Ancient Plants Used For Medicine
Did you know that there are ancient plants that are still used today to treat ailments? The mandrake plant is one such plant. The root of the mandrake plant is half a metre long and contains analgesic and narcotic properties. It was often used as analgesics and for treating chronic insomnia. In larger doses, mandrake could induce a state of deep lethargy.
Ancient Plants – Medicinal plants
There is a rich history behind the use of ancient plants as medicine. Native Americans had an abundance of knowledge about healing plants and gave early settlers advice on how to cure illnesses. (1) Their knowledge about plants also extended to healing childbirth and setting fractures. The Chippewa, for example, trained a special group of medicine men to specialise in treating particular diseases. Some of the medicinal plants used by the Chippewa included cascara sagrada, goldenseal, and witch hazel.
Some of the earliest known descriptions of medicinal plants are from ancient authors. Diocles of Karystos, a Greek physician, wrote of the medicinal plants he used. His work, Dioscorides, describes many plants and their medicinal properties. Dioscorides describes the healing properties of several roots. (2)
The roots of elecampane contain a valuable polysaccharide called inulin. This substance acts on the intestines and helps with digestion. This supports the ancient use of the elecampane root in medicine.
What are the Medicinal uses for medicinal plants?
Medicinal plants have long been valued by ancient cultures. Ancient Egyptians first began using herbs to treat disease, around 3500 BC, and Chinese physicians began using them around 2700 BC. They documented their knowledge of ailments and cures on temple walls and on the Ebers papyrus (1550 BC), which contains nearly 700 medicinal formulas. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates described plants as having essential qualities and developed a system of diagnosis and prognosis that made use of herbs. (2)
Ancient plants were traded around the world centuries ago. This trade began long before the Neolithic age and the emergence of agriculture. Today, scores of ancient plants have been brought back into the pharmacy. Their active properties have been recognized by modern science, and they are now used in the treatment of various diseases.
Today, most of the pharmaceuticals we use today are synthetic, but the structures of these chemicals are very similar to those in plants. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 11 percent of all essential drugs are derived from flowering plants. These discoveries have profound economic and political implications. (3)
What were the Medicinal properties?
Ancient plants have been used for centuries as a remedy for a variety of ailments. For example, the ancient Greek physician Diocles of Karystos wrote about medicinal plants and their healing powers. He describes the benefits of a wide variety of roots and plants. And although the plant’s uses have changed throughout the centuries, the root of burdock has remained an important part of traditional medicine.
Humans began searching for plants for medicinal purposes in prehistoric times. The earliest examples of this were intuitive. Over time, these practices evolved into more specific reasons and explanations. As a result, plants were a major source of treatment and prophylaxis until the 16th century. Today, researchers are beginning to understand the benefits of these plants as a means to treat illnesses.
Some of these ancient plants were used for their medicinal value and have been discovered in archaeological digs. Medicinal plants were also found in colonial manuscripts. The XVI century Badianus Manuscript documents the use of more than 150 plants for medicinal purposes. Some of these plants have been tested, and many of them correlate with the properties described by Aztec informants.
Medicinal plant uses in ancient times
Medicinal plants were used for thousands of years by the ancient Greeks and Romans. These ancient peoples sought out medicinal plants in the wild and used them for healing purposes. Initially, their use was instinctual and based on experience. However, over time, the rationale for their use developed and their use became documented and explained. By the 16th century, plant medicines were largely used for prophylaxis and treatment of diseases. (5)
It is possible that humans began trading medicinal plants as early as the early Neolithic period. This is supported by the fact that there is evidence of trading plants in prehistoric times, before the emergence of agriculture and the international trade of plants. However, more research is needed to fully understand the role of these medicinal plants during this time.
One of the oldest documented medicinal uses of ancient plants is the use of mandrake roots for the treatment of different illnesses. They were often soaked in wine to relieve pain. They were also used in poultices to heal wounds and aid in the recovery of people.
How are they being used today? Best to speak to your doctor.
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- Memory for medicinal plants remains in ancient and modern environments suggesting an evolved adaptedness Joelson Moreno Brito Moura 1 2, Risoneide Henriques da Silva 1 2, Washington Soares Ferreira Júnior 3, Taline Cristina da Silva 4, Ulysses Paulino Albuquerque 2 PLoS One. 2021 Oct 25;16(10):e0258986. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0258986. eCollection 2021.
- Medicinal plants for the treatment of urogenital tract pathologies according to Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica A Touwaide 1, A Pollio, G Aliotta, D Piomelli, N G De Santo Am J Nephrol. 1997;17(3-4):241-7. doi: 10.1159/000169108.
- Natural products derived from plants as a source of drugs
- Prof. (Dr.) Ciddi Veeresham J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2012 Oct-Dec; 3(4): 200–201. doi: 10.4103/2231-4040.104709
- A Brief History of the Antibiotic Era: Lessons Learned and Challenges for the Future Rustam I. Aminov1,* Front Microbiol. 2010; 1: 134.Published online 2010 Dec 8. Prepublished online 2010 Oct 29. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2010.00134 PMCID: PMC3109405