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A herb is a plant that is valued for flavor, scent, or other qualities. Herbs are used in cooking, as medicines, and for spiritual purposes.
In American English the pronunciation of "herb" varies by individual, with the initial "h" either silent or pronounced (Template:IPA-en or Template:IPA-en) on no noticeable regional or socioeconomic basis, but in British English the sounded "h" predominates: Template:IPA-en (see American and British English pronunciation differences).
- Main article: Herbalism
Plants contain phytochemicals that have effects on the body. Throughout history, from the Bible, Koran, Vedas and other old texts, the medicinal benefits of herbs are quoted.
There may be some effects when consumed in the small levels that typify culinary "spicing", and some herbs are toxic in larger quantities. For instance, some types of herbal extract, such as the extract of St. John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum) or of kava (Piper methysticum) can be used for medical purposes to relieve depression and stress. However, large amounts of these herbs may lead to poisoning, and should be used with caution. One herb-like substance, called Shilajit, may actually help lower blood glucose levels which is especially important for those suffering from diabetes. Herbs have long been used as the basis of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, with usage dating as far back as the first century CE.
In medicinal or spiritual use any of the parts of the plant might be considered "herbs", including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resin, root bark, inner bark (cambium), berries and sometimes the pericarp or other portions of the plant.
- Alternative medicine
- Dietary supplements
- Folk psychology
- List of plants used as medicine
- List of psychoactive plants
- Use of herbs to treat psychological conditions
- ↑ Dictionary.com. URL accessed on 2007-12-19.
- ↑ Chinese Herbal Medicine. URL accessed on 2007-12-19.
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