Since ancient times, people have used plants to heal themselves. Frescos dating to 1500 or 1600 B.C. found on a Greek island are said to depict a goddess cultivatingÂ saffronÂ for medicinal use. Today, using plants to treat disease is widespread in most cultures. And did you know that many herbal remedies can be found in your garden? Check out our list of common remedies that may have you reconsidering what’s a weed.
Editor’s note: Just like prescription drugs, plants can cause adverse side effects. Always consult a medical professional before taking any medications, including herbal remedies.
DandelionsÂ â€” yes, the hated weeds â€” can be a diuretic. They also containÂ potassium,which experts say is lost through excessive urination. Some apply it topically to treat eczema, while others take it internally for arthritis and even intestinal disorders. Its leaves are thought to regulate blood sugar levels.
Rosemary, native to the Mediterranean region, is part of the mint family Lamiaceae. A recent study found that the carnosic acid in rosemary may reduce the risk of Alzheimerâ€™s disease. The oil in its flowers is antibacterial and anti-fungal. It improves circulation to the brain, which is why it has often been associated withÂ â€śremembrance.â€ť
Lavender comes from the Latin rootÂ lavare, which means “to wash.” WhileÂ lavender is well-knownÂ for its fragrance, it also has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. In ancient Greece, Rome and the Middle East, lavender was used as an antiseptic. Through the ages, it has also been used to treat anxiety, migraines, insomnia and depression.
The clear gel from anÂ aloe vera plantÂ has been used for centuries to treat burns, cuts and skin infections. Experts note that it may have properties to reduce skin inflammation. But aloe vera can also help relieve constipation. As theÂ Mayo Clinicpoints out, â€śdried latex from the inner lining of the leaf has traditionally been used as an oral laxative.â€ť Some also use it to treat heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome.
Lemon thyme has been used as a digestive aid for children with upset tummies. It also works as an antibiotic and has been used for centuries to treat wounds. It has also been used as an anti-fungal against toenail problems. And if you pick up a bottle of mouthwash, check the label. Thymol, one of the main active ingredients, is a derivative of thyme.
Celery seed extract has been shown toÂ reduce blood pressureÂ in animal studies. It also functions as a diuretic and can be used to treat psoriasis. However, large amounts might cause photodermatitis, so herbalists urge caution with its use. The essential oil of celery seed is known to have a â€śsedative and anticonvulsant effect.â€ť
As the Massachusetts Medical Society Gardens notes, â€śa teaÂ made from the leaves is an astringent, a diuretic, an expectorant and an agent to reduce fever.â€ť Because of these properties, sunflowers have been used to treat all sorts of colds and coughs. It can also extract toxic ingredients from the soil and was used by the Russian government to help clean up after theÂ Chernobyl disaster.
Peppermint is known to soothe headaches, skin irritations, nausea, pain, diarrhea and flatulence. Because it calms the stomach, it can aid indigestion. Is there anything this minty plant canâ€™t do? Some studies have shown it also has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Preparations made from its leaves can also relieveÂ chest congestion.
Catnip is not just a happy-time elixir for cats. Chewing on catnip leaves can help toothaches. It also makes you sweat, which can lower fevers. It is also known to be aÂ mild sedativeÂ to humans. Some people use catnip oil as an insect repellent. Some research suggests that it repels mosquitoes 10 times more effectively than DEET.
Sweet basil an effective insect repellent, but did you know that the early Greeks used its leaves to treat scorpion stings? Ancient Romans used it to â€śalleviate flatulence, counteract poisonings and to stimulate breast milk production.â€ť Today, a variety called holy basil is used in India to treat stress, diabetes and even asthma.Â Some studiesÂ have shown that it may have antiviral and anticancer properties.
About The Author:
A regular contributor to MNN.com, Katherine Butler has written for NPRâ€™s Pacific Swell, EcoSalon.com, Grist.org, CocoEcoMagazine.com, Greenopolis.com and Greenopia.com. Her work has been featured on CNN.com and Forbes.com. She also writes for the small screen, with credits including Disney Channelâ€™s The Replacements and USAâ€™s In Plain Sight.
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