The answer to the question of the common medicines in use in the time of Christ comes from a scientific analysis of the Bible. Let me quote some verses from there.
The Bible, Quran, Talmud, and other religious texts reference plants and trees extensively as sources of food, incense, flavor, medicine, and shelter. The following verse from the Bible illustrates their importance:
“The trees that are fed and nourished by the water that flows from the sanctuary have nourishing and healing properties. And by the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all [kinds of] trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12).
Hebrews 6:7 “For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God,” demonstrating the value society places on vegetation.
The Book of Jubilee 10:12–13 states, “As we explained to Noah all the medicines of their diseases, together with their seductions, how he might heal them with herbs of the earth. And Noah wrote down everything in a book as we instructed him concerning every kind of medicine. Thus the evil spirits were precluded from (hurting) the sons of Noah.”
Sirach 38:4–5 and 7–8 state, “The Lord created medicines out of the earth, and the sensible will not despise them. Was not water made sweet with a tree so that its power might be known? … By them the physician heals and takes away pain; the pharmacist makes a mixture from them.”
Medicine came from nature and the earth around. Let us look at some other facts.
Herbal medicine began when one of Aristotle’s students, Theophrastus (c. 371–287 BC), began observing nature, especially the habits and attributes of plants and animals. Theophrastus classified 540 animal species and wrote a series of books on botany, nine of which survive. They describe plants like pepper, cinnamon, myrrh, frankincense, banyan, and several local Greek plants. He relied on his observations and those of travelers, such as visitors from Asia during the reign of Alexander the Great. His work Historia Plantarum is regarded as one of the most important contributions of antiquity to botany.
As Greek doctors moved or were summoned to the service of Rome, the center of modern medicine shifted there. Galen (c. 129 AD) was a Greek surgeon and Roman citizen who served as a doctor in the Roman army. He enjoyed botany and collected plants during his travels. Pliny’s work Historia Naturalis describes medical uses for more than one thousand plants.
It is considered a seminal work in medicine and one of the first texts to standardize drug manufacturing.
In the late eleventh century, a series of translations of the Classical texts, mainly from Arabic but also from the original Greek, revived the Hippocratic-Galenic tradition in the West. During the Renaissance, more translations of Galen and Hippocrates directly from the Greek (Byzantine manuscripts) became available. These references form the basis of medicine in the Bible.
Dioscorides (c. 40–90 AD) was a Roman army surgeon whose writing on herbal medicine served as a textbook for 1,500 years. His book, De Materia Medica, describes 600 herbs and formed the basis of Western pharmacopeia until the nineteenth century. The influence of this work on European herbal medicine eclipsed that of the Hippocratic Corpus. He mentions using aromatic oils and ointments from plants like cardamom, cassia, senna, garlic, leek, cinnamon, balm of Gilead, hops, mastic, onion, caper, mustard, licorice, caraway, cumin, parsley, lovage, and fennel.
Romans were particularly concerned with hygiene and preferred clean and antiseptic environments. Many spa complexes with hostels, baths, and gymnasia were built around thermal and naturalized springs. They built baths and flushing toilets in towns and military forts. They also built aqueducts to provide clean water to Rome, some of which are still in use today.
More on herbs of the Bible here