“The Korean people began to use medicinal herbs in ancient times. It is evidenced by the tale about the foundation of Ancient Joson (early 30th century BC-108 BC) by Tangun, the founding father of Korea. The story also refers to wormwood and garlic,” said Ri Kuk Song, researcher at the Folklore Research Institute of the Academy of Social Sciences.
Wormwood and garlic are still widely used for dietary life and the treatment of diseases.
In this respect, it is clear to everyone that the Koreans have had a correct understanding of medicinal herbs and widely collected and used them for the improvement of health and treatment of diseases since ancient times.
In the period of Ancient Joson, such botanical medicinal materials as seed of the honey locust and such animal medicinal materials like millipede, swellfish and snakehead were widely used for the treatment of diseases.
In the period of Three Kingdoms—Koguryo, Paekje and Silla—between the 3rd century BC and 7th century AD, medicinal materials not only increased in kind but also improved in quality, to be well known to neighbouring countries.
They included insam (ginseng), wildginger, large centipede and bezoar.
During the period of Koryo Kingdom, various medicinal materials of Korean origin including insam, musk, pine nut and Siler divaricate were widely exported to neighbouring countries. Especially, Koryo insam was spread across the world as it had high medicinal effect.
Many historical records say that the Korean nation widely used Koryo medicinal materials.
As seen in such historical records as Sejong Sillok (Chronicles of King Sejong) and Rimwonsimnyukji compiled in 1825, there were many kinds of native Korean botanical medicinal materials including insam, Rehmannia glutinosa Libosch, Reynoutria japonica Houtt, Asparagus cochinchinensis and Liriope graminifolla Baker.
Koryo medicines prepared as pills, powder and decoction with these as raw materials were administered for the treatment of cerebropathy, external injuries, toxic diseases and various other illnesses.
The Korean ancestors recorded in medical books what they learned, achieved and experienced while applying Koryo medicines to practice for health, long life and treatment of diseases.
Old medical books so far known include Hyangyakkuguppang published in the period of Koryo Kingdom and Uibangryuchwi (Manual of Traditional Medicine of Korea), Hyangyakjipsongbang, Tonguibogam (Encyclopaedia of Traditional Medicine of Korea), and others authored by Ho Jun (1546-1615) and other medical workers in the period of feudal Joson dynasty (1392-1910).