History of Herb Treatment


Herbs have been used for the treatment and prevention of diseases for millennia. Archaeological findings in ancient Babylon have found that herbs were used by men as early as 60000 years ago. Written records in ancient civilizations such as those in Egypt, China and India show that herb treatment has been around for centuries.

Although there isn’t much evidence to support this, a theory surrounding use of herbs for treatment and prevention of disease stems from animal evolution. Animals ate herbs not only for sustenance but also for treatment and prevention of diseases. Over time, animal bodies managed to use the different chemicals found in herbs for disease prevention and treatment. In addition to this, the use of herbs to treat diseases was more or less a trial and error issue. The following is a description of the history herb treatment to date.

Ancient Babylon

Archeological findings in ancient Babylon now present day Iran show that the ancient civilization used herbs to treat disease 60000 years ago. These findings include documentation on ancient tablets. Besides treatment of various diseases, herbs were also used to prevent disease occurrence.



India is one of the countries with a long history of documented used of herbal treatment. The history of the Ayurveda philosophy of herb treatment dates back up to 5000 years ago. The use of herbs to treat disease is based on the individual. That is, the person’s behavior, disease history, emotional disposition and body type among other factors. This herbal treatment system uses different herbs and spices which are used alongside diet. The Ayurveda is still in existence today.


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China is another country with a long history of use of herbal treatment. Written records dating back 3500 years document the use of herbal remedies for the treatment of various types of diseases. The Chinese book Shennong Bencao Jing is the first known record on the use of herbal remedies. It documents over 365 herbs used in the treatment of various ailments. The Chinese system of herbal treatment is based on the belief that health problems are caused by an imbalance in a body system such as the digestive system. The use of different herbs to regain this balance results in whole bodily balance.

Middle East

The use of herb treatment in the Middle East is largely attributed to the trade that existed between Arabs and the Chinese and Indians. A good example is the 9th century Al-Dinawri documentation of over 600 herbs. Herbs are still used in the Middle East for treatment of various ailments.


The use of herbs in Europe can be traced to the Greek and Roman Empires. Hippocrates and Galen are two of the most recognized Europeans who advocated and documented the use of herbs for the treatment of various ailments. The use of herbs for the treatment of diseases soon spread from the Greek and Roman Empire to the western world.

The use of herbal remedies for the treatment of diseases in Europe in the middle ages was largely left to women. Although effective, this method of disease treatment was looked down upon especially with advances in chemistry. The women were largely regarded as witches and condemnation wasn’t unheard of. From the 13th century men took over from women although the use of herbs for disease treatment was still looked down upon.

In the 19th century, advancement in chemistry allowed extraction of individual active ingredients from herbs for the manufacture of drugs. This led to the decline in the use of herbs for disease treatment.


About a quarter of the worlds population relies on herb treatment for different ailments. Although pharmaceutical drugs dominate disease prevention and treatment, more people are turning to herbs as an alternative disease prevention and treatment method. The decline on the reliance on herbs over recent centuries can be attributed to the consideration that any type of medication should be supported by research and scientific evidence. However, there has been resurgence in the use of herb treatment over recent decades due to the fact that the majority of the pharmaceutical drugs available today have potential side effects.


The increase in the number of people relying on herb treatment over recent years indicates that the future of herbal remedies is bright. People across the globe and in particular western countries are looking for alternatives to the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Herbs have been proven to have less side effects to the use of majority of drugs. They are also effective in the prevention and treatment of diseases and the demand for herbs is expected to rise within the coming years.

About Nidhi Agarwal

Professor of Institute Of Post-Graduate Ayurvedic Education & Research.She has vast experience in the field of Ayurveda and Yoga. She has his clinical expertise in the Use of Rasayana in Jara (Geriatrics), Panchakarma chikitsa in Bone and joint disorders especially Osteopenia & Osteoporosis, Diabetes, Obesity, Hypertension, Skin diseases and application of Yoga in various psycho-somatic disorders.