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Herbs were recorded in use as early as 2500 B.C. Ancient clay tablets reveal that the Sumerians used Herbs. The ancient Assyrians knew about the virtues of 250 herbs. The ancient Egyptians also used herbs as early as 1600 B.C. The Herbs they used included elderberry, pomegranate bark, wild lettuce, wormwood, hemlock and other herbs for health. The Greeks of old used herbs such as mustard, cinnamon, gentian, rhubarb and many others. A pupil of Aristotle wrote ten books on the history of plans and herbs. Alexander the Great made a number of expeditions into Africa, Persia and India and brought back herbs in use in those countries.
A Roman Soldier and writer, Pliny, the Elders did extensive research on herbs and wrote 47 large volumes on natural history, containing information on about 1000 herb plants.
It is important to look at Herbs as being a type of medicine, and with all medicines the important part of the equation is not how great a medicine is. The important part is whether the medicine is right for the patient.
Early herb gardens were the major source for food seasoning. The need for homegrown herbs, however, declined with the advent of modern stores. Today, many gardeners are rediscovering the joy and pleasure of producing their own herbs.
Definition of Herb
From the botanical viewpoint, an herb is a seed plant that does not produce a woody stem like a tree. But an herb will live long enough to develop flowers and seeds.
Number of Herbs Available
A true herb connoisseur can select from a wide variety of common and not-so-common herbs. For example, the E & A Evetts Ashfields Herb Nursery of Shropshire, England, lists 57 herbs, 16 mints, 17 onion-type herbs, 20 sages, and 17 thymes in a recent catalog. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Handbook on Herbs lists 73 different types of herbs.
Some herbs fit into one or more classifications according to use -- culinary, aromatic, ornamental, and medicinal.
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