Herbal Medicine

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Herbal medicine is the extraction of herbs or plants which have a medicinal value in treating illnesses and diseases (Brody 1). A herb is known as a plant that does not have a woody stem and usually dies back at the end of each growing season. It is also known as a "natural" drug because they are derived from nature. This is unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which are synthesized from chemicals. Herbal medicine dates back a very long time. More than 4,000 years ago, the Chinese emperor Qien Nong put a book together, or a herbal, of different medicinal plants (O' Sullivan 2). It contained descriptions of more than 300 plants. Some of these plants are still used today. The Sumerians, at the same time recorded prescriptions on clay tablets. Also, the Egyptians recorded their information regarding medicine on rolls of papyrus. A very famous papyrus is the Ebers Papyrus, which includes specific information on how to use different plants (Brody 1). The Greeks and Romans learned about herbal medicine from these early civilizations. They also recorded them in books. We know of these works because they are translated into Arabic. Monks in Europe studied and grew plants for medicinal use. They translated the Arabic and that helped them with the plants. The first drugstores were in Baghdad (which is present day Iraq) in the 9th century (Smith 1). In the 13th century, major trade of herbs and spices occurred in London. Since there were no standards, bad quality herbs and wrong substitutes were often sold. Carolus Linneaus introduced the binomial system of plant nomenclature in 1753 (O'Sullivan 1). This helped identify plants scientifically, which helped to avoid mistakes between different plants. Many drugs commonly used today are of herbal origin. About one-quarter of the prescription drugs distributed by pharmacies in the United States contain at least one ingredient derived from plant material. Today, everyone from health care consumers to

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