Some Words About Herbs


  1. Regarding the meaning of the word herb--The definition of an herb has vastly broader boundaries than popularly surmised: culinary herbs, medicinal plants, any plant that lives its life-cycle within 12 inches of the forest floor, etc.

  2. Regarding the importance of herbs in medicine--The historical evidence shows that the numbers and kinds of written records document the role of plants as central to healing practices. The fact that kings, emperors, and the like officially supported cultivation of herbs is important. The fact of compendia being created and reprinted for centuries in many cultures further shows the medical importance of plant materials. The fact that all kinds of early practitioners used herbs as an integral part of their healing practices is also telling. While it is true the minerals came to be unduly relied upon with the advent of the alchemist practices, it is true that awareness of plant materials—active principles, etc.—helped to rejuvenate the medical status of plants. Further, legal developments focusing upon the negative side effects of mercury, etc. helped guide medical practitioners to use more plant materials. The regulation of the practice of medicine had dramatic negative impact upon the use of plant drugs. The status of crude plant drugs has never recaptured its original place in medicine but public pressure is helping to change the role of plant / crude drugs in medicine.

  3. Medical herbalism is practiced, largely, in an ethno-centric manner. This means that a tradition-based use of herbs predominates over a theory-based usage scheme. The challenge for western Ayurvedists is to over-come this blind following of tradition by coming to know local Materia Medica in an Ayurvedic way. In other words, we must be able to know and use local medicines according to a universal theory--Ayurveda.

  4. Ayurveda uses herbs singly, in groups, fresh, and prepared for their energetic effects as well as for their physical and chemical properties.

  5. There is an irony of historical interest: When in England the legal practitioners of medicine tried to squeeze out competition in the marketplace (unlicensed herbalists, etc.) that their obvious greed was “rewarded” by the legalization of their quack competitors. The practice of herbalism is legal in England even today.






(C) Copyright 1998 Michael Dick All Rights Reserved