Herbs have been used for cooking and treating disease since ancient times. There are references to the curative properties of some herbs in the Rigveda, which is believed to have been written between 3500 and 1800 BC. A more detailed account is found in Atharveda. A comprehensive information about herbs has been recorded in Charka Samhita and Shusruta Samhita – the two important works on Ayurvedic system of medicine. Ayurvedic system deals with as many as 700 herbs, some of which have not even originated in India. Chinese medicine has a compilation of 1000 ancient herbs. Hippocrates (460 BC) the Greek physician and father of modern medicine has also listed several hundred herbal remedies.
Herbs play a significant role, especially in modern times, when the damaging effects of food processing and over medication have assumed alarming proportions. They are now being used heavily in cosmetics, food, tea and alternative medicine. The growing interest in herbs is a part of movement towards change in life style. This movement is based on the belief that plants have vast potential for their use as curative medicine.
Herbs are used in many ways in our lives. The active constituents must be absorbed into the body for deriving the required benefits. Once they are absorbed in the blood stream, they circulate to influence our whole system. Herbs are used in many modern medications and Homeopathic medicine in various concentrations. The skill of the herbalist is to use the effects to balance and strengthen the body’s own healing mechanism instead of suppressing or disturbing it. Many modern medications made with herbs are not prepared for healing mechanism.
A word of caution. While most herbs have little or no harmful side effects, some herbs may cause undesirable reaction in some people. Therefore, advise of trained herbalist is very useful in the selection of herb to use the curative properties. Also, not all herbal applications are effective in every case in every person since every individual has different constitution (Dosha in Ayurvedic medicine).