The history of herbal medicine in the lands of Arabia is as old as history itself, as it is in other herbal histories. Ancient Arabian medicine has also been influencing other traditional medicinal practices for almost as long.
Since the earliest written history, there are records of the Arabs using herbal medicinal cures, and one of the oldest recorded histories of this was Hammurabi’s code, from the 18th Century BC. Apparently the ancient Babylonians were fairly proficient at healing people, and it was their custom to have the sick and suffering lay by the side of the street so that the passers by could have a go at healing them. In ancient Mesopotamia (which covers what are Arabia and the areas of Sham today) traditional medicine was advanced and effective. There are tablets that have been found that go back as far as 3000 BC about ancient medicinal practices. In ancient Egypt, the recorded healing tradition goes back to the most ancient Pharaohs, which is estimated to be around the 3rd millennium BC. There is evidence of this on the pyramids, particularly the older ones, and the papyri that have been discovered over the years. But, in fact, herbal medicinal tradition went back much, much farther than that. Back to far before recorded history. In fact, there was a burial site that was discovered in 1960 from the times of ancient Iraq that had clear evidence of herbal medicaments being used all the way back as far as the times of around 60,000 years ago! Later on, the Arabian herbal tradition was influenced by Islamic medicine as well, which came about in the beginning, through the traditions of the Prophet Mohammad himself, and later, was carried on by other great physicians, such as Ibn Sina (known in the west as Avicenna), Razi, Al Tabbari, and more.
This ancient medical tradition carried over into the subsequent years, and during the Dark and the Middle Ages, it is said that Europeans were using what amounts to barbaric methods to treat illness, and the Arabs were already using extremely sophisticated, time-tested methods to treat patients.
They would treat with herbal medicine with expertise and aplomb. In ancient Arabian medicine, the practitioner would first diagnose the illness by observing and examining the patient and asking him questions. In Arabian medicine, dietary recommendations are tantamount to cure, and the ancient Arabs said that disease begins in the stomach. There is also a prophetic tradition in this regard.
The ancient Arabian healers had a huge herbal pharmacopoeia in their expertise. They knew how to use hundreds of local natural herbs in their cures, and were also aware of many herbal usages from other nearby locations as well. There were slight differences in the practices of the doctors from different parts of the Arabian world, with the Bedouin also having their own special version of Arabian medicine, which concentrated on the herbs that were available to them in the desert regions.
The Arabian medicinal tradition was so strong and effective that later physicians from all over the world were influenced directly by it, and openly studied their cures and comments with regard to the vast variety of diseases that the information covered.
In Arabian traditional medicine there is vast evidence of surgeries taking place, and they were also experts when it came to diseases of the eye. The ancient Egyptians (as well as the Mesopotamian) had expertise in the field of eye diseases, and knew about surgery, as well as gynecology, and internal medicine. They were aware of medicaments that are still used today by Arabian traditional practitioners.
It is said that there are some herbal remedies that are made with herbs taken from the desert that are better than any modern chemical medication found in the world today, and cure much faster. In traditional Arabian medicine there is also plenty of use of animal derived cures, for example, using the fat of the sheep for a special salve to help rid the body of arthritic pain. Also, important in Arabian traditional medicine is cupping, branding, and blood letting. (Although the Prophet Mohammad didn’t allow branding, he recommended both cupping and blood letting). This is still being carried out up to the present time, and is extremely successful in its cure. In fact, many of the modern essential oils used today were discovered and used since ancient times in ancient Arabia and ancient Egypt (and other places around the Arabian Peninsula). Herbs such as myrrh, frankincense, and licorice are still being used right up to the present time, in modern Arabian lands, as well as in western herbal medicine and aromatherapy.
In fact, right here in Kuwait, there is a government sponsored herbal medical center based on the ancient Arabian healing tradition, and anyone can go there with a referral from any polyclinic. So, if you are suffering from an illness, go and try some of their expertise and cures. Some of the cures come from a time practically as old as the age of humankind.