In Europe, apothecaries stocked herbal ingredients for their medicines. In the Latin names for plants created by Linnaeus, the word officinalis indicates that a plant was used in this way. For example, the marsh mallow has the classification Althaea officinalis, as it was traditionally used as an emollient to soothe ulcers. Ayurvedic medicine, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine are other examples of medical practices that incorporate medical uses of plants. Pharmacognosy is the branch of modern medicine about medicines from plant sources. Plants included here are those that have been or are being used medicinally, in at least one such medicinal tradition.
This mushroom has a long history of use in Chinese herbalism. It is considered a great tonic for building physical strength and endurance. There is a substance in cordyceps which dilates the lung’s airways, providing more oxygen to the blood. For this fact it is very popular with athletes. This healing mushroom is also used to treat asthma, cough and bronchitis. It possesses anti-inflammatory properties and has the ability to relax the bronchial walls. It’s a great immune system booster as well.
Ashwagandha is sometimes called “Indian ginseng” as it has many similar health properties. This herb is very popular in the Ayurvedic system of health in India. It is considered an adaptogen. It is commonly used to relieve stress and strengthen the immune system. It has the ability to strengthen the body and increase endurance. This herb has been used in India for over 3,000 years as a rejuvenator. The seeds of this plant are thought to have a diuretic effect, while the leaves possess anti-inflammatory, analgesic and sedative properties. The chemical components of the root have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, immune strengthening and sedative properties. This is a great herb for athletes and active people that need to increase their energy, strength and stamina.
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Clubmoss has been used by ancient healers for over two thousand years. The druids used this plant as a laxative and purgative. Native Americans used it to treat postpartum pain, fever, weakness and to stop the bleeding of wounds. Today, clubmoss is used for kidney and urinary disorders, stomach upset, diarrhea and for treating skin conditions. This plant contains a substance called Huperzine which may be effective for memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease. More studies on clubmoss have to be done to determine it’s safety and effectiveness in this area.
Hoxsey Therapy is a mixture of herbs which cures cancer. It began to be sold in 1920s by Mr. Harry Hoxsey. Mr. Hoxsey said that the treatment came from his great-grandfather, who observed a horse with a tumor on its leg cure itself by grazing upon certain wild plants. John Hoxsey gathered these herbs and mixed them with other folk remedies that were used for cancer. The therapy aims to restore physiological normalcy to a disturbed metabolism throughout the body, and to help detoxify the consequences of cancer. At one point, Mr. Harry Hoxsey had 17 clinics located in the United States. He was shut down by the US FDA. A clinic now exists in Mexico.
Another well know spice in the kitchen cinnamon is also known for it's medicinal properties. While not really an herb I still think it's important to list it in our list of herbs and their uses. Cinnamon actually comes from the inner bark of a tree in the laurel family. It's been used for centuries and was a hot commodity for trade in ancient times. In fact during the first century A.D. in Rome cinnamon was 15 times more expensive than silver. The Chinese were probably the first to use cinnamon as a medicinal herb and used it to treat fevers, and diarrhea. In more modern times cinnamon has been found to stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics, as it has an insulin kind of effect.