Four Medicinal Plants in your Backyard

Many plants that we might overlook in our gardens may have medicinal properties. February 2021.

Dandelions. Pic: Viridi Green

Dandelion

Dandelion are a family of flowering plants that grow in many parts of the world.

They’re also known as Taraxacum spp., though Taraxacum officinale is the most common species.

You may be most familiar with dandelion as a stubborn weed that never seems to leave your lawn or garden.

However, in traditional herbal medicine practices, dandelion are revered for their wide array of medicinal properties.

For centuries, they’ve been used to treat a myriad of physical ailments, including cancer, acne, liver disease and digestive disorders.

They are : Highly nutritious, contain antioxidants, can heal inflammation, may reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and protect the liver.

Raspberry Leaf

Raspberry leaves. Pic: Alejandro Pinero Amerio

Red raspberry is a plant native to Europe and parts of Asia and known for its sweet, nutritious berries.

Yet, its leaves are loaded with nutrients as well and often used to make an herbal tea that has medicinal uses.

For centuries, red raspberry leaves have been used to treat various health ailments and induce labor during pregnancy.

Red raspberry leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals.

They provide B vitamins, vitamin C and a number of minerals, including potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and iron. However, their most notable contribution might be their antioxidant properties.

Red raspberry leaves contain polyphenols like tannins and flavonoids, which act as antioxidants in your body and can help protect cells from damage.

In addition, the leaves contain small amounts of ellagic acids, which have been shown to neutralize carcinogens and even contribute to the self-destruction of cancer cells.

While more research is needed on the cancer-fighting potential of red raspberry leaves, current results are promising.

In any case, the leaves’ nutrient profile make red raspberry leaf tea a healthy choice.

Oak

Oak leaves. Pic: Ira Mint

Revered in traditional medicine, oak bark is a potent source of tannins, which is a bitter compound that has an astringent effect, according to some studies. Essentially, tannins can help tighten the tissues in our body and reinforce the integrity of our skin and mucus membranes. Tannins also provide a slight antibiotic and antimicrobial effect. For this reason, oak bark is used topically to treat weepy skin conditions such as poison ivy or eczema, and it’s also used as a wash to clean up mild cuts and scrapes. While it’s easy and fairly safe to use as a topical remedy, taking oak internally should only be done with the help of a trained professional, since it’s been known to cause upset stomachs and constipation.

Pine

Pine

When you smell pine, either in nature or in an essential oil, your lungs open up and you can feel yourself breathing in a little deeper. This is because pine has a bronchio-dilating effect that herbalists use to encourage the healing process.

Used as a tincture or tea, pine is also helpful for expectorating — in other words, helping the body get rid of phlegm and promoting the flow of mucus out of the lungs. “It’s the same reason people want to eat spicy foods when they’re sick, because it decongests you a little and helps you breathe,” says McKinnon. Pine is no different.

No matter which option appeals to you, plant-based medicines are not for everyone or every condition, studies warn. But for certain clients, taken under the guidance of a trained professional, they might just provide some relief.

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