The use of herbs for medicinal purposes likely dates to the beginning of human civilization, but certainly back nearly 5000 years with the oldest extant records of such use dating to the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE. For millions of year’s plants, herbs in particular, have been developing methods for the manufacture of substances which work to their advantage. Herbs develop such substances to dispel pests and herbivores and to attract those animals and insects which work symbiotically with them. The captivating colors and aromas of flowers are a prime example of the wealth and beauty which is the product of these plant’s years of learning and labor.
Fortunately, many of these products have proven to be useful for the alleviation of pain and the curing of disease in humans. Western pharmaceutical medicine often attempts to imitate these substances and their effects by synthesizing chemicals similar to them, but with such a limited knowledge of the substances, adverse effects often result. Ayurvedic medicine, on the other hand,seeks an intimate knowledge of these herbs themselves which in turn allows it to utilize their many millennia of work for the greatest benefit of the patient.
Ayurvedic medicine does not seek to outdo the work of nature, but conversely seeks to uncover the power hidden within it. To this end, Ayurveda has thoroughly organized the herbs it utilizes so as to be of the greatest advantage. It approaches this knowledge through an understanding of the universal qualities which the herbs share with the rest of existence. These qualities are 20, being 10 pairs of contraries: hot, cold, dry, moist, hard, soft, rough, smooth, sharp, dull etc.Each herb bears these qualities in various proportions. Through an understanding of these principle qualities and the characteristics of their varied proportions Ayurveda comes to understand the herbs themselves. In this way Ayurvedic herbs have been organized into an extensive body of knowledge stating the qualities inherent in them and their applications to various ailments.
In a world filled with plants which have worked for millions of years to develop substances for the benefit of all and efficient methods for the rendering of these substances it seems not only proud, but perhaps foolish to neglect the fruit of their labor. Where modern pharmaceutical productsrequire millions of dollars for their research and development only to imitate what nature has provided, ayurvedic treatments make the simple and inexpensive choice to recognize this provision. There is a wise old saying,don’t try to reinvent the wheel, perhaps this is one piece of advice which ayurvedic medicine is trying to teach the world by example.
Nature is a vast storehouse of medicinal herbs and panaceas on which we have depended since before history began. Through the nearly four thousand years that Ayurveda has been a living science it has been acquiring knowledge and experience of these herbs, and using this ever growing knowledge to better understand the nature and application of these God given medicines.
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