Heal and care: knowledge about medicinal plants
Anthropological studies show us that even before the Neolithic, people had different ways of treating illness. Methods ranged from therapies, such as fracture reduction and trepanation, to dietary practices linked to nutritional and medicinal methods, including the taking of herbs.
With regard to the last of these, we know that the Neolithic peoples took preparations of plants such as camomile (chamaemelum nobile), which alleviates ailments of the digestive apparatus and stomach aches; yarrow (achillea millefolium) to heal wounds and stop haemorrhaging; common horsetail (equisetum arvense) to stimulate the production of urine and stop haemorrhaging; and the opium poppy (papaver somniferum) used as a painkiller and tranquiliser.
During the last phases of the Neolithic at La Cueva del Toro, we have found poppy seeds that may have had a therapeutic purpose, a use attested from the earliest phases at La Cueva de los Murciélagos (Zuheros, Córdoba). The application of these remedies implies experience and knowledge of illnesses and their symptoms, as well as their possible treatments and cures.
Picture: Picking medicinal plants. Illustrated by Miguel Salvatierra