5 Medicinal Plants You May Have on Hand

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Nature’s pharmacy includes hundreds of medicinal plants and herbs that can be used for healing. Whether it’s an opioid-containing poppy flower used as a calming agent or the herb sage, an anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal treatment, medicinal plants date back centuries across numerous cultures. Today, both Western and Chinese medicine practice plant -based healing. You probably have medicinal plants in your home or garden.

Here are five medicinal plants you may have on hand:

Aloe vera

Most people have aloe at home, and if they don’t, a neighbor has it,” says Marci Cervone, a master gardener with the University of Florida Extension Program and a natural living consultant in Jacksonville, Fla. “Aloe contains various compounds that reduce inflammation, swelling, redness, pain and itching.”

  • Uses: For burns, cuts and minor abrasions; also as a mild laxative
  • How to take: Cut and pop open a fresh aloe leaf and rub it on the wound. “It promotes healing, and helps injured skin from getting infected,” says Cervone. The clear gel dries into a natural bandage. For a laxative, squeeze out the gel of one large leaf into a glass of fresh purified water, stir and drink.

Much more than a weed, dandelion is a nutritious healing herb that stimulates the flow of bile. It enhances the body’s ability to eliminate toxins.

  • Uses: As a diuretic (may help with PMS bloating), prevents gallstones and cleanses the liver. “Dandelion leaves contain noteworthy amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene and are considered an antioxidant that help sets the stage for preventing many diseases,” says Cervone.
  • How to take: Eat the leaves in salad or steam them as a veggie. Cream of dandelion soup, anyone?
Lemon balm

Also called Melissa, lemon balm has a calming effect on heart palpitations and an agitated state of mind.

  • Uses: Soothes stomach, calms nerves.
  • How to take: For a relaxing bath to promote sleep, tie a handful of lemon balm in cheesecloth and run bathwater over it. As a tea to soothe tummy trouble or calm nerves, use two teaspoons of leaves for each cup of water, steep 10-20 minutes and drink. Caution: not to be used during pregnancy as it can stimulate the uterus.

This fragrant herb has a long history in both medicine and cosmetics.

  • Uses: As a sedative, stress reliever, to restore calm and relieve tension.
  • How to take: Add dried lavender to bathwater as aromatherapy to soothe and calm, or make tea from one teaspoon leaves and flowers steeped in one cup boiling water.

Parsley leaves, roots and seeds all contain an oil with significant diuretic and mild laxative properties,” says Cervone. Parsley also inhibits the secretion of histamines, a compound produced by the body that causes allergies, hives and hay fever.

  • Uses: Breath freshener, allergy relief, tummy troubles.
  • How to take: Use two teaspoons dry leaves or one teaspoon of crushed seeds per cup of boiling water, steep for 10 minutes, then strain and drink as tea; chew on a few sprigs for bad breath.
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