“Ouch!” yelped Priscilla as the hot bacon grease popped and painfully peppered her hand. While she wouldn’t die from it, the burn really hurt. Quickly turning down the gas stove, she walked over to the windowsill where one of her mother’s house-warming gifts resided.
Mom had insisted every home should have an aloe plant—it was a home remedy she had learned about from her mother, who had learned about it from her mother, who learned about it from her mother and so on.
Her mom called the aloe plant Mother Nature’s miracle, and steadfastly insisted it was better than any fancy drug store medicine or ointment.
Grabbing a paring knife from the counter, Priscilla quickly sliced off one of the larger leaves, slit it open and began spreading the inner gel over her burn.
As the cool fluid oozed over the top of her hand, she could almost feel her mother’s reassuring touch gently spread the inner gel over the burn.
Instantly it felt better.
“Just rub some aloe on it and it’ll feel better,” her mother’s soothing words echoed back from her childhood.
Priscilla smiled quietly to herself as she looked out the window into the back yard where her ten-year-old daughter Amy was playing with her younger brother. Priscilla knew that someday her daughter would look back to her childhood and remember when her mother had told her about Mother Nature’s miracle plant.
Have you ever wondered where the all the old home remedies surrounding the healing powers of plants and herbal concoctions come from?
Millennia ago, before countries existed, before cities, before roads, before even the written word, ancient peoples began to discover the power of plants to heal disease and ease discomfort.
How long has humanity practiced herbal medicine? No one knows for certain; but we are sure that the medicinal use of plants predates written history.
In Shanidar Cave, a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal burial site in norther Iraq, archaeologists unearthed ten adult skeletons. Of the ten, number 4, or Shanidar IV, provided some tantalizing clues into the possibility that herbal medicine was being practiced actively by the pre-humans of that era.
In routine samples taken from soil surrounding the Neanderthal skeleton, large clumps of pollen were discovered. One possible theory to account for this was that Shanidar IV may have been a shaman and his body interred with entire flowering plants significant to his profession.
Analysis determined that the plants, yarrow, cornflower, bachelor’s button, St. Barnaby’s thistle, ragwort or groundsel, grape hyacinth, joint pine or woody horsetail, and hollyhock, may have been used for their medicinal properties as diuretics, stimulants, astringents and anti-inflammatories.
While it is certain that early humans employed plants medicinally, actual evidence is scarce. But it is reasonable to presume that by the end of the Stone Age and the dawning of the Neolithic period—roughly 10,000 years ago—humans had gained enough knowledge about their environments to realize the importance of plants.
In September of 1991, the frozen remains of Ötzi the Iceman were discovered by two German tourists high in Ötztal Alps on the Austrian-Italian border. At first Ötzi was mistaken as the victim of a mountaineering accident and Austrian authorities used a jackhammer to remove the body Only later was it discovered that the corpse was 5,300 years old.
The corpse and his possessions were remarkably well preserved; scientists later determined Ötzi had eaten ibex for dinner only a few hours before his death and suffered from an infestation of a parasitic whipworm.
Among his various possessions was a pouch that contained a mushroom called Piptoporus betulinus, commonly available in the alpine environment. What is interesting is that Piptoporus betulinus, if ingested, can trigger short bouts of diarrhea. It also contains oils known to be toxic to certain parasites.
Today archaeologists believe that Ötzi probably treated his infestation himself with the fungi to relieve his condition.
Ötzi’s mushrooms and many other plants were the basis of the poultices, salves, elixirs and liniments that were the ancient forerunners of modern medicine. Handed down from generation to generation, people from all over the world treasured these remedies primarily for one reason: they worked
Ancient practitioners of natural medicine used mint to ease heartburn, indigestion and nausea, black cohosh to relieve menstrual discomfort, and Cayenne for pain relief. The list goes on and on.
But of all the plants and herbs used for health, the cactus-like aloe vera deserves special regard. Many of the folk remedies we know today utilize aloe to treat an almost unbelievable variety of ailments. From use as a first aid ointment to internal complaints, aloe vera is often the primary ingredient in natural remedies.