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Medicinal plants have accompanied medicine since ancient times. If you read in old herbal books, many recipes and formulations may seem bizarre. Often gods, spirits and rituals, which have long been foreign to us, also play a role. For a long time, this knowledge was considered obsolete, it was more familiar with modern medicine and its synthetically produced medicines. Only in folk medicine many plants "survived" as a cure. Whether chamomile, vervain or ivy - they have all been used as medicines for millennia.
Ancient medicinal plants celebrate their comeback
But today you think about it. In times when once potent drugs such as antibiotics are no longer effective, many of the old medicinal plants are examined for their medical effectiveness. And often the scientists - sometimes baffled - realize that some of the ancient recipes are well justified. For example, Dioscorides recommended drinking a decoction from the root of the pomegranate tree to kill tapeworms. And it's true that the contained pyridine alkaloid actually paralyzes the worm. Hippocrates gave feverish pomegranate juice. This effect has also been confirmed.
Many indications were also true marshmallow (left). The list ranges from abscesses to burns and stone suffering to toothache. What remained is the use in cough syrup. The gladiators in Rome have rubbed themselves with oil from dill (right) to prevent pain. Dill, taken as an herb, works against flatulence
The hemp was even in ancient Egypt as a remedy in use. Recently, cannabis preparations were approved as analgesics. The look back is well worth it, because in many herbs that grow with us, previously unimaginable healing effects could be. Interesting signposts for it are - for laymen as well as for scientists - the old sources from the antique one or the medicine knowledge of the Middle Ages based on it. After all, in 2015, a recipe made of garlic, onions, wine and ox gall made headlines. At least in the laboratory, it can kill multidrug-resistant pathogens such as the dreaded hospital germ MRSA.
Seeds of fenugreek (left) were even found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. They were trimmed, boiled with honeymet, and used to make tumors on tumors. As you know now, the seeds are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and cholesterol-lowering. For sitz baths with gout or cooked with wine as an envelope against ulcers - the myrtle (right) was a popular among the Greeks as a universal remedy. In the meantime, myrtle oil plays an important role in aromatherapy
A great magic plant of antiquity was henbane. It was taken by divining women to create a trance. Oil from the plant is rubbed today in rheumatism in the skin. Laurel leaves were used for smoking to protect themselves from evil spirits. Seats with decoctions were prescribed for bladder problems. Today, one relies on the digestive effect of mitgekochter leaves.
Everybody knows the chamomile (left), that was also the case in ancient times. A tea from it is already a folk remedy for inflammation, digestive problems and colds. For love potions and sleeping pills, the Egyptians used the mandrakes (right). It was sacred to the goddess of love, Hathor, and was crushed and drunk mixed with beer. In fact, root alkaloids have a psychoactive effect. Today one uses mandrakes mostly homeopathic diluted, for example against headache
The evergreen ivy was an intoxicant and the favorite plant of the wine god Dionysos. In modern medicine, he is a cough medicine. The verbena was highly regarded by the Romans. It was considered a panacea. Today it is known that the contained glycoside verbenalin actually decongestant, wound healing and reduces fever.
Fathers of medicine
Galen and Hippocrates
Greece is the cradle of our medicine. The outstanding personality is Hippocrates (c. 460-370 BC, in the fresco on the right), who left more than 60 medical writings. Until well into modern times doctors swore their ethical oath in his name. Dioscorides lived in the 1st century and is considered the most important pharmacologist of antiquity. Galen or Galen (circa 130 to 200 AD, in the fresco on the left) summed up all the medical knowledge of the time and developed the four-juvenile teaching of Hippocrates.