Home Remedies/Chapter 1
The Development of Home Remedies and Herbalism
The use of home remedies throughout history extends from simple food remedies, to more complex herbal preparations. Generally, the home herbal remedies were prepared as a tea to be drunk, or a poultice to be applied externally. Food remedies ranged from having an underlying complex classification system such as used by the Chinese in Traditional Chinese Medicine, to having a poorly understood but still effective oral tradition.
A unifying characteristic of these remedies is that they comprised of ingredients that were at least readily available at the time, such as using local herbs that were growing in the area. Indigenous groups, such as the Australian aboriginals and American Indians, made use of native plants to develop remedies that modern herbalists have also begun to explore in their practices. An example of this is the use of an extract of Wild Plum native to Australia to balance blood sugar levels.
The efficacy of some, but not all, traditional herbal home remedies is shown in the development of some modern drugs by the early pharmaceutical industry. For example, opium was developed from opium poppies, aspirin from Willow Bark (which is still used by individuals and herbalists today), the heart drug digitalis from foxglove, and quinine from the cinchona tree.
The body of knowledge that today is known as 'home remedies' and 'herbal medicine' developed along three main avenues, although as I described above, each country has their own oral traditions. Western herbal medicine developed from the early traditions of Greek, Roman and Medieval sources. Ayurveda developed in India, and the Chinese developed Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM). These traditions, and in particular the early Western tradition from the time of the Greeks, borrowed ideas and treatments from other traditions, especially the Indian and Oriental sources. This cultural cross-influence often reflected colonization, trade, or other, wider societal developments which facilitated the exchange of ideas.
In some instances, this cross cultural pollination was developed from learning to survive in adverse conditions. Early settlers in America, such as Samuel Thompson (1769-1843) learned useful remedies from the American Indians, which was synthesized with medical and healing related literature of the day.
All three of these modalities (Ayurvedic, Western and Oriental) at one time included both philosophical and spiritual aspects along with the scientific knowledge that existed within a specific time frame.