There are very few people who are fortunate enough to go through life without needing to turn to over-the-counter medications to treat minor health problems like headaches and colds. The use of prescription drugs is on the rise as well, and researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that seven out of ten Americans are taking some form of prescription medication. Drugs are seen as a basic requirement for life not far behind food and shelter, and the pharmaceutical industry is a huge and powerful business. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that this industry developed out of the ancient tradition of herbal medicine, and that plants form the basis of many of our modern drugs.
Where would we be without plants?
If you doubt the role of plants in modern medicine, consider the origins of some indispensable mainstays of healthcare – aspirin, digitalis, and morphine:
- Legendary Greek medic Hippocrates wrote about the powder obtained from willow bark that provided relief from pain and fever in ancient times. Oxford chemist Edward Stone isolated salicylic acid, the component of the bark that produces the effects, in 1763; so aspirin has been around for a very long time and is still a primary treatment for pain relief and anti-blood clotting applications.
- Herbalists have known for centuries that foxgloves can help patients who have heart problems. In 1775 William Withering a Scottish physician observed the recovery of a patient who had turned to the local herbalist when Withering had been unable to help him. The doctor analyzed the herbal remedy and isolated digitalis (digoxin), the active ingredient in the foxgloves.
- When morphine was discovered, it was a revolution in pain relief and made an enormous impact on the success of surgery and the welfare of patients. The opium poppy from which it was derived had been used for thousands of years as an analgesic and is still one of the most potent treatments for extreme pain.
Plants are often viewed as being beneficial and benign as they are a part of the natural world as opposed to being manmade and thus viewed with far more suspicion. In fact, plants can be as deadly as they are beneficial. All the drugs mentioned above can cause death if administered at too high a dose, and the flip side of the wonders of morphine is the deprivations of heroin addiction. The potency of plant-life should not be underestimated, and any attempts at using herbalism in the home must be undertaken with great care and reference to expert advice. Having said that, there are some excellent home cures that you can grow yourself perfectly safely.
The most obvious grow-your-own medications, these plants have been used since early man first discovered that chewing leaves from a certain plant helped with his toothache. The variety of herbs, their cultivation, and usage is a vast subject, with entire books and websites devoted to the topic. To get you started, here are a few suggestions for herbs you might like to try growing. Thymes come in many different varieties, they are usually low growing or creeping and having tiny leaves and flashes of pretty flowers.
They are a vital ingredient for the kitchen as well as being packed with medicinal properties. Thymes are something of a super-herb, being loaded with antioxidants and bioflavonoids, and have many medicinal uses, both internal and topical. The plants do require excellent drainage and will not flourish in heavy, poorly drained soils so do prepare the ground well for them, or they will wither away. Sage is another delicious herb that is indispensable for cooking as well as being used medically. It has soft, slightly furry leaves of green, purple or variegated colors. It has been used for its anti-bacterial properties for centuries, and recent research has shown that it can help improve memory and brain function, even in Alzheimer’s patients.
Also classified as herbs, but in terms of selecting plants that will make an attractive addition to your flower garden, these are the go-to blooms. Echinacea has beautiful, bold flowers in shades of pink and purple which look stunning in flower beds and planters. The plant boosts your immune system, helping ward off coughs and colds, and if you do get struck down, it will help to ease the symptoms. Feverfew has clusters of dainty white flowers with yellow centers like daisies, above bright green or yellow foliage.
It flowers for months and is incredibly easy to grow. It can help with arthritis and skin conditions but is mainly used for treating headaches, including migraines. Pot marigolds form bright orange and yellow flower heads that are guaranteed to brighten up your planting scheme. They are used for multiple medicinal applications, perhaps being best known for skin treatments. The Latin name for marigold, Calendula, may be familiar as a constituent of hand creams and lotions.
The possession and cultivation of marijuana, or cannabis, is now being decriminalized and even made legal for medical use in many US states. The active ingredient in cannabis plants is THC, which can be helpful particularly for chronic pain conditions. Before you contemplate growing your own, check out the position of the law in your state to make sure you abide by the regulations. If you are growing for medicinal use, you will need to prove that your condition merits this approach and obtain official authorization.
The marijuana plants need exactly the right conditions to grow, so make sure you can provide everything your plants will need. Light is a major consideration, and there are specialist manufacturers of lights for growing marijuana, so check out what is available and how it performs by looking at a reliable site, for example, Buds Grow Guide king led grow light review. The plants will need quite hot temperatures and the right amount of water to flourish too.
There are many herbs and plants which can flourish in your garden for their medicinal properties. If you want to learn more about growing and using herbs and medicinal plants, borrow a book from your local library or consult a specialist website – just be sure the information they give is legitimate and accurate and use an authoritative source!