Medicinal plants contain a wide array of chemical compounds. They have a distinct order to their perfection. Natural selection pressures push these plants to "try out" variations on molecules to enhance the plant's odds of surviving stressful environments. So, often, one molecule is present in the greatest amount and has the most dramatic effect in a human body -- but along with it are variations of that molecule in the same plant.
Human beings and plants have co-evolved for millions of years, so it makes perfect sense that our complex bodies would be adapted to absorb needed, beneficial compounds from many varieties of complex plants and ignore the rest. However, no plant should be ignored when it comes to advancing human health.
They're edible flowering plants which widely grow in South America. Dandelions are used to make recipes and drinks. Flowers, leafs and roots of dandelion are used to make food items for medicinal purposes. The act as a cleaning tonic for blood vessels while effectively increasing the functionality of the liver. They balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They also prevent gallstones and improve the functioning of the pancreas.
2. California Poppy
The brilliant blooms of the poppy make this opioid plant an iconic one. The plant is an effective nervine (anxiety reliever) and is safe for use on agitated children. Can be made into a a tea for quick relief of nervousness and tension. A stronger decoction will offer pain relief. (A decoction is made by “stewing” all safe plant parts, including stems and roots if possible, in water for several hours and, ideally, soaking overnight.)
Marigold is a flowering plant which grows in wide rage of soils. They are used to cook and add color to many summer dishes. This plant can also cure many skin problems and can effectively reduce skin blemishes. It's one of the best choices for instant relief from fever. It can reduce swelling to any body parts within short periods. Marigold is also one of the best herbs for headaches and tooth aches. Its anti-inflammatory properties help cure allergies, prevent tumors and also optimize the growth of new blood vessels.
If you’ve decided to backpack through Europe instead of the mountains of Mexico (but why?), you’ll want to know about a few helpful medicinal plants. Tansy is an old-world aster and remedy, used for flavoring beer and stews as well as repelling insects. Rubbing the leaves on the skin provides an effective bug repellent, but tansy can also be used to treat worms. It is said to be poisonous when extracted, but a few leaves are not harmful if ingested.
5. Lady Ferns
Lady ferns are long light green plants native to the northern hemisphere and one of the oldest plants on Earth. They also heal a number of diseases in naturally. It is a recommended herb for fevers and coughs, prevention against worms and defending against asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis. They are also effective for cuts and sunburns.
Alfalfa is fodder for livestock for a reason: it’s incredibly rich in minerals and health-promoting nutrients and compounds. With roots that grow 20 to 30 feet deep, alfalfa is considered the “father of all plants”. (It also contains a high amount of protein for a green.) Alfalfa originally grew in the Mediterranean and Middle East but has now spread to most of Europe and the Americans. It can treat morning sickness, nausea, kidney stones, kidney pain and urinary discomfort. It is a powerful diuretic and has a bit of stimulant power, helping to energize after a bout with illness. It’s a liver and bowel cleanser and long-term can help reduce cholesterol. You can purchase seeds and sprouts, but it’s fine to eat the leaves straight from the earth.
7. Tea Tree
Tea-tree is one of the most powerful plants effective against dangerous bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. It effectively prevents insects and can cure insects bites almost instantly. Tea tree oil is one of the best solutions to keep fungus at bay and also prevent against head lice. It gives quick relief from cuts and burns and also is one of the fastest ways to remove dandruff. Tea tree also effective for headaches and colds.
The cannabis of the cat kingdom. Famous for making cats deliriously crazy, catnip has health properties that are great for humans, too. Catnip can relieve cold symptoms (helpful if you’re on a camping trip and don’t have access to Nyquil). It’s useful in breaking a fever as it promotes sweating. Catnip also helps stop excessive bleeding and swelling when applied rather than ingested. This mint plant (yep, another one) is also reportedly helpful in treating gas, stomach aches, and migraines. Catnip can stimulate uterine contractions, so it should not be consumed by pregnant women. It grows in the Northern Hemisphere.
Thyme is widely used as an aromatic plant, as well as an edible one. It effectively prevents small insects and provides many many health benefits mainly for lung problems such as shortness in breath. It provides better prevention against foodborne bacterial infections than any medication and keeps blood pressure level. It reduces the risk of colon cancer and is also a remedy for skin problems such as dryness, redness and swelling. It acts as a relaxing herb by calming down the nervous system.
Sage is an incredibly useful herb, widely considered to be perhaps the most valuable herb. It is anti-flammatory, anti-oxidant, and antifungal. In fact, according to a noted resource World’s Healthiest Foods, “Its reputation as a panacea is even represented in its scientific name, Salvia officinalis, derived from the Latin word, salvere, which means ‘to be saved’.” It was used as a preservative for meat before the advent of refrigeration (eminently useful: you never know when you’ll be forced to hunt in the wild). Sage aids digestion, relieves cramps, reduces diarrhea, dries up phlegm, fights colds, reduces inflammation and swelling, acts as a salve for cuts and burns, and kills bacteria. Sage apparently even brings color back to gray hair. A definite concern when lost in the woods.
Beyond limited empirical observations, not all medicinal plants have established scientific studies to support their effectiveness. However, in the case of Brucea javanica, it is one of those plants in which scientific investigations have provided enough evidence to prove that it has an impressive efficacy for the treatment of cervical, bladder and pancreatic cancers. Its selective toxicity has also been found to kill 70% of breast cancer cells. Brucea javanica (Brucea javanica (L.) Merr) is one of those plants that needs far more recognition in this catergory for its incredible ability to selectively kill cancer cells.
12. Navajo Tea
Also called greenthread, Plains Tea or Coyote Plant, this plant has been used for centuries by Native Americans to quickly relieve that most brutal and irritating of infections: the UTI (urinary tract infection). Best when made into a tea or decoction.
13. Red Clover
Native to Europe, Northern Africa and Western Asia, red clover is now ubiquitous worldwide. The plant’s reddish pink blossoms can be used for coughs and colds, but they are an excellent detoxifier and blood cleanser as well.
14. Sweet Marjoram
Marjoram and oregano are often used interchangeably, but the aromatic sweet marjoram is slightly different. The Greeks called it the “Joy of the Mountain” and it was revered throughout the Mediterranean for its fragrance, flavor and medicinal value. The famous French herbs de provence and Middle Eastern za’atar both use sweet marjoram. Marjoram has many uses (it’s a famous digestive aid) but it is effective as an antifungal, antibacterial and disinfectant treatment in a pinch.
Feverfew is a plant that has well-known and documented health properties and medicinal benefits, yet it's barely ever mentioned in health circles. This anti-inflammatory can treat rheumatism, arthritis and, most famously, migraine headaches and tension headaches. It’s also good for alleviating tension and general anxiety (it is a natural serotonin inhibitor). It also helps to reduce swelling and bruising. Though feverfew is most effective when taken daily, it can be a helpful pain reliever when no Advil is on hand.
16. Sweet Violet
Native to Europe and Asia, sweet violet is cultivated around the world and is a pleasant, delicate purple color. When brewed into a syrup the plant is effective as a treatment for colds, flu and coughs or sore throat. However, when made as a tea, it is wonderfully effective for relieving headaches and muscle and body pain.
17. Winter Savory
Winter savory is your savior against insect bites and stings. One of the most effective natural plant treatments for bug bites is originally from Europe and the Mediterranean but often shows up elsewhere thanks to global trade. In addition to being an antiseptic, it is delicious -- used for flavoring meats and stews -- and all parts are edible.
Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.