Page:Indian Medicinal Plants (Text Part 1).djvu/42

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This plant has not yet been satisfactorily identified. The Indo-Aryans used the plant for sacrificial purposes and its juice is described in the ancient Aryan literature as a stimulating beverage. The word ओषधि (oshadhi) literally means heat-producer. When the Indo-Aryans came to use the Soma plant for therapeutical purposes, they came to possess a knowledge of the medicinal properties and uses of herbs and plants. Hence, Oshadhi (ओषधि) applied to all herbs and medicinal plants.

The knowledge of medicinal plants must have been accumulated in the course of many centuries. In bis work on Plants and Animals under Domestication, Darwin says:—"From innumerable experiments made through dire necessity by the savages of every land, with the result handed down by tradition, the nutritious, stimulating and medicinal properties of the most unpromising plants were probably first discovered."[1]

The "doctrine of signatures" would also account for the use of several plants as medicinal agents. This doctrine is based on the resemblance in shape or color of some product of the vegetable kingdom with some organ in the animal economy. In the ignorance of anatomical or physiological data to work upon the primitive man thinks that these articles possess some action on those organs which they resemble in shape, size or color. Again, another reason for the extensive use of vegetable drugs may be the fact that plants are everywhere at hand, their number is very great and their forms are distinct and peculiar and thus are procured without trouble.

It is greatly to the credit of the people of India that they were acquainted with a far larger number of medicinal plants

    "Waters bring to perfection all disease,—dispelling medicaments for (the good of) my body, that I may long behold the sun.
    "Waters take away whatever sin has been (found) in me, whether I have (knowingly) done wrong or have pronounced imprecations (against holy men) or (have spoken) untruth.
    "I have this day entered into the waters: we have mingled with their essence." (Wilson's translation of the Rig. Veda. Vol. I. p. 57).
    "Thou, Soma, fond of praise, the lord of plants, art life to us."
    "Be unto us, Soma, the bestower of wealth, the remover of disease,
    Exulting Soma! increase with all twining plants." (Ibid p: 234).

  1. Vol. I, p. 325.