TRACING THE ROOTS OF NATURAL HERBAL THERAPY

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▲Kathy Kiefer

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TRACING THE ROOTS OF NATURAL HERBAL THERAPY

By about 2000 BCE, medical papyri in ancient Egypt included medical prescriptions based on plant matter and made reference to the herbalist’s combination of medicines and magic for healing.    The ancient Egyptian Papyrus Ebers is one of the earliest known herbals; it dates to 1550 BCE and is based on sources, now lost, dating back a further 500 to 2000 years.   The earliest Sumerian herbal dates from about 2500 BCE as a copied manuscript of the 7th century BCE. Inscribed Assyrian tablets dated 668–626 BCE list about 250 vegetable drugs: the tablets include herbal plant names that are still in use today including: saffron, cumin, turmeric and sesame.

The ancient Greeks gleaned much of their medicinal knowledge from Egypt and Mesopotamia.   Hippocrates (460–377 BCE), the “father of medicine” (renowned for the eponymous Hippocratic oath), used about 400 drugs, most…

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