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15 medicinal plants, their uses, and botanical names

The use of medicinal plants for healing purposes dates back to thousands of years ago. Early civilizations recognised various botanical species’ therapeutic properties and used some for healing.

People and even doctors have utilised medicinal plants for various health conditions. For example, civilisations in Australia used the Eucalyptus to reduce coughs, colds, and congestion.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for medical advice. Consult a qualified medical professional before using any plants that are considered medicinal.

Nevertheless, understanding the botanical names of medicinal plants can provide valuable insights into their potential benefits and applications.

So, what are some examples of plants that are used as medicine today? Here are 15 medicinal plants according to Healthline, WebMD, MedicineNet, and VeryWell Health.

1. Aloe Vera – Aloe barbadensis

Aloe Vera plant
Aloe vera is said to treat various skin ailments including burns, cuts, and eczema. Image: Pixabay/Ingoldfranziska
  • Genus: Aloe
  • Family: Asphodelaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Aloe vera is a perennial short-stemmed shrub native to Africa, Madagascar, Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula, and various islands in the Indian Ocean. The plant has succulent and erect leaves that form a dense rosette after growth.

You can identify aloe vera because of its sharp, pinkish spines along its edges. The spines have a transparent gel from which the plant derives its medical properties.

Aloe vera treats many skin injuries, including burns, cuts, insect bites, and eczema. The plant also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it effective in treating digestive problems.

2. Winter Cherry – Withania somnifera

Winter Cherry
Winter cherry fruits that are ready for harvesting. Image: Lex20/Getty Images
  • Genus: Withania
  • Family: Solanaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Winter cherry, commonly known as ashwagandha, is a perennial herb native to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The plant has velvet leaves and grows to a maximum height of 1.5 meters.

Winter cherry produces greenish-yellow flowers, and orange-red fruit, and has a taproot system. The primary component of medicinal value lies within its root, which emanates a potent, earthy, and mildly sweet fragrance.

Winter cherry is effective in treating many health conditions. For example, the plant is thought to increase libido in both men and women and improve sperm quality.

Furthermore, it can stimulate children’s growth, calm their nerves, treat stress and anxiety, improve memory, and act as a rejuvenator.

3. Chamomile – Matricaria chamomilla

German chamomile
According to MedicalNewsToday, Chamomile may help manage menstrual cramps, diabetes, and insomnia. Image by: Flickr/MikaJC
  • Genus: Matricaria
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Annual

Chamomile is an herbaceous annual plant indigenous to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. It possesses distinctive characteristics, such as fern-like foliage and aromatic leaves that can reach a maximum height of 30 inches.

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Chamomile is renowned for its considerable therapeutic advantages. It has garnered recognition across various cultures as a medicinal plant.

Its historical medical usage includes treating gastrointestinal ailments, alleviating muscular spasms, and managing skin conditions and minor infections. 

The plant also contributes towards producing cosmetic products and has been a favourite among scientists for research.

4. Coneflower – Echinacea purpurea

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Healthline states that Coneflower can treat flu, colds, and infections. Image: Ailime/Getty Images
  • Genus: Echinacea
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Coneflower is a perennial flowering plant native to North America. The plant commonly grows in prairies, meadows, and open woods.

The Coneflower has rough, scattered leaves that become smaller toward the top of the stem. It also has daisy-like flowers with purplish-brown, spiny centres.

According to Healthline, Coneflower has immunostimulatory, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Thus, you can use it as a dietary supplement for immune support.

The plant is also said to effectively deal with colds, flu, infections, and wounds.

5. Holy Basil – Ocimum tenuiflorum

Holy Basil – Ocimum tenuiflorum
Holy Basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum, common medicine in Ayurvedic and folk systems. Photo: Arun MR/Getty Images
  • Genus: Ocimum
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Holy Basil, commonly called tulsi, is a perennial plant native to Australia, Malesia, Asia, and the western Pacific. The plant is erect and has hairy stems that grow to 30 and 60 centimetres.

You can identify Holy Basil because of its green or purple petioled leaves. The leaves also have an ovate blade and a toothed margin. Also, the plant produces purple flowers in close whorls.

Holy Basil has been a medicinal plant for many years. It has been a common medicine in Ayurvedic and folk systems for its health benefits, like treating indigestion, stomach ulcers, eye diseases, insect bites, and eczema.

6. Garlic – Allium sativum

Garlic - Allium sativum
Garlic (Allium sativum) is native to Central Asia, Iran, and South Asia. Image: sirichai_asawalapsakul/Getty Images
  • Genus: Allium
  • Family: Amaryllidaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Grass
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Garlic is a perennial flowering plant native to South Asia, Central Asia, and Iran. The plant grows to one metre and is characterised by a tall, erect stem.

Garlic has flat leaf blades with an acute apex, producing pink to purple flowers. However, you can identify Garlic because it has a bulb of between ten and 20 cloves.

Garlic has traditionally been used as a food spice and medicinal plant. However, its medicinal properties include relieving the common cold and treating conditions like hypertension, intestinal worms, and fevers.

7. Ginger – Zingiber officinale

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) can help alleviate migraines and nausea symptoms. Image: Getty Images/margouillatphotos
  • Genus: Zingiber
  • Family: Zingiberaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Grass
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial
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Ginger is a perennial plant native to southeastern Asia. It is an edible plant that grows with a thick, branched rhizome whose outer layer is brown and a yellow centre.

Garlic usually grows with false or pseudostems wrapped on leaf bases. It also produces pale yellow or purplish flowers that grow on separate, shorter stems.

Ginger is a medicinal herb due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It treats various ailments, such as colds, migraines, and nausea. Furthermore, Ginger can alleviate inflammation and menstrual cramps.

8. Fenugreek – Trigonella foenum-graecum

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). Image: rezkrr/Getty Images
  • Genus: Fabales
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Annual

Fenugreek is an annual plant with leaves consisting of three small obovate to oblong leaflets.

It is native to many regions, including the Mediterranean, Europe, and Western Asia. However, the plant is cultivated worldwide as a semiarid crop.

Fenugreek has small, yellow-brown seeds and flat rhomboids characterised by a deep furrow less than 0.5 cm long. The seeds have a strong, sweetish, and some.

In traditional medicine, Fenugreek was used to treat digestive problems, menstrual cramps, and inflammation.

However, the plant is also promoted as a dietary supplement for diabetes and to stimulate milk production during breastfeeding.

9. Indian pennywort – Centella asiatica

Indian pennywort (Centella asiatica)
Indian pennywort (Centella Asiatica) helps in managing anxiety and depression. Image: Nesser3321/Getty Images
  • Genus: Centella
  • Family: Apiaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Indian Pennywort is a perennial flowering plant native to the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Ocean. However, it is an invasive plant and is neutralised worldwide.

Indian Pennywort grows with a slender stem and creeping stolon reaching up to six inches. Also, the plant produces white or crimson flowers.

Indian Pennywort serves as a culinary and medicinal plant. Traditionally, civilisations used the plant to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, memory loss, and skin conditions. It was also used to heal wounds.

10. Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) produces oil that is used for therapeutic purposes. Image: Coramueller/Getty Images
  • Genus: Lavandula
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Grass
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Lavender is a perennial herb indigenous to the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean. The plant is characterised by its heavily branched, compact stature, typically reaching a maximum height of 60 centimetres.

You can identify Lavender because of its multi-coloured flowers. Depending on the wild species, the flowers can be blue, violet, lilac, blackish purple or yellowish.

Lavender is commonly used in integrative medicine. It can produce oil suitable for therapeutic purposes such as massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation.

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Furthermore, the plant can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, stress, insomnia, depression, dementia, and pain.

11. Lemon Balm – Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm - Melissa officinalis
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) has antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Image: Getty Images/K1tyara
  • Genus: Melissa
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Lemon balm is a bushy herbaceous perennial plant native to south-central Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, Iran, and Central Asia. It grows up to 100 cm tall and has heart-shaped leaves with a rough, veined surface.

It is easy to identify Lemon balm during the summer because it grows with small white or pale pink flowers that appear in whorled clusters. Also, the plant has a mild lemon scent.

Lemon balm has antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, many civilisations have used it to treat anxiety, insomnia, indigestion, and cold sores.

12. Neem – Azadirachta indica

Neem (Azadirachta indica)
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is used in various medications, toothpastes and cosmetics. Photo by Muralinath/Getty Images
  • Genus: Azadirachta
  • Family: Meliaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Neem is a fast-growing evergreen tree native to the Indian subcontinent, including India and Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The tree grows to a height of between 15 and 30 meters and has attractive rounded crowns and thick furrowed bark.

Neem has compound leaves with toothed leaflets. The leaves are commonly used as medicinal leaves.

However, the Neem has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties.

The tree is used as an ingredient in herbal medicines, toothpaste, and cosmetics. Neem extracts are also used as insecticides and pesticides.

13. Peppermint – Mentha piperita

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) can repel dangerous insects such as mosquitoes. Image: Don_Heupel/Getty Images
  • Genus: Lamiaceae
  • Family: Mentha
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Peppermint is a perennial plant native to Europe and the Middle East but cultivated worldwide. It has a square stem, dark green leaves, and pinkish-lavender flowers.

Peppermint grows to a height of between 30 and 90 centimetres. The plant usually grows with a fleshy rhizome and fibrous roots.

It has both cultural and medicinal significance. However, some people use it as medicine to relieve muscle pain and tension.

In addition, peppermint possesses the ability to repel insects, including mosquitoes. Consequently, it assumes a pivotal role in the mitigation of malaria.

14. Turmeric – Curcuma longa

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
While common in cooking, turmeric (Curcuma longa) can help in treating digestive disorders. Photo: phanasitti/Getty Images
  • Genus: Curcuma
  • Family: Amaryllidaceae
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Turmeric is a perennial herbaceous plant native to tropical South Asia, specifically India and Indonesia, but grown worldwide.

The plant grows up to one meter tall and has long, oblong leaves that are green and about five inches wide.

Turmeric is easily recognisable because of its bright yellow-orange colour. Its colour comes from the rhizomes or underground stems.

Turmeric is one of the most potent herbal plants ever grown. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties.

People use Turmeric for cooking. However, it can also treat many conditions, including digestive disorders, wounds, infections, and inflammation.

15. Waterhyssop – Bacopa monnieri

Waterhyssop (Bacopa monnieri)
Waterhyssop, Bacopa monnieri, is said to help treat gastrointestinal disorders. Image: ben-bryant/Getty Images
  • Grass, Broadleaf: Broadleaf
  • Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Waterhyssop is a perennial medicinal plant. It is native to India, Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America.

It has succulent leaves arranged oppositely on the stem, producing small white flowers with up to five petals. The plant reaches a maximum height of 120 centimetres.

Waterhyssop has many medicinal benefits. For example, the plant can help reduce anxiety and stress. Also, it can treat gastrointestinal disorders and improve cognitive function.

Have your say

Which medicinal plants are in your area, and how do you use them?

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