All ancient or old cultures have a history of using herbs. They used herbs in much the same way we use them today. Used because it was what was readily available to people of the past, herbs were constantly being tried and tested, and their secrets were passed down through generations. In the ancient world, knowledge of herbs was knowledge of health, beauty, romance, spiritual protection, religion, and happiness.
It need not be said that the many different herbs and their powers have long been recognized. The oldest herbal guide was found in China in 5000 BC. The guide was used by doctors and spiritual leaders. The same can be said for the ancient herbalists of Europe, Africa, and America. Almost all doctors and mystics were also herb gardeners. These gardeners possessed the secrets of their craft, and for that reason were treated with great respect and admiration.
Primarily, herbs were used for healing the wounded, something very valuable to ancient cultures constantly at war. Herbal gardeners were medicine men whose knowledge was prized and sought after. There were herbs that were also believed to protect one from evil spirits or from harm, also useful in times of battle. While no herb has been proven to truly protect a person, though, perhaps the belief in their herb and their medicine men was enough to make many survive.
In these ancient times, herbs were also symbolic to society. Ladies would give their husbands or sweethearts rosemary as something to remember them by while they were off at war or at sea. Olive branches symbolized peace. Pansies for good thoughts, while other herbs could symbolize war, hate, romance, and various other facets of society and culture.
As time and society went forward, so did herb gardening. More and more uses for herbs were found, and the craft began to evolve. Herb gardeners started specializing in specific herbs and types of herb gardens. Some chose to hone their skill in herbs for curing and healing, others chose to work on herbs for beauty and enhancing one’s libido, while others still chose to use herbs for their own mischievous purposes.
It was this herb culture that started a big part of the medical world, the pharmaceutical one. It was this same culture where we get our love for natural spa remedies or treatments or using herbs to rejuvenate our minds and bodies.
More importantly to society, however, is that it was this developing herb culture that used herbs for cooking. While this may seem very commonplace now, back then, herbs were a brilliant idea and were used to keep food smelling fresh, to enhance dishes, to drug enemies, and to symbolize camaraderie.
As we study herbs in our current society, we realize that the reality of it is that herbs and their uses have never left any society. Rather, they have evolved and now come in other forms. As implied before, many of our medicines are derived from herbs, our modern day-spas and beauty parlors use herbal remedies, and our best chefs master the art of cooking and infusing with herbs.
Because of its rich history, any herb garden carries with it secrets of the past and great possibilities for the future.