Chinese herbal medicine is a major aspect of traditional Chinese medicine, which focuses on restoring a balance of energy, body, and spirit to maintain health rather than treating a particular disease or medical condition. Herbs are used with the goal of restoring balance by nourishing the body.
Chinese herbal medicine developed as part of Chinese culture from tribal roots. By 200 BC, traditional Chinese medicine was firmly established, and by the first century AD, a listing of medicinal herbs and herbal formulations and their uses had been developed. The classic Chinese book on medicinal herbs was written during the Ming Dynasty (1152-1578) by Li Shi-Zhen. It listed nearly 2,000 herbs and extracts. By 1990, the latest edition of "The Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China" listed more than 500 single herbs or extracts and nearly 300 complex formulations. In today's Chinese herbal medicine, over 3,200 herbs and 300 mineral and animal extracts are used in more than 400 different formulas. Herbal formulations may consist of 4 to 12 different ingredients, to be taken in the form of teas, powders, pills, tinctures, or syrups. As Western conventional medicine spread to the East, some traditional Chinese medical practices began to be regarded as folklore. However, since 1949, the Chinese government has supported the use of both traditional and Western medicine. Chinese herbal medicine first came to widespread attention in the United States in the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon visited China. Today, at least 30 states license practitioners of Oriental medicine and more than 25 colleges of Oriental medicine exist in the United States.