Throughout history, people have used various herbs, plants and fruits for medicinal purposes. Today we’re still discovering plants with seemingly miraculous properties. Some are used to prepare liquid healing concoctions, while others can be eaten straight. Here we take a look at six healing plants, each one native to a different continent.
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 3 meters tall. Also referred to as the Virginia poke, American nightshade and pigeon berry, this native North American plant is an important source of nutrition for native songbirds, such as the Northern Mockingbird and the Gray Catbird.
Pokeweed extract is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, tonsillitis, swollen glands, bronchitis and constipation, among other ailments. This medicinal herb is most commonly taken in the form of a liquid extract. It’s also available as a powder for mixing into drinks, and some use the berries of the plant to make jelly or pie.
Camucamu (Myrciaria dubia) is a short, bushy, riverside tree that grows primarily in Peru and Brazil, preferring the tropical conditions of the Amazonian rainforest.
The cherry-like fruits that it produces range in hue from red to purple and are known for their incredibly high Vitamin C content, which amounts to 2 to 3% of its actual weight – before being dried. This is what gives the fruit its healing properties. In health stores, it’s often sold in the form of powder made from the pulp of the fruit.
Cheese fruit (Morinda Citrfolia) comes from a tree in the coffee family Rubiaceae, although this strange-looking fruit looks nothing like a coffee bean.
The cheese fruit plant yields anywhere between 4 and 8 kilograms of fruit per year. The fruit itself has a famously pungent odour when ripening, and is sometimes even referred to as “vomit fruit”. The fruit starts off green, and then changes from yellow almost to white as it ripens. The fruit, as well as the leaves, roots and seeds of the plant, are used to treat many ailments, including menstrual cramps, bowel irregularities and skin inflammation.
Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) is an annual plant that thrives all over Europe and that has now been introduced in more temperate parts of Asia.
Chamomile requires open soil to survive, and is often found growing near roads and even landfills. The chamomile plan doesn’t grow much taller than 30 to 40 cm. The dried flower is commonly used in herbal tea and is known to relieve stomach ache, treat irritable bowel syndrome and act as a gentle sleeping aid. Recent pharmaceutical studies have also indicated that chamomile may be effective in lowering cholesterol.
The Buchu plant (Agathosma betulina) is a herbaceous shrub with small oval leaves with stems that grow between 100 and 200 cm tall. It’s native to the Western Cape in South Africa. The plant has a long history of medicinal use in Southern Africa, most commonly for its anti-inflammatory properties, although it also treats a range of other ailments.
Buchu is also used to treat gastrointestinal pain and urinary tract infections. It’s also known as an effective diuretic and antiseptic. Buchu is most commonly used to make a medicinal tea, although some companies now produce a range of herbal health products that contain oil from the plant.
Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia), also known as bitter gourd or bitter squash, is a tropical vine. It’s native to India but has spread throughout the rest of Asia. It’s famous for its edible fruit, which varies in flavor and shape depending on the variety of the vine.
Bitter melon has long been used as an herbal remedy. Often it’s first soaked in either oil or honey. The plant is most famous in Asia for preventing and treating malaria. In Togo, the plant is used to treat chickenpox and measles, as well as various gastrointestinal diseases.
Guest post by Jeff from Buchulife.com, who provide a herbal health product range based on the buchu plant.