The early modern period was the great age of herbals. In general terms, a herb is a plant that is valued for its flavour, aroma or medicinal properties. Different parts of a herb – such as stalks, flowers, fruits, seeds, roots or leaves – may have important applications.
Medicinal plants have been identified and used throughout human history. The study of herbs dates back over 5,000 years. Plants make many chemical compounds for biological functions.
Many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to physicians have a long history of use as herbal remedies, including opium, aspirin, digitalis, and quinine. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the population of some Asian and African countries presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.
Treating common ailments and conditions safely and effectively with herbs is an area of growing interest as well as the focus of research around the world. Pharmacologists, microbiologists, botanists, and natural-products chemists are combing the earth for phytochemicals and leads that could be developed for treatment of various diseases. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, approximately 25% of modern drugs used in the United States have been derived from plants.
The American National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, surveying alternative therapies in 2004, found that herbal therapy was the most commonly used.
There are a large number of herbs used for medicinal purpose. Some of the well known are – Astragalus, Cat’s claw, Devil’s claw, Milk thistle, Senna, Echinacea, German chamomile, Turmeric, Ginseng, Lavender, Withania, Ginkgo, Brahmi, Tea-tree oil, Flaxseed oil, Clove oil, Aloe vera, Cranberry, Morinda citrifolia popularly known as Noni, Spirulina, etc.
As per the tenet of Hippocrates (400 B.C.) “Let food be your medicine”, one can prevent many health disorders by including medicinal herbs in the daily food consumption.
It is a well known saying “Prevention is better than cure” and if truly practiced it is much cheaper.