Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses many therapeutic modalities, the major one being Chinese herbal medicine. Its development has been a historical process flowing and flowering with Chinese culture for more than four thousand years. Its practice follows theories of holistic and integrative principles. Therapy is based on understanding relations between part and whole, distinguishing symptom and appearance from true cause, and treating each individual case as unique.
The foundation for this medical practice is the Chinese materia medica. More than 6,000 substances have been used and their effects documented and researched in the past four millenia. Clinical practice and empirical results from millions of medical cases have created a data bank on individual substances as well as prescriptions of complex compounds. This literature is unparalleled and unsurpassed in the world's medical knowledge.
In fact, stories about the use of herbs to improve human health are older than TCM itself. Legends about herbal medicine start with Shen Nong (The Divine Farmer), who introduced agriculture and animal husbandry into China. According to the ancient book Master of Huai Nan (Huai Nan Zi), by Liu An of the Han dynasty, Shen Nong Shi (3000 b.c.) [tasted a hundred herbs and came across seventy poisonous herbs each day.]