Herbal Medicine; A to Z, The Most Common Medicine Lists
Herbal Medicine is the study of botany and use of plants intended for medicinal purposes. Plants have been the basis for medical treatments through much of human history, and such traditional medicine is still widely practiced today. Modern medicine makes use of many plant-derived compounds as the basis for evidence-based pharmaceutical drugs. Although phytotherapy may apply modern standards of effectiveness testing to herbs and medicines derived from natural sources, few high-quality clinical trials and standards for purity or dosage exist. The scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts.
Herbal medicine is sometimes also used to refer to paraherbalism or phytotherapy, which is the alternative and pseudoscientific practice of using extracts of plant or animal origin as supposed medicines or health-promoting agents. Phytotherapy differs from plant-derived medicines in standard pharmacology because it does not isolate and standardize the compounds from a given plant believed to be biologically active. It relies on the false belief that preserving the complexity of substances from a given plant with less processing is safer and potentially more effective. There is no evidence that either condition applies. Herbal dietary supplements most often fall under this category
The ability to synthesize a wide variety of chemical compounds that are used to perform important biological functions, and to defend against attack from predators such as insects, fungi and herbivorous mammals is called herbal medicine. Many of these phytochemicals have beneficial effects on long-term health when consumed by humans, and can be used to effectively treat human diseases. At least 12,000 such compounds have been isolated so far; a number estimated to be less than 10% of the total.
These phytochemicals are divided into (1) primary metabolites such as sugars and fats, which are found in all plants; and (2) secondary metabolites – compounds which are found in a smaller range of plants, serving a more specific function. For example, some secondary metabolites are toxins used to deter predation and others are pheromones used to attract insects for pollination. It is these secondary metabolites and pigments that can have therapeutic actions in humans and which can be refined to produce drugs—examples are inulin from the roots of dahlias, quinine from the cinchona, morphine, and codeine from the poppy, and digoxin from the foxglove.
Widely used as an antibiotic and, more recently, for treating cardiovascular disease Garlic is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor and has antidepressant-like effects on mice so might be used as a herbal antidepressant or anxiolytic in humans.
Roots have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea or tincture for treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, nervous system, and also against fever, infections, and flu.
Used as an anti-inflammatory and for osteoarthritis. The US Food and Drug Administration has classified Arnica montana as an unsafe herb because of its toxicity. It should not be taken orally or applied to broken skin where absorption can occur.
Used in hyperactive gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders, such as gastrointestinal (colic, cramps, diarrhea), airways (asthma, bronchitis), cardiovascular, (cardiotonic, antihypertensive and blood purifier), urinary (diuretic and kidney/bladder disorders).
Type of chili that has been used as both food and medicine for thousands of years. Uses have included reducing pain and swelling, lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels and fighting viruses and harmful bacteria, due to high levels of Vitamin C.
Its active ingredient, capsaicine, is the basic of commercial pain-relief ointments in Western medicine. The low incidence of heart attack in Thais may be related to capsaicine’s fibrinolytic action(dissolving blood clots).
Used in a wide variety of roles in traditional medicine, including in particular as a broad-spectrum internal and external antimicrobial, for liver disorders, for intestinal worms and other parasites and as an immune-system stimulant.
Spice that lends its distinctive yellow color to Indian curries, has long been used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine to aid digestion and liver function, relieve arthritis pain, and regulate menstruation.
The Cypripedium species have been used in native remedies for dermatitis, toothaches, anxiety, headaches, as an antispasmodic, stimulant and sedative. However, the preferred species for use are Cyp. parviflorum and Cyp.acaule, used as topical applications or tea.
It came into use in treating cardiac disease in late 18th century England in spite of its high toxicity. Its use has been almost entirely replaced by the pharmaceutical derivative Digoxin, which has a shorter half-life in the body, and whose toxicity is, therefore, more easily managed. Digoxin is used as an antiarrhythmic agent and inotrope.
This plant and other species of Echinacea have been used for at least 400 years by Native Americans to treat infections and wounds, and as a general “cure-all” (panacea). It is currently used for symptoms associated with cold and flu
Although açai berries are a longstanding food source for indigenous people of the Amazon, there is no evidence that they have historically served a medicinal, as opposed to the nutritional role. In spite of their recent popularity in the United States as a dietary supplement, there is currently no evidence for their effectiveness for any health-related purpose.
Bark (and to a lesser extent the fruit) has been used as a laxative, due to its 3 – 7% anthraquinone content. Bark for medicinal use is dried and stored for a year before use, as fresh bark is violently purgative; even dried bark can be dangerous if taken in excess.
Traditionally thought to be good for the eyes and to remove skin blemishes. In modern times herbalists use it to treat skin diseases and conjunctivitis, as well as to cleanse the kidneys. However, Howard (1987) warns that fumitory is poisonous and should only be used under the direction of a medical herbalist.
It contains an active substance called galantamine, which is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Galantamine (or galanthamine) can be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, though it is not a cure.
It has been used as a “lung herb”. Other traditional uses include as an expectorant, astringent, and to treat bronchitis. The essential oil of the plant has been used for centuries as a general tonic for colds and coughs, and to relieve congestion of the mucous membranes.
The leaves are used as herbal medicine to alleviate a cough and fever, pain, and general gastrointestinal disorders as well as to cure dermatologic disorders. Similarly, the fruit juice and oils can be used in the treatment of liver disease, gastrointestinal disorders, chronic wounds or other dermatological disorders.
It has been claimed to have various effects on human health and these effects have been attributed to the high quantity of polyphenols found in mate tea. Mate contains compounds that act as an appetite suppressant, increases mental energy and focus, and improves mood. Yerba mate also contains elements such as potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
The leaves and twigs are used by Native Americans to make a herbal tea used for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, cancer and a number of others. Subsequent studies have been extremely variable, at best. Chaparral has also been shown to have high liver toxicity, and has led to kidney failure, and is not recommended for any use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or American Cancer Society.
Aqueous extracts of bay laurel can be used as astringents and even as a reasonable salve for open wounds. In massage therapy, the essential oil of bay laurel is reputed to alleviate arthritis and rheumatism, while in aromatherapy it is used to treat earaches and high blood pressure.
It was traditionally used as an antiseptic and for mental health purposes. It was also used in ancient Egypt in mummifying bodies. There is little scientific evidence that lavender is effective for most mental health uses.
The plants exhibits potential antibacterial activity. The alcoholic extract of the root has antibacterial activity due to the presence of flavonoid and alkaloids. Henna is also thought to show anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and analgesic effects in experimental animals.
It is known to contain Galantamine (Nivalin, Razadyne, Razadyne ER, Reminyl, Lycoremine in pharmaceutical format). It is used for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and various other memory impairments, in particular those of vascular origin.
The bark contains magnolol and honokiol, two polyphenolic compounds. Preclinical studies have evaluated their various potential applications including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antimicrobial properties.
Kratom is known to prevent or delay withdrawal symptoms in an opioid-dependent individual, and it is often used to mitigate cravings thereafter. It can also be used for other medicinal purposes. Kratom has been traditionally used in regions such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Sacred lotus has been the subject of a number of in-vitro and animal studies, exploring its pharmacologic effects, including antioxidant, hepatoprotective, immunomodulatory, anti-infective, hyperlipidemic, and psychopharmacologic activity although clinical trials are lacking.
It has efficacy as a therapy, mainly using the seed oil extract, volatile oil, and isolated constituent thymoquinone. One meta-analysis of clinical trials concluded that N. sativa has a short-term benefit on lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
It is used for a variety of purposes in medicine tulasi is taken in many forms: as herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf or mixed with ghee. Essential oil extracted from Karpoora tulasi is mostly used for medicinal purposes and in herbal cosmetics.
Used as an abortifacient in folk medicine in some parts of Bolivia and other northwestern South American countries, though no evidence of efficacy exists in Western medicine. Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. A Cretan oregano (O. dictamnus) is still used today in Greece as a palliative for sore throat. Evidence of efficacy in this matter is lacking.
The plant is the plant source of morphine, used for pain relief. Morphine made from the refined and modified sap is used for pain control in terminally ill patients. Dried sap was used as a traditional medicine until the 19th century.
Can be used as an antidepressant, but carries significant risk. Used in traditional shamanistic rites in the amazon, and is a component of Ayahuasca, Caapi or Yajé (which is actually usually Banisteriopsis caapi but has the same active alkaloids).
The plant has been used for centuries in the South Pacific to make a ceremonial drink with sedative and anesthetic properties. It is used as a soporific, as well as for asthma and urinary tract infection
It is used frequently in herbal teas and other herbal remedies.A tea from the leaves is used as a highly effective cough medicine. In the traditional Austrian medicine, Plantago lanceolata leaves have been used internally (as syrup or tea) or externally (fresh leaves) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, insect bites, and infections.
The extracts and purified glycoside compounds (saponins) from the roots may exhibit neuroprotective, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-allergy, improved insulin resistance, and cholesterol-lowering properties.
In Western herbalism, the root is often used for treating anemia, due to its high level of iron. The plant will help with skin conditions if taken internally or applied externally to things like itching, scrofula, and sores. It is also used for respiratory conditions, specifically those with a tickling cough that is worse when exposed to cold air. It mentions also passing pains, excessive itching, and that it helps enlarged lymphs.
Plant source of salicylic acid, white willow is like the chemical known as aspirin, although more likely to cause stomach upset as a side effect than aspirin itself which can cause the lining in your stomach to be destroyed. Used from ancient times for the same uses as aspirin.
The berries and leaves have traditionally been used to treat pain, swelling, infections, coughs, and skin conditions and, more recently, flu, common cold, fevers, constipation, and sinus infections.
Sandalwood oil has been widely used in folk medicine for treatment of common colds, bronchitis, skin disorders, heart ailments, general weakness, fever, infection of the urinary tract, inflammation of the mouth and pharynx, liver and gallbladder complaints and other maladies.
The root is used in decoctions against fevers, diabetes, diseases of urinary system and constipation. The leaves have laxative properties. The dried flowers and flower buds are used as a substitute for tea in case of diabetes patients. The powdered seed is also applied to the eye, in case of chronic purulent conjunctivitis.
Extracts of the plant are used to ease the symptoms of malaria. The boiled juice or a tea made from the leaves or the whole plant is taken to relieve fever and other symptoms. It is also used for dysentery, pain, and liver disorders. A tea of the leaves is taken to help control diabetes in Peru and other areas.Laboratory tests indicate that the plant has anti-inflammatory properties.
It has been used as a remedy to treat itchy skin conditions and pulmonary diseases. 17th century herbalist John Gerard recommended it as a remedy for mange. Modern herba lists prescribe it for iron-deficiency anemia (for its high iron content), as well as for skin diseases, bronchitis, rheumatic pains, arthritis and period pain.
It has been used as a vulnerary and to reduce inflammation. It was also used internally in the past, for stomach and other ailments, but its toxicity has led a number of other countries, including Canada, Brazil, Australia, and the United Kingdom, to severely restrict or ban the use of comfrey.
The plant is used to treat bronchitis and cough. It serves as an antispasmodic and expectorant in this role. It has also been used in many other medicinal roles in Asian and Ayurvedic medicine, although it has not been shown to be effective in non-respiratory medicinal roles.
It is used in southeast Mexico in the region of Tabasco as a cold herbal tea, which is named Matali. Skin irritation may result from repeated contact with or prolonged handling of the plant, particularly from the clear, watery sap (a characteristic unique to T. zebrina as compared with other types).
It is used for skin, gastrointestinal, and respiratory ailments.Laboratory tests showed it has some inhibitory activity against various fungi, such as Candida glabrata, Aspergillus flavus, A. niger, A. fumigatus, Penicillium chrysogenum, and Candida albicans.
It has been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally (as tea or fresh leaves) to treat disorders of the kidneys and urinary tract, gastrointestinal tract, locomotor system, skin, cardiovascular system, hemorrhage, influenza, rheumatism, and gout.
V. tinus has medicinal properties. The active ingredients are burning (a substance or more probably a mixture of compounds) and tannins. Tannins can cause stomach upset. The leaves when infused have antipyretic properties. The fruits have been used as purgatives against constipation. The tincture has been used lately in herbal medicine as a remedy for depression. The plant also contains iridoid glucosides.
It is one of many viola plant species containing cyclotides. These small peptides have proven to be useful in drug development due to their size and structure giving rise to high stability. Many cyclotides, found in Viola tricolor are cytotoxic. This feature means that it could be used to treat cancers.