Discoveries have been made all over the world that offers significant evidence of the fact that early man was reasonably aware of the medicinal values of plants. However, in the ancient cultures of India and China, there are ancient works which reveal that these cultures actually had the very first forms of medicinal practices which were rooted in herbal healing.
In China it was the usual practice to use herbal essences, herbal tea and herbal concoctions in the form of herbal medicines to treat ailments. The practice of Chinese herbal medicine was developed, just like its Indian counterpart, through practitioners' experiences and accounts with one of the first books on traditional Chinese medicine dating back to the reign of the Han dynasty. In India too, the combination of herbs that were used to make herbal drugs were gradually altered according to herbalists' experiences.
Today, however, due to the perfection of those ancient techniques and combinations, herbal medicines are more standardized and effective than they were in that era. In fact, the whole world has now awakened to the tremendous benefits of using herbal medicines as opposed to chemical or alcohol based drugs. Herbal medicines have been seen to work effectively while producing fewer side-effects. Studies which have revealed how damaging allopathic medicines can be have driven up the worldwide demand for herbal products.
India and China, being the main countries with experience in the field of herbal medicine have consequently found a great demand for their traditional herbal products and naturally this has led to an increase in the varieties, brand names and range of herbal products that are manufactured in these countries for sale locally as well as internationally. Indian and Chinese herbal companies now manufacture not only herbal medicines but they also cater to the demand for herbal supplements and herbal cosmetics.
The manufacture of herbal products in India involves the use of as many as seven thousand species of plants, whereas Chinese herbal medicine also employs almost as many herbs. In India, there are two main systems of herbal medicine that exist even today. They are Unani medicine and Ayurveda, both of which are ancient forms of healing through nature.
The word Ayurveda itself means the knowledge of life or how to live. The subject of Ayurveda is therefore primarily concerned with means to achieve healthy living. Ayurveda thus offers a holistic approach to healing and medicines and treatments strive to strike a healthy balance in all areas of living combining measures to create mental, social, spiritual and physical health.
In the modern world herbal medicine is also known as Phytotherapy or alternative therapy. It is hence not the main form of healing as the effects of the concoctions and treatments can be slower than usual healing methods. However, herbal medicines have also taken on modern appearances and are now sold in the form of tablets, capsules, syrups, teas and powders. Such drugs may occasionally cause side-effects if one is allergic to some ingredient within them or they may, at times, react with some chemical constituent of another drug one is taking.