Medicinal plants or herbs have been used in traditional medicine since prehistoric times. Today, natural, plant-based medicinal extracts can be found in almost any drug store, and for good reason. Although some studies are inconclusive, there has been much research to support the incredible effects that medicinal plants can have on our health. From healing wounds and fighting colds to reducing inflammation and soothing sunburns, plants are often much more powerful than we give them credit for.
Justin Nolan is a researcher, author, and Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas. He specializes in social ecology and ethnobiology and even published a book entitled Wild Harvest in the Heartland: Ethnobotany in Missouri’s Little Dixie in 2007. Justin Nolan’s work is strongly intertwined with alternative medicine, making him an expert on the subject of medicinal plants. For those seeking a natural remedy, continue reading for Justin Nolan’s list of five of nature’s most powerful medicinal plants.
Fun fact: Turmeric has been used as a medicinal herb for over 4,000 years. The bright orange plant originated in India and has a variety of health benefits. Most notably, Justin Murphy Nolan claims that turmeric is believed to contain anticancer properties. It is also an anti-inflammatory, meaning it can relieve pain caused by inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. Further, turmeric is rich in antioxidants and therefore makes for an excellent skincare product, promoting hydration and brightening.
If you have trouble sleeping due to stress, chances are you’ve considered using lavender essential oil. This fragrant, purple flower brings thousands of people to France each year. But more than providing a picturesque location for photos, lavender has powerful anti-anxiety capabilities. According to Justin Nolan, studies have shown that lavender can improve mood and cognitive performance, act as an anti-inflammatory, and even has sedative properties. For those suffering from stress, anxiety, or even migraines, consider adding lavender essential oil to your aromatherapy arsenal.
The use of echinacea as medicine goes back centuries. There is evidence showing that echinacea was used as a medicinal herb by Native Americans in the 18th century. Available as tea, juice, extracts, powders, or supplements, echinacea is most famous as being a remedy for the common cold. Justin Nolan claims it works to eliminate cold symptoms more quickly and has also been linked to improvements for bronchitis and upper respiratory infections.
Tea tree oil unsurprisingly is derived from the tea tree, which is native to Australia’s southeast coast. It has long been used in skincare and hair care products for its abilities to fight acne and dandruff. It is also commonly used as a topical treatment to combat the effects of insect bites, vaginal infections, herpes, toothaches, and mouth infections. Justin Nolan shares that it is the antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil that allow it to have such a powerful healing impact.
First and foremost, aloe barbadensis, or aloe vera, is known for its soothing, moisturizing, and healing properties. It is a succulent plant that originated in Arabia and is now a key ingredient in medicinal products around the world. The stems of the aloe vera plant contain water that create a gel-like substance in the leaves. This aloe vera leaf juice is where the plant’s healing powers come from. The juice can be taken directly from the plant or can be bought at drugstores as a topical treatment to help soothe the effects of a variety of conditions, including sunburns, eczema, psoriasis, frostbite, and cold sores.