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Nature’s 10 Most Powerful Medicinal Plants and the Science Behind Them

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Herbal studies are now proving the effectiveness of plants for medicinal purposes…

Today, we live in a time when manufactured medicines and prescriptions prevail, but is a time approaching when they won’t be the only approach to healing?

Even with all of these engineered options at our fingertips, many people find themselves turning back to the medicinal plants that started it all: herbal remedies that have the ability to heal and boost physical and mental well-being.

In fact, at the beginning of the 21st century, 11% of the 252 drugs considered “basic and essential” by the World Health Organization were “exclusively of flowering plant origin.” Drugs like codeine, quinine, and morphine all contain plant-derived ingredients.

While these manufactured drugs have certainly become paramount in our lives, it can be comforting to know that the power of nature is on our side, and these herbal choices are available to complement our health practices.

But the extent of the power they hold is also still being explored. These alternatives aren’t cure-alls, and they aren’t perfect. Many carry the same risks and side effects as manufactured medicines. Many of them are sold with unfounded promises.

However, both plants and supplements, which aren’t regulated for safety or quality, can have questionable dosage and might have a risk of contamination. Keep this in mind before choosing supplements from the shelf.

These plants have the most numerous high-quality studies and are safer choices among herbal remedies.

We hope this guide will act as a starting point to those who wish to integrate herbal remedies into their lives and arrive armed with knowledge. As always, speak with your doctor before starting any new health treatment.

Ginko

As one of the oldest tree species, gingko is also one of the oldest homoeopathic adaptogenic plants and a key herb in Chinese medicine. The leaves are used to create capsules, tablets, and extracts, and when dried, can be consumed as a tea.

It’s perhaps best-known for its ability to boost brain health. Studies say that gingko can treat patients with mild to moderate dementia, and can slow cognitive decline in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Recent research is looking into a component that can help diabetes, and there continue to be more studies, including an animal study that says it might influence bone healing.

INTERESTING FACT

The gingko tree is considered a living fossil, with fossils dating from 270 million years ago. These trees can live up to 3,000 years.

Turmeric

With its brilliant orange hue, it’s impossible to miss a bottle of turmeric sitting on a spice shelf. Originating in India, turmeric is believed to have anti-cancer properties and can prevent DNA mutations.

As an anti-inflammatory, it can be taken as a supplement and it’s been used topically for people with arthritis who wish to relieve discomfort. It’s used worldwide as a cooking ingredient, which makes it a delicious, antioxidant-rich addition to many dishes.

According to recent research, turmeric is also showing promise as a treatment for a variety of dermatologic diseases and joint arthritis.

INTERESTING FACT

Turmeric has been used as a medicinal herb for 4,000 years. It’s a tentpole of an Indian alternative medicine practice called Ayurveda.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a lot more than those pretty, purple coneflowers you see dotting gardens. These blooms have been used for centuries as medicine in the form of teas, juice, and extracts. Today, they can be taken as powders or supplements.

The best-known use of echinacea is to shorten symptoms of the common cold, but more studies are needed to verify this benefit and to understand how echinacea boosts immunity when a virus is present.

Generally, save a few potential side effects, echinacea is relatively safe. Even though it needs more testing, you can always choose to use it if you’re hoping to see your cold symptoms end more quickly.

INTERESTING FACT

Some of the earliest people to use echinacea as a medicinal herb were Native Americans. The first archaeological evidence dates back to the 18th century.

Lavender

If you experience anxiety, chances are that someone along the way has recommended that you use lavender essential oil, and for good reason. This aromatic, purple flower has a fairly strong standing among studies, which have mainly focused on its anti-anxiety capacities.

It’s proven to be soothing in a study conducted among dental patients, while another study confirmed that lavender can directly impact mood and cognitive performance. It’s also been commended for its sedative properties to help people get much-needed sleep.

Recently, it’s been discovered that lavender carries anti-inflammatory benefits as well. It’s most effective diluted and applied to the skin or used in aromatherapy, and it has few side effects.

INTERESTING FACT

Lavender was first brought to Provence, France, by the Romans 2,000 years ago.

Tea Tree Oil

The tea tree, which is native to Australia, produces an oil that’s long been thought to be beneficial for skin conditions, including mild acne, athlete’s foot, small wounds, dandruff, insect bites, and other inflammatory skin conditions.

There needs to be further study into acne and scalp use, but for now, there’s a degree of research into the antimicrobial superpowers of tea tree oil on wounds and topical infections.

One recent study said that tea tree oil slowed the growth of acne-causing microbes. It’s commonly used as a highly concentrated essential oil.

Tea tree oil, as with all essential oils, should be diluted in a carrier oil.

INTERESTING FACT

Tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of a tree that’s native to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia.

Grapeseed Extract

For years, grapeseed extract, which is available via liquid, tablets, or capsules, has been well-established and applauded for its antioxidant activity. It has potent health benefits, including lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and reducing symptoms of poor circulation in the leg veins.

Studies are confirming that regular consumption of grapeseed extract has anticancer effects and seems to halt cancer cell growth.

INTERESTING FACT

Grapeseed extract contains the same antioxidants found in wine.

Chamomile

With flowers that resemble small daisies, chamomile is another medicinal plant that’s thought to have anti-anxiety properties. Most people know it because it’s a popular tea flavour says that over 1 million cups per day are consumed around the world), but it can also be ingested through liquids, capsules, or tablets.

The calming powers of chamomile have been frequently studied, including a 2009 study that states chamomile is superior to taking a placebo when treating generalized anxiety disorder. One recent study confirmed it’s safe for long-term use, and another recent study looked beyond its use for anxiety and confirmed that it also shows potential in anticancer treatments.

INTERESTING FACT

There are two types of chamomile: German chamomile, an annual that thrives in the Midwest, and Roman chamomile, a perennial that attracts pollinators and smells like apples.

Evening Primrose Oil

The vibrant yellow evening primrose flower produces an oil that’s thought to alleviate the symptoms of PMS and skin conditions like eczema.

Studies that are available on this oil tend to be all over the map, but there are studies that are stronger than others. For example, some studies have found that evening primrose oil has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been known to help with conditions such as atopic dermatitis and diabetic neuropathy. It can also help with other health concerns, such as breast pain.

Recent research points to improving the quality of life for patients with multiple sclerosis, changing hormones and insulin sensitivity in those dealing with polycystic ovary syndrome, and using it topically to improve mild dermatitis.

According to these studies, evening primrose oil might just be the Swiss Army knife of the medicinal plant world. The caveat is that it can interact with several medications. More research is coming, and the applications are promising.

INTERESTING FACT

Evening primrose flowers are also called moonflowers because they bloom as the sun begins to set. People often say they smell like lemons.

Flax Seed

Flax seed, also available as an oil, is one of the safer choices among plant-based dietary supplements. Harvested for thousands of years, today flax seed is praised for its antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Although more research needs to be done with human subjects, one study says that flax seed can help prevent colon cancer.

Another study cites that flax seed has the ability to reduce blood pressure. When consumed, it can even aid in reducing obesity. Many people add flax seed and flaxseed meal to oatmeal and smoothies, and it’s also available in the form of tablets, oil (which can be put into capsules), and flour.

The best way to add flax seed is through your diet. Sprinkle ground seeds on cereal or salad, cook in hot cereal, stew, homemade breads, or smoothies. Add flaxseed oil to salad dressing.

INTERESTING FACT

Flax seeds are one of a handful of plant-based sources for omega-3 fatty acids. Other sources include chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing.

It has been used for over 3,000 years to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration (Source).

Its botanical name is Withania somnifera, and it’s also known by several other names, including Indian ginseng and winter cherry.

The ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers that’s native to India and North Africa. Extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves are used to treat a variety of conditions.

Many of its health benefits are attributed to its high concentration of withanolides, which have been shown to fight inflammation and tumor growth (Source).

Studies have shown that ashwagandha may help reduce cortisol levels and also lower blood sugar levels.

But ashwagandha is perhaps best known for its ability to reduce stress. Researchers have reported that it blocked the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating chemical signalling in the nervous system (Source).

Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb with multiple health benefits. It can reduce anxiety and stress, help fight depression, boost fertility and testosterone in men, and even boost brain function. Supplementing with ashwagandha may be an easy and effective way to improve your health and quality of life.

INTERESTING FACT

“Ashwagandha” is Sanskrit for “smell of the horse,” which refers to both its unique smell and ability to increase strength.

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The Sanitiser
Active + Botanical Benefits
Actives

Ethanol
Ethanol is a proven aid to preventing transmission of infectious agents and widely accepted as one of the most important infection control measures to prevent infectious disease transmission. The antimicrobial activity of ethanol can be attributed to its ability to denature and coagulate proteins. The microorganism’s cells are then lysed, and their cellular metabolism is disrupted. The activity is broad and immediate. Ethanol [the most common alcohol sanitising ingredient], appears to be the most effective against viruses.

D-Panthenol
D-Panthenol is the provitamin—a precursor, or substance that the body can convert into a specific vitamin—for B5. When panthenol is applied topically, it’s quickly converted into vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid. B5 binds to and holds water effectively, moisturising the skin and helping it maintain softness and elasticity. Panthenol has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and to boost skin barrier function.

Botanicals

Vegetable Glyerin
Glycerin is hygroscopic — meaning it can draw moisture from the air around us and help keep that moisture in skin, thus minimising trans epidermal water loss [due to evaporation]. Research has shown that glycerin mimics what’s known as skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF), which is why it’s compatible with all skin types, of all ages. Replenishing skin’s NMF is important because it becomes depleted as we age, are subject to environmental exposure, and use irritating ingredients.

Sandalwood
Sandalwood is very mild but still has a powerful effect on the skin. Due to its antiseptic properties it prevents rashes, heals itching and inflammation, cools and soothes skin and moisturises and tones the skin with mild astringent action. In aromatherapy, inhaling the aroma of sandalwood oil or absorbing it through the skin is thought to transmit messages to parts of the brain involved in controlling emotions, known as the limbic system. These messages are believed to affect both an emotional and physiological response.

Carrot Seed
The benefits of carrot seed oil include antifungal and antibacterial qualities, due to the bioflavonoids it contains. Rich in vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and various essential fatty acids, carrot seed is incredibly skin-repairing to dry and damaged skin. It also contains a large amount of vitamin E, which is great for adding and retaining moisture in the skin.

 

Patchouli Oil
Patchouli oil, which contains several mono- and sesquiterpenoids, alkaloids, and flavonoids, is thought to possess significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities.In fact, it is reputed to impart antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects, and is also known to protect the skin barrier function. Studies have found that patchouli oil exerts significant antibacterial activity against staphylococcus bacteria. Patchouli is commonly used in aromatherapy for its ability to calm depression. It encourages the release of serotonin and dopamine; two hormones which ease feelings of anger and anxiety.

Lavender
Along with the other benefits commonly found in botanical ingredients [anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial], lavender is unique in its proven ability to boost blood circulation. This enables more brightening oxygen and nutrients to reach the skin’s surface. It can also protect and promote the skin’s natural barrier, plus balance its pH levels. Aromatically, this oil, rich in esters and alcohols, is useful for when fighting depression as well as anxiety and stress, helping to relax the mind, proving to be interesting in its application at a time of increased tension.

Clove Bud
Clove owes its medicinal benefits to its antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiviral and stimulating properties, and is one of the richest sources of antioxidants. Clove oil contains a chemical called eugenol that acts as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent. With the help of these properties it can treat cuts and wounds and fight against fungal infections. Clove bud essential oil is used in aromatherapy to stimulate circulation and arousal of the mind and body allowing you to achieve mental clarity.

Bergamot
Thanks to its antibacterial and antiseptic properties, bergamot is a natural cleanser. It can help to tone the skin, soothe skin irritation, and heal cuts and scars. Bergamot is also rich in polyphenols that have strong antioxidant effects to help protect the skin from free radical damage. Aromatically, bergamot is one of the best oils to support the central nervous system — it’s known to be calming to the spirit.

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