Guest Author - Rebecca Lee Graf
Herbs have a long history. They have been around since greenery first appeared through the rich earth. They have been used in cooking and for medicinal purposes since man first walked over that same earth. Such a story herbs have to tell.
Archeological evidence shows the use herbs throughout the history of mankind. As cultures foraged for food, they began to experiment with various plants and discovered how herbs could be used to enhance the flavor of foods. As meats were cooked, herbs were added. It wasn’t long that herbs were dried and the use of them extended into the winter months. Taking it even further, cultures began to use them to make jellies and other preserves. They discovered how herbs could help extend the life of other foods such as pickled meats and vegetables.
Mankind had to eat to survive. It was natural that man looked to use whatever was available to him to live to the next day. That included animals, plants, and trees. The herbs that we use today in our culinary practices have descended from early man and their need to survive.
Early mankind looked to everything else around them for not only food but also to heal their bodies. Even those that lived thousands of years ago had upset stomachs, headaches, pregnancy issues, cuts, and bruises. In that aspect not much in life has changed. How these issues are dealt with are the only things that have changed. Today, prescription drugs are the normal way to treat most ailments. Yesteryear, men used what nature gave them in the forms of plants and herbs. The same items used to fill the stomach were used to treat the whole body.
The same experiments that were used with foods were used with herbs to heal. An upset stomach had man looking around for relief. Women looking for relief from pregnancy discomfort also looked around to see what nature had to offer. Mankind was not one to snub a nose at what was right before them to meet everyday needs.
Herbs became important to many cultures around the world. Schools were formed in China, Egypt, and India as early as 3000 B.C. to study herbs and their uses. Those that were knowledgeable in herbal uses were respected until around the Middle Ages when many superstitions arose around herbs. Many were accused of witchcraft due to the use of herbs. It was not until the Renaissance that science looked again to herbs and how they could be used.
Science revived the use and respect of herbs. It was science that sent herbs back into the world of legend and superstition. The development of new medications and medical discoveries that had many looking at herbs as what grandma used to use. It was the new creations that really worked. Herbs became resigned to the kitchen. The determination of many who passed on herbal traditions is what has brought herbs back into the spotlight.
Throughout history, herbs have played a part. Early man used herbs to survive. Schools opened up in ancient civilizations to study herbs in more depth. Royalty has used them to treat ailments and to flavor state dinners. There is no culture in history that has not been impacted by herbs. A salute to herbs!