Using medicinal plants for every day ailments is often overlooked in this age of fast pharmaceutical fixes. Here I discuss the benefits of using plants and why I think they should be the number one choice in many cases.
Reasons for Using Medicinal Plants for Every Day Ailments
In this day and age, everyone knows that if you have a cold or the flu, you run to the pharmacy and grab the applicable medicine on the shelf to make you feel better. But what if all you had to do was run to your kitchen and make a cup of tea? Or spend a few minutes making a tincture to have on hand whenever you need it? And why would you want to do that anyway?
How Much for That?
For one, pharmaceuticals can be expensive. How much for that bottle of acetaminophen or cough syrup? Well, there went my paycheck thanks to this flu bug. Sure the off brands are less expensive, but it can still add up quickly.
Stay Home When You’re Sick
Who wants to run to the pharmacy when you’re sick? We’re advised over and over again to stay at home when sick so you don’t infect other people. But, unless you have someone to run to the store/pharmacy for you, what other choice do you have?
Wait, Taking This Can Do What to Me?
I often like to skip the pharmaceuticals whenever possible because of the side effects. Look at these side effects of acetaminophen (source):
- red, peeling or blistering skin
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- in large quantities – liver issues
Those sound fun, right? This is just one medicine that can be found in most home cabinets.
If you listen to all those drug ads when they talk about side effects, some are very serious. Now, maybe most people won’t experience them but what if you are one that does? Some even have death as a side effect.
I’m not saying that to invoke fear or to cause you to avoid them altogether, I do believe pharmaceuticals have a place in our society today. But for every day ailments, plants can replace most of them.
My Favorite Reasons for Using Medicinal Plants
I love using plants as medicine because they often have multiple ways of attacking the problem at hand. Let’s say you have some kind of infection (as per my story in reason 3) and you need an antibiotic to get rid of it. A prescribed antibiotic has only one substance that’s attacking the infection. Penicillin contains only penicillin bacteria and nothing else.
Plants, however, have multiple different phytochemicals that can attack that infection. To survive, plants create adaptations that protect them from insects, microbes, fungi, and other sources of potential disease and attack. Those defenses take many forms and plants never have just one defense, they have multiple lines of attack to protect themselves.
Imagine being that bacterial infection and facing one opponent. It can be easy to adapt and evolve in a way that beats that one opponent. This is a very basic explanation of how antibiotic resistant bacteria have become so prevalent.
Now, imagine being that same bacteria but being attacked by multiple opponents. It’s much harder to fight several attackers off than it is just one. As a result, it’s harder to adapt and evolve to become resistant to them.
Human bodies are naturally adapted to process plant material. Our ancestors were well adapted at using plants as medicine. Even though millennia have passed, our bodies are still wired to process things that naturally occur in nature. Be it plant or animal material, our bodies know what to do with it.
But when we start pumping synthetic ingredients and medicine in, our bodies don’t always know what to do because it doesn’t recognize it. This is where a lot of those side effects come in.
The ability for our bodies to process plant material naturally also helps in fighting issues in a more holistic way. Often times pharmaceuticals are used as band aids, they don’t fix the problem, they synthetically try to override the problem or block us from feeling it all together.
Even things like acetaminophen or cough syrup just suppresses the issues, our immune system is still attacking the intruder and getting rid of it. We feel better in the short term because it blocks us from feeling the effects of that intruder. Once that medicine wears off, the symptoms come right back if our body hasn’t fought off the invasion yet.
Plants can also block signals like that, but it’s more likely they are working with our body to fight the problem. Because our bodies respond so well to plants, we can take those to help resolve the issue. Immune boosters like echinacea and elderberry are great examples of plants that boost the immune system to fight off the foreign invasion, not just mask the symptoms until your body catches up.
My absolute favorite reason I reach for a plant when I’m sick or have minor injuries is that I tend to already have them on hand in my kitchen.
You might be surprised by how medicinal every day culinary herbs are. Last summer I got a bug bite and it became infected. By using a poultice of oregano and yarrow, I cleared up the infection in a couple of days. I did not end up needing anti-biotics, my gut microbiota remained intact, and I didn’t have to pay for a doctors visit.
Many of the pharmaceutical drugs that we use today are actually based on plant medicine.
Aspirin is probably the most well known one and originally came from willow bark and meadow sweet. Willow bark and meadow sweet contain salicylic acid, and when discovered it became the catalyst to creating the medication we know as aspirin today. The actual medicine is now made synthetically, but these plants were used as the original aspirin by herbalists.
Morphine is extracted from the opium poppy and quinine (found in most cough syrups) is derived from the cinchona tree. There are many other examples, these are just a few common ones. (source)
In many cases, the process of extracting certain chemicals from plants or synthetically creating them produces side effects that the whole plant will not cause. If our medicines come from plants, why not just use the plant itself the way they were intended?
One Girl’s Thoughts on Using Plants as Medicine
These are my own thoughts on this topic. If this is not something you’ve considered, I encourage you to do some research and see if you find plant allies that may be beneficial to you. Even just upping your culinary herb game can give you benefits.
I realize this may not be the right path for every one to take. The best decision on how to take care of yourself is the one that fits your unique situation.
As I create new posts on some of my favorite herbs, I’ll be sure to link them below. Those posts will go more in depth about the herbs themselves, their medicinal properties, and how they may benefit you.
I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice, and I am only giving my opinion based on my knowledge and experience. If you are experiencing an issue that you feel requires medical help, please do not hesitate to see a doctor.
Start slowly with herbs and adjust based on your body’s tolerance to each herb. We are all different and react differently to plants, just like we may react differently to modern drugs.