Natural Remedies in Ancient Times

For centuries, cultures across the globe have researched, grown, and used herbs and other flora naturally occurring in nature, to battle a vast array of diseases, symptoms, and discomforts.

Known as herbal or “folk” remedies, these treatments are sometimes based on superstition and false information, but ancient cultures that used traditional medicines – most notably China, Japan, and India – are still using them today, when research and synthetic drugs are at their most capable. In fact, in China, one-fifth of the present pharmaceutical market is traditional remedies!1

There’s an ancient list of medicinal herbs, written around 3000 B.C., called the Shennong Ben Cao Jing,2 which outlined the plants beneficial to humans. Those with “stimulating properties” and no adverse effect, such as cinnamon and licorice root, were known as “noble herbs”.

Others, which could cure but also posed toxicity risks (not unlike most synthetic drugs today), included ginger and cucumber and were called “middle herbs”. “Low herbs” were those that often proved poisonous (rhubarb, for instance).3

In the 11th century A.D., an Iranian physician compiled The Canon of Medicine, which is considered an immensely influential text.2 In addition to outlining the humors and temperaments (you may have heard of those – hot, cold, dry, moist), the tome lists hundreds of medicinal substances (natural in that they were not combined with any other) and rules for experimenting with new drugs.

Renewed Interest in Natural Remedies

Today, lots of words are bandied about to describe natural medicines – holistic, alternative (which is funny, considering they’re technically the original methods), complementary. Problems can arise when people focus solely on these treatments, of course, since there are some cures that cannot be had (yet) from natural sources, and some very efficient synthetic cures. But society’s growing willingness to seek “alternatives” to popping an ibuprofen or gulping down bismuth is a promising turn away from the quick fix mentality adopted in the past century.

Thanks to the internet, anyone can find a list of herbs that might offer relief for almost anything that ails them. Though the potential, negative effects of over-ingestion are a bit harder to find, many people seem content to do little more than add recommended spices to their food from time to time, a purportedly healthful act that is unlikely to have dangerous results.

Herbs that Heal

Here are just three of the countless herbs and plants that can tackle common concerns in a natural way:


Ginger is one of many herbs with medicinal properties.

  • Tumeric: anti-inflammatory properties can ease the pain and swelling caused by Arthritis.
  • Cinnamon: the spice’s extract can reduce blood sugar, and in-turn allows your body to regulate your insulin more naturally. (Just be sure to say no to that ridiculous cinnamon challenge, which is dangerous.)
  • Ginger: eases stomach ache by battling free radicals (the time-honoured use of ginger ale for an upset tummy)

Notably, sites sharing such at-home remedies often remind people seeking natural treatments to consult their doctor, and never assume a plant or drug will heal you just because it grew out of the earth.  Always take it slow when self-medicating; give your herb of choice time to work, and remember: every plant will affect every person differently.


  1. Monographs
  2. University of Virginia
  3. Wikipedia