The word herb comes from the Latin for “grass.” Technically, herbs are plants that wither each autumn, plants other than sh...read more
The word herb comes from the Latin for “grass.” Technically, herbs are plants that wither each autumn, plants other than shrubs or trees. But many woody perennials such as slippery elm, tea tree, and white willow are also used in herbal healing. To an herbalist, the phrase “healing herbs” applies to every plant with medicinal value. Prehistoric sites show that the Neanderthals used yarrow, marshmallow, and other herbs some 60,000 years ago.
What attracted them to these plants?
Animals played a key role. Prehistoric humans were keen observers of the world around them. No doubt our ancestors noticed that when animals appeared ill, they sometimes ate plants that they ordinarily ignored. Humans sampled these plants, in many cases noticing curious effects—wakefulness, sleepiness, laxative action, increased urination, and so on. The herbs that caused these effects were incorporated into prehistoric shamanism, and later into medicine.
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