An excerpt taken from The American Cancer Society:
Native cultures all over the world have traditionally used herbs to maintain health and treat illnesses. 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.
Chinese herbal medicine is not based on mainstream Western concepts of medical diagnosis and treatment. Practitioners attempt to prevent and treat imbalances, such as those caused by cancer and other diseases, with complex combinations of herbs, minerals, and plant extracts.
Chinese herbal medicine uses a variety of herbs such as astragalus, ginkgo, ginseng, green tea, and eleuthero (also known as “Siberian ginseng”) in different combinations to restore balance to the body. Herbal blends are said to prevent and treat hormone disturbances, infections, breathing disorders, and a vast number of other ailments and diseases.
Before choosing a mixture of herbs for a patient, the traditional Chinese practitioner will typically ask about symptoms and examine the patient, often focusing on the skin, hair, tongue, eyes, pulse, and voice, in order to detect imbalances in the body.