Humans have experimented with medicinal plants since ancient times, the oldest written evidence is said to date back 5000 years, found on a Sumerian slab from Nagpur containing 12 recipes for the preparation of natural remedies.
In the beginning, neither the use nor the consequences of the use of different medicinal plants were known, and it was through many trials and errors that mankind found the cures to the multiple diseases. Today, although we have built on previous discoveries, these cures are the result of meticulous scientific studies to obtain medicines of high safety and quality.
What are medicinal plants?
As the name suggests, medicinal plants are those that have the ability to cure an illness, whether physical (such as stomach pain) or mental (such as relieving stress or anxiety). These plants contain chemical substances in some part of them (root, stem, leaves or flowers) called active ingredients, which are obtained through a series of transformation processes and consist of a large number of benefits.
Some active ingredients are essential and volatile oils, which have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, regenerative, etc. properties. Then there are organic acids, which act as analgesics; alkaloids, which facilitate the functioning of our organism; starch, which provides energy and is another anti-inflammatory; and many others such as minerals, sugars and vitamins.
There are different ways to prepare the active ingredients for consumption or application:
- Infusions: The healing part is dissolved in hot water for better digestion.
- Washes: Instead of drinking the infusions, they are used to treat external conditions, such as wounds or ulcers.
- Salads: This is another way of ingesting the active ingredients, but in solid form.
- Poultices: The beneficial part of the plant is crushed and then applied to the affected area.
- Vapors: By subjecting certain plants to heat, they produce a vapor that is used to treat respiratory diseases.
- Syrups: The active components are extracted with water and dissolved in honey or sugar.
Why are they important?
A large number of drugs are based on medicinal plants. For example, the common aspirin is made from acetylsalicylic acid, which comes from the bark of the white willow tree, and many sleeping pills are made from valerian. We say then that their importance comes from the fact that these remedies are the basis of our modern medicine and without them we would not have evolved in the same way.
Their importance and presence is such that the WHO is in charge of their continuous study, both to find out more applications of these plants and to disseminate the knowledge acquired about them.
A couple of decades ago the use of these plants increased in excess and got out of control, with cases of harmful effects on patients coming to light. However, it was not the fault of the remedies themselves, but of their misuse and poor quality. Therefore, this organization was asked to create a set of guidelines comprising a series of techniques and measures necessary for the proper cultivation and harvesting of medicinal plants.
Most used medicinal plants
The list of plants that have healing effects is endless, that is why we will mention only the most remarkable ones:
- Cannabis: In the medicinal field, this plant has multiple benefits. Not only relieves mild to more chronic pains, but it also helps control nausea and vomiting, and it helps people with anorexia and cancer. In addition to all this, cannabis reduces the pressure inside the eyes, which is a problem related to glaucoma and, although it does not work permanently, it is very helpful.
- Chamomile: One of the best known and most used, everyone turns to it first when they feel stomach pains. With its antibacterial, anti-allergic, sedative and anti-inflammatory properties, this plant is also useful for respiratory ailments and conjunctivitis (used for cleansing the eye).
- Lavender: This plant is useful for all kinds of diseases, regarding the psychological ones, it can help with stress, anxiety, insomnia and even headaches, thanks to its relaxing properties. And if we go to the physical, lavender also has antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and improves the digestion of gastric juices.
- Aloe Vera: Apart from soothing burns and other wounds, aloe vera is widely used in cosmetics and personal hygiene products due to its skin regenerating action. In addition, if ingested, it strengthens the immune system and improves intestinal function.
- Garlic: Another plant that strengthens the immune system, this food commonly used in cooking has antibacterial and antioxidant properties. It is usually used in case of infections or hypertension.
- Eucalyptus: Asthma, flu or bronchitis, if you suffer from any respiratory disease of this type, eucalyptus is one of the first options to turn to. Apart from its antimicrobial capabilities, this plant facilitates the secretion of fluids, making it a good expectorant. And, as if that were not enough, it is also used in diabetics, since it reduces the level of sugar in the blood.
- Blueberry: This plant not only has edible fruits but also has healing properties. It is a strong antioxidant, antibacterial and diuretic, which helps prevent urinary and kidney problems.
Medicinal plants have existed since time immemorial and have always been an aid in the field of medicine. They are many and cure from mild to the most severe illnesses.
Some of our students have created companies related to this type of plants, a successful case is that of Maurice Schumacher, who collaborates with several ISAM students from different promotions in his company CCC Agrisol, specialized in the cannabis industry.
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