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National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan*
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The Exhibition Gallery, Botanical Garden
January 10 - February 9, 2014

A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession. - Hippocrates -

hat is an herb (from Latin herba)? A loose definition of herb is any plant that is used for its culinary, medicinal, or fragrant properties. For centuries, herbs have been used as scents, foods, flavorings, medicines, disinfectants, even as currency. Herbalism has a long history in both western and oriental civilizations. With the realization that chemical medicines are not always "magic bullets" and sometimes carry serious side effects, herbalism is making a comeback.

Today, people have become ever more concerned with environmental protection, nature and health. Also, due to the side effects of modern chemical therapy, people have begun to turn toward the traditional natural methods of treatment. Taiwan is of no exception. Throughout Taiwan, herbs have, in turn, become increasingly popular. Their application is extremely broad, ranging from medical treatment and dietary tonics to nutrition and beauty care. Remedies made from such things as fungus and aloe as well as prepared mixtures of different herbs are all making themselves at home in people's kitchens. Herbs have been all the rage on the consumer market, and herbal tea stores have been popping up on every corner. These phenomena indicate that herbs - our valuable heritage - have so many merits in many aspects of our lives, for both medicinal purposes and for enjoyment.

Taiwan has a sub-tropical climate, with lush plant growth, diverse topography, and great variation in altitude. The botanical composition of the forests varies greatly, and there are numerous species of plants. Currently, as many as 1,500 plants with medicinal properties have been identified, including Zanthoxylum ailanthoides ('Tana' in Atayal language), Litsea cubeba ('Macou'), Cinnamomoum osmophloeum Kanehira ('hom'). That means herbs have been used by people in Taiwan for a long time.

Tagetes lucida (Compositae)
for drinking
The National Museum of Natural Science launches the Herbs exhibition, in collaboration with Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, on Friday, January 10, aiming at providing our general public with correct knowledge and information about herbs. In the Garden's exhibition gallery, more than 120 species of herbal plants are on view in four sections according to their usages in drinking, cooking, nourishing, and aromatizing. There are also herbal products on display in the Conservatory's basement. Accompanied by the exhibition, the Museum hosts some herb-related events including lectures and DIY activities. Each event offers a not-to-be-missed feature program. For further details, please visit our official website.

Rosmarinus australasia (Labiatae) for cooking
Cymbopogon martini (Gramineae) for nourishing
Lavandula pinnata (Labiatae) for aromatizing

"I know herbal products are gaining popularity worldwide," said Dr. Yen Hsin-fu, Curator of the Museum's Biology Department and the exhibition organizer, at the opening reception. "Herb-collecting hikes have even become a fashionable recreational activity over the past few years." Yen continued, "What caused this phenomenon? Where can we find herbs? Is it easy to grow herbs in our garden?" Yen asked at the reception. "Organic products from naturally growing medicinal herbs being eco friendly are widely acceptable. As a matter of fact, you needn't go deep into the mountains to pick herbs or soak yourself with sweat to grow them. Some herbs disguise themselves as wildflowers, some are fragrant ground covers, and some are weeds that you always try to eradicate them!" he answered his own questions with a big smile on his face.

From left: Yen, Sun, Chen & Chang
Museum Director Sun Wei-hsin echoed Yen jokingly, "Uh-oh, that's too bad! I just got rid of all the weeds in my garden and driveway yesterday!" "Let's back to the point, herbs are valuable plants. In Taiwan, we do have dozens of successful researches concerning herbs, which have never been transferred to acceptable knowledge for the general public. It is hoped that this exhibition is just a start. Our challenge now is to ensure valued research results known to our people in the future." Sun's words, though quite brief, are earnest enough to prompt the guests to deep thought.

Institute Director Chen Chun-chi, the top VIP at the reception said, "Herbs have been widely used in our day-to-day lives for thousands of years. Taiwan as a whole presents a museum view of the fine blend of ancient culture and modern technology, and is taking full advantage of the links to the ancient cumulative wisdom of the Chinese people. But it is a pity that Taiwan academics have not started to pay attention to herb-related researches until the recent 30 years." "The usage of herbs in our daily lives is so broad that we can hardly neglect its existence. In cooking, making teas, healing ailments, raising and renewing the body vitality, and beauty caring…etc.. Despite its broad usage, most people have never seen a real herbal plant. The mission of our Institute is to conduct both basic and applied research for agronomic and horticultural crops. The varieties and technologies developed by the Institute in the past 50 years have contributed greatly to agricultural productions in Taiwan." Chen made his conclusion, "As the Institute Director, I hope we will have more chances of collaborating with the National Museum of Natural Science to benefit people in Taiwan."

Join us to discover how cultures around the world rely on plants for everything from medicine to cosmetics, and embark on a journey of the senses through the Botanical Garden. There are fun things to do around every corner here!

Herbs Show is presented by the National Museum of Natural Science
in partnership with
Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan.

Additional support is provided by
Shun-chih Organic Herbs Garden in Hu-wei
Na-lou Special Crops Association in Chien-shi.