Throughout history, people have turned to herbs as a natural source of remedies for their ailments. Today many pharmaceuticals include compounds derived from plants, or synthesized based on plant compounds. Many people have also returned to herbal remedies in preference to cocktails of modern pharmaceuticals. Consider ten of the plants that are most popular as herbal remedies.
A simple distillation from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree – a tree commonly found throughout Australasia – makes oil that’s popular around the world as an antiseptic, a treatment for strep throat, a mild deodorant and an easy to apply mosquito repellant.
A common ingredient in Indian dishes, fenugreek is a plant with small round leaves that contain a galactagogue – a milk producing agent. Nursing mothers find fenugreek to be a potent stimulant of breast milk production stimulant. Men also benefit from fenugreek. A 2011 study found it to increase libido levels in men between the ages of 25 and 52.
The florets of the pot marigold (scientific name: Calendula officinalis) are edible, and are often used simply as decorative additions to salads. In addition, these flowers provide a moisturizing oil that was popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans, and that continues to be used today. Recent studies indicate that extracts of the flower have anti-inflammatory properties.
The root of the valerian plant contains yellowish-green oil, which may be used as an alternative to benzodiazepine drugs. The oil acts as a sedative and is useful for those suffering from colic, nervous tension, stress and associated intestinal cramps. It’s also widely used by people with sleeping disorders.
Ginseng has a long history of use in Chinese medicine as a muscle relaxant. Today the root of the plant is often sold in dried form, either whole or sliced. It’s usually taken orally and is known as a stimulant, a treatment for type 2 diabetes and a treatment for sexual dysfunction in men.
Echinacea, which belongs to the herbaceous daisy family, is widely used as an immunostimulator, non-specifically stimulating the ability of the body’s immune system to ward off infections. Some also use decoctions made from the root, stem and bulb of the plant as a laxative.
Research has shown that oil from the seed of the flax flower lowers cholesterol, especially in women. Some studies have also suggested that flax seed oil can treat certain types of breast and prostate cancer.
This succulent plant, which most likely originated in northern Africa, has a long history of medicinal use. Scrolls that date back to the 16th century BC refer to the use of aloe vera in both food and traditional medicine. Its most common use today is in the cosmetics industry, due to aloe vera’s moisturizing and skin-soothing qualities.
This odd-looking, tendril-spouting vine grows a fruit with a warty looking exterior that houses bright red berries. The entire fruit is used for the treatment of a range of ailments – most commonly stomach cramps. A popular method of preparing the fruit is to soak it in oil or honey, and then to use the the honey and oil in other dishes. Originating in Asia, the plant has traditionally been used for its antimalarial properties.
Buchu, a herb that’s indigenous to the Western Cape in South Africa, has phenolic compounds that make it popular for treating gastrointestinal problems and urinary tract infections. The leaves of the buchu plant, aside from having a pleasantly herbal aroma, also have high levels of naturally occurring anti-inflammatories.
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