Plants as Medicine: A Return to Our Roots

Plants as Medicine: A Return to Our Roots

Thank you to freelance writer and guest blogger, Sushira Suri for contributing today’s post.

Over 20,000 plant species have medicinal properties that many cultures around the world have relied on for their health care needs over thousands of years.

In the US, however, our medical system is based on costly pharmaceuticals that often have negative side effects. About 8% of hospital admissions in the US are due to adverse side effects of synthetic drugs, according to research published in the Journal of Nephropharmacology, and some 100,000 people die annually due to reactions to medicines.

Side effects of synthetic drugs and the development of resistance to drugs for infectious diseases have led many people to turn to plants for treatment of many ailments.

Most medicinal plants possess strong antioxidant properties and may help prevent diseases such as cancer, memory deficit, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease.

Medicinal herbs can be consumed as tea, added to salads, soups, sandwiches or casseroles, or applied topically as an essential oil. It’s important to remember that you should always double-check with your doctor before consuming or using anything new as interactions or reactions may occur.

If you choose to grow some of these plants, remember to take proper care according to the plant’s care guidelines and refrain from using any pesticides or other harmful chemicals on your plants. You don’t want any of those chemicals in or on your body.

Here are 7 medicinal plants along with their medicinal properties and uses:

1. Basil

The type most readily available in the U.S. is sweet basil, familiar because it is prevalent in Italian cuisine. Other common types are Thai basil (used in many Asian dishes), lemon basil and holy basil. Basil is a common herb used to garnish salads, pasta, pizza and many other meals. Basil has abundant vitamins and minerals including vitamin K and iron. Holy basil, commonly referred to as tulsi, is a specific species of basil that originates from India. It is considered a sacred plant that is used in teas and ointments to treat a variety of ailments including fevers and diabetes. Basil health benefits:

  • Reduces stress
  • Rich source of antioxidants
  • Prevents some harmful effects of aging
  • Reduces inflammation and swelling
  • Strengthens bones and liver
  • Boosts immunity
  • Boosts metabolism

Common uses:

  • When basil’s oils are extracted to make essential oil, it is used for treating cuts, wounds, and skin infections. It’s also been shown to fight acne.
  • Don’t stress-Basil essential oil is also commonly used in aromatherapy to treat nervous tension, mental fatigue, and depression.
  • Sprinkle as a garnish on dishes
  • Include as an ingredient for smoothies

2. Catnip

Catnip is native to Central Europe, though it can now be found in most of Canada and the Northeast United States. Its dried leaves and white flowers can be used to make tea, which is sometimes used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and headaches. It is used as a stress reliever, sleep aid and a solution for skin issues. The majority of its health benefits come from the presence of nepetalactone.Catnip health benefits:

  • Repels bugs and relieves irritation from bug bites
  • Calms restlessness, anxiety, and stress
  • Relieves stomach discomfort
  • Accelerates recovery from colds and fevers

Common uses:

  • Brew leaves for a tea
  • Dry leaves and burn to release the aroma
  • Apply essential oils or leaves topically

3. Lavender

Lavender is an herb native to Northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean.Lavender is often used for skin care. The oil extracted from the lavender flower has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is also beneficial in treating anxiety, stress, and insomnia.Health Benefits of Lavender

  • Reduces dandruff and cool your scalp
  • Relieves dryness, itching, and swelling of the skin
  • Boosts mood
  • Better solution for sunburn and headache

Common uses:

  • Lavender oil can be taken orally, applied to the skin, and breathed in through aromatherapy.
  • Natural Deodorant. Apply a couple of drops of lavender oil to your underarm area to keep yourself smelling fresh.
  • First Aid. Lavender oil is great for minor scrapes and rashes too, so it makes a great addition to any first aid kit.
  • Treatment for Cold and Flu. Add 4-6 drops of lavender to a bowl of hot water, then place a towel over your head and the bowl. Inhale the steamy air to help ease your breathing and relax your mind.

4. Rosemary

Native to the Mediterranean area and Asia, Rosemary is a robust plant that grows very well in sunny locations and in well-draining soil.Rosemary is full of vitamins and minerals that help support many different functions in the body, including improving memory and hair growth. Breathing rosemary oil may help you focus and improve memory.Rosemary health benefits:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Improves memory and enhances overall brain function
  • Supports liver health
  • Supports hair growth

Common uses:

  • Brew dried leaves for a tea
  • Sprinkle as a garnish for dishes
  • Apply essential oil topically


Thyme is a wonderful ingredient that’s used in cuisines around the world, particularly in France, Italy, and across the Mediterranean. Thymol is a phenol present in thyme that is used in mouthwash and vapor rubs. This compound gives thyme its strong anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Thyme’s anti-fungal properties also help in preventing food borne illnesses since thyme can decontaminate food and prevent infections in the body. Thyme will boost your immunity. If you feel a cold coming on, thyme can help get you back in good health. Thyme health benefits:

  • Soothes sore throats and coughs
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Treats respiratory problems
  • Supports the immune system

Common uses:

  • Thyme is a main ingredient used in preparing pesto sauce, which you can use as a condiment or add to pasta or rice.
  • Sprinkle as a garnish for meals
  • Brew fresh leaves for tea
  • Apply topically as a cream

6. Marigold

Marigolds originally came from Mexico and Guatemala. The flowering plant grows in a wide range of soils and is used for pest control as well as in food. The calendula variety, or pot marigolds, are used to add color to food, but also have many health benefits. Marigolds have antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. They increase blood flow to the skin and boost collagen production, aiding in diaper rash, bed sores, wounds burns and varicose veins. Health Benefits of Marigold:

  • Reduces fever
  • Relieves wound, burn, headache and toothache pain
  • Promotes healthy gut bacteria
  • Relieves allergy symptoms

Common uses:

  • Calendula or Marigold oil can be used in skincare and body massage. Use 10% Calendula oil to a 90% ratio of lighter carrier oil such as Sweet Almond, Grapeseed or Wheatgerm oil. Use 30ml of this blend for a full body massage. It can be applied directly to a troubled skin area.
  • Calendula or Marigold tea. To make Calendula tea: Add 1 teaspoon of flowers to 1 cup of hot water.

7. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is an evergreen succulent. Originated from the Arabian Peninsula, this plant grows worldwide in tropical climates. The plant is famous among modern gardeners as it can grow indoors as well as outdoors. This plant prefers dry, warm climates, so it doesn’t need to be watered every day. Many industries use the plant in products such as beverages, lotions, and ointments. Health Benefits Of Aloe Vera:

  • Powerful antioxidant
  • Reduces oral plaque
  • Prevents Wrinkles
  • Relieves Sunburn

Common uses:

  • Apply the gel to your skin for a soothing facial.
  • Drink aloe vera juice. Take the gel, dice it into small pieces and blend with other fruit or vegetable juices.
  • Use as a hair conditioner. Mix equal quantities of aloe vera juice and extra virgin coconut oil. Apply and leave it in for as long as possible for strong, smooth and bouncy hair.

Our lifestyle is becoming progressively more technological. It is important to stay connected to nature. Using herbs can be a comparatively safe, eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to modern medicines.

This information is provided for conversational purposes and is not meant to be interpreted as medical advice.

Sushira Suri is a freelance writer, poet and a guest blogger with experience in the teaching of commerce. Her creative writing aims to inspire the readers so that they can face the challenges of their life with a positive outlook. For a look into her work, you can visit Yourquoteapp. Click on the link and read some amazing poetry and quotes.


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