Using medicinal plants and healing herbs in place of, or as a supplement to, over-the-counter-medications and prescriptions is one of the many trends defining the wellness industry. Statistics show that throughout the course of the past 30 years, about 80% of the world’s population relied on herbal medicinal products and supplements in some way.
Medicinal plants are important because they provide individuals with natural ingredients that can confer a multitude of benefits. They also can be used in surface cleaners, natural dyes, and many other everyday products, but many common plants and botanicals have other applications for supporting wellness or addressing a specific need for users. The following are eight of the most popular herbs and plants used to aid individuals in their health journey.
Aloe vera (aloe) is a succulent that grows wild in tropical climates. However, it can be purchased at local greenhouses and/or supermarkets. This plant is made of thick, green spikes that are full of a gel-like substance that is used in various ways. After harvesting the aloe vera plant, consumers can use the interior gel to:
Aloe vera may cause skin irritation, itching, or burning. And if consumed, it may cause stomach pains, diarrhea, and kidney problems. Stop using aloe vera right away and consult with your doctor if these side effects occur or worsen.
Chamomile is a small daisy-like flower that is most common in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Chamomile is often used in teas and/or topical compress solutions. This plant is most commonly used to:
Consuming chamomile while on other medications may increase the chance of drowsiness and medication effectiveness. Talk with your healthcare provider before consumption to ensure chamomile won’t affect any of your current medications.
Echinacea is a beautiful flower, also part of the daisy family, and is found in eastern and central North America. This flower is rich in antioxidants and is often added to tea to help with:
Long-term use of echinacea can cause liver problems, allergic reactions, and negative effects on the immune system. Consult with a physician about recommended dosage and other side effects prior to consumption.
Garlic is a tuberous herb in the onion family that is native to Central Asia. Minced or powdered, it is popular to use garlic while cooking many different cuisines. What some may not know, is that it has been shown to provide a range of health benefits as well. Aside from being a popular kitchen seasoning, when consumed raw or applied topically as an oil, garlic can be used to:
Side effects of garlic may include body odor, diarrhea, heartburn, gas, nausea, and vomiting. If these symptoms occur or worsen, stop consuming garlic immediately.
Ginkgo Biloba (ginkgo) comes from the leaves of a tree that can live up to 3,000 years. Ginkgo trees are one of the oldest species of plants that still grow today. Ginkgo extract can be converted into capsules, oils, tablets, and tea. It is important to note that only extract from the leaves should be consumed since extract from other parts of the plant, such as the seed, may contain toxins. Although the research is ongoing, there has been mixed evidence that ginkgo supplements may have benefits for:
Ginkgo biloba may cause allergic reactions, bleeding disorders (because of this, ginkgo should not be used with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and other anticoagulants), dizziness, and headaches. If these or other symptoms occur, discuss them with your doctor.
Kratom is a tropical tree, related to the coffee plant and indigenous to Southeast Asia. The leaves of the kratom tree are often harvested and may be beneficial in many ways. It is important to follow the recommended doses to prevent potentially harmful side effects such as sweating, nausea, dizziness, and seizures. Kratom may be used to:
Lavender is a purple flowering plant that is native to Europe, but can be found all over the world. From lemonade and cupcakes, to hygiene and cleaning products, lavender extract can be consumed in many ways — including for supporting wellness. Due to its strong scent, it is not uncommon for individuals to be sensitive or allergic to lavender. Lavender is used to:
Consuming or applying lavender can cause skin irritations, allergic reactions, severe drowsiness, constipation, and headaches.
Turmeric is a bright orange plant that is a part of the ginger family, and originated in India. When harvested, turmeric roots can be used as a spice or be taken as a topical supplement. Other than cooking, turmeric can be used to:
Over-consumption of turmeric may result in stomach pain, thin blood, or contractions for pregnant consumers.
While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, it should still be helpful for those that want to learn more about common and popular natural supplements. It is important to note while these botanicals may work for others, they may not work for you. Always consult with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements or botanical products to make sure they are safe for you — some could interfere with current health conditions or medications, or cause allergic reactions or other side effects when not used cautiously.