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A herbal is a book containing the names and descriptions of plants, usually with information on their medicinal, tonic, culinary, toxic, hallucinatory, aromatic, or magical powers, and the legends associated with them.
may give recipes for herbal extracts, tinctures, or potions, and sometimes include mineral and animal medicaments in addition to those obtained from plants.
Herbals have seen a modest revival in the western world since the last decades of the 20th century, as herbalism and related disciplines (such as homeopathy and aromatherapy) became popular forms of alternative medicine.
In 1406 Ming dynasty prince Zhu Xiao (朱橚) published the Jiuhuang Bencao illustrated herbal for famine foods.
It contained high quality woodcuts and descriptions of 414 species of plants of which 276 were described for the first time, the book pre-dating the first European printed book by 69 years. One authentic compilation of teachings is by the surgeon Sushruta, available in a treatise called Sushruta Samhita.
Pliny the Elder's (23–79 CE) encyclopaedic Naturalis Historia (c.
77–79 CE) is a synthesis of the information contained in about 2000 scrolls and it includes myths and folklore; there are about 200 extant copies of this work.