American, British and other European pharmacopoeia formerly contained prescriptions that specified orchids as the principal ingredient. Today, only oriental Materia Medica advocate orchid usage although orchids are still employed in traditional medicine throughout the world.
Access to spices was the motive that spurred the great voyages which opened up the world. Interest in economic products inspired naturalists to make extensive studies on plants and determine their usage. Early reports on orchids focused on their medical usage; their ornamental role arrived centuries later. This chapter traces the historical development. How orchids are used in different parts of the world will be described in separate chapters.
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