Herb, as used in herbal medicine (also known as botanical medicine), is defined as a plant or part of a plant that is used to make medicine, aromatic oils for soaps and fragrances, or flavor foods (spices). An herb can be a leaf, a flower, a stem, a seed, a root, a fruit, bark, or any other plant part used for its medicinal, food flavoring, or fragrant properties. Herbs have provided humankind with medicine from the earliest beginnings of civilization. Throughout history, various cultures have handed down their accumulated knowledge of the medicinal use of herbs to successive generations. This vast body of inheritance serves as the basis for much of traditional Chinese medicine today.
The practice of Chinese herbal medicine stretches back over more than 5000 years, embracing all the domains of – earth and sea, season and weather, plant and animals, and all the elements that constitute the universe. Contemporary Chinese medicine represents the cumulative clinical experience and time-tested theories of five millennia of continuous practice by traditional Chinese physicians. It remains the world’s oldest, safest, and most comprehensive system of medical care, developing as dynamically today as it has throughout its long history. It is time for the West to start paying serious attention to Chinese herbs, and to benefit from its profound insights and potent remedies.
The World Health Organization of the United Nations (WHO) noted that of 119 plant-derived pharmaceutical medicines, about 74 percent are used in modern medicine in ways that correlated directly with their traditional uses as plant medicine by native cultures. Herbal medicine is the most ancient form of health care known to mankind. Herbs have been used in all cultures throughout history. Extensive scientific documentation now exists concerning their use for health conditions, including premenstrual syndrome, indigestion, insomnia, heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and HIV.