Before the advent of modern medicine, mother nature was the world's pharmacy. Healers and shamans from countless cultures had the knowledge of administering concoctions made from herbs and plants to treat people from their ailments. With new methods and technology at our disposal, these remedies have been tested in laboratories to find out what benefits plants can have for our well-being, if any. Here are nine of the most powerful medicinal plants in nature and the science behind them.
Mingko, Turmeric, Evening Primrose Oil, Flax Seed, Tea Tree Oil, Echinacea, Grape Seed Extract, Lavender and Cannabis are some of the herbs that have been found to ease our pain, soothe us and make us feel better. However, like conventional medicines, the benefits are specific to certain conditions. If you are interested in adding them to your treatment, you should first consult with your doctor. Turmeric is one of the most studied herbs due to its anti-inflammatory properties which help prevent amyloid plaques that cause Alzheimer's from accumulating between neurons.
Curcumin is also beneficial against neurofibrillary tangles, another culprit of Alzheimer's disease. These are insoluble twisted fibers made mainly of a protein called tau, which normally stabilize the microtubules of neurons and allow nutrients and other good molecules to enter the cell. However, abnormal taus causes microtubules to collapse, preventing the cell from receiving the nutrition it needs and leading to its death. Cannabis is another controversial plant that has a handful of medicinal benefits.
Studies have shown that it can be effective in treating pain in people with chronic illnesses, epileptic seizures and even Tourette syndrome. However, some of these cases are anecdotal and larger studies are needed to prove without a doubt that cannabis is responsible for these desired effects. There is also the challenge of dosing and the method of intake as smoking or inhaling cannabis can cause delirium and other psychoactive reactions. St.
John's wort is rich in hypericin and hyperforin which have proven good results as mood stabilizers. Patients with depression have biochemical imbalances associated with amine neurotransmitters, and St. John's wort has been found to play a role in inhibiting enzymes that degrade it. Hyperforin also inhibits the reabsorption of feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin, causing these neurotransmitters to bind to other receptors, triggering a better response in the body and relieving symptoms of depression.
Hawthorn berries have been found to improve heart function, shortness of breath and fatigue when taken together with conventional heart medications in patients with chronic heart failure. However, more research is needed in humans as some studies have not found benefit in patients taking the fruit either as an adjunct to traditional medicines or as an independent therapy. The scientific literature on the adulteration and contamination of medicinal herbs is replete with alarming reports. For example, St.
John's wort was actually an herbal laxative called senna which can cause chronic diarrhea and even liver damage with prolonged use. It is important to always consult a doctor before taking any herbal remedy as some may interact with other drugs or cause adverse reactions.