Medicinal Plants: All You Need to Know About Your Best Allies

flor de calendula naranja

Translated by Nick R

I bet you’ve ever wondered how to treat an affliction in a natural way. And I get you. Spending money constantly on medications that load your body with chemicals is not ideal for many. That’s why in this blog you will find valuable information that will get you started in the medicinal plants’ world.

You will learn what medicinal plants are and their uses, benefits, and 6 ways to prepare plants. I will share with you what kind of ailments you can treat with them and, finally, I will tell you about the 8 most common medicinal plants.

What are medicinal plants and what are they used for?

They are all those vegetable-origin products that are used to contribute to the prevention or healing of some type of ailment. This practice is known as Phytotherapy since it is a science that studies the use of plants for healing and medicinal purposes.

The objective of these medicinal plants is to return the body to a state of natural balance so that it can heal itself. They work on different systems and body ailments such as: gynecological disorders, immune system, blood circulation, insomnia, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and others.

These plants are characterized by not being woody and persist until they bear flowers and fruits. Some of these medicinal-use herbs contain potent ingredients that should be taken with the same caution as pharmaceutical drugs.

Later I will explain in further detail how to prepare them and what type of ailment they may help with. It is important that you do not self-diagnose. The first thing is to be certain of the condition that may be affecting you and after that, inform yourself properly about the type of medicinal plant that you can consume or use.

Unwanted effects

While it is true that medicinal herbs provide great benefits to alleviate illnesses, don’t assume right away that all of them can help you. Plants can have side effects too, particularly when combined with other drugs, foods, or other medicinal plants.

Sometimes it can even cause intoxication due to misidentification of the plant, contamination by heavy metals, pesticides, pathogenic microorganisms, allergies, and others.

This is due to the fact that plants have more than one active ingredient, which can react with other substances that the person is consuming.

In addition, medicinal herbs may vary their qualitative and quantitative composition because it depends on: the season of the year in which the plant is harvested, the growing conditions, the part of the plant used (stems, branches, leaves) and the preparation process, among others.

However, you should not be worried, be sure to consult with a doctor or an herb expert about whether or not you can consume some medicinal plants according to the condition you are suffering from, and other drugs you are taking. You can also find out about the properties of the plants you want to consume to avoid undesirable effects.        

Medicinal plants benefits

As a natural origin product, they offer several benefits for people and a great treatment for their ailments. These benefits are:

  • They are more economical and less harmful to the body.
  • They work as preventative medicine, so you can avoid getting sick frequently.
  • Some of these medicinal plants are also useful for seasoning food.
  • They can be used for the elaboration of cosmetics, which is important since you must take care of your skin.
  • Aromatic plants are part of the group of medicinal plants and besides helping you with some ailments, they serve as a barrier to repel pests in gardens.
  • They are anti-inflammatory: they relieve internal and external inflammations.
  • Anti-thermic: they reduce abnormal temperature levels.
  • Diuretic: to clean the body and leave it free of toxins and impurities.
  • Stimulants: for moments of tiredness or fatigue.- They serve as plant extracts to use and export to countries with problems growing medicinal plants.
  • They serve as plant extracts to use and export to countries with problems growing medicinal plants.

Types of diseases you can treat with medicinal plants  

The next grouping of diseases was made by Maritza Gallegos-Zurita following the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The data was collected from rural areas of Ecuador where medicinal plants are used to alleviate illnesses.

  • Diseases of the digestive system, infectious and parasitic: the conditions that derive from this group are cramps, diarrhea, gastritis, gases, gastric pain, ulcers, constipation, parasites and abdominal pain.
  • Inflammations: the conditions of this group are acute and severe infections, kidney infections, and others.
  • Nervous system diseases: the conditions of this group are headache, nervous disorders, conjunctivitis, insomnia, ear pain.
  • Skin diseases: the conditions of this group are: wounds, itching, rashes, acne, skin ulcerations, spots.
  • Respiratory diseases: the conditions of this group are throat inflammation, cough, colds, flu, lung diseases.
  • Genitourinary system diseases: conditions of this group include urinary tract infections, vaginal infections.
  • Blood diseases and immune disorders: conditions in this group are cancer, anemia, blood purification, sores, diabetes.
  • Cardiocirculatory diseases: the conditions of this group are poor circulation, pressure, heart problems.
  • Hyperlipidemic diseases: This group includes cholesterol, triglycerides.
  • Diseases of the musculoskeletal system: conditions in this group include fractures, muscle pain, rheumatic pain, joint pain.
  • Fungal diseases: conditions in this group are fungi, hair loss, dandruff.
  • Other symptoms: dengue fever, general pain, stress, obesity, labor pain.

 9 most common medicinal plants

Following you’ll find the 9 most common medicinal plants, as well as the diseases and ailments they can be used for and forms in which they can be prepared:

Name of the plantConditions it is used forWay of use
Aloe VeraIt has anti-inflammatory properties, helps you treat stains, burns or wounds, skin conditions. You can apply it to the scalp.
It also treats constipation, gastritis, and helps to lose weight.   
Internal use with juices. 
External use applying on the skin or in ointments or creams.
MintIt is used for conditions such as cramps, nausea, regular vomiting.
Its leaves help to reduce headaches and dizziness.
It helps to clear the airways and fight muscle aches.
Internal use in hot water infusions.
External use by inhalations in a bain-marie
Flax plantIt helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
It is used to improve digestive health and ease conditions such as constipation.
It prevents heart affections and blood clots. It offers benefits for skin and hair.  
Internal use in liquids such as smoothies, juices or water, can be consumed in salads.
External use as a little water mask on the skin or hair.
Calendula or merigoldIt’s an anti-inflammatory and healing plant.
It is used to treat acne, bumps, sprains, vulvovaginitis, insect bites and skin irritations.
It can treat skin conditions such as dermatitis. Hemorrhoids, gum inflammation, anal tears.
Internal use when gargling to treat oropharyngeal inflammatory alterations. Infusions.
External use in baths, ointments, and creams.
ChamomileUsed to relieve menstrual pains, stomach, diarrhea, flatulence.
Reduces stress and anxiety, helps regulate insomnia too. It has sedative effects.
It helps control diabetes by regulating the amount of sugar in the blood.
It contributes to the healing of the skin.
Internal use in infusions or tea in a cup.
External use by inhalations, ointments, creams or lotion.
MoringaIt has a high content of vitamins and minerals that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It is used to treat respiratory diseases, decrease anxiety, control blood glucose. It can promote weight loss, protect the heart by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It can prevent and combat anemia, increase defenses in the body, moisturize the skin, decrease the effects of menopause, increase respiratory capacity.
Internal use in tea or mixing with drinks. Capsules 1 or 2 a day of 200 mg with meals. In flaked seeds and with a glass of water.
Powder to add to juices, coffee, yogurt, soups.  
EucalyptusThis plant is used to treat conditions such as muscle and joint pains.
Sore throats, todecongest the respiratory system, treat diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, flu, cough.
Mouth ailments, bad breath, bleeding gums, repels insects, purifies the air.  
Internal use in tea or infusions, 3 times a day.
External use with inhalations with 6 eucalyptus leaves.
Ruta o RueIt is used for menstrual disorders and inflammation. Prevents diarrhea and stomach pain helps improve heart function and blood circulation.
It relieves lungs inflammation and can also treat conditions such as anxiety, muscle spasms, arthritis, epilepsy, headache, fever, hepatitis, multiple sclerosis. Topically it helps treat dislocations, sprains, earaches, warts.
Internal use in infusions or tisanes.
External use with Ruta oil directly on the affected area.
CeleryIt can be used in diets to lose weight, it has vitamins A, B and C, and provides fiber, potassium, and folic acid.
It helps lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.
It is used as an appetizer, helps digestion, promotes the expulsion of gases, is a relaxant in cases of insomnia.
It is anti-inflammatory and helps regulate blood sugar.
It serves to prevent constipation, is an antioxidant and does not allow fluid retention.   
Internal use in juices or hot water infusions. In meals or raw.  

6 ways to prepare medicinal plants

There are several ways to prepare medicinal plants so you can consume them and take advantage of their benefits. However, I want to teach you 6 ways that are regularly used to consume these herbs.

1.    Teas

It is a drink that is obtained by boiling a mixture of spices or medicinal herbs in water. You can also add fruits, berries, seeds or flowers. It is considered the easiest liquid form to prepare medicinal plants.

Its aim is to extract the active ingredients of the plant through water and thus give people all its benefits. They are mainly consumed orally but can be used topically through lotions or compresses.

They are usually prepared as follows:

  • Heat a cup of water until it boils
  • Pour the herb mixture into the water
  • You can strain the mixture or place it on an infuser
  • You should let stand for about 5 minutes before drinking the tea  

2.    Juices

They are preparations of fresh plants extracts or parts thereof. It is done by squeezing or crushing the plant to obtain liquid from it and then straining it.

You can also use electric blenders to facilitate the extraction of the liquid. The advantage of juices is that they contain all the active ingredients of the plant without degrading, especially vitamins.

It is best to immediately ingest the juice to get all its benefits and avoid fermentation.

3.    Syrups

Its preparation consists of extracting the active components of the plant with water, to finally add sugar and preserve. They are easy and pleasant to dose, especially to children.

Their great advantage is that once made they can be preserved for a long time. Sugar prevents contamination and fermentation. You should avoid exposing the syrup to very high temperatures because the sugar, as a side effect, leads to decomposition in warm conditions.

The syrups are prepared as follows:

  • In a medium pot with a lid place 500 gr of the plant.
  • Add 1/2 liters of water to the pot and let boil
  • Cover and let stand for 15 minutes
  • Strain to obtain the liquid from the plant
  • To the obtained infusion, add slowly 2 cups of sugar (400 gr approximately) and stir.
  • In a water bath (bowl with water on the fire) place the mixture in low heat and shake constantly for 30 minutes to obtain a viscous liquid.
  • Strain the syrup with a very fine mesh in a sterilized container.
  • Cover and label.

4.    Inhalations

They are used to relieve respiratory ailments. You should use the water vapor that contains medicinal substances from the plant. In a bowl that resists the heat, place a handful of the herb.

Then, you should add a liter of boiling water and immediately place your head on the steam that comes out of the container. make sure that your head is covered with a towel, tent-like, you must be careful not to get burned.

Once you cover yourself with the towel you should start to deeply and slowly breathe in and out. You can do it for 6 to 10 minutes or until you feel alleviated. In the end, you should warm up very well and not expose to cold weather. You can use plants such as eucalyptus, mint, chamomile, among others.

5.    Baths

It aims to immerse partially or completely the body in a plant infusion to relieve conditions such as hemorrhoids or vaginal infections, to relax your body, and others.

You should prepare 1 or 2 liters of infusion of the plant you want to relieve your ailment with. You deposit it in a tub with warm water and blend. Finally, you immerse yourself in the bath for 15 minutes approximately. We suggest doing it 1 or 2 times a week.

6.    Ointments

They are applied directly to the skin to relieve skin or superficial conditions. You can make ointments of different plants and treat different conditions.

The preparation is similar for each type of plant, it differs in the amount, the type of ailment you want to treat and the ingredients. Below, I’ll explain how to make a sulfur ointment to treat dermatological diseases such as fungi or athlete’s foot.

  • • This receipt works for making 20 bottles of 20 gr of sulfur ointment. You need 2 pounds of white petroleum jelly, 8 ounces of sulfur flower and a pot.
  • • In the pot, at low flame, you should put the petroleum jelly to melt.
  • • Once melted add 8 ounces of sulfur flower.
  • • Mix with a popsicle or wooden spoon until sulfur is undone.
  • • Once it melts, remove the mixture from the heat.
  • • With a strainer you must strain the ointment into the jars that you will use.
  • • Let cool for 2 to 3 hours and close the jars.
  • You can apply it to the affected area 2 or 3 times a day until the fungi disappear.

So, now that you know more about medicinal plants, the way they are prepared, the kind of conditions they treat and their natural health benefits, what are you waiting for to start using them?