Medicinal Uses for Plants

Plants have been used by ancient civilizations for centuries and in today's scientific society, parts of plants are being extracted to make medicines such as aspirin. Plants are filled with vitamins and nutrients and have a wide range of uses from food, to gardening to medicine. Herbalism is the practice of naturalistic medicine, that studies medicinal properties of plants and their extracts. The majority of the uses of the plants come from the roots but other parts are used as well.
On this page I will be discussing various medicinal uses for plants outside a popular and iexternal image 1-s2.0-S0378874111003229-gr2.jpgllegal plant used for "medicinal" purposes. Below is a video of a nature expert sharing his uses for plants and herbs that can be found in our own backyards.

Why Use Plants?

Part of why we use plant is because it has been tradition for centuries. Ancient civilizations have been using this method to treat illnesses for such a long time and have passed it down the generations. Not to mention plants are all around us and ready to be used!

Commonly Known Uses

Although we may not consider it all the time, plants are used more commonly than we think. For example, Aloe Vera external image aloe-vera1.jpg
is used to treat burns and other skin irritations. It is also used as a moisturizing agent in many creams from well known companies such as Bath and Body Works. Other common uses we probably knew if we thought hard enough: chamomile has been used for sleeplessness in teas, eucalyptus for coughs, citrus fruits for scurvy and other vitamin deficiencies, and even celery as a diuretic (elevates the rate of urination).

Not as Commonly Known

When we explore further into the uses of the plants, we discover some interesting and even shocking uses for the different plants. For example, dandelions have been used to treat liver, kidney and spleen problems/diseases1. Blueberries are used as an antioxidant2, the main ingredient in chili peppers, capsaicin is used to break down blood clots and and is used as a topical ointment3. Cranberries have been used for diarrhea and diabetes, Poison ivy the nasty plant that is infamous for the blisters and rashes plaguing hikers, has in the past been used to treat ringworm and skin disorders4, the Opium Poppy has properties that are extracted to make morphine.

Top 10 Most Interesting Uses (in no particular order)external image daffodil-flower-picture-5.jpg

  1. Daffodil to treat Alzheimer's disease
  2. English Yew to treat breast cancer
  3. Bark of a Latin American Fever Tree to treat Malaria
  4. Medieval doctors believed baldness could be cured by rubbing onion on the scalp
  5. external image foxglove12.jpgFoxgloves are used to treat arrhythmia
  6. Ancient Egyptians chewed willow bark to cure headaches and later found out it has the active ingredient used in aspirin
  7. Cocaine was widely used as a local anaesthetic in the 19th century
  8. A prickly succulent used by the Kalahari bushmen to stave off hunger may, in future, become a treatment for obesity
  9. Marsh Mallow, the plant that contributed to the creation of the popular snack, was used to soothe ulcers
  10. Lavender has been used for mental health purposes

References

1. "Dandelion". National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
2. Prior, Ronald L.; Cao, Guohua; Martin, Antonio; Sofic, Emin; McEwen, John; O'Brien, Christine; Lischner, Neal; Ehlenfeldt, Mark et al. (1998). "Antioxidant Capacity As Influenced by Total Phenolic and Anthocyanin Content, Maturity, and Variety ofVacciniumSpecies". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 46 (7): 2686–93. DOI:10.1021/jf980145d.
3. Randall Kremer (2007). "Ancient Americans liked it hot -- Smithsonian study traces Mexican cuisine roots to 1,500 years ago". The Analyst Magazine.
4. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/i/ivypoi17.html#med