otanical, herbal or phytomedicine medicine, as it’s also called, is the use of plants, leaves, barks, flowers, roots, berries and seeds for medicinal purposes. Herbalism has a long tradition outside of conventional medicine. However, advances in clinical research and improvements in analysis and quality control have seen herbal medicine gain more mainstream appeal for treating and preventing disease.
Long before recorded history, plants were used for medicinal purposes. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal uses for plants as early as 3,000BC. Native American and African cultures used herbs in their healing rituals, while herbal therapies were also used in medicinal systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. People in different parts of the world independently used the same or similar plants for the same specific purposes.
When chemical analysis first became available in the early 19th century, scientists began to extract and modify the active ingredients from plants. Chemists made their own versions of plant compounds and, over time, the use of herbal medicines declined in favour of pharmaceutical drugs.
However, today, public dissatisfaction with the high cost of prescription medications and their often negative side effects, combined with an interest in returning to natural or organic remedies, has led to an increase in herbal medicine use.