Herbal plants include various types of plants used in herbalism (“herbology” or “herbal medicine”). It is the use of plants for herbal purposes and the study of such benefits. The word “herb” traces its origin from the Latin word “herba” and the old French word “herbe.” Nowadays, herb refers to any plant part like fruit, seed, stem, bark, flower, leaf, stigma, root, and a non-woody plant.
Herbal Plants in Ancient Cultures
These herbal plants are also used as food, flavonoid, medicine, perfume, and certain spiritual activities. Plants have been used for herbal purposes long before the prehistoric period. Ancient Egyptian papyrus, Unani manuscripts, and Chinese writings have extensively described the use of herbs.
For the past 4000 years, ancient Indian, and European and Mediterranean cultures have used herbs as medicine. Indigenous cultures such as Iran, Africa, Rome, Egypt, and America have used herbs extensively in their healing rituals. In contrast, other developed traditional medical systems such as Unani, Ayurveda, and Chinese medicine used herbal therapies systematically.
Herbal Plants as Traditional Medicine
Traditional systems of medicine are still widely practiced even after centuries. Their popularity can be attributed to the rise in population, inadequate supply of drugs, side effects of many synthetic drugs, expensive treatments, and development of resistance to currently used drugs for infectious diseases. These factors have also led to an increased emphasis on the use of plant materials as a source of medicines.
India has been a rich repository of herbal plants among ancient civilizations. The forest in India is the main habitat of many herbal and aromatic plants, primarily collected as raw materials to manufacture drugs and cosmetic products. Ayurveda, Unani, and Folk medicines are the major branches of indigenous medicines. Among these systems, Ayurveda and Unani Medicine are the most developed and widely practiced in India.
Recently, World Health Organization has estimated that 80 percent of the world population depend on herbal medicine for some aspect of their primary health care requirements. According to WHO, more than 21,000 plant species have the potential for being used as herbal plants.
It is estimated that three-quarters of the global population relies mainly on plants and plant extracts for their health care needs. More than 30% of the entire plant species were used for herbal purposes at one time or another. It has been estimated that plant drugs constitute 25% of the total prescriptions in developed countries such as the United States.
In contrast, the contribution is as much as 80% in fast-developing countries like India and China. Unlike decorative plants, the economic importance of herbal plants is more to countries such as India than to the rest of the world. These countries provide two-thirds of the plants used in the modern medicine system, and the rural population’s health care system depends on indigenous systems of medicine.
Treatment with Herbal Plants
Treatment with herbal plants is considered very safe as there are no or minimal side effects. These remedies sync with nature, which is the most significant advantage. The golden fact is that herbal treatments are independent of any age group and the sexes.
The ancient scholars believed that herbs were the only solutions to many diseases and health-related problems. They conducted a detailed study about the same experiment and arrived at accurate conclusions about the efficacy of different herbs with herbal value. Most of the drugs formulated are free of any side effects or reactions. This has led to growth in the popularity of herbal treatments across the globe. These herbs with herbal quality provide rational means for treating many internal diseases, otherwise considered difficult to cure.
Herbal plants such as Aloe, Tulsi, Neem, Turmeric, and Ginger can cure several common ailments. These are considered home remedies in several countries. Several individuals are using Basil to make medicines, black tea, and other activities in their day-to-day lives.
In different parts of the world during ancient times, many herbs are used to honor their kings by regarding them as a symbol of luck. Many consumers started the plantation of tulsi and other herbal plants in their home gardens after finding the role of herbs in medicine.
Herbal Plants – Rich in Nutrients
Herbal plants are considered rich resources of ingredients. You can use it in drug development. Apart from this, these herbal plants play a critical role in developing human cultures worldwide. Moreover, some plants are considered an essential source of nutrition, and as a result, they are recommended for their therapeutic values. These plants include green tea, walnuts, ginger, aloe, pepper, turmeric, etc. Some plants and their derivatives are considered essential sources for active ingredients used in aspirin, toothpaste, etc.
Apart from the herbal uses, herbs are also used in natural dye, pest control, food, perfume, tea, etc. In many countries, different kinds of herbal plants/ herbs are used to keep ants, flies, mice and flee away from homes and offices. Nowadays, herbal herbs are important sources for pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Recipes for treating common ailments such as diarrhea, hypertension, low sperm count, constipation, menstrual disorders, bronchial asthma, leucorrhoea, dysentery and weak penile erection, piles, coated tongue, and fevers are given by traditional medicine practitioners very effectively.
Over the past two decades, there has been a significant increase in the use of herbal medicine. However, the research data in this domain is still significantly lacking. Therefore since 1999, WHO has published WHO monographs on selected herbal plants in three volumes.
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Importance of Herbal Plants with Medicinal Values
Herbal plants such as black pepper, red clover, burdock, bayberry, cinnamon, myrrh, aloe, sandalwood, ginseng, and safflower heal boil, wounds, and sores.
Cilantro, Apple Mint, Thyme, Basil, Fennel, Chives, Golden Oregano, Variegated Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Variegated Sage are essential herbal herbs that you can plant in the kitchen garden. It is easy to grows these herbs are easy to grow, look good, taste, and smell excellent. Many of these herbal plants are magnets for butterflies and bees.
Many herbs are used to alter or change a long-standing condition by eliminating metabolic toxins in blood purifiers. These are also known as ‘blood cleansers. Certain herbs improve the person’s immunity, reducing diseases such as fever.
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Herbal Plants – Antibiotic and Anti-Pyretic
Some herbs also have antibiotic properties. Turmeric helps prevent the growth of germs, bacteria, and harmful microbes. Wide usage of Turmeric has been documented as a home remedy to heal cuts and wounds.
Some antipyretic herbs such as sandalwood, black pepper, and safflower are recommended by traditional Indian medicine practitioners for reducing fever and the production of heat caused by the condition.
Sandalwood and Cinnamon are great astringents besides being aromatic. Sandalwood is mainly used in stopping the discharge of blood and mucus.
Some herbs neutralize the acid produced by the stomach. Herbal plants such as marshmallow root and leaf serve as antacids. Such herbs retain the healthy gastric acid needed for proper digestion.
Indian sages were known to have remedies from plants that act against poisons from animals and snake bites.
Herbs like Cardamom and Coriander are renowned for their appetizer-like qualities. Other aromatic herbs such as peppermint, cloves, and turmeric add a pleasant aroma to the food, thereby increasing the taste of the meal.
Some herbs like sandalwood, aloe, and turmeric are commonly used as antiseptics and are very high in their herbal values.
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Herbal Plants – Expectorants and Disinfectants
Cloves and Ginger are used in certain cough syrups. They are known for their expectorant property, promoting the thinning and ejection of mucus from the lungs, trachea, and bronchi. Eucalyptus, Wild cherry, Cardamom, and cloves are also expectorants.
Herbal plants such as Chamomile, Chrysanthemum, Calamus, Coriander, Fennel, Peppermint, Basil, Cardamom, Spearmint, Cinnamon, Ginger and Turmeric help promote good blood circulation and are used as cardiac stimulants. Certain herbal herbs have disinfectant property, which destroys disease-causing germs.
They also inhibit the growth of pathogenic microbes that cause infectious diseases. Herbal medicine practitioners recommend using calmative herbs, which provide a soothing effect to the body. They are ideal herbal plants for sedatives.
Aloe, Barberry and Goldenseal, are used as mild tonics as they are aromatic herbal plants. Their bitter taste destroy infection and reduces toxins in the blood. Many herbal plants are used as stimulants for increasing the activity of a system or an organ, for example, herbs like Myrrh, Camphor, and Guggul.
A wide variety of herbal plants including Barberry, Goldenseal, and Aloe are used as tonics. They are nutritious and rejuvenate any individual. Honey, turmeric, marshmallow, and licorice can effectively treat a fresh cut and wound. They are termed vulnerable herbs.
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As our lifestyle becomes techno-savvy, we are moving away from nature. At the same time, we cannot escape from the fact that we are part of nature. As herbal plants are natural products, they are free from side effects; they are comparatively safe, eco-friendly, and locally available.
Traditionally there are a lot of herbal plants used for ailments and these may vary according to different seasons. There is a dire need to promote them for saving human lives.
These herbal products symbolize safety as compared to the synthetic medicines. The synthetic medicines are regarded as unsafe to humans and the environment. However, the blind dependence on synthetic medicines is over now, and people are returning to the naturals with hopes of safety and security. It’s time to promote them globally.