Don’t underestimate the power that many natural plants can have on our health. In fact, at least 175 plants in North America alone are currently available for medicinal purposes in the United States, says the National Park Service. In addition, there are currently 60 million consumers in the United States that utilize herbal remedies. Efforts continue to ensure that these plants can be harvested from wild sources. In this article, we’ll explore 10 of the most common medicinal plants and their uses.
Ginseng is found in eastern hardwood forests and takes a minimum of five years to reach maturity. The plant features pointed green leaves, light green flowers and red berries. Ginseng is the most widely used medicinal plant in the world, largely due to the fact that it is great for stimulating the immune system and increasing energy levels. It’s also been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Echinacea plants are typically found in prairies due to their resistance to drought. They have a coneflower shape, with a large bulb pointing upwards and small, purplish petal pointing down. Echinacea is widely used for helping to strengthen the immune system. The plant also has a history of effective use for treating sores, burns, wounds, bites and stings.
This plant, which is sometimes referred to as redroot, is ground in eastern woodlands. It is often found near mayapple or Solomon’s Seal. Bloodroot has rounded green leaves and flowers with tiny white petals. However, it is the root part of the plant that is used for medicinal purposes. For many years, bloodroot has been used as an ingredient in mouthwashes and toothpastes due to its ability to reduce plaque and help prevent gingivitis. In addition, research is currently being conducted to see if bloodroot can be used to treat cancer. It has also been used in the past to reduce the size of tumors.
4. Milk Thistle
Most often found in Mediterranean climates, milk thistle is composed of a tall stem with a dense flower filled with tiny purplish petals. This plant is most commonly used for the treatment of the liver. It is often used for treating liver or gall bladder disease, cirrhosis and hepatitis and may help protect the liver from damage due to alcoholism. The plant has also been used to help treat depression.
Sage is a unique plant in that it can grow in places with very little soil, such as stony areas or dry banks. The plant is a shrub with long, thin green leaves and delicate purple flowers. Sage has been used for centuries as a remedy for digestive issues. In addition, it’s been effective for healing sore throats, gum infections and ulcers and helping to prevent excessive salivation and profuse perspiration.
6. Witch Hazel
This versatile shrub can grow in moist or dry areas and it comprised of oval green leaves and flowers with thin petals than are dark yellow, orange or red. Witch hazel is used in many astringents and topical skincare products, including those used to treat varicose veins, hemorrhoids, inflammation, wounds and bruises. It has also been used in eye drops and to treat other eye problems. Witch hazel bark is used internally for treating diarrhea, colitis and dysentery.
Often found in pastures, chamomile has a long, thin stem and a tiny flower that resembles a daisy. This plant is often used in teas and other herbal remedies to treat problems of the digestive system, bronchitis, cough or fever. In addition, chamomile is sometimes used in topical products for the treatment of toothaches, earaches and inflammation.
8. Aloe Vera
The aloe vera plant is often found near water in sand or rocks. It has thick stiff leaves and slender, orange-colored flower spikes. The gel found in the leaves is commonly used to speed the healing of skin conditions, including burns and wounds. The sap found in the base of the leaf is used as a digestive stimulant and a strong laxative.
9. Tea Tree
This shrub is generally found in swamps and contains tiny green leaves and wispy white flowers. The essential oils taken from this plant are a popular antiseptic used for stings, burns, wounds and many other skin conditions. Tea trees are also utilized for stimulating the immune system and for helping to treat chronic fatigue syndrome.
10. Slippery Elm
This plant, which is found both in rich soils and on rocky hillsides, has oval leaves and small clusters of reddish flowers. Slippery elm is used to soothe mucus membranes found in the chest, stomach, intestines and urinary tubules. It’s sometimes used as a treatment for conditions like stomach ulcers, indigestion and sore throat.
Keep in mind that it’s always wise to seek the advice of a doctor before using medicinal plants to treat any condition. In some cases, excessive doses of a medicinal plant can be toxic.