Acai (Euterpe oleraceaeis)
Acai berry fruit comes from acai palm, which is a species present in the genus Euterpe and is usually cultivated for its palms and fruits. Its scientific name is Euterpe oleracea. The name acai palm is derived from the Brazilian Portuguese of the Tupian word wacai, which means the fruit that expels water or cries. The demand of this fruit worldwide has increased during the recent years and its cultivation has increased significantly.
Arnica (Arnica montana)
Arnica montana is the Latin name for a perennial that grows 1 to 2 feet tall with bright, yellow daisy-like flowers that appear in July and August. It is found on the moist, grassy upland meadows in the hills and mountains of northern and central Europe and Siberia. It is also found sparsely in the northwestern United States. More common names for Arnica are mountain daisy, leopard’s bane, and mountain tobacco. Its medicinal history dates back several centuries and arnica continues to be popular today.
Artemisia, Wormwood (Artemisia annua)
Artemisia annua is a medicinal plant that originated in Southeast Asia but is now cultivated all around the world. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years as a treatment for fevers, inflammation, headaches, bleeding, and malaria, but its medicinal properties were rediscovered by modern science in the 1970’s when research revealed that the plant contains more than 10 active substances. Currently, Artemisia annua is the source for the production of artemisinin and semi-synthetic artemisinin derivatives (including dihydroartemisinin, artesunate, artemether, and arteether) that are used for the production of combination therapies for the treatment of malaria Today, one of those substances – artemisinin – is the foundation of all anti-malarial medicine, the discovery of which won Prof. Tu Youyou the Nobel Prize in 2015.
A. annua, may be effective for protozoal infections including leishmaniasis, Chagas’ disease, and African sleeping sickness. Cytotoxic effects of A. annua compounds have also been evaluated in tumor cell lines.
Artemisinin-based combination therapies are part of the standard treatment arsenal for malaria. Systematic reviews suggest it is as effective as quinine, but an increased risk of relapse may limit its uses. It is also unclear whether it is effective against quinine-resistant malaria strains. Other reports of artemisinin-based therapy resistance are also emerging, prompting additional drug development.
Ashoka (Saraca asoca, Saraca indica)
Ashoka is one of the most ancient sacred and medicinal trees of India. Known by many names in different languages, it is commonly called “Ashok briksh”, or simply “Ashoka”, which means “without sorrow”, or “that which gives no grief.”1 It belongs to the family Caesalpiniaceae subfamily of the legume.2 The medicinal parts used are the bark, seeds, and flowers. Thus, all parts of this tree are considered pharmacologically important and have especially been used to manage various disorders. It is used as spasmogenic, oxytocic, uterotonic, anti-bacterial, anti-implantation, anti-tumor, anti-pregestational, antiestrogenic activity against menorrhagia, and anti-cancer.3
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
The name ‘Ashwagandha’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Ashva,’ meaning horse, and ‘gandh’ denoting smell referring to the horse-like odor emanating from its root. Its scientific name is Withania somnifera, a plant in the Solanaceae (Tomato family). Withania is named after Henry Witham, an English palaeobotanist of the early 19th century. The species name somnifera denotes “sleep-inducing” in Latin.
Blushwood Tree (Hylandia dockrillii)
A Promising Botanical Anticancerous Chemical
Hylandia dockrillii, commonly known as the blushwood tree, is a rainforest tree in the
family Euphorbiaceae endemic to the Atherton Tablelands of Australia.1 It primarily
grows in higher altitudes of 400 to 1100 meters in the warm rain forest and reaches
heights of approximately 25 meters. The tree is not found anywhere else on the
globe. The Atherton Tableland region has a long history of indigenous occupation,
and the Aboriginal people have used the fruit in their traditional medicine. Scientists
learned that the unpalatable seeds contain in the fruit exhibit an inflammatory agent
that causes animal tongues to swell. They isolated the active ingredient in the seeds, a
diterpene ester, which belongs to a new class of chemicals. They named the chemical
of the seed extract tigilanol tiglate or EBC-46. Remarkably, it has now been
demonstrated to be highly anticancerous. 2
Boswellia, Indian frankincense (Boswellia serrata)
Boswellia serrata is a tree prevalent in India, the Middle East, and North Africa. The gummy exudate or resin obtained by peeling away the bark is commonly known as frankincense or olibanum. The oldest written document mentioning boswellia as a drug is the papyrus Ebers written around 1500 BC.
Bupleurum root (Bupleurum chinense, Bupleurum scorzoneraefolium, Bupleurum falcatum, Radix Bupleuri)
Bupleuri Radix, the dried roots of Bupleurum falcatum L. (Umbelliferae), which is a perennial medicinal herb distributed mainly in China, Korea, and Japan, is one of the most important ingredients in traditional Japanese Kampo and Chinese medicines. It is frequently prescribed in combination with other herbs to treat colds, fever, malaria, digestive disorders, chronic liver diseases, and depression
Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus)
Ruscus aculeatus, commonly called Butcher’s broom due to its hard roots and antibacterial properties being traditionally used to clean the cutting boards of butchers. It is a short evergreen shrub of the Liliaceae family. Ruscus aculeatus L. rhizomes are well-known constituents of a great number of food supplements utilized to prevent microcirculation diseases.
Cats Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
Uncaria tomentosa, known as cats’ claw after its curved, claw-like thorns that grow on its stem, is a vine that can climb as high as 100 feet. It grows mostly in the Amazon rainforest up to 100 feet high, as well as other tropical areas in South and Central America. Much of the cat's claw sold in the United States was grown in Peru. Cat’s claw includes two species, Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guinaensis and the extract is usually made from their root bark most commonly from U. tomentosa.
Chamomile "German" (Matricaria recutita)
There are two basic types of chamomiles: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Most research has been conducted on German chamomile, and this article will focus on that species.
Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) was described in ancient medical writings and was an important medicinal herb in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Matricaria chamomilla is a well-known medicinal plant species from the Asteraceae family often referred to as the “star among medicinal species.” Nowadays it is a highly favored and much used medicinal plant in folk and traditional medicine. Its multitherapeutic, cosmetic, and nutritional values have been established through years of traditional and scientific use and research.
Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus)
Chaste tree fruit is composed of the ripe, dried fruits of Vitex agnus castus L. Other trees and plants in the Vitex genus are typically tropical, but this species is also found in temperate areas. The tree and its berries have the name “chaste” because the fruit was long believed to be an aphrodisiac. The effects that this plant can have on the reproductive health of both men and women is largely why it remains in use to this day.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Cinnamomum aromaticum, Cinnamomum loureiroi, Cinnamomum burmannii)
Cinnamon refers to several plants that belong to the genus Cinnamomum, native to Southeast Asia. Cinnamon consists of the dried bark, separated from cork and the underlying parenchyma, of young branches and shoots of species of Cinnamomum. The bark, rich in essential oil, is used as a flavoring agent and as a spice.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Taraxacum officinale (dandelion), a member of the Asteraceae family, commonly found in the temperate zone of the Northern hemisphere, is an herb that grows to a height of about 12 inches, producing spatula like leaves and yellow flowers that bloom year-round. Dandelion is used in many traditional and modern herbal medical systems, as particularly has been documented in Asia, Europe, and North America. Dandelion is grown commercially in the United States and Europe, the leaves and roots are used in herbal medicine. It is commonly used as a food. Sesquiterpene lactones impart a bitter taste to the plant, which is especially notable in the leaf but also in the root particularly when spring harvested.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida)
The genus Echinacea belongs to the family Compositae, commonly referred to as the sunflower family. Of the known species, E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida are commonly used in herbal medicine. Extracts derived from the root and aerial parts are widely used in Europe and the United States as nonspecific immunostimulants and to prevent or treat the common cold and influenza.
Depending on how this Asteraceae family member is classified, there are up to 12 different species of Echinacea. The most commonly used species for medicinal purposes is Echinacea purpurea, which is easy to cultivate and therefore, product demand does not put stress on native populations of Echinacea species that are difficult to cultivate. Most preparations found in the market are derived from the above-ground, or aerial, parts of E. purpurea and/or underground parts of E. purpurea; these preparations account for 80% of commercial production. In addition, E. angustifolia and E. pallida are also utilized in commerce but much less than E. purpurea. All three species of Echinacea seen in commercial preparations have undergone chemical and pharmacological studies. However, there are several other species of Echinacea that have little to no research on their chemistry and pharmacology.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberry belongs to a family of flowering shrubs known as Sambucus or Elder. They are native to Europe but have become naturalized in many parts of the world including the United States. Cultivated for medicinal and food purposes, the fruit is used to produce jams, syrups, and wine. The berries are a rich source of anthocyanins and other phenolics and nutrients. Several species of Sambucus produce elderberries with similar chemical compositions including American Elder (Sambucus canadensis) and Blue Elder (Sambucus caerulea), but European Elder (Sambucus nigra) is the type most studied and used in supplements.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Trigonella foenum-graecum (Fenugreek) is a clover-like herb native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia. Its seeds, which smell and taste like maple syrup, have been used in cooking and as medicine for centuries. Fenugreek is used as an ingredient in spice blends and a flavoring agent in foods, beverages, and tobacco. Fenugreek seed extracts are also used in soaps and cosmetics.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew), a member of the Asteraceae family, is a phytomedicine that has become very popular since the 1980s in treating inflammatory conditions and migraine. The ancient Greeks called the herb “Parthenium,” supposedly because it was used medicinally to save the life of someone who had fallen from the Parthenon during its construction in the 5th century BC. The first-century Greek physician Dioscorides used feverfew as an antipyretic. Feverfew also was known as “medieval aspirin” or the “aspirin” of the 18th century.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a species of bulbous flowering plant in the genus Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, Welsh onion, and Chinese onion. It is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran and has long been a common seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use. Numerous cuneiform records show that garlic has been cultivated in Mesopotamia for at least 4,000 years. The use of garlic in China and Egypt also dates back thousands of years. Well-preserved garlic was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun (c. 1325 BC).
It was consumed by ancient Greek and Roman soldiers, sailors, and rural classes (Virgil, Eclogues ii. 11), and, according to Pliny the Elder (Natural History xix. 32), by the African peasantry. Garlic was placed by the ancient Greeks on the piles of stones at crossroads, as a supper for Hecate (Theophrastus, Characters, The Superstitious Man). Currently, China produces over 70% of the world's supply of garlic.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberis rhizome)
Derived from the rhizome of the plant, ginger is native to Asia and is used both as food and as medicine. Ginger is in the family Zingiberaceae, which also includes turmeric (Curcuma longa), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), and galangal. Ginger originated in Maritime Southeast Asia and was likely domesticated first by the Austronesian peoples. The first written record of ginger comes from the Analects of Confucius, written in China during the Warring States period (475–221 BC). In it, Confucius was said to eat ginger with every meal. It was transported with them throughout the Indo-Pacific during the Austronesian expansion (c. 5,000 BP), reaching as far as Hawaii. Ginger is one of the first spices to have been exported from Asia, arriving in Europe with the spice trade, and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans. The distantly related dicots in the genus Asarum are commonly called wild ginger because of their similar taste.
Ginkgo biloba belongs to the botanical family of Ginkgoceae consisting of approximately 15 genera. The ginkgo tree, known to be among the oldest living species on this planet, has flourished in forests for more than 200 million years, hence it is called a “living fossil”. The modern-day Ginkgo biloba has a very distinct appearance characterized by its fan-shaped leaves. They also live a very, very long time. A single Ginkgo biloba tree might drop its distinct fan-shaped leaves every year for centuries, if not millennia. As a ginkgo ages, it does not just survive, it thrives. Though 600-year-old ginkgos grow thinner annual rings, they are likely to pump out just as much defensive and immune-supporting chemicals as their younger relatives.
This tree having survived millions of years has developed a unique adaptability to thrive in even extremely polluted environments. This attribute has made the male ginkgos very popular in air polluted cities. Its resistance, adaptability, and regenerative strength is unsurpassed in the plant kingdom and it imparts this adaptogen quality to its user. Thus, it is medicinally considered an adaptogen remedy. It is a dioecious tree with the male and female reproductive organs on separate trees. The name ginkgo comes from the Chinese words sankyo or yinkuo, which means a hill apricot or silver fruit, due to their apricot shaped mature fruits and yellow color.
It is cultivated around the world for its medicinal properties and aesthetic value.
Ginseng (American) (Panax quinquefolius)
Ginseng is probably the most researched and used medicinal herb in the world. There are 11 different varieties of ginseng, eight species of Panax in all, two of which are considered possessing high medicinal value: Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius or P. quinquefolius). The genus name, Panax, comes from the Greek word for panacea, or cure-all. American ginseng is a native perennial found in the temperate nutrient-rich forests in North America. American ginseng is considered an adaptogen. Adaptogens are a class of substances that stimulate the body's resistance to physical, environmental, and emotional stressors. Both Native American healers and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners have utilized it. It is not to be confused with Panax ginseng as it is a different species with slightly different medicinal properties than Asian or Panax ginseng. Both American and Asian ginseng contain compounds called ginsenosides, so some of their effects may be similar.
Ginseng (Asian) (Panax ginseng)
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used for thousands of years and appears in the first known Chinese Materia Medica (thought to have been written during the Han Dynasty, 220 BCE). The English word “ginseng” stem from the Chinese word rénshēn. Rén means person, while shēn means plant root. Ginseng’s pronunciation comes from Cantonese “yun sum” or the Hokkien pronunciation "jîn-sim". Ginseng is a slow-growing perennial plant with fleshy roots and belongs to the genus Panax of the family Araliaceae. The genus Panax derives its name from the Greek words pan (all) and akos (healing).
There are a total of 13 species that grow widely in Asia, North America and Europe. Asian ginseng root is native to the northern mountainous regions of Korea, China, and parts of the Russian Federation. Cultivation of Panax ginseng in Korea started around 11 B.C. by transplantation of wild ginseng. Panax ginseng cultivated in Korea (Korean ginseng) is harvested after 4-6 years of cultivation, and it is classified into three types depending on how it is processed: (a) fresh ginseng (less than 4 yrs. old; can be consumed in its fresh state); (b) white Ginseng (4-6 yrs. old; dried after peeling); and (c) red ginseng (harvested when 6 yrs. old, and then steamed and dried) is an herb native to East Asia and Russia.
Panax ginseng should not be confused with American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) or Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), which have different medicinal properties. It should also not be confused with Panax notoginseng which also has different properties and is a key ingredient in the TCM formula Yunnan baiyao.
Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), also called orangeroot or yellow puccoon, is a perennial herb in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to southeastern Canada and the eastern United States. It may be distinguished by its thick, yellow knotted rootstock. The stem is purplish and hairy above ground and yellow below ground where it connects to the yellow rhizome. The plant bears two palmate, hairy leaves with 5–7 double-toothed lobes and single, small, inconspicuous flowers with greenish white stamens in the late spring. It bears a single berry like a large raspberry with 10–30 seeds in the summer. Its rhizome is the part used for medicinal purposes. Goldenseal has deep origins as a traditional remedy among Native Americans. Later, pioneers adopted goldenseal and it became a mainstay of American folk medicine.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna, Crataegus oxyacantha)
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna, Crataegus oxyacantha) is a member of Rosaceae family and has been recorded as a popular medicinal plant in most of the countries. The berry has been a key part of traditional Chinese medicine for at least 2000 years. The genus name, “Crataegus” comes from the Greek word, “kràtaigos” which means “strength and robustness” due to its hard and durable wood. The parts of the Hawthorn bush that are used for medicinal purposes are the berries and the leaf. The berries of the Hawthorn are collected in the fall after they turn a dark purple.
Hawthorn berries are one of the oldest known medicinal plants used in European herbal medicine. Dioscorides, a Greek herbalist, was the first to report the performance of Hawthorn Berry on the heart. Dioscorides was followed by a Swiss physician, Paracelsus who touted the use of Hawthorn Berry for its actions on the heart. During his years of practice, Dr. Green of Ennis, Ireland held such a reputation of curing heart disease and other ailments of the heart, that he had patients from all over the United Kingdom. While remaining a physician in good standing, he refused to share his secret with his colleagues. After his death in 1894, Dr. Green’s daughter revealed that a concentrate of fresh Hawthorn berries, Crataegus Oxycantha, Common Hawthorn, was the formula which her father had successfully used to cure his many heart patients.
Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum L.) is a deciduous tree native to parts of southeastern Europe, particularly the Balkan Peninsula, but now cultivated in many areas of Europe and North America. The tree produces fruits that are made up of a spiny capsule containing one to three large seeds, known as horse chestnuts. Traditionally, many of the aerial parts of the horse chestnut tree, including the seeds, leaves, and bark, were used in medicinal preparations. Its fruits contain seeds that resemble sweet chestnuts but have a bitter taste. Modern extracts of horse chestnut are usually made from the seeds, which are high in the active constituent aescin (also known as escin).
Kava (Piper methysticum)
Kava, (Piper methysticum), also known as Kava Kava, is an indigenous plant in Polynesia and throughout the South Pacific, including Melanesia and Micronesia. It has been safely used for over 1,500 years in these cultures as a beverage for both ceremonial and casual consumption. Europeans documented its use when they traveled to Polynesia in the 18th century. In modern Fijian culture, Kava is used as a welcome beverage for visitors, and used in some religious contexts as well. These beverages are prepared from either the fresh or dried roots of the plant.
Lavenders (Lavandula spp.) belong to the family Labiatae (Lamiaceae) and have been used either dried or as an essential oil for centuries for a variety of therapeutic and cosmetic purposes. It has a long history as an herbal remedy in traditional medicine to improve mood and as a sleep aid. The word lavender comes from the Latin root “lavare” which literally means “to wash.” The earliest recorded use of lavender dates to ancient Egypt. There, lavender oil played a role in the mummification process. In later times, lavender became a bath additive in several regions,including ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome. These cultures believed that lavender helped purify the body and mind.
Today, lavender is primarily grown in northern Africa and the Mediterranean mountains, often for extraction of its essential oils. Lavender essential oil is produced, usually by steam distillation, from both the flower heads and foliage, but the chemical composition differs greatly, with the sweeter and most aromatic oil being derived from the flowers.
Maca – (Lepidium meyenii, Lepidium peruvianum)
Peruvian maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a root native to the Andean region, cultivated for at least 2000 years. It belongs to the Brassicaceae family and grows in high-altitude regions characterized by rocky formations, intense sunlight, strong winds, and extreme weather conditions, unsuitable for the growth of many other species. The indigenous population traditionally consumes maca which has a unique flavor and an aroma like caramel. The roots or hypocotyls are consumed cooked or stored dried and can be used for juices, soups, and extracts, and for enriching other foods with their powder.
Maca root has different colors that are responsible for positively influencing its pharmacological and biological action. Yellow maca corresponds to about 60% of all maca hypocotyls harvested in Peru. It is the most widely used and researched form among all maca products. Its properties increase energy, improve concentration, and balance hormones. Red maca accounts for about 25% of the annual harvest and is the sweetest and highest in phytochemical levels among maca powders with all litter colors. It is known as the most effective type for women because of its hormonal balance effects and its action on bone health. The black maca is the rarest of all colors, accounting for about 15% of the annual harvest. Studies have shown that it is the most effective form for men, especially for muscle gain, endurance, mental focus, and libido.