herb (ûrb, hûrb) [key], name for any plant that is used medicinally or as a spice and for the useful product of such a plant. Herbs as condiments and seasonings are still important in culinary art; the use of medicinal herbs, however, has waned since the advent of prescription and synthetic medicines, although plants remain a major source of drugs. The term herb is also applied to all herbaceous plants as distinguished from woody plants.

See R. E. Clarkson, Herbs, their Culture and Uses (1966); G. B. Foster, Herbs for Every Garden (rev. ed. 1973); A. and C. Krochmal, A Guide to the Medicinal Plants of the United States (1974).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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