The present-day emphasis of horticulture and health is an extension of ancient and medieval traditions. The relationship of healing and the horticultural arts predates written history and relates to ancient wisdom, custom, and folklore. The use of herbs as medicine may be part of animal instinct. Sick animals tend to forage plants rich in secondary metabolites such as tannins and alkaloids. Because these phytochemicals often have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antihelminthic properties, these wild animals may be self-medicating (Engel, 2002). The uses of herbal medicine may predate the evolutionary development of Homo sapiens based on the discovery of pollen of common herbs in Neanderthal graves at Shanidar Caves in Kurdistan, Iraq (Solecki, 1975; Solecki et al., 2004). The prehistoric discovery that certain plants cause harm and others have curative powers is the origin of the healing professions and its practitioners (priest, shaman, physician, and apothecary) as well as the professions devoted to plants (botany, pharmacy, and horticulture). The Iceman, a Bronze Age man from ≈5300 years ago murdered in the Italian Alps, carried a birch fungus attached to a leather thong probably for medicinal use.
Daunay, M.C., Janick, J. & Paris, H. 2009 Tacuinum Sanitatis: Horticulture and health in the late Middle Ages Chron. Horticult. 49 22 29
Finley, J.W. 2005 Bioactive compounds and designer plant foods: The need for clear guidelines to evaluate potential benefits to human health Chron. Horticult. 45 6 11
Galambos, I. 1996 The origins of Chinese medicine: The development of early medicinal literature in China 29 Nov. 2009 <http://www.logoi.com/notes/chinese_medicine.html>.
Goldman, I.L. 2003 Recognition of fruits and vegetables as healthful: Vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients HortTechnology 13 252 258
Hsu, H.-Y., Chen, Y.-P., Shen, S.-J., Hsu, S.-S., Chen, C.-C. & Chang H.-C. 1986 Oriental materia medica: A concise guide Oriental Healing Arts. Inst. Taiwan. 544 545
Janick, J., Daunay, M.-C. & Paris, H.S. 2009 Horticulture and health: Ancient and medieval views. Souvenir International Horticultural Conference on Horticulture Bangalore, India 9–12 Nov. 2009 23 34
Paris, H.S., Daunay, M.-C. & Janick, J. 2009 The Cucurbitaceae and Solanaceae illustrated in medieval manuscripts known as the Tacuinum Sanitatis Ann. Bot. (Lond.) 103 1187 1205
Scholl, R. 2002 Der Papyrus Ebers. Die größte Buchrolle zur Heilkunde Altägyptens Schriften aus der Universitätsbibliothek 7 Leipzig
Solecki, R.S., Anagnostis, P. & Agelarakis, P. 2004 The Proto-Neolithic cemetery in Shanidar Cave Texas A&M University Press College Station, TX
Trawick, M. 1995 Writing the body and ruling the land: Western reflections on Chinese and Indian medicine 276 296 Bates D. Knowledge and the scholarly medical traditions Cambridge University Press Cambridge, UK