed a chimpanzee swallowing (and make no mistake here, the chimpanzee is not chewing this) a plant otherwise thought of as an herbal medicine. This herb is called Aspilia and it has a bad taste. Hence the reason why the chimpanzees will swallow it and not chew it. If you observe closely, the chimpanzee will even grimace. They eat these before dawn, because the sun can release dangerous chemicals in these plants. The Aspilila can kill parasite, fungi, and bacteria.  It is also used for stomachaches and wound care. Wounds are often dressed with crushed leaves, rubbed into the wound (Freeman, 2009).

There is evidence that even Neanderthals used herbs. In the 1960s, a Neanderthal man was found buried with the herbs that were obviously used to treat him. There were eight different types of herbs that were used. Would it surprise you that seven of the herbs are still in use today? (Freeman, 2009).

For more information on the history of herbs you may view:


Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.

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