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The 27 best medicinal plants, their effects and contraindications

The 27 best medicinal plants, their effects and contraindications

May 3, 2024

Since ancient times, when medical knowledge about how our body works was very limited compared to today, different peoples used different remedies to relieve the discomfort, pain or symptoms of some diseases.

A large part of them were based on the use of the properties of medicinal plants , the knowledge of which allowed in many cases to alleviate a large number of ailments.

The different medicinal plants have been used since then, even today. However, it is necessary to consider what effects they have on the body and how to use them, as well as the fact that its healing potential is limited. Throughout this article we are going to show you some of the medicinal plants that exist and some of their properties.

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What is a medicinal plant?

We give the name of medicinal plant to all that plant that has positive properties that can be used either directly or macerated or infused in order to contribute to a recovery or improvement of the health status of a subject with some type of disease.

The use of these substances is known since antiquity, being named in the papyrus of Ebers (Egypt, around 1550 a.C) plus me half a thousand medicinal plants. And with the passage of time and the observation of new species and varieties, we can actually find many more.

Knowledge about what they were used for and how to use them has been passed on from generation to generation and has been modernized little by little until today. In fact, although the use of medicinal plants seems something of the past, the certain thing is that according to the WHO the percentage of population that uses some type of medicinal herb is quite elevated. In many cases we do not even notice, as for example when we take chamomile when our tummy hurts or we take a lime to relax.

Although, as a general rule, the use of these plants can be beneficial, the truth is that they must be taken into account that they have their limitations: often the concentration of active ingredients is very low and its effects are more limited than other alternatives. Likewise, caution should be exercised with possible interactions when consumed with drugs (For example, you should consult your doctor if you use St. John's wort and antidepressants).

The use of medicinal plants is not particularly regulated, which can lead to misuse and not taking into account possible drug interactions and other contraindications. And finally, and this is something that we have mentioned previously, the use of medicinal plants does not have a purely curative objective: it should not replace the consultation with the doctor or the taking of medication.

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27 medicinal plants

As we have said, there is a very wide variety of medicinal plants that have interesting properties and can help us to alleviate or prevent different problems.

Below and by way of example, we show you a score of the best known. Notably many of them may have contraindications , being advisable to consult a professional before taking them.

1. Chamomile

Chamomile is one of the medicinal plants that is best known for the properties of its flower. Its effects are especially relevant in the treatment of gastrointestinal discomfort .

In addition, it has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and relaxing effects. It is used in gastrointestinal and muscular pain, cramps and headaches, eczema, gum inflammation, wounds and sinusitis. It also reduces cholesterol and apparently has anticancer properties.

2. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is another of the best known medicinal plants. It is a well-known plant with anti-inflammatory capacity and that is used in various personal hygiene products due to its favorable action for skin regeneration. Contributes to improve spots, burns and wounds.

Also in some foods: ingested, improves intestinal function and strengthens the immune system .

3. Garlic

One of the most used plants in the kitchen is also one of the best known medicinal plants. Garlic is a potent strengthener of the immune system and has effects that promote efficient blood circulation (it is anticoagulant), as well as being antibacterial and antibiotic and having antioxidant properties .

Common problems such as hypertension or the presence of infections are some of the circumstances in which their ingested use can be beneficial. Being an antioxidant also reduces the rate of cell aging.

4. Eucalyptus

The eucalyptus is another of the best known medicinal plants, especially in regard to its action against respiratory diseases. Asthma, bronchitis or flu are some of the typical problems in which it is used. It also has antimicrobial capabilities and facilitates the secretion of fluids such as mucus (being a potent expectorant).

Finally, also has effects in reducing blood sugar level , something that can be useful for the diabetic population. It is used in food, medicinal products or even in body hygiene products.

5. Horsetail

This plant, specifically its stem, is especially known by those with cystitis or other infections of the urinary system. It also has positive effects on skin and nails, being a good cell regenerator and also strengthening the bones. Rich in silicon and highly diuretic and purifying, it helps eliminate toxins. It has astringent properties that help control hemorrhages .

6. Hypericum

Also called St. John's wort. This medicinal plant has different properties, but it highlights the fact that it has antidepressant properties (in this sense, caution is required if combined with antidepressants, and its consumption is not recommended for more than six months), blocking the re-uptake of monoamines.

It has also been useful in anxiety and insomnia problems, and improving menstrual flow alterations. It is also known its analgesic and regulating capacity of the stomach acidity, as well as its role as help to remedy diarrhea and vomiting . Also, it has been seen in animals that extracts of St. John's Wort could help improve insulin resistance.

7. Ginger

This spice is very useful, possessing multiple properties that make it an increasingly relevant medicinal plant. In addition to antibacterial, antiviral and antiparasitic properties it has been observed that it has anti-inflammatory and anti-emetic effects (decreases nausea and vomiting).

Digestive problems, fatigue, headaches and menstrual pain are some of the problems in which it has been effective.

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8. Thyme

Thyme possesses antioxidant and antiseptic properties. Rich in flavonoids, vitamin C, iron and magnesium. It stimulates the appetite and is also used as an expectorant . Its antiseptic action meant that in ancient times it was used to treat wounds. It is also good for toning the skin and hair.

9. Lavender

Lavender has relaxing properties, being useful for situations of stress and insomnia. In addition to this it has healing properties, anelgésicas and favoring the circulation and the proper functioning of the respiratory system. It also has properties that improve the digestion and secretion of gastric juices.

10. Tila

Another highly known medicinal plant with relaxing properties is linden. Whether in the form of a flower or an infusion, it is widely used to decrease the level of stress and anxiety and to relax the body. It also facilitates sleep and is diuretic, in addition to having antispasmodic properties. It also increases the excretion of toxins through sweat (which also potentiates).

11. Dandelion

Dandelion is a very nutritious plant (it is proposed that it may have more iron even than products such as spinach) and with multiple medicinal properties. Especially indicated for liver and kidney problems (eg stones or grit), improves diuresis and detoxification of the body, in addition to having stimulating properties.

But nevertheless, is contraindicated for pregnant women and people who suffer from bipolar disorder and are medicated with lithium salts, as well as having interactions with other medications.

12. Ginkgo biloba

The leaves of this plant seem to have positive properties in terms of stimulating cognitive performance. It is said that it improves memory and concentration, although the consensus is not as broad as it is believed. As well It is antioxidant, and improves blood circulation .

It also has contraindications, especially when taking anticoagulants or other products that already facilitate the flow of blood.

13. Mate

The plant with which the well-known Argentine drink is made is also very positive for health. We are facing a powerful antioxidant that also improves the immune system. It also has stimulant effects, such as tea or coffee, and contributes to lower cholesterol. It favors physical and mental activity, and also it is diuretic .

14. Oregano

Oregano is an old acquaintance of our kitchens, traditionally very well valued and also possesses great medicinal properties. Especially known for its antioxidant action, it also has antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties.

Cramps, headaches, stomach and molar pain and respiratory problems can benefit from its consumption either ingested or in tea.

15. Passionflower

It is a plant that has calming properties. It lowers blood pressure and reduces the heart rate.In addition to cardiovascular problems, it is useful in the treatment of sleep problems. It has mild bronchodilator and antispasmodic properties.

It is analgesic and also helps to calm gastrointestinal problems. In other uses can be used to treat burns and inflammations .

16. Willow bark

Not only spices, flowers and roots have medicinal properties, but elements like willow bark can also serve to alleviate certain evils. The extract of this bark is useful as an anti-inflammatory. It has also been useful for weight loss, the treatment of headache (in fact, its active ingredient is salicylic acid, such as aspirin), arthritis and bone pain.

As with aspirin, however, this plant may have contraindications (it is not recommended for children, adolescents or nursing mothers, nor for those who consume anticoagulants). It is also used to treat skin problems, calluses and warts.

17. Agave

Agave also has medicinal properties. Specifically highlights its use in the healing of wounds and sores , can be used as a disinfectant (although poorly used could become poisonous). Its sap, in addition to a possible antiseptic, is useful to stimulate the intestinal flora and decrease cholesterol and triglycerides.

Some research shows that it favors bone calcification and the regulation of insulin production (so diabetics and people with bone problems could benefit from this plant). In its time it was used to try to treat syphilis, jaundice or tuberculosis. However, this plant also has contraindications and can cause dermatitis.

18. Cranberry

Cranberries also have medicinal properties. Its fruit is not only edible but also a powerful antioxidant, which is also diuretic and beneficial in the prevention of urinary and kidney problems. Antibacterial, helps to treat infections. It is also astringent.

It has positive effects on the eyes and favors the repair of the cells of the retina. Likewise, It is good for circulation and for the treatment of ulcers and eczema . And not only its fruits but also its leaves can be used: it has been observed that they have a hypoglycemic action, reducing blood sugar (something useful for diabetics).

19. Holly

Some varieties of this plant have been used to treat a lot of problems, from lowering the fever to purging, to be an element that helps to combat jaundice. It has diuretic and relaxing effects , in addition to lowering blood pressure and contributing to digestive problems.

20. Elderflower

This beautiful flower has been used as a remedy to treat different problems. With antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to diuretics and laxatives, it has been used to treat influenza episodes and reduce cough and problems with mucous membranes. It also seems to reduce cholesterol and reduce blood sugar levels.

21. Yucca

This perennial shrub native to certain central regions of South America, in tropical parts. What makes it special is that its roots are very rich in starches and help to increase the metabolic rate and to lose weight, although it is very important to combine it with foods rich in macronutrients, since this ingredient does not contribute them.

It must be borne in mind that the constant consumption of large quantities of cassava with a deficit of vitamins and minerals can cause diseases, so it is better to ration it wisely.

22. Ginseng

This plant is used as an ingredient for infusions that can be used to provide energy and keep people active. In addition, it reduces blood pressure and strengthens the immune system, by enhancing the production of lymphocytes.

23. Poleo mint

Pennyroyal has been used for a long time for its ability to increase appetite and improve the assimilation of nutrients by the body, which improves the process of digestion.

24. Chamomile

Chamomile is very useful to end heartburn, among other things. However, caution should be exercised with its consumption, given that is contraindicated for pregnant women given the risk of facilitating an abortion.

25. Hortiga

The hortiga is a plant with a bad reputation because its leaves produce hives, but beyond this annoying characteristic we can find medicinal properties. In particular, the hortiga has the ability to exercise as a vasoconstrictor, which is useful in cases where you have to stop bleeding .

On the other hand, by containing a lot of iron, it can also be used to fight anemia.

26. Foxglove

This plant is rich in digoxin and digitoxin, which exert a diuretic effect and favor blood circulation.

27. Sandalwood

Its antiseptic properties based on sandalwood make the essential oils of this plant a good help to disinfect wounds . In addition, it is an effective diuretic.

Bibliographic references:

  • Chevallier, A. (1997). Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Madrid: Editorial accent.
  • Mejía Correa, L., Abad, M. I. and Escobar, V. (2014). The secrets of the plants. 3rd edition. Medellín: Secrets to Tell Foundation.
  • Ministry of Health, Government of Chile (2009). MHT traditional herbal medicines: 103 plant species. Santiago: Ministry of Health. Social protection network.

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