Plants have been used as medicines since antiquity. Herbal medicine, or phytotherapy, is the science of using herbal remedies to treat various illnesses or assist in the improvement of the body's systemic function.
These medicinal herbal remedies may use some or all parts of a plant, such as flowers, roots, fruits, leaves, and bark.
This modality emphasises the use of European and Native American herbs; however, herbs from other parts of the world, such as China and India are also used.
Herbal remedies are used for many suggested purposes, such as improvement or general support of digestive, respiratory, circulatory, immune, endocrine, and nervous system processes. Herbs are also used to remove waste and toxins from bodily cells, assisting detoxification pathways, or topically to promote healing of the skin.
Traditional Western herbal medicine evolved mostly from the ancient Greeks, who were strongly influenced by Egyptian and Middle Eastern civilizations. Western herbal medicine also has roots in the indigenous practices of the British Isles and ancient Roman traditions. Well-known historical physicians including Hippocrates and Galen are thought to have used herbal medicine in their practices. The use of various herbal formulas is one of the oldest and possibly the most widespread form of medicine.