The term Herbalism refers to folk and traditional medicinal practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts.
A herb (pronounced ûrb in American English and hûrb in British English) is a plant grown for culinary or medicinal value. Typically, the green, leafy part of the plant is used. By contrast, spices are the seeds, berries, bark, root, or other parts of the plant. Herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that they are used in small quantities and provide flavor rather than substance to food.
Herbology is the art of combining medicinal herbs.
Herbology is traditionally one of the more important modalities utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Each herbal medicine prescription is a cocktail of many herbs tailored to the individual patient. The herbs are simmered in water over several hours to reduce to a cup of concentrated herbal tea. A typical prescription reduces from eight bowls of water into one bowl of herbal tea (a rice bowl is the usual measuring device in prescriptions.) The practitioner usually designs a remedy using one or two main ingredients that target the illness. Then the practitioner adds many other ingredients to adjust the formula to the patient's Yin Yang conditions. Sometimes, ingredients are needed to cancel out toxicity or side-effects of the main ingredients. Some herbs require the use of other ingredients as catalyst or else the brew will be ineffective. The latter steps require great experience and knowledge, and make the difference between a good Chinese herbal doctor and an amateur. Unlike western medications, the balance and interaction of all the ingredients are more important than the effect of individual ingredients. A key to success in TCM is the treatment of each patient as an individual.
Chinese herbology often incorporates ingredients from all parts of plants (leaf, stem, flower, root) but also ingredients from animals and minerals. The use of parts of endangered animals has created controversy and resulted in a black market of poachers who hunt restricted animals. Most herbal manufacturers have discontinued the use of any animal parts from endangered animals.