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Modern pharmaceuticals had their origins in crude herbal medicines, and to this day, some drugs are still extracted as fractionate/isolate compounds from raw herbs and then purified to meet pharmaceutical standards.Certain herbs contain psychoactive properties that have been used for both religious and recreational purposes by humans since the early Holocene era, notably the leaves and extracts of the cannabis and coca plants.Mixtures and pastes were often concocted to whiten the face.During the 1940s, herbal cosmetics took a turn with the emerging red lipstick color, with every year gaining a more intense red.Some plants are used as both herbs and spices, such as dill weed and dill seed or coriander leaves and seeds.Also, there are some herbs such as those in the mint family that are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
Plants may be used to induce spiritual experiences for rites of passage, such as vision quests in some Native American cultures.
In general use, herbs are any plants used for food, flavoring, medicine, or fragrances for their savory or aromatic properties.
Culinary use typically distinguishes herbs from spices.
Medicinal use of herbs in Western cultures has its roots in the Hippocratic (Greek) elemental healing system, based on a quaternary elemental healing metaphor.
Famous herbalist of the Western tradition include Avicenna (Persian), Galen (Roman), Paracelsus (German Swiss), Culpepper (English) and the botanically inclined Eclectic physicians of 19th century/early 20th century America (John Milton Scudder, Harvey Wickes Felter, John Uri Lloyd).
Herbs can be perennials such as thyme or lavender, biennials such as parsley, or annuals like basil.