Herbal Medicine is also known as Herbals or Botanical Medicine. It is the use of herbs for their therapeutic or medicinal value. A herb is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal and aromatic qualities. Herb plants produce and contain a variety of chemical substances that act upon the body. These herbs are found in all parts of the world. However, certain countries produce specific herbs in bulk.
Herbal medicine is the oldest and safest form of healthcare, ever known to mankind. Herbs had been used by various cultures throughout history. It was an integral part of the development of modern civilization. Primitive man observed, analyzed and appreciated the great diversity of plants available to him. The plants provided food, clothing, shelter, and medicine.
The medicinal use of plants seems to have been developed through observations of wild animals, and by trial and error. As time passed by, each tribe added the medicinal power of herbs which they analyzed, in their area to the knowledgebase. They collected information methodically about various herbs and developed well-defined herbal pharmacopoeias.
In the 20th century much of the pharmacopoeia of scientific medicine was derived from the herbal lore of native peoples. Many drugs commonly used today are of herbal origin. It is a matter of fact that about 25 percent of the prescription drugs dispensed in the United States contain at least one active ingredient derived from plant material. Some are made from plant extracts; others are synthesized to mimic a natural plant compound.
Herbal Medicine can be broadly classified into various basic systems:
Traditional Chinese Herbalism, which is part of Traditional Oriental Medicine
Ayurvedic Herbalism, which is derived from Ayurveda
Western Herbalism, which originally came from Greece and Rome
Over the centuries, the Chinese and Ayurvedic Herbalism have developed into highly sophisticated systems of diagnosis and treatment. Western Herbalism is considered primarily as a system of folk medicine. Interest among the people in United States is seen to be growing in the recent years.
Garlic, hawthorn, ginkbo biloba, ephedra, licorice, astragalus, bilberry, Echinacea, milk thistle and ginseng are considered as the top ten best researched herbs for their excellent therapeutic values.