Medicinal Science from God’s Creation
by Rachel Abernathy
Before we even thought about traveling to the moon, we had a bigger problem: illness. Ever since Adam’s rebellion, we’ve been fighting against disease and pain, a part of the curse.
The Lord could have left us completely alone in our misery. After all, in our rebellious state we deserved the curse in its fullest form. And yet, God is merciful and He provided substances called medicine to ease our pain and temporarily heal our sin-wracked bodies. And, He provided many of them right in our backyards.
Throughout history medical plants have been mankind’s literal lifeline. We even find one early reference to medicinal herbs in the ceremonial law. Hyssop—commonly recognized as a variety of mint—was used to sprinkle purifying blood during Old Covenant ceremonies, types, and shadows.[i] In the Psalms, after his sin with Bathsheba, David spoke of God purifying him with hyssop.[ii] During Christ’s crucifixion and at the dawn of the New Covenant, Jesus drank wine from a sponge on a hyssop branch.[iii] Hyssop in Biblical history symbolizes purification. Interestingly, hyssop—whether it’s our modern-day hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) or a type of oregano—has purifying properties, including antiviral or antiseptic actions.[iv]
Fast forward to 19th-century England. The British Empire was stretching her tentacles, both politically and religiously, into tropical climates like Africa. And yet, she also faced malaria—the infamous mosquito-borne parasite of the tropics.
Years before, according to legend, a sick Indian man discovered quinine. “Thirsty, he drank from a pool of stagnant water and found that it tasted bitter. Realizing that the water had been contaminated by the surrounding quina-quina trees he thought he was poisoned. Surprisingly, his fever soon abated, and he shared this accidental discovery with fellow villagers, who thereafter used extracts from the quina-quina bark to treat fever.”[v]
Whether discovered by the Indians, Jesuit missionaries, or someone else, the cinchona tree (the quina-quina tree above) proved invaluable to the British Empire and the world. Quinine, and other alkaloids originally extracted from cinchona, supported exploration, colonization, warfare, and missions for many years. While quinine was used most before World War II, it still remains a very important antimalarial medicine. [vi] Today, ironically, it’s often replaced with artemisinin derived from a plant called sweet wormwood.[vii]
Hundreds of examples of God-given, plant-based medicines surround us. Aspirin, our go-to headache remedy, originated from white willow bark.[viii] Menthol, the cooling, pain-relieving ingredient in our cough drops, sometimes comes from mint or thyme.[ix] Digoxin, a life-saving heart medicine, comes from the deadly foxglove.[x] The opium poppy provides powerful pain-relievers like morphine and codeine.[xi] Medicines ranging from potent narcotics to gentle laxatives often originate from plants.
While medical plants have built up empires in history, they shouldn’t be left to history alone. For the most part, the plants we have today are the same plants we had yesterday. Even today our Father shows mercy through plants. In a progressive American society that’s becoming increasingly—and more violently—anti-Christian and pro-debt, plants could be our God-given lifeline.
In the not-so-distance future, we might not have access to high-tech drugs or medical ingenuity. And yet, we’ll still become sick and need medicine. And, our merciful God will continue providing it for us in the form of “simple” plants. Lord-willing, medicine will sprout up as weeds in our vegetable gardens, flowers in our flower beds, and spices in our kitchen cabinets. He’ll take care of us with herbs, and other medicines, just as He always has, regardless what our future holds.[xii]
[i] Exodus 12:22, Leviticus 14, Numbers 19:18, Hebrews 9:19
[ii] Psalm 51:7
[iii] John 19:29
[iv] The Little Herb Encyclopedia Third Edition by Jack Ritchason N.D.
[xii] Matthew 6:25-34