Medical Herbalism: History of Herbal Medicine
Western Herbalism integrates traditional medical diagnosis with Western Herbalism. Traditional diagnosis aims at balancing important ethnic, social and environmental variables like the weather and the season, which affect the patient's constitution, innate temperament and immune responses.
Claudius Galen's and Graeco-Arab (Unani-Tibb) traditions represent invaluable complements to modern medical diagnosis and allow a common-sense, yet comprehensive, holistic approach to patient's care.
Historically, the use of plants as medicine began to be recorded by the Egyptians’ Ebers Papyrus (c. 1600 BC), in the Ancient Babylonians Tablets of Clay; then in several Chinese works, the most famous of which was the Shen Nung’s Herbal (c. 273BC).
Hippocrates (c. 460-377 bc) first devised the Doctrine of Elements:
Earth, Air, Fire and Water and then the Four Humours: the vital fluids of Blood Phlegm, Black Bile and Yellow Bile.
Aristotle (c.384-322BC) defined the qualities of Hot, Dry, Cold and Wet and Discorides’ (c.50AD) wrote the herbal compendium "De Materia Medica". These Greek philosophical works became the foundation for Claudius Galen’s Doctrine of Contraries (II century AD).
The flowers yield a red dye, and with leaves and seeds were used by the Ancients as astringent medicines and to remove worms" (Mrs Grieve, 1995-2007 "A Modern Herbal": Botanical.com). The Pomegranate is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, the Bible and the Quran. Three centuries before Avicenna's birth, the Prophet Muhammad remarked, “Eat the pomegranate, for it purges the system of envy and hatred”.
Punica granatum LINN. (Pomegranate flower)
In 980 AD, Ibn Sina (better known by his latinised name as Avicenna) was born in the Persian town of Bukhara (Uzbekistan). He became physician in-chief at the hospital of Baghdad and personal physician to many Caliphs. Ibn Sina's success attracted the jealousy of rivals, which caused him to spend years in prison. In jail, he wrote the “Kitab ash-shifa” (the Book of Healing) and the “Canon of Medicine”.
Ibn Sina's works not only summarised medical knowledge from the Greeks, Romans and Arabs before him but also described hundreds of new plants and uses, the modern technique of distilling essential oils from delicate flowers, introduced the all-fruit diet as a cleansing process and accurate massage instructions with modern methods of manipulating bones, such as traction for broken limbs. These books were translated into Latin in the 12th century and brought European medical thought out of the Middle Ages into Renaissance in the XVI century.
The Family Medical Herbalist clinics are located in the London areas of Greenford, Ealing (close to Greenford tube on the Central Line) and in Central London in the Borough of Southwark (close to London Bridge station on the Jubilee Line).