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A Guide to Common Medicinal Plants and Herbs

A mortar and pestle filled with verdant plants and herbs

Although Big Pharma’s synthetic remedies receive more discussion, modern medicine uses a startling number of traditional herbal remedies. Medicinal plants and herbs are used throughout all parts of the health and wellness community, whether as ingredients in common medications or as standalone herbal medicine; their presence and use are undeniable.

In today’s article, we’ll be going over some of the most common medicinal plants and herbs, their common uses, and what available research has to say about their efficacy. When it comes to your health and wellness, it pays to be informed — especially when it comes to essential oils or medicinal plants and herbs as an alternative or supplement to modern medicine.

Before you embark on a journey into the world of herbal medicine, be sure to read up on what the research says about the efficacy of your herbal remedies! Read on to learn more.

A field of white and yellow chamomile flowers

Chamomile

Uses: Anti-anxiety and calming properties, reducing insomnia related to racing thoughts

Chamomile comes in two varieties, German and Roman chamomile. Both are time-honored tools for reducing mild anxiety, calming the nerves, and easing into a night of restful sleep.

It is most often brewed into a delicious chamomile tea. However, chamomile powders and capsules are not uncommon and may offer many of the same benefits.

Chamomile is generally regarded as safe for long-term, regular use. However, it can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners. As with any medicinal plants and herbs, chamomile may cause allergic reactions in some users.

A brilliant pink and purple echinacea flower sits in a green field

Echinacea

Uses: Shortening duration of the common cold, boosting immune health, and reducing the severity of respiratory infections.

Echinacea isn’t just a mainstay of modern gardens: it’s also one of the most time-honored and widely used medicinal plants and herbs. A famous medicinal plant, it’s featured in a number of traditional and modern medicines.

Echinacea is commonly made into tea, juice, extracts, and powders and supplements; it’s a favorite herbal remedy for many common ailments.

Echinacea is widely regarded as safe and has very few potential side effects. However, long-term or high-dose use can cause an upset stomach and various mild digestive issues. Allergic reactions to echinacea are also somewhat common.

Vibrant yellow evening primrose flowers on a green background

Evening Primrose

Uses: anti-inflammatory effects, reducing breast pain, improving symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and treating mild dermatitis.

Evening primrose is a flower that’s commonly taken in oil form. There are several different evening primrose oils, including essential oils that may or may not offer the full range of evening primrose’s benefits. Typically, therapeutic evening primrose oil is derived from the seeds of the plant.

Although studies suggest it has a number of significant health benefits, herbal remedies made from primrose oil can interfere with a number of common medications. These include, but are not limited to: many blood-clotting medications, several HIV treatments, and lithium. Evening primrose oil may also cause complications during pregnancy.

For these reasons, it is vitally important to consult a physician before beginning to take evening primrose oil, especially for patients with pre-existing conditions.

A spoon full of flax seed sits on a light brown table

Flaxseed

Uses: Anti-inflammatory benefits, antioxidant, reducing blood pressure, possible colon cancer prevention.

Flaxseed has a long history of use and is an extraordinarily popular medicinal plant. It is commonly used as a food ingredient, where it is used to make oatmeal, smoothies, and breads, or is made into tablets and oils.

Of the medicinal plants and herbs on this list, flaxseed is one of the more common and is widely regarded as safe for regular use. However, it can affect women’s estrogen production, particularly during pregnancy or when the user has a personal or family history of cancer.

DO NOT EAT RAW OR UNRIPE FLAXSEED. When taken in this form, flaxseed can cause indigestion and, moreover, may contain toxic compounds.

A close-up of green ginkgo plants

Ginkgo

Uses: Cognitive benefits include treating mild to moderate dementia, reducing anxiety, and slowing the cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A long-cherished herbal remedy, this medicinal plant is cherished for its ability to boost mental functions and slow certain degenerative disorders. More recent research also suggests that it may have other applications, including as a tool to promote bone healing and as a treatment for diabetes.

Of all the medicinal plants and herbs on this list, ginkgo is one of the best understood and most thoroughly studied.

While it is widely respected in both herbal and modern medicine communities, inappropriate dosing can lead to nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, and headaches. It is strongly recommended to consult a physician before beginning a ginkgo treatment.

A pile of grapeseed sits beside red grapes and a glass of yellow oil

Grapeseed

Uses: Lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol, antioxidant effects, improving circulation in the extremities, and potentially slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Used for centuries, grapeseed is a mild medicinal plant that offers a variety of mild health benefits. Grapeseed boasts the same antioxidant effects as wine, and it is a supplement that is generally regarded as safe for regular use.

Grapeseed is most often made into oils, which are then used to produce tablets, capsules, and various other herbal remedies.

Grapeseed and its extracts are known to interfere with several medications, including blood thinners. It may also reduce iron absorption, which can cause health problems for those with pre-existing conditions.

A field of lavender on a sunny day

Lavender

Uses: Anti-inflammatory benefits, mild sedative useful as a sleep aid, soothing mental and anti-anxiety effects, calming aromatherapeutic tool.

Lavender is one of the most commonly used herbal remedies for treating anxiety. It’s powerfully pleasant aroma is renowned for soothing the mind, calming the mood, and generally leading to a more relaxed demeanor.

Although lavender is commonly made into an essential oil, it is toxic if taken orally. Instead, lavender oils are used with essential oil diffusers to fill a room with lavender’s calming scent. It is uncertain whether topical use of lavender oil is safe, and it should generally be avoided.

However, lavender tea is another common use. By brewing tea from dried lavender, users can enjoy a pleasant tasting and thoroughly calming tea without the harmful effects of consuming raw lavender.

A cutting of tea tree on a white background

Tea Tree

Uses: Topical antimicrobial properties, reducing the occurrence of facial acne, and treating common dermatological conditions such as dandruff, insect bites, and athlete’s foot.

A native of Australia, the tea tree is often used for its mild dermatological benefits. It is most commonly reduced to an essential oil, mixed with a carrier oil, then applied topically.

Note that tea tree oil should NEVER be taken orally, as it is poisonous when ingested. Additionally, it is most often recommended for short-term use, as tea tree oil can influence the body’s hormones.

As with many medicinal plants and herbs, tea tree oil can cause an allergic reaction. Reactions of this sort are more common with tea tree oil than with many other supplements on this list, and you should consider consulting a physician or receiving an allergy test before beginning use.

Several orange piles of turmeric powder sit on a dark background

Turmeric

Uses: Anti-inflammatory, joint pain relief, antioxidant, and treating certain skin conditions.

Turmeric has recently risen to prominence throughout the herbal medicine community, where it is valued for its ability to relieve many common forms of discomfort. It’s also commonly used as a cooking ingredient, as it adds vibrant color and a delicious, distinctive flavor.

However, long-term or high-dose use of turmeric has been known to cause certain gastrointestinal problems.

The most common dosage of this medicinal herb is through cooking, brewing as a tea, or consuming powder directly or in capsule form. Some sources suggest that ingesting turmeric with pepper can improve the herbal remedies’ bioavailability and effectiveness.

Kratom Spot’s Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs, In Closing

We hope that this guide to the most common herbal remedies has been insightful and, perhaps, has helped open your eyes to the wonders of the natural world.

Even with the advances of modern medicine, we are still inextricably reliant on the miracles of nature’s bounty. With research, careful experimentation, and a drive to better our shared world, we’re constantly discovering new applications for the many medicinal plants and herbal medicines that have been used for centuries.

Whether you choose to use ginkgo, chamomile, turmeric, or kratom powder, it always pays to be informed. The more you know about your own body, its needs, and what each herbal remedy has to offer, the better equipped you’ll be to better your health and live your very best life.