The use of plants as medicines predates written human history and archaeological evidence indicates we were using medicinal plants during the Paleolithic era (approximately 60,000 years ago). In Mesopotamia the Sumerians created clay tablets with lists of hundreds of medicinal plants (such as myrrh and opium) and the Ancient Egyptians wrote the Ebers Papyrus around 1500 BC, which contains information on over 850 plant medicines, including garlic, juniper, cannabis, castor bean, aloe, and mandrake.
In India the use of herbs to treat ailments forms a large part of Ayurvedic medicine and of course everyone is familiar with how plants and herbs are used extensively in traditional Chinese Medicine. The Greeks took herbalism into the modern age and removed much of the mysticism and magic which were present in earlier texts. Hippocrates mentions 250 useful herbs in his great works, and a Greek Physician named Dioscorides published a book called De Materia Medica which contained over 600 medicinal plants. Another Greek Galen produced detailed compendiums on medicine which included more than 600 plants and these were translated and consulted by physicians around the world for hundreds of years.
Throughout the Medieval period physical and spiritual health continued to be supported mainly with plants and herbs. This treatment was usually carried out by monks and nuns who provided nursing services, with the Benedictine monasteries known for their in depth knowledge of herbals. They tended gardens which grew the herbs which were considered to be useful for the treatment of the various human ills. The monks also spent much of their time translating classical works on herbalism into Latin and producing “Herbals” to be used by physicians.
The 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries were the great age of herbals, many of them available for the first time in English and other languages rather than Latin or Greek.
Alongside the traditional practices of Herbalism there were many learned men of science and medicine who believed illness was caused by “bad humours” in the body which had to be driven out and released. The famous American doctor Benjamin Rush, Treasurer of the Mint, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, authored many medical textbooks, in which he recommended dousing patients with cold water in the winter, twirling patients from ropes suspended from the ceiling for hours on end, as well as beating, starving and verbally abusing patients. He also poured acid on their backs and cut them with knives allowing the wounds to be kept open for months or years, to facilitate “permanent discharge of bad humours from the brain”.
When King Charles II woke up feeling ill his Royal Barber took a pint of blood, and his doctors drained a further eight ounces. He was made to swallow antimony, a toxic metal, and given a series of enemas. When his illness continued Charles’s head was shaved and blistering agents were applied to his scalp, to drive the bad humours downward. Pigeon droppings were applied to the soles of Charles’ feet, and more blood was drawn. He was given white sugar candy, to buoy his spirits, and prodded with a red hot poker. He was then given 40 drops of ooze from “the skull of a man that was never buried” who, it was promised, had died a most violent death. Finally, crushed stones from the insides of a goat from East India were forced down his throat. Charles II died on February 6, 1685.
In the 18th-century however physicians sought to become more scientific and there were many self-trained barber-surgeons, apothecaries, midwives, drug peddlers, and charlatans practicing medicine at this time. However, the village Wise Women could still be relied on to supply traditional herbs or brews to treat minor ailments and this practice continued to be popular with the working classes who could not afford to pay physician’s fees. Samuel Thomson was a self-educated farm boy who learned herbalism from a local wise woman and wrote a book detailing these methods, this book was so popular that almost every home had a copy (together with a bible) and it was even taken on wagon-trains and carried across the USA.
The American Medical Association came into power towards the end of the 19th Century and the scientific revolution diminished the popularity of herbalism and introduced a period of dangerous medical practices introduced by the newly formed pharmaceutical industry. During this period Paracelsus introduced the use of active chemical drugs (like arsenic, copper sulfate, iron, mercury, and sulfur).
If you were a stressed 19th-century mother you could now purchase for your children a series of “soothing syrups,” lozenges and powders which in fact contained dangerous narcotics such as morphine sulphate, chloroform, morphine hydrochloride, codeine, heroin, powdered opium, and cannabis indica,” and sometimes several of them in combination. Heroin was also commonly used to treat coughs!
Mercury was used frequently to treat many common ailments. Mercury, as we now know, is toxic to the body and symptoms of mercury poisoning include chest pains, heart and lung problems, coughing, tremors, violent muscle spasms, psychotic reactions, delirium, hallucinations, and even suicidal tendencies! Many autopsies revealed “Silver Liver Syndrome” to be the cause of death during this period.
Modern medicine then “progressed” even more to include radical treatments like blood letting, leeches, and experimental procedures like lobotomies and electric shock treatments. Trepanation, drilling holes in the head, was another popular treatment and was most commonly used for seizures and migraines!
“Diet pills” were introduced in the 1920s and ’30s which were in fact capsules filled with dehydrated tapeworms or tapeworm eggs. In the 1950’s and 1960’s new pills were being sold that promised to melt away those pounds and inches but these could cause fevers, heart troubles, blindness, death and birth defects. Those diet pills were hugely addictive and in fact contained pure amphetamines.
Since those early days of modern medicine the pharmaceutical industry has thankfully progressed and controls are in place to ensure pharmaceutical drugs and medicines are safe for us to use. Undoubtedly prescription drugs can save and transform lives. I wholly support and endorse that you continue to use any prescription medicine which you may be currently taking and should not stop taking any prescribed drugs without consulting your doctor first.
However, it is undeniable that alongside the benefits which prescription drugs can offer they can also come with unwelcome side effects. Record numbers of patients are suffering or dying as a result of prescription drug side effects.
Some commonly listed and proven side effects from prescription drugs range from headaches, drowsiness, skin reactions, constipation, diarrhoea, gastrointestinal issues, stomach aches, water weigh gain, joint and muscle pain and decreased control over bodily functions, loss of taste, amnesia, sight loss, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting causing dehydration, internal bleeding and oesophageal rupture, through to allergic reactions that can produce an anaphylactic response in patients, severe pain, total or partial paralysis, strokes, muscle pain and loss of muscle co-ordination, blood clots, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, lifelong heart damage and cardiomyopathy and shockingly even cancer. Prescription drugs have also been linked to depression and suicidal thoughts.
Well that’s quite a long list of known side effects from taking prescription drugs, and this is by no means a complete list! You will find a similar list of dangerous known side effects from the chemicals found in our everyday household products – the average American home contains over 63 hazardous products including antiperspirants and deodorants, perfumes, toilet bowl cleaners, over-the-counter medications, pills, creams, gels etc., skin care products, and “air fresheners”. These products contain hundreds of chemical compounds which are potentially very dangerous.
Many everyday products like soaps and shampoos, washing up liquid or bubble bath, even toothpaste – in fact anything which foams, frequently contains an ingredient known as Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulphate which can cause severe skin and eye irritation, diarrhoea, nervous system depression, laboured breathing and in rare cases death. Parabens are another common ingredient we can find in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, makeup, and toothpaste and are also a common food additive. Parabens have been shown to cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis and rosacea in individuals with paraben allergies and more worryingly they can mimic the female hormone oestrogen and have been found in breast cancer tumours and linked with the early onset of puberty in girls. Another toxic ingredient found in many household cleaners is Butoxyethanol which if absorbed through the skin can poison your blood, liver & kidneys and another chemical which is known to cause kidney damage is Perchloroethylene which is commonly found in carpet cleaners.
An ingredient found in window cleaning solutions is Diethylene Glycol is known to depress the nervous system and most toilet cleaners contain a host of harmful chemicals and acids which could cause blindness in seconds, and are toxic to the respiratory and circulatory systems. Perhaps one of the most shocking pollutants in our home is the commonly used air fresheners which contain substances called phthalates (pronounced Thalates), which are extremely hazardous and known to cause hormonal abnormalities, reproductive problems and even birth defects. Worryingly the labels on all these common everyday household products are often very misleading and confusing with packaging suggesting products are “all natural”, etc when in fact they contain numerous toxins.
Unsurprisingly, there is now a growing trend to use more natural products in our homes and on our bodies. Many people are systematically detoxing their homes and lifestyles by returning to traditional methods and once again making our own cleaning products, beauty products, and personal care products like toothpaste, shampoo, face cream as well as using pure natural products like plants and herbs once again to combat minor ailments and promote good health.
Now, in these modern times it would be difficult for us to turn the clock back as we might wish and regain the knowledge once passed from generation to generation about how to use Mother Nature’s plants and herbs to maintain our good health and avoid the need for potentially toxic chemicals in our everyday household & beauty products and prescription drugs. Much of that knowledge has been lost and many of those ingredients and methods would not be practical for us to use any more.
So what choices do we have if we want to raise our families in a more natural way?
Many people have discovered mankind’s most efficient method of practicing herbalism – they use 100% pure essential oils, which contain the “lifeblood of the plants”. Essential oils are the highly concentrated, aromatic essences of trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, resins and flowers. Therapeutic grade oils can be used aromatically either directly inhaled or diffused, topically (applied to the skin), or in some cases taken internally (ingested).
The oils all have their own unique active properties and on average, each essential oil contains over 100 constituents with more being discovered every day. 1 drop of pure essential oil contains 40 million trillion molecules that affect the body at the cellular level. More and more people are switching every day to a cleaner lifestyle with fewer toxins in their home and like our ancestors we are learning once again how to use the therapeutic properties of herbs and plants. We make our own cleaning products using inexpensive simple ingredients in combination with essential oils, we make our own self care products such as soaps, bath salts, toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, baby wipes, moisturisers, and in fact every product you now use can be reproduced in a safe, natural form using essential oils in conjunction with products like Epsom salts, olive oil, coconut oil, brown sugar, sea salt, vinegar, distilled water, etc. At this time there is an oily revolution taking place, every day more and more homes decide to return to more traditional tried and tested methods of homemaking and health management.
With the massive growth that essential oils are experiencing as we return to using simpler and more natural products in our home, there has been a rise in cheap “off the shelf” imitation essential oils which are not Therapeutic Grade oils, and are only suitable to be used for their perfume. An essential oil can legally be labelled “pure” even if it contains as little as 5% of the actual oil (that’s only 5% of the active ingredients of the oil). The remainder of the bottle is often filled with cheap synthetic filler chemicals which have been produced for their “perfume” qualities only. These oils often contain harmful chemicals and potential toxins. Avoid products labelled “fragrance” or “Parfum” as these are inferior perfume grade essential oils and may contain potentially harmful sulfates or phthalates.
Essential Oils have some amazing properties which promote good health and support the body’s natural defences, they support the immune system, are mood elevating, aromatic, relaxing, revitalising, oxygenating, cleansing, they aid cellular regeneration, are high in antioxidants, boost stamina and energy, improve mental clarity, help manage anxiety and frustration, and promote overall wellbeing, vitality, and longevity!
So to sum up mankind has been utilising the power of Mother Nature’s plants and herbs to promote good health and wellbeing for over 60,000 years. In the last few hundred years this knowledge has become somewhat lost to many people as we have gone through a period of scientific discoveries, and medical breakthroughs and these traditional herbal recipes and methods have become somewhat obsolete. However, there is a renaissance taking place and every day more and more people are seeking out an alternative choice. The popularity of traditional herbal recipes and wholesome home-made remedies is growing every day.
Essential oils are the most efficient, effective and low cost way that allows us to choose a more natural and traditional lifestyle for our families. There is an oily revolution taking place right now as we each seek to get back in harmony with Mother Nature.
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