Medicinal herbs have been used in several traditions for ages. To be more particular, these herbs have been used in traditional medicine practices even before the historic periods. Their incredible medicinal properties have helped people to treat many ailments.
Now, even when we are living in the 21st century, medicinal plants play a critical role in dealing with and healing diseases. Each of its parts, whether leaves, bark, roots, or flowers, is used as a herbal remedy to maintain people’s health. The hundreds of chemical compounds that are synthesized by plants can improve a patient’s symptoms and ensure a good quality of life.
When it comes to the benefits and uses of the best medicinal herbs, the list can be quite diverse:
Herbal medicines have been used in several cultures and traditions for many years now. They have been used solely or along with other biomedicines to treat diseases/ailments affecting people. The herbs have been proven beneficial for handling both chronic and acute conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, prostate issues, and immunity boosting.
The tradition of herbal treating dates back 5,000 years to Sumerians. They were responsible for compiling different plants with healing properties so they could be used for different ailments. There’s a book called Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine that features names and properties of plants along with their medicinal use.
Even today, in modern medicine, herbs are an indispensable source of many synthetic drugs available in the world. The science of today’s medicine, along with the knowledge of traditional herbal treating, has stimulated a better way to treat diseases in the current times.
Health Benefits of Medicinal Herbs
From pain relief to better digestion, medicinal herbs come with numerous health benefits to treat diseases. Although the effect varies as per the herb and the compounds, it can settle the symptoms and discomfort faced by people. Ginseng roots, for example, are an effective herb to treat inflammation and boost immunity and overall brain function. Its roots can be dried and taken as a powder, or it can be consumed as a tea.
Similarly, Turmeric, which belongs to the ginger family, is combined with anti-inflammatory properties. The presence of curcumin in this herb can help with several conditions, including pain, inflammation, and metabolic syndrome. Its potency to treat pain is often compared with the well-known modern medicine called ibuprofen.
As mentioned earlier, different herbs can help to treat different ailments/diseases. Here are the best herbs for medicinal purposes that you must know:
Herbs can work as a sedative, anxiolytic, and relaxing component to treat insomnia. It can improve the sleep quality and promote a healthy sleep cycle. Some of the herbs that can help with insomnia are Valerian (for its phytochemicals), passionflower (for its relaxing potential), and American skullcap (which works as an anxiolytic). Ashwagandha is also known for its potential to treat mild insomnia.
Conditions like anxiety can also be treated through natural remedies and herbs. They have been used for many years in different customs and cultures to relieve anxiety, depression, and related symptoms. Some herbs that have been quite beneficial for patients include Chamomile for its sedative effect, lavender for its calming effect, and passionflower, which is both a nervine and a sedative. Research also indicates Kava roots have anti-anxiety benefits in patients.
Cold and Flu
Herbs work as both immune stimulants and antiviral to treat cold and flu. It has been used as a long and potentially safe remedy to suppress the symptoms related to the same. Herbs that can help to deal with cold/flu are purple coneflower or Echinacea, pot marigold, lemon balm, cinnamon, and garlic.
Some healthcare professionals who treat through herbs (like in Ayurveda) believe that healing starts from digestion. Hence, there are several herbs for digestive conditions commonly available in any kitchen. This includes cinnamon, fennel, ginger, and licorice. Digestive problems can also be resolved by lesser-known herbs like Bael leaf and Andean mint.
Herbs can help in treating various skin disorders, including eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo. They work as a therapeutically active source that can be applied topically or consumed orally. Some herbs ideal for skin conditions are Turmeric, licorice, calendula, neem, and Chamomile.
Ache and Inflammation
Herbs like Turmeric, ginger, and rosemary have been commonly used for treating aches and inflammation. They work as a natural pain reliever and accelerate recovery while also reducing inflammation. In Turmeric, the active ingredient curcuma comes with pain-relieving qualities to ease the discomfort. Rosemary essential oil, on the other hand, can be used for relaxing muscles and relieving pain.
Herbs are combined with bioactive compounds like alkaloids, flavonoids, coumarins, terpenoids, etc. These compounds contribute to the healing properties of the herb and ensure a healthy human body.
Most of the active compounds in the herbs have antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant effects. Some of them also ensure good hormonal balance and have immune-boosting power. In simple terms, these compounds play a pivotal role in delivering therapeutic benefits through plants.
Some of the ways by which herbs can be administered are as follows:
Teas: fresh or dried herbs steeped in hot water
Capsules: powdered/grounded herbs in tablets/capsule form for intake
Tinctures: herbs soaked in alcohol/glycerin
Topical: applied on the skin surface as herbal creams, ointments, or oils.
Powders: herbs dried and transformed into their powder form
Syrups: herbs boiled in water with sugar or honey
Inhalations: herbs steamed for nose inhaling
Lozenges: herbs mixed with a sweet base to be sucked like candy in the mouth till dissolved
Here are some popular medicinal herbs to grow:
Echinacea is known for its immune-boosting properties. The plant belongs to the daisy family and has large flowers with a central cone. It can treat colds, flu, and related infections, and that’s why it’s been used in traditional medicine for a long time. It’s also filled with active compounds like polysaccharides, flavonoids, and phenols. Although potentially safe, Echinacea may create digestive problems, upset stomach, and allergic reactions. So, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional before starting it (or any other herb) for medicinal purposes.
As mentioned earlier, Turmeric has curcumin in it, which is known for several benefits. It is anti-inflammatory and also a strong antioxidant. Curcumin, in Turmeric, has shown promising effects for maintaining gut health, joint health, heart health, and neuroprotection. It also has anti-cancer properties, with many researches/studies suggesting its role in potentially reducing cancerous cell and tumor growth.
Commonly used in Chinese medicine, Ginkgo Biloba is a herb that’s packed with active compounds like flavonoids and terpenoids that are known for their antioxidant properties. These herbs have potential benefits in improving cognitive health, memory, and mental processing in individuals. It has also shown possible effects in managing diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Ginkgo Biloba is further useful for its role in maintaining circulatory and eye health. It prevents platelets from clumping together and can also dilate the blood vessels for better flow. As for the eye, the herb has shown good benefits in improving vision in patients suffering from glaucoma.
Known for its calming and relaxing properties, Lavender is use in aromatherapy and topical applications as it can keep stress, anxiety, and mood disturbances at bay. It has also shown beneficial effects in managing the symptoms of depression.
Note that lavender should be used cautiously. Here are some tips to help out:
- Dilute lavender essential oil with other oils like almond/jojoba
- Don’t consume it orally unless directed by a doctor
- Avoid any contact with eyes or mucous membranes
- Keep it safe from children, pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Instead of direct inhalation, use a diffuser for lavender intake
Choosing the Right Medicinal Herbs to Grow
To cultivate herbs for use, select a herb that suits the residing environment and your overall requirements. For that, you must thoroughly research the growing conditions of the herb, including the climate, space required, and intended use. If it fits the requirements and atmosphere/environment, then go for the medicinal herb seeds.
Follow the below guidelines for successful herb cultivation and medicinal garden:
- Buy high-quality potting soil with essential ingredients to promote a healthy environment for plant growth
- Ensure good drainage by choosing planters with large holes
- Keep your plant in a sunlight-prone area or south-facing window so it can get the sun exposure it needs
- Water the plant when it feels dry, especially during summer. Keep the surface moist, but don’t overwater.
- Ensure good pest management to prevent any unwanted infestations.
To maximize its potency, the herbs should be harvested precisely. The harvesting timing varies as per herb variety, but here are some general recommendations:
- Leaves: Harvest before flowering of plants
- Flower: Harvest before it’s about to start opening
- Roots: Harvest after fall
- Seeds: Harvest once it gets fully mature
- Bark: Harvest in spring
To preserve the medicinal benefits of the herbs, you should also dry them through the below techniques
- Air drying: Dry it in a ventilated area without any sunlight exposure
- Shade drying: Dry it in a well-shaded region
- Microwave drying: Dry it by placing it in the microwave with herbs between two paper towels in low setting
- Oven drying: Dry the herbs by keeping them on a baking sheet and heating them in a low oven setting
- Screen/rack drying: Dry it by spreading the herb in a screen or rack in a warm and well-ventilated area
Before you include herbal medicines for any ailments, it’s advised to have a consultation with healthcare professionals. They will guide you through the dosage, necessity, and other important information. Note that the details mentioned here are just for informative purposes, and it does not replace any prescribed medicine.
Herbs, when used with modern medicine or other herbs, may interact with each other. This can alter the herb’s efficiency and cause unexpected side effects. That’s why it’s recommended to discuss possible interactions with your healthcare professional before use. You are advised not to use any herb if you are allergic to its components.
Herbs have been used along with modern medicine to ensure a healthy lifestyle. Its diversity has contributed to holistic wellness for people. That’s why incorporating medicinal herb gardens will benefit in the long term.
However, it’s important to understand the usage and safety of herbs before including them in your life. For that, we recommend consulting a healthcare provider and doing your research well before starting. Self-medication of any sort is not advisable.