Seeking cures for illness or relief of pain has been a human endeavor since antiquity. From herbal and food-based medicines, to prayer, spells and incantation the idea of medical science shifted over time. Traditional medicine has existed in cultures on every continent and continues today as a mix of practical knowledge and folk beliefs. Today, these practices often enter the realm of “alternative” medicine, an industry worth over $80 billion US dollars.
Modern medical historians, anthropologists, medical archeologists and ethnobotanists help shed light on the manner in which people from long-ago eras treated and prevented sickness–including how they dealt with diseases of the mind. These scholars also have much to teach us about how diseases migrated with human populations over established trade routs such as the Silk Routes in Asia and Europe and the Transatlantic trade between Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and what would become the United States.