Medicinal plants are plants whose parts contain beneficial phytochemicals that can help treat diseases or improve health. The leaves, flowers, roots, seeds, fruits, and barks of medicinal plants can be used directly or synthesized to create pharmaceutical drugs.

Plant medicine, also known as phytomedicine, is the use of plant products in the prevention and cure of ailments. Approximately 80 percent of the world’s population uses medicinal plants and herbs for treatment purposes.

  • Plants used for medicine have helped people combat different diseases since time immemorial. 
  • The Native American, Asian, African, and European cultures both relied on medicinal herbs during the primordial period. 
  • Each culture had its own beliefs on certain medicinal plants, how they should be applied, and how they work. These beliefs were passed from one generation to the next.
  • Some ethnomedicinal plants were also used in the treatment of various types of animal diseases.

In the present day, scientists rely on phytochemistry to create potent plant-based medicine and herbicidal chemicals.

NATIVE AMERICAN MEDICINAL PLANTS

Native American tribes used different medicinal plants for treating both mild and severe symptoms brought about by diseases.

  • The natives were very particular on how each medicinal plant was to be administered.
  • Some of the medicines derived from plants could be taken orally while others were applied to the skin.
  • The people had a rough knowledge of medicinal plant chemistry, so they administered just the right amount of herbs during treatment.
  • They had analgesics, which helped in relieving pain in different parts of the body.
  • Analgesic medicinal plants can alleviate toothache, headache, and other forms of physiological pain.
  • Native Americans also used some medicinal plants as food supplements to boost their immune systems.

Herbal supplements are still being used the world over in the prevention of diseases and other health complications.

  • A good number of pharmaceutical supplements are derived from purified plant phytochemicals.
  • Some of the supplements can be applied topically while others can be taken orally as pills.
  • Depending on the type of herbal supplement that you are using, you can brew it in your tea or add it to your bathwater.

Plants synthesize different types of chemical compounds during growth. The chemicals safeguard the plants against diseases, herbivores, fungi, and destructive insects.

    • However, some of these chemicals are potentially poisonous to humans and can adversely alter the normal functions of the body.
    • The encyclopedia of medicinal plants offers a comprehensive guide that will help you know more about herbal medicine.
    • The use of medicinal herbs is not closely monitored by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Caution should, therefore, be taken when using any medicinal plant to avoid possible complications.
  • Medicinal herbs can interact with most pharmaceutical medicines and may cause adverse effects on your health.
  • Some plants can also trigger allergic reactions in the body. Always consult your doctor before using any plant with medicinal properties.

There are 4 ways of evaluating toxicity in medicinal plants:

ACUTE TOXICITY

This occurs when a potentially toxic compound triggers a negative reaction in the body after taking a one-time dose in large amounts.

CHRONIC TOXICITY

Compared to acute toxicity, chronic toxicity occurs when the body reacts adversely to a toxic compound that has accumulated over time.

SUBACUTE TOXICITY

Subacute toxicity refers to the adverse effects that may occur in the body following the administration of a toxic compound within a period of 2 to 4 weeks.

SUBCHRONIC TOXICITY

This can be defined as the occurrence of symptoms after the administration of a toxic compound continuously or multiple times.

MEDICINAL PLANTS AND THEIR USES

If used correctly, wild medicinal plants can provide us with bountiful benefits. They contain powerful antioxidants that can improve the body’s ability to fight diseases and infections.

  • Medicinal plants and herbs are considered safe since they rarely trigger negative reactions in the body.
  • Most medicinal plants can cure more than one disease.
  • Also, a good number of these plants can cure diseases, which would otherwise be difficult to cure.
  • Medicinal plants are also used for cultural identity in different corners of the globe.
  • Aside from their therapeutic properties, medicinal plants are a rich source of nutrients.
  • The active ingredients obtained from medicinal herbs can be used in the synthesis of dietary supplements and medicinal drugs.
  • Some of these plants can as well be used in the control of pests and parasites.

COMMONLY USED MEDICINAL PLANTS

The use of botanical medicine can improve health since the herbs are in accordant with nature and the organ systems in the human body. For this reason, some people prefer herbal treatment over conventional medicine. Here are some of the commonly used medicinal plants in different parts of the world.

Aloe vera (Leaves)

Aloe vera is packed with potent active ingredients that can help treat various diseases and improve your overall well-being. 

Aloe leaves contain a thick sap, which can be used directly or processed to create other medicinal compounds.

The sap from aloe vera can be used to make skin ointments which can be applied topically.

Ginseng (Roots)

This medicinal plant was popularly used in the Chinese culture and is still a favorite among some people. It is considered one of the best medicinal plants due to its cure-all properties.

Ginseng offers a long list of benefits. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can also improve brain function.

Garlic (Roots, Cloves)

The phytochemicals in garlic can greatly improve your immune system. Aside from being a food additive, garlic has antibiotic properties.

Garlic keeps the heart and other organs in the body healthy. That way, all systems will function as they should.

Chamomile (Flower)

Like Ginseng, chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties. It is one of the medicinal plants that is approved by the FDA.

Chamomile tea can be a remedy for different types of health complications. It can also be used as a dietary supplement.

MEDICINAL PLANTS ARE NATURE’S GIFTS

Medicinal plants form the basis of conventional medical treatment. Without medicinal plants, we wouldn’t be able to manufacture certain pharmaceutical drugs. Medicinal plants are in sync with the human body, so they rarely cause adverse effects when administered correctly.

Nonetheless, some medicinal plants can be toxic when used the wrong way. A lot of research still needs to be done on most medicinal plants.

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