Cultures in different parts of the globe have relied on traditional medicine to meet healthcare needs for centuries.
The demand for herbal remedies is on the rise despite the technological and medical advancements of modern times. Herbal medicine industry is in fact estimated to have grossed approximately $60 billion annually.
Some of these natural remedies are more accessible and affordable than conventional ones. Many people prefer using traditional herbal medicines because they align with their personal health ideologies.
Here are 3 of the most popular herbal medicines in the world, along with their main benefits, uses and relevant safety information.
1. Echinacea or coneflower. It is a flowering plant originated in North America. It has long been used in Native American practices to treat a variety of ailments, including upset stomach, sore throat, toothaches, burns, wounds.
Most parts of the plant, including roots, petals, leaves, can be used medicinally but many people believe the roots have the strongest effect.
Echinacea is usually taken as a supplement or a tea but can also be applied topically.
Today, the herbal plant is primarily used to prevent or treat the common cold but the science behind this is not particularly strong.
Short-term use is generally considered safe but its long-term effects don’t have sufficient data. Occasionally reported side effects to include skin rash, stomach pain, and nausea.
Echinacea can be bought in most supermarkets and health food stores.
2. Ginseng. Its roots are usually dried to make a powder or steeped to make a tea. It is popular in traditional Chinese medicine to reduce inflammation and boost energy levels, brain function, and immunity.
There are several varieties of ginseng but the most popular ones are the Asian Panax ginseng and American Panax quinquefolius. Asian ginseng is considered more stimulating while the American ginseng is believed to cultivate relaxation.
Ginseng has been used for centuries but modern research supporting its efficacy is lacking.
Several animal and test-tube studies suggest that ginsenosides, its unique compounds, boast immune-supporting, antidiabetes, anticancer, and neuroprotective properties.
Ginseng is considered relatively safe for short-term use but its long-term safety remains undetermined. Potential side effects include digestive issues, poor sleep, and headaches.
3. Ginkgo biloba. Also known as ginkgo, it is an herbal medicine from the maidenhair tree. Ginkgo is native to China and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It has been a top-selling herbal supplement in modern times. Its antioxidants are believed to offer several benefits.
Traditionally, the seeds and leaves are used to make tinctures and teas, but most modern applications use leaf extract.
Some individuals do enjoy eating toasted seeds and raw fruit. However, seeds should only be eaten in small quantities as they are mildly toxic.
Ginkgo is thought to treat heart disease, mental difficulties, dementia, and sexual dysfunction, though no studies have proven its effectiveness for any of these conditions.
You can get the ginkgo at supplement shops or online.