In India the use of Medicinal herbs is as old as 1500 BC. Underlying the medical culture of India both folk traditions as well as codified knowledge systems is a deep understandiong of the medicinal value of the plants starting with the references in the Atharva veda, we have textual evidence of a tradition of use of medicianal plants that is more than three thousand years old.
It is estimated that about 80,000 species of plants are utilized by the different system of Indian medicine. The indigenous knowledge about plants and plant products is rather detailed and sophisticated and has evolved into a seperate shashtra(branch of learning) itself, called Dravya Guna Shashtra. The codified traditions have about 25,000 plant drugs formulations that have emerged from such studies. In addition to this over 50,000 formulations are believed to be exsisting in the folk and tribal traditions. All these point to the deep passion for and exhaustive knowledge about medicinal plants that have exsisted in the land from time immemorial.The Vedas, epic poems contain rich material on the Herbal lore of that time.
Around 1500 B.C., Ayurveda was delineated into eight specific branches of medicine. There were two main schools of Ayurveda at that time, Atreya- the school of physicians; and Dhanvantari- the school of surgeons. These two schools made Ayurveda a more scientifically verifiable and classifiable medical system. Through research and testing, they dispelled the doubts of the more practical and scientific minded, removing the aura of mystery that surrounded the concept of Divine revelation. Consequently Ayurveda grew into a respected and widely used system of healing in India. People from numerous countries came to Indian Ayurvedic schools to learn about this world medicine in its completeness. Chinese, Tibetans, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Afghanistanis, Persians, and more travelled to learn the complete wisdom and bring it back to their own countries.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than 1 billion people rely on herbal medicines to some extent. The WHO has listed 21,000 plants have reported medicinal uses around the world. India has a rich medicinal plant flora of some 2500 species, of these, 2000 to 3000 at least 150 species are used commercially on a fairly large scale. Foreign researchers have always appreciated the traditional Indian healers.