Herbal medicine (also Herbalism) is the study of pharmacognosy and the use of medicinal plants. Plants have been the basis for medical treatments through most of human history, and such traditional medicine is still widely practiced today. Modern medicine makes use of many plant-derived compounds as the basis for evidence-based pharmaceutical drugs. Although herbalism may apply modern standards of effectiveness testing to herbs and medicines derived from natural sources, few high-quality clinical trials and standards for purity or dosage exist. The scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts.
Herbal medicine is also called phytomedicine or phytotherapy. Paraherbalism describes alternative and pseudoscientific practices of using unrefined plant or animal extracts as unproven medicines or health-promoting agents. Paraherbalism differs from plant-derived medicines in standard pharmacology because it does not isolate or standardize biologically active compounds, but rather relies on the belief that preserving various substances from a given source with less processing is safer or more effective – for which there is no evidence.