Surprising facts about plant-based medicine in Asia

Before there were synthetic multivitamins and maintenance medicine, our ancestors used herbs for healing. Plants were all around, freely available, and as far as our ancestors knew, using flora as medicine presented no side effects.

Here are three facts about our ancestors’ interesting ways with medical herbalism.

To treat rheumatism in traditional Chinese medicine, practitioners burned powdered leaves directly on a patient’s skin.

In ancient northern China, medical practitioners applied direct heat to drive away rheumatism. They pulverized some aromatic plants collectively called mugwort. These were then placed in small cones directly on the skin (spots that are generally the same ones used in acupuncture today), lit, and kept on until the skin blistered.

Today, this process is called moxibustion, and has gone certain adjustments. For instance, skin is no longer burned—the herb that provides the heat is just held over the point of the skin that needs to be heated. No more blisters!

Southern Japan’s ashitaba plant has been used as food, drink, and medicine since the 17th century.

Japan’s best kept “non-secret” is known as Ashitaba or “tomorrow leaf”. It gets that nickname because its leaves can grow just overnight! People in Japan’s southern coast have been harvesting ashitaba since the 1600s; until today, locals call it the “longevity herb.”

That’s no wonder because ashitaba—its leaves, stem, roots, and even sap—are chock full of nutrition (vitamins A, B, C, and E, plus iron, calcium, and potassium). Studies have shown that it even has the capacity to treat cancer.

One of the oldest healing systems that uses herbs dates back to around 1,500 BC.

Ayurveda, an ancient holistic healing system that originated in India in 15th century BC, covers not just the physical well-being of a patient but also their mental and spiritual condition as well. It’s based on Indian herbs that directly address specific organs in the body—making treatment more efficient.

These herbs were mixed with other herbs to treat diseases; this proves that even in ancient India, complex chemical formations were already defining medicine.

These three facts about herbal medicine in Asia show that even ancient civilizations recognized the healing power of plants. Isn’t it time for you to get in on it and include this practice in your daily routine?