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A method of treating ailments with herbs. The practice dates back thousands of years. There are records of Chinese herbal remedies dating back 5,000 years, and a major Egyptian work on herbalism was compiled in 1500 BC.

Herb treatments were probably introduced to Britain by returning Crusaders, but it wasn"t until the printing press was invented until the knowledge was passed on. This was largely through "The Engish Physician and Complete Herbal", written by Nicolas Culpeper.

Many modern drugs are based on original herbal remedies - aspirin, for example, is synthetically-produced, but based on the chemical structure of salicylic acid found in white willow, and some heart drugs are found naturally in the foxglove.

Today"s versions are most often found in pill form - often under brand names - as they offer a more stable product. Always seek the advice of your doctor if you"re on any other medication. Large chemists, such as Boots offer a comprehensive range, and will always advise.

Information is available from: National Institute of Medical Herbalists, 56 Longbrook Street, Exeter, Devon, EX4 6AH. Tel: 01392-426 022. See 'Aromatherapy'; 'Complementary Medicine'; 'Bach Flower Remedies'; 'Homoeopathy'

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