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18 of Natures Most Powerful

Medicinal Plants
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(Part of an Exclusive WebEcoist Series on Amazing Trees, Plants, Forests and Flowers)

From marijuana to catnip, there are hundreds of remarkably common

herbs, flowers, berries and plants that serve all kinds of important
medicinal and health purposes that might surprise you: antiinflammatory, anti-fungal, insect repellent, antiseptic, expectorant,
antibacterial, detoxification, fever reduction, antihistamine and pain
relief. Here are eighteen potent medical plants you're likely to find in the
wild or even someone's backyard that can help with minor injuries,
scrapes, bites and pains.*


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Images via Current and Street Knowledge

Seriously. Though marijuana is still illegal in the United States, it is legal in

12 states for medicinal purposes, and if a case of poison ivy in the woods
isn't a medicinal purpose, what is? Marijuana was *mostly* legal until
1970 when it became classified as a hard drug. No one thought of it as a
dangerous or illicit drug until the 20th century; in fact, hemp was George
Washington's primary crop and Thomas Jefferson's secondary crop. The
Declaration of Independence is written on it; the Gutenberg Bible was
printed on hemp, too. There's actually an environmental dimension to
legalizing marijuana hemp is a remarkable and renewable plant,
offering all kinds of foodstuff and product uses that surpass cotton and
plastic. But health benefits are well documented, from depression and
anxiety relief to reduced blood pressure, pain alleviation and glaucoma
treatment. It is not addictive, does not kill brain cells and is not a
"gateway" drug in fact, when pot is more available, studies show that
the use of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine actually decreases. The
bottom line for hikers: when your leg is broken from a misjudged boulder
hopping attempt (pain) and a bear has eaten your friend (depression) and
you're lost because you forgot the compass (dumbass), consult the

Lady Ferns

Image via US Forest Service

If you grew up in the Pacific Northwest you likely know what ferns are
good for: treating stinging nettles. One of the world's oldest plants, there
are many varieties of ferns, but if you're lucky enough to spy the soft,
delicate lady fern, grab some and roll it up between your palms into a
rough mash. The juices released will quickly ease stinging nettle burns
and can also ease minor cuts, stings and burns (fresh salt water also
works in a pinch for bee stings). Bracken fern are similar to lady fern and
will work, as well. The rougher, glossier, stiff sword fern and deer fern
won't be as effective, though. (Learn about types of ferns.) Lady ferns
actually grow all over North America but are common in areas with high

California Poppy

Images via Netstate and Mountain Meadow Seeds

The brilliant blooms of the poppy make this opioid plant an iconic one.
The plant is an effective nervine (anxiety reliever) and is safe for use on
agitated children. Can be made into a a tea for quick relief of nervousness
and tension. A stronger decoction will offer pain relief. (A decoction is
made by "stewing" all safe plant parts, including stems and roots if
possible, in water for several hours and, ideally, soaking overnight.)

Blood Flower

The blood flower (also Mexican butterfly weed) is a type of tropical

milkweed with toxic milky sap that is emetic (it makes you hurl). It's also
historically favored as a heart stimulant and worm expellent. Pretty useful
for a number of potential hiking disasters, if you think about it. (Of
course, if you'd quit eating those poisonous berries you probably
wouldn't need to worry about finding a natural expectorant.)


Image via Earth Heart Farm

If you've decided to backpack through Europe instead of the mountains

of Mexico (but why?), you'll want to know about a few helpful medicinal
plants. Tansy is an old-world aster and remedy, used for flavoring beer
and stews as well as repelling insects. Rubbing the leaves on the skin
provides an effective bug repellent, but tansy can also be used to treat
worms. It is said to be poisonous when extracted, but a few leaves are not
harmful if ingested.

Korean Mint (hyssop)

Korean Mint (hyssop)

Who doesn't want to be minty fresh? Most of the various types of "mint"
or mentha spearmint, Korean mint, applemint, regular old mint offer
reported health benefits and medicinal properties. (Avoid pennyroyal, as
it's poisonous.) Mint is famous for soothing headaches, fighting nausea,
calming the stomach and reducing nervousness and fatigue. Korean mint,
also called Indian mint and hyssop, is a fairly effective antiviral, making it
useful for fighting colds and the flu. Whatever continent you're on, some
type of mint is usually to be found. Eat whole, garnish food or make tea to
get the all purpose health benefits.


Image via In Advance

Alfalfa is fodder for livestock for a reason: it's incredibly rich in minerals
and health-promoting nutrients and compounds. With roots that grow 20
to 30 feet deep, alfalfa is considered the "father of all plants". (It also
contains a high amount of protein for a green.) Alfalfa originally grew in
the Mediterranean and Middle East but has now spread to most of
Europe and the Americans. It can treat morning sickness, nausea, kidney

stones, kidney pain and urinary discomfort. It is a powerful diuretic and

has a bit of stimulant power, helping to energize after a bout with illness.
It's a liver and bowel cleanser and long-term can help reduce cholesterol.
You can purchase seeds and sprouts, but it's fine to eat the leaves
straight from the earth.


Images via UCC

The cannabis of the cat kingdom. Famous for making cats deliriously
crazy, catnip has health properties that are great for humans, too. Catnip
can relieve cold symptoms (helpful if you're on a camping trip and don't
have access to Nyquil). It's useful in breaking a fever as it promotes
sweating. Catnip also helps stop excessive bleeding and swelling when
applied rather than ingested. This mint plant (yep, another one) is also
reportedly helpful in treating gas, stomach aches, and migraines. Catnip
can stimulate uterine contractions, so it should not be consumed by
pregnant women. It grows in the Northern Hemisphere.


Image via Palestine Shop

Sage is an incredibly useful herb, widely considered to be perhaps the

most valuable herb. It is anti-flammatory, anti-oxidant, and antifungal. In

fact, according to the noted resource World's

Healthiest Foods,

"Its reputation as a panacea is even represented in its scientific name,

Salvia officinalis, derived from the Latin word, salvere, which means 'to be
saved'." It was used as a preservative for meat before the advent of
refrigeration (eminently useful: you never know when you'll be forced to
hunt in the wild). Sage aids digestion, relieves cramps, reduces diarrhea,
dries up phlegm, fights colds, reduces inflammation and swelling, acts as
a salve for cuts and burns, and kills bacteria. Sage apparently even brings
color back to gray hair. A definite concern when lost in the woods.


Image via Old Ice Works

Did you know blackberries have useful healing properties? Of course

they're loaded in antioxidants and vitamins, but the leaves and roots have
value, too. Native Americans have long used the stems and leaves for
healing, while enjoying the young shoots peeled as a vegetable of sorts
and the berries, either raw or in jams. The leaves and root can be used as
an effective treatment against dysentery and diarrhea as well as serving
usefulness as an anti-inflammatory and astringent. Ideal for treating cuts
and inflammation in the mouth.

Wild Quinine

Image via Stone Silo Prairie Gardens

According to Alternative Nature Online, wild quinine is a potent herb that

"is used as an antiperiodic, emmenagogue, kidney, lithontripic, poultice. It
has traditionally been used in alternative medicine to treat debility,
fatigue, respiratory infection, gastrointestinal infection, and venereal
disease." Whatever the ailment, quinine is famously helpful in treating it.
Only the root and flowers are edible; avoid the plant.

Navajo Tea

Also called greenthread, Plains Tea or Coyote Plant, this plant has been
used for centuries by Native Americans to quickly relieve that most brutal
and irritating of infections: the UTI (urinary tract infection). Best when
made into a tea or decoction.

Red Clover

Image via Foxy Island

Native to Europe, Northern Africa and Western Asia, red clover is now
ubiquitous worldwide. The plant's reddish pink blossoms can be used for
coughs and colds, but they are an excellent detoxifier and blood cleanser
as well.

Sweet Marjoram

Images via Tasteful Garden and Veseys

Marjoram and oregano are often used interchangeably, but the aromatic
sweet marjoram is slightly different. The Greeks called it the "Joy of the
Mountain" and it was revered throughout the Mediterranean for its
fragrance, flavor and medicinal value. The famous French herbs de
provence and Middle Eastern za'atar both use sweet marjoram.
Marjoram has many uses (it's a famous digestive aid) but it is effective as
an antifungal, antibacterial and disinfectant treatment in a pinch.

Burdock Herb

Images via Norman Allen and Ontario Wildflowers

Burdock, or cocklebur, is a prickly, thistle-like plant that grows commonly

in many parts of the world. It can get fairly big and its leaves resemble the
elephant ear plant. Though the burs often get caught in pets' and
livestock's fur, don't think of it only as an annoying plant. It is a highly
effective treatment against poison ivy and poison oak (claims that it cures
cancer are slightly *less* substantiated).


Image via Earth Heart Farm

Feverfew is a plant that has well-known and documented health

properties and medicinal benefits. This anti-inflammatory can treat
rheumatism, arthritis and, most famously, migraine headaches and
tension headaches. It's also good for alleviating tension and general
anxiety (it is a natural serotonin inhibitor). It also helps to reduce swelling
and bruising. Though feverfew is most effective when taken daily, it can
be a helpful pain reliever when no Advil is on hand.

Sweet Violet

Image via Firefly Forest

Native to Europe and Asia, sweet violet is cultivated around the world and
is a pleasant, delicate purple color. When brewed into a syrup the plant is
effective as a treatment for colds, flu and coughs or sore throat. However,
when made as a tea, it is wonderfully effective for relieving headaches
and muscle and body pain.

Winter Savory

Image via CGNA

Winter savory is your savior against insect bites and stings. One of the
most effective natural plant treatments for bug bites is originally from
Europe and the Mediterranean but often shows up elsewhere thanks to
global trade. In addition to being an antiseptic, it is delicious used for
flavoring meats and stews and all parts are edible.
With so many amazing medicinal plants on the planet, be sure to look for
future posts covering more. Feel free to submit your own request or
share your botanical knowledge in the comments.
* Disclaimer: the content of this post is for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be
considered qualified medical advice. Always consult an expert before consuming or applying any foreign
substance or material. Also, don't do drugs.

Click Here for Even More Amazing Plants:

Click Here for Even More Amazing Plants:

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Join the discussion

Peter S

9 months ago

such a good article, enjoyed it to the fullest.



a year ago

so awesome plants in nature ..



Serena Novalis

2 years ago

Cannabis and Tobacco smoke contain many cancer-causing nitrosamines and other
carcinogens such as "ammonia, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, acrolein,
proprionaldehyde, crotonaldehyde, methyl ethyl ketone, butyraldehyde, hydrogen cyanide,
mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, arsenic, and selenium, tar and nicotine, carbon
monoxide, butadiene, isoprene, acrylonitrile, benzene, and toluene..." However, in Cannabis,
the amounts of these poisonous chemicals are alarmingly double in comparison to tobacco.
We know that ammonia is an electrically-charged, highly explosive gas. When ingested
through smoke, ammonia undoubtedly affects the brain, the electrical nervous system and
human behavior. When the kidneys, liver, and bladder cannot remove ammonia from the
bloodstream normally, encephalopathy and degenerative brain diseases develop. In fact,
there are many diseases associated with high ammonia levels in the blood. It is clear that
when the body is unable to adequately remove ammonia, severe systemic conditions are
inevitable. We see this most clearly in cases where ammonia builds up in the ankles, causing
gout and leg swelling, especially in diabetics who are prone to kidney, liver and heart
No matter what you may have heard, Cannabis DOES NOT cure cancer or glaucoma, or any
other human disease for that matter. Cannabis is a biological pollutant, not a purifying health
see more


Angel > Serena Novalis

a year ago

Disinfo!! marijuana has been proven to NOT contain those toxins, the smoke does not
contain any type of of those chems, and is NOT double that of tobacco. where do you get
your info from???? Cannabis cures cancer! it also has many other medicinal properties for
a huge list of illnesses and pain management. even med scientists are finding this out.
and since you haven't really researched (that is apparent) let me tell you, its not smoking it
that cures cancer, that is for pain and other ailments, you have to use the oils or in pill
Degenerate? wow, how do you like art or the music you listen to? most artists are
cannabis users. so you might want to burn all your favorite music and/or art youve
collected. Cannabis makes you think more, makes you more aware and opens your mind
up. Biological Pollutant? LMAO umm NO! its a natural healer, it improves your immune
Contains no carcinogens. Perfectly healthy. In fact some hospitals are planning on using it
for some patients. Please Do Some Research!
and please stop spreading uneducated lies! the source you showed, going by the citations
and the name at the top (cia really? lol) obviously has an agenda. they dont make money if

see more


presidentlourich > Serena Novalis

a year ago

So chemotherapy is legal but it's nothing but poision and doesnt work
in most cases. Plus the side effects are very dangerous to other
organs. I think i would rather use ANY natural plant then ANY man



4 months ago

Hi all, just adding information. There are 2 more plant should you know
have powerfull function. They are Ruellia tuberosa and celery. Ruellia
tuberosa has power to lower diabetes only in 14 days
(source: and cerely can clean your kidney
for 7 days (source:
other source:

other source:


Charles Whitev

6 months ago

How come marijuana be that much beneficial? It is used as a drug that is

illegal as well.



6 months ago

nice it talks about herbal plants



Tamara Morgan

a year ago

The blood flower (or anything that induces vomiting and is used for that
purpose) would be a purgative, not an "expectorant". An "expectorant" is
substance that thins and loosens respiratory secretions so they may
effectively "expectorated" or "coughed up". I am surprised that dandelion
wasn't included...
Serena-Tobacco smoke certainly contains a lot of nasty chemicals but
cannabis-not so much. Angel-sounds like you may need to verify some of
your information as well.
Angel-Cannabis is not known to cure cancer, although there have been
some interesting findings so far. Here is a link to an excellent article that
illustrates this:
Angel-perhaps you should join Serena in boning up on the facts before
posting and shredding someone in a public posting...


Anil Tudu

a year ago

I want to good plantation/gardening/nursery of Ayurvedic & Medicine

plants.Suggest me about the above mentioned subject.


Jewel Ciappio

a year ago

Plantago aka "plantain" is effective for bee/wasp stings. Beekeepers have

been using it for years and it grows in various areas of the U.S. As a


Abe Rey

a year ago

specializing in fine organic teas from across Europe. visit



Roger Yerger

a year ago

Anyone interested in alternate medicine should definitely check out the

book "Ten Super Herbs That Will Change Your Life Forever", the herbs I
learned about in this book have legitimately transformed my life. You can
download it for free at


Herbal Tea Co.

a year ago

Herbal Tea Co. specializing in fine organic teas from across Europe.
wisit as at



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