instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

ODE TO THE PAST (with the occasional nod to the present)

Ancient Medicinal Herbs

The ancients knew much about healing. They may not have had little white pills at their disposal, but they had nature’s pharmacy. Herbs cured everything from fevers to fertility.

While researching ethnobotany for the historical subplot of The Tenth Saint, in which Gabriel learns the art of healing from a Bedouin sheik, I learned a thing or two. Here is a small sampling of herbs used for curative purposes in ancient times:

Silphion—A member of the giant fennel family, this rare North African plant was used for contraceptive purposes. Women made tinctures from the juice of the plant and drank them once a month. It also was used to induce abortion. It was much in demand and therefore overharvested; it is now extinct.

Astragalus—A legume related to the licorice plant, it occurs mostly in China and Taiwan. The ancients used the root (huang qi) to cure all manner of ills from common colds to malaise. More recent studies of astragalus varieties have proven the herb boosts the immune system, and have suggested benefits to cancer or immunocompromised patients.

Frankincense—For centuries, the hardened tears of the frankincense tree have been used as incense for worship purposes. But there were myriad uses for frankincense. The bark, crushed into a powder and sometimes singed, was an ointment for wounds and swelling. The root of the young tree, when chewed, cured stomach ailments. In Ethiopia, the soot of the resin was a treatment for sore and infected eyes, while the smoke treated headaches and even repelled malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Burdock—This common weed was prized by the Celts, who cooked its roots for medicinal use. They considered burdock a detoxifying herb and consumed it freely to cleanse the internal system. They gave it to the elderly to treat ailments like arthritis and to teens to heal acne.

Yarrow—Europeans used this weed in the Middle Ages to stop internal bleeding (and bleeding, in general) and upper respiratory infections. It was generally taken as a tea. Later research proved yarrow’s anti-inflammatory and blood clotting qualities, so perhaps there is something to this, after all.

The list of ancient healing herbs is endless. If you enjoy reading about it, let me know and I will post some more.
Be the first to comment