Medical Uses of Plants
Plants and plant substances have been the original medicines for humanity for most of human history. Most cultures on earth have evolved rich systems of medicine focused on using plants to alleviate medical conditions from time immemorial. Modern science has recently focused on studying medical uses for plants and many plants have now been proved to have profound healing properties.
Ancient civilizations had complex medical systems that used plants as the primary source of medicine. In India, the system of Ayurveda incorporates hundreds of plants into a overall medical system designed to combat disease and promote health. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses plants in an endless variety of formulas as prescriptive treatments and a natural pharmacy for many ailments. Greek physicians wrote extensive pharmacopoeias that detailed the medicinal actions of hundreds of plants and recommended their use for countless medical conditions.
Plant medicines are used as both internal and external treatments of human disease. Many plants have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, immunostimilatory and antioxidant properties as well as compounds that effect specific organs and systems in direct ways. According to the Mayo Clinic, herbal and plant based supplements contain active ingredients that effect your body in much the same ways that prescription medications do.
Many plants and plant based medicines are available without a prescription and some can be gathered or grown directly from the earth. In many cases, plants and plant based medicines have less side effects than their pharmaceutical counterparts and are sometimes used to counter the side effects of prescription medication.
According to a review of herbal medicine published in the April 2004 edition of the American Journal of Medicine, over a quarter of Americans used plant based herbal medicines in the year proceeding the study. As the interest in plant based medicine grows and the cost of mainstream medical care rises, the interest in and use of plant medicine is likely to increase.
In the above mentioned review by the American Journal of Medicine, the researchers also reviewed studies of 10 of the most commonly used herbs and decided that only four of them seemed to be effective as medicine for the condition they were used for. Since the use of plants as medicine remains unregulated and in many cases untested the potential for abuse of plant based medicine is high. Also, many plant medicines do have side effects and the improper use of these herbs can result in undesirable results.