There are roughly 13,000 raw materials medicinally used in China and over 100,000 medicinal recipes recorded in the ancient literature. Plant elements and extracts are by far the most common elements used. In the classic Handbook of Traditional Drugs from 1941, 517 drugs were listed - out of these, only 45 were animal parts, and 30 were minerals. For many plants used as medicinal, detailed instructions have been handed down not only regarding the locations and areas where they grow best, but also regarding the best time of planting and harvesting them. Each herbal medicine prescription is a cocktail of many substances, tailored to the individual patient. One batch of medicinal is typically decocted twice over the course of one hour. The practitioner usually designs a remedy using one or two main ingredients that target the illness. Then other ingredients are added to adjust the formula to the patient's individual disease pattern. Chinese patent medicine (中成药, pinyin: zhōng chéng yào) is a kind of TCM medicine. They are standardized herbal formulas. From ancient times, pills were formed by combining several herbs and other ingredients, which were dried and ground into a powder. They were then mixed with a binder and formed into pills. Chinese patent medicines are easy and convenient. They are not easy to customize on a patient-by-patient basis, however. They are often used when a patient's condition is not severe and the medicine can be taken as a long-term treatment. "Patent" refers to the standardization of the formula. In China, all Chinese patent medicines of the same name will have the same proportions of ingredients, and manufactured in accordance with the PRC Pharmacopoeia, which is mandated by law. However, in western countries there may be variations in the proportions of ingredients in patent medicines of the same name, and even different ingredients altogether.
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Chinese herbs have been used for centuries. Among the earliest literature are lists of prescriptions for specific ailments, exemplified by the manuscript "Recipes for 52 Ailments", found in the Mawangdui tombs which were sealed in 168 BC. The first traditionally recognized herbalist is Sheng Nong (神农) who is said to have lived around 2800 BC. He allegedly tasted hundreds of herbs and imparted his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to Chinese Herbs in China and Asian Countries called Chinese Herbal Medicine. 3/4 of the population in the world uses these herbs as medicine everyday. Shénnóng Běn Cǎo Jīng (神农本草经, Shennong's Materia Medica) is considered the oldest book on Chinese Herbal Medicine. It classifies 365 species of roots, grass, woods, furs, animals and stones into three categories of herbal medicine. Today Chinese Herbal Medicine established complete medical system called Traditional Chinese Herbalology. The China Government has spent millions and millions of dollars to research the pharmacological and clinical studies to understand how Chinese herbs and Western drugs work together. Chinese herbal medicine is still used today in clinics and hospitals throughout China and Asian countries as the primary medical modality. They are formed to be used intravenously, injections, pills, liquid, inhaler, tablets, capsules, tinctures and decoctions. There are also herbal patches, paste, plaster and spray for external injuries. These herbs are used internally and externally as one of the main parts of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
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