Plants have been used continuously as medicines for some 60,000 years, with the first evidence in fossil discoveries dating back to the Middle Palaeolithic age.
Over millennia, communities around the world have learned how to use plants to support good health and address common health concerns.
The practices of using plants for medicine is called traditional plant medicine and also known as herbal medicine. The completely natural formulations are also known as plant remedies, herbal remedies, phytomedicines and botanical medicines.
Formulations are based on centuries of clinical knowledge of how to prepare and formulate plants for medicinal use, which are now being increasingly backed by modern scientific research.
Today, around the world, traditional, plant based medicines are as relevant for health care today as they have been for thousands of years. They are widely used in primary and preventative healthcare and readily available.
There is a long history of the use of plants in systems of healing and medicinal practice, and it is a living history which continues to thrive. These traditions have been passed down by expert practitioners through centuries of oral education and written medical texts. In New Zealand, Rongoā Maori, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurveda and European traditional herbal medicinal practice are well used within our community and all incorporate plants within their systems of medicine.
Some plants are very familiar to us for everyday health care. Examples are Arnica for bruising and injuries, Echinacea for immune support, Peppermint for digestion & Ivy Leaf for bronchial support.
Plants are the original medicines and are the foundation for the development of many modern pharmaceuticals. One commonly known example is pain-relieving aspirin which was modelled on salicin, the active ingredient in Meadowsweet and the bark of the Willow tree (Salix spps).
Internationally, 80% of the world’s population uses plants for health care, and natural remedies will continue to be central to developing sustainable health care systems in which making healthy choices are widely available, and staying well is a priority.
Dr Sandra Clair (PhD, Health Sciences)
Registered Medical Herbalist