Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been in practice for more than 200 years and includes acupuncture, massage (tuina), breathing exercise (qi gong) and dietary therapy. TCM has been an integral part of China's healthcare system along with conventional Western medicine. TCM products were safe and effective for the treatment of many human diseases before Western medicine was introduced in China. Famous texts in TCM include the Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic (Hung Di Nei Jing; ^200 BCE to 100 CE), Divine Husband-man's Classic of Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing; 25-220 AD) and cold-induced disorders (Shang han Lun; 220 AD). The most complete reference to Chinese herbal prescriptions is Chinese Materia Medica, published in 1977. It lists nearly 6000 drugs, of which 480 are of plant origin. This ancient system of medicine, believed to be more than 5000 years old, is based on two separate theories about the natural laws that govern good health and longevity, namely 'Yin and Yang', which are in opposition to each other, and the five elements (wu xing). The five-element theory is similar to the four humours and elements of the Greeks or the three humours of Ayurveda. The five elements are earth, metal, water, wood and fire, each of which is linked to the main organ systems of the body—spleen, lungs, kidney, liver and heart, respectively. It considers that an unbalanced diet, lifestyle or environment will disrupt the body balance, which in turn manifests as symptoms of diseases. The aim of the practitioner of TCM is to restore health by removing the cause, correcting abnormal functioning, opposing the imbalance and normalizing the flow of energy. Angelica polymorpha var. sinensis, Artemesia annua, Ephedra sinica, Paeonia lactiflora, Panax ginseng, Rheum palmatum and Peuraria lobata constitute the important medicinal plants of TCM [3, 13, 14].
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