Use of herbal remedies

Early humans recognized their dependence on nature in both health and illness. Physical evidence of use of herbal remedies dates back some 60,000 years to a burial site of a Neanderthal man uncovered in 1960. Scientists found what appeared to be ordinary human bones. Upon further analysis, the bones revealed large quantities of plant pollen that had to have been taken internally. The first written records detailing the use of herbs in the treatment of illness are the Mesopotamian clay tablet writings and the Egyptian papyrus.

In North America, early explorers traded knowledge with the Native American Indians. The tribes taught them which herbs to use to sharpen their senses for hunting, to build endurance, and to bait their traps. As medicine evolved in the United States, plants continued as a mainstay of country medicine. Approaches to plant healing passed from physician to physician, grandparent to child. As 20th-century technology advanced and created more pharmaceutical drugs, the interest turned more and more away from herbal medicine.

However, few people realize that about one-quarter of the prescription drugs in the U.S. contain at least one active ingredient derived from plant material. Many over-the-counter drugs also come from plants. Cough drops that contain menthol, mint, horehound, or lemon are herbal preparations; chamomile and mint teas taken for digestion or a nervous stomach are old herbal remedies. In fact, even coffee is an herbal stimulant.

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