A couple decades ago, I was backpacking in Central America and met a grad student who was studying the medicinal plants of the Mayan people. As a direct descendent of the ancient civilization, he wanted to know more about plants that were used back then and that are still available today. We had a great discussion, and he was kind enough to show me some medicinal plants. I asked him what he does when he gets sick and needs medicine; he replied that he goes to the doctor and gets a prescription. Why? Because, that’s the best medicine available today and is most efficient at treating illness. He added that the Mayans used plants because that was the best medicine they had available at the time.

That statement made quite the impression on me as a physician. I don’t shun those using medicinal plants, but I always share this story when they direct the conversation that way. But what if you find yourself in a situation where access to modern medicine is limited, or non-existent?

Prior to 1850, infections were the most common

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