Herbalism in History

There are herbalist traditions going back centuries or millennia in most parts of the world, and lists of medicinal plants survive from antiquity, such as Shen Nung's Pen Ts'ao (2800 B.C.E.) and the Egyptian Papyrus Ebers (1500 B.C.E.).

European herbal medicine is rooted in the works of classical writers such as Dioscorides, whose De Materia Medica (78 C.E.) formed the basis of herbals in Europe for 1,500 years. Then, as voyages of exploration began to bring new plants from faraway lands, European herbal authors expanded their coverage. This also led to a heightened interest in naming and classifying plants, contributing to the development of botanical science.

Significant European herbals include those by Otto Brunfels (c. 1488-1534), Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566), Pier Andrea Mattioli (1500-1577), and John Gerard (1545-1612), among others. Reports from the New World

include the Badianus manuscript (1552), an Aztec herbal by Martín de la Cruz and Juan Badiano, and works by Nicholas Monardes (1493-1588) and John Josselyn (fl. 1630-1675). Herbals were published in Europe into the eighteenth century but declined as modern medicine took new forms.

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