The use of herbs has dated as far back as 2700 B.C., although it is thought that they were used way before that. Prehistoric man used herbs for food, shelter and dyes. Different cultures also used herbs for many different ailments. Herbalism is the knowledge and study of herbs. The spices you use to cook with are herbs as are some of the weeds in your yard. Many people grow their own herbs. An herb os characterized as a non-woody plant. The term herb is defined as any seed whose stem withers away annually or any plant used as medicine, nutritional value, color or dye. In prehistoric times, man used herbs way before written history. He learned through experimenting which plants were useful and which ones could cause death. The first known written records show Sumerians used thyme, laurel and caraway seeds 5,000 years ago. Around 2700 B.C., the Chinese were also using herbs and wrote a Chinese herb book containing 365 medicinal plants and 13 herbal prescriptions. The Papyrus Ebers, an ancient text written in 1000 B.C. by the Egyptians contained 700 herbal antidotes, including references to aloe, caraway seeds, garlic, poppy, opium, cator oil, coriander, mint and indigo. These herbs were used for medicines, food and dyes. The Old Testamnet also mentions people cultivating wheat, rye and barley. Hippocrates used medicine as an art. He believed that herbal use, fresh air, rest and a balanced diet maintained a "life force". Galen, in contrast, believed that large doses of more or less complex drug mixtures (plant, animal, and mineral ingredients) combined with magic neccessitated correct imbalances that caused disease. The Greeks and Romans depended on plants for different reasons: medicines, magical symbols, seasonings, dyes ans cosmetics, They used mandrake as an anesthetic. The Middle Ages brought very little change to the use of herbs as medicine. Monks hand copied writings of the Greeks and Roman to protect this information. The monks were looked upon for medicinal knowledge. Today, herbal use is still practiced. Benefits of herbs include: cleansing - a natual way to cleanse and purify the body without side effects, they also help glands functions properly, gives the body extra energy and boosts the immune system by promoting "good bacteria". After all, herbs are natural substances that people have been using since the beginning of time.