Just what is herbalism? It the treatment of various ailments through natural sources found in the various plant life available.
Although it may sound a bit primitive, it forms the basis of modern pharmaceutical medicine in many ways.
Often considered and derided as a form of folk medicine, herbalism is something you, I and everyone generally practices whether we realize it or not. It is simply the use of certain plants to relieve a particular ailment. When you take aspirin for a headache, you are essentially practicing herbalism in a sense. Why? Aspirin comes from the inner bark of the Willow tree. Obviously, it does not come in the form of a tablet, but there is no denying the relief you obtain from taking it is from the plant derivative of that bark.
While it is true that most remedies come from natural sources, the modern definition of herbalism is much more restrictive than what I have suggested to this point. It is more about the direct rendering of herbs to a medicinal form where industrial manufacturer of pills is not involved.
This form of herbalism has a long history. From 3000 BC, we have records of Summerians using thyme to treat ailments. The first herbalism book is believed to be one found in China and dating from 2700 BC. This book is of great interest and importance. Why? It listed over 365 herbs and their medicinal properties. One was Ma Huang, which you probably know better today as Ephedrine.
The popularity of herbalism cannot be understated. From the Greeks to the Romans to the Chineses and beyond, herbalism formed the basis of medicine through much of the world. It was only in the 17th century that it began to lose its dominant position as modern medicine slowly started to create new forms of treatment and distractions of plant medicinal properties into hybrid medications.
Does this mean herbalism is dead or should be avoided as a form of medicinal treatment these days? Of course not. Pharmaceutical companies spend vast amounts of money sending people into the rainforests for a reason. They are looking for that next great drug that will revolutionize the world, the next aspirin if you will.
On a more practical level, herbalism has a definite place in your daily life. Herbal medicines tend to be better for you than modern alternatives because they do not contain the additives you find with pharmaceuticals. This makes them better for you, but also easier to take as they are often mixed with teas and so on.
Is herbalism for you? Only you can answer that. Just understand that it herbalism is not some extreme fad or something weird. It formed the basis of medicine in our world for such a long period of time that one must wonder how different the world would look today had it not been discovered.