One of the most dramatic events that
has occurred in this century in the medical world is its emergence
as a science. The various discoveries in biochemistry, genetics,
pharmacodynamics, imaging science and anesthesiology, to mention
only some of the disciplines, coupled with the use of statistics,
electronics and molecular biology had revolutionized the very outlook
of this ancient and hoary branch of learning. There was an era in
the dim, distant past when the art of medicine was a way of life
and when medicine had its origins in mysticism and astrology, and
when medicine, literature and poetry were irretrievably intermingled.
Dhanvanthari, the symbolic fountainhead of ancient Hindu medicine
was a God, whereas Hippocrates was a divine philosopher and others
apostles of saintly wisdom.
The modern physician starts looking at the patient from a narrow
angle as a machine composed of many systems and hopes that it can
be repaired by correcting the local and manifest faults, he causes
a big slide in the value systems of medicine and irretrievable damage
is done. It is well to remember that there is never an illness which
affects only one portion of the body or one system and that disease
affects the whole person including his psyche. Health is not only
absence of disease, but according to WHO a state of positive enjoyment
and happiness. Thus it is easy to find that we can prosper only
if we imbide the concept of holistic medicine.
If we examine the history of medicine, we will find that medicine
developed through folk-healing techniques and the folk healers were
always the first to realize that man is s composite whole, and that
as important or even more important than the other systems, was
the psyche of the individual. His self-esteem, his physical and
mental environment, his beliefs and faith of all had tremendous
potential to cause and cure illness.
Herbs have been used by man since the beginning of human culture
as a source of medicine. Herbal drugs refer to the plant derived
materials or preparations with therapeutic or other human health
benefits which contain either raw or processed ingredients from
one or more plants.
Before l8th century the whole humanity was depending on herbal drugs
for meeting health care needs. Introduction of abstract medicine
in the form of basic chemicals and pharmaceuticals during the l8th
and l9th century has demonstrated methods for bringing quick relief
from sufferings and this won instant admiration and popularity.
This system known as 'Allopathic' made rapid advances during the
l9th and 20th century, as a result of the spectacular advances made
in biological, chemical and pharmaceutical sciences.
Now the pendulum is swinging back and the herbal drugs are finding
increasing demand worldwide. During the boast decade there has been
an ever increasing demand for herbal drugs and herbal cosmetics
especially from the developed countries.
This revival of interest in herbal drugs and other natural products
is mainly due to the increased awareness and mounting scientific
evidence of harmful side effects of most of the modern chemical
drugs, antibiotics, cortisones etc.
According to a survey conducted by WHO, the use of medicinal plant
remedies are on the increase even in the developed countries especially
among the younger people. In the industrialized countries, the consumers
are seeking safe alternative to modern medicine. The promotive and
preventive medicines widely prevalent in oriental medicine especially
the Indian (Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Amchi) and the Chinese systems
of medicine are finding increasing popularity and acceptance the world