Herbal medicine is the oldest form of healthcare known to mankind. It has been truly said that medicine was conceived in sympathy & burn out of necessity; and the first doctor was the first man, the first woman was the first nurse and the herb, the first true medicine. So the herbal medicine is the oldest form of health care known to mankind. Herbs had been used by all cultures throughout history. Its history of use goes back to Vedic era, where 289 herbs having medicinal value were described (with their properties, mode of use, diseases in which they were used etc.) in Aatharva Veda and 67 in Rig Veda. Similarly, 81 medicinal herbs were described in Ajurveda, 31 in Upanisad and 129 in Braman Grantha. As being a part of Aatharva Veda, Ayurveda compiled the medicinal herbs systematically and used them to treat different diseases. The practical use of different herbs in the south East Asia in different tribes reveals the popularity of herbs as the integral part of Ayurveda. It has been mentioned that philosopher Charak listed over 500 remedies and Sushruta, the father of Ayurvedic surgery, over 700 vegetable remedies. Charak divided the medicinal plants into 50 groups according to the physiological actions of the medicines that can be extracted from them. These fifty groups cover everything from curatives to preventatives. The plants decribed by Charak present a cross-section of medicinal herbs, shrubs and tress ranging from diuretics, cardiac tonics and plant extracts capable to increase fertility of both male and female.
Ayurveda medicines are mainly based on herbal products. Ayurveda is also rich in the classification and differentiated of plants, their properties and characteristics, their pharmacological actions and therapeutic uses. The easiest five general methods of preparation of herbal medicine are described in Ayurveda. These are powder, paste, decoction, cold infusion and hot infusion. One can easily accessible to herbal medicine from any plants that they know or get by these five methods of preparation.
In Ayurveda, the medicinal herbs are made powder to use it as a pure and natural form of herbal medicine. The herbs are mixed each other for better effect and results according to their similar characteristics. The single herb preparation is rarely found in Ayurveda. The medicinal herbs are sometimes mixed with metals, minerals and other non herbal components. Herbs make the poisonous metals, minerals and other non herbal components ready to use as a better and effective medicine. In addition to these, Ayurveda has also managed some poisonous herbs like Strychnous noxvomica, Nerium indicum to a life saving drugs.
Many drugs commonly used today are of herbal origin. The first antibiotic to mankind discovered accidentally by Fleming (in 1929) was of herbal origin i.e. from Penicllium notatum mould which was miracle in modern medicine. Almost all of the antibiotics that are being used by modern medicine are made either from plant extract or synthesized to mimic natural plant compound. Indeed, about 25 percent of the prescription drugs dispensed in the United States contain at least one active ingredient derived from plant material. Some are made from plant extracts; others are synthesized to mimic a natural plant compound.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 billion people, 80 percent of the world population, presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. Herbal medicine is a major component in all indigenous peoples’ traditional medicine and a common element in Ayurvedic medicine. WHO notes that of 119 plant-derived pharmaceutical medicines, about 74 percent are used in modern medicine in ways that correlated directly with their traditional uses as plant medicines by native cultures. Major pharmaceutical companies are currently conducting extensive research on plant materials gathered from the rain forests and other places for their potential medicinal value.
Substances derived from the plants remain the basis for a large proportion of the commercial medications used today for the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, asthma, and other problems. For example, ephedra is an herb used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems. Ephedrine, the active ingredient in ephedra, is used in the commercial pharmaceutical preparations for the relief of asthma symptoms and other respiratory problems. It helps the patient to breathe more easily