Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

5 of the World's Most Potent Medicinal Plants

For as long as mankind has been around, people have had to cope with a variety of illnesses. From the beginning, humanity had to learn to heal everything from broken bones and snakebites to everyday rashes and headaches. Of course, back then they didn't have over-the-counter drugs available on nearly every block (like they do today), so not-so modern man had to turn to something a little more natural in his quest to feel better. That something was plants and to this day people still turn to these herbal remedies, some more well known than others, to help cure what ails them, be it chronic disease or a sunburn.

medicinal plants

Though many view herbal remedies as a safer alternative to prescription drugs, there are some safety precautions you should be aware of.

Historic Uses of Medicinal Plants

You don't have to search very long in history books to find evidence of societies throughout the centuries using plants and herbs for their many medicinal purposes. In colonial times, housewives were not only expected to cook and care for the children, but to be well-informed about plants and herbs and their various uses.

Back then most women were prepared to use these natural treatments in order to administer first-aid to anyone ill or injured. Household gardens were stocked with a wide variety of plants and herbs that were used for both food and medicine, many of which were native to Europe, such as nutmeg, and were brought to the American colonies because of their medicinal value.

However, the use of medicinal plants did not begin in the days of Jamestown. As far back as 2200 B.C., Sumerian herbal was being used as a curative plant and not long after that, in the 5th century BC, the Greek doctor Hippocrates was way ahead of the curve in his listing of as many as 400 herbs that were in use medicinally.

The medicinal use of plants continued to be explored in ancient times and the Middle Ages in Europe where the plant yarrow was crushed into tea and taken to stop internal bleeding. It was also drunk by the Micmac Indians to treat upper respiratory infections and the Navajo Indians looked upon it as a panacea, or "life medicine."

Native Americans were by far not the only peoples to try and take advantage of botanical medicine. In her book The Natural History of Medicinal Plants, author Judith Sumner states that indigenous peoples, through personal experience and knowledge passed down through generations have learned which species of plants may help alleviate certain ailments such as toothaches, induce labor, and even cure malaria.

In the 17th and 18th centuries scientists began to further research and experiment with medicinal plants, making many exciting discoveries that continue to benefit people to this day. For example, in 1775 Dr. William Withering discovered that extracts of the herb foxglove aided in healing those with heart problems.

Today the interest in homeopathic cures remains as high as ever, if not more so. Such remedies are widespread in countries such as China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. According to the Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, about 40% of China's total medical consumption is of the herbal variety and in Japan herbal medicines are more in demand than pills and other pharmaceutical options. In the U.S., due to the ever-increasing costs and side effects of prescription drugs, more and more Americans are turning to plants and herbs to cure what ails them.

5 Potent Herbal Remedies

1. Marijuana

While it may be controversial and not legal in all 50 states, study after study has proven the benefits of smoking pot for those who are suffering from the pain of cancer and glaucoma, as well as some forms of epilepsy and the spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. There is also evidence to show that marijuana causes the "munchies" and causes patients to gain weight, which could be lifesaving for those with AIDS.

2. Aloe Vera

Anyone who has ever used fresh aloe on a sunburn can tell you how effective this plant is. Coming in two forms, gel and juice, its benefits are many. As a gel, it is used as a topical treatment for minor burns, cuts, and skin irritations. As a juice, many drink it as a dietary supplement and as an oral laxative. You can also use aloe vera straight from the plant by breaking off a piece of the leaf, then applying the sticky fluid on your skin.

aloe vera plant

The juice and gel of the aloe vera plant has been used since ancient times to soothe minor burns, cuts and skin irritations. To try out the soothing properties of aloe for yourself, try Vermont Soap Organics Aloe Castile Liquid Soaps -- they're all-natural and gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin.

3. Garlic

While many only see this herb as something to dress up a pasta dish or to help fend off the neighborhood vampires, it has proven to be a powerful antibiotic if taken raw and crushed and can also be used as an anti-fungal agent.

When cooked, garlic is beneficial for the cardiovascular system. These benefits are, at least in part, due to the sulfur compounds allicin and diallyl disulphide (DADS) (which are also found in onions, leeks and chives). These compounds help to induce the relaxation and enlargement of blood vessels, which improves blood flow throughout the body

In fact, eating from one-half to one clove of garlic a day may lower your cholesterol by up to 9 percent, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Eating garlic has also been found to help prevent cancer, reduce inflammation in your body, fight infectious diseases and even prevent weight gain.

4. Ginkgo Biloba

The medicinal uses of ginkgo biloba are many. For those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's, it is widely used due primarily to its ability to improve blood flow to the brain as well as its antioxidant properties. The benefits also include improvement in social behavior, cognitive functions, and feelings of depression. Ginkgo has also been proven to help those with retinal problems and is widely known as a "brain herb" that is taken by those who want to boost memory and overall cognitive abilities

5. Sage

For thousands of years sage has been used in connection with sprains, swelling, ulcers, and bleeding. As a tea, sage has been taken to alleviate sore throats and coughs. Herbalists have also used it for rheumatism, memory improvement, menstrual bleeding, and sharpening the senses. Germans use it for upset stomachs and excessive sweating and the English use it to soothe the symptoms that come with menopause.

A Not-So-Secret Garden

The world of botanical medicine is ever-expanding, and you can be sure that there is a whole world of natural and holistic medicines out there just waiting to be discovered and used. So the next time you sprain an ankle going for that rebound or burn yourself cooking dinner, try reaching for your garden instead of the medicine cabinet.

Recommended Reading

8 Natural Options to Relieve Cancer-Related Pain

Six Lesser-Known but Delicious and Healthy Herbs You Should Know


The Natural History of Medicinal Plants, Book Review, Eukaryon, Vol. 1, 10, January 2005, Lake Forest College

The Library of Congress, Science Reference Services

The Science of Medical Marijuana

University of Maryland Medical Center, Ginkgo Biloba

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This