Herbal medicine or phytotherapy is a therapeutic practice that different preparations of plants used to treat diseases. It is considered one of the first systems of healing and continuing today.
In Egypt since the 1300s B.C. and cultivated plants collected for medicinal purposes by the papyri of the time. A builder of temples and pyramids were given garlic to keep them healthy. Some papyri, such as Smith, account for more than 400 raw materials, both animal and plant for the treatment of disease.
In Babylon the king Mardukapaolidine II (772-710 BC) built a garden for growing medicinal plants for which he became famous.
In Greece figures as Aristotle and Hippocrates described the importance of herbal medicine. The latter, in his work Corpus Hippocraticum, linked to each disease a plant-based remedy. Erasios also referred Teofasto of botanical studies and the use of many plants.
During the Middle Ages, Municipality Dioscorides, in his Treatise on Materia Medica, listed more than 500 drugs of plant origin and the beneficial use of many of them.
Each region has different kinds of medicinal plants and applications that depend to a large extent on the cultural tradition.
Many modern medicines originate from plants used for therapeutic purposes. Among them mention may be quinine, extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree, aspirin, from willow bark and digoxin from the foxglove.
Herbal medicine uses whole plants whose extracts contain various constituents are mixed and not purified or isolated components. It ensures that herbal medicine preparations biochemical elements, working in groups, have a greater effect than when used separately and that significantly reduces toxicity.
During the nineteenth century with the development of chemistry and physics were isolated active principles of plants with great impact to the medical clinic. Thus were obtained the first chemically pure drugs: morphine and quinine.
Until then, the inaccuracy of the formulas plants had prevented the identification of aspects such as the minimum active dose, the safety margin of the substance and the median lethal dose. In that sense, were increased risks of acute overdose or accidental poisoning in herbal medicine. So did the incidence of unexpected adverse reactions, because of any of the numerous compounds present in natural preparations.
Herbal remedies are derived from combinations of herbs, flowers, leaves, bark and roots that are routinely taken as teas or tinctures, extracts in alcohol. They are also used by way of pills, capsules, ointments and compresses.
One current difficulty of herbal medicine is that many of their remedies are based on medicinal plants growing wild are endangered or scarce to be used by pharmaceutical companies.