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Hortus Medicus

The Medicinal Plants
Disclaimer: This page presents a description and history of the medicinal uses of these plants. The intention is not to provide specific medical advice. You should consult your personal physician before taking any form of medication.

Achillea millefolium, Yarrow

yarrow

Yarrow

Achilleus, the greatest hero of the Trojan War in Homer’s “Iliad”, is reported to have used yarrow to stop the flow of blood from his wounds inflicted in battle. It has been scientifically proven that this plant has substances that have blood clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. In the Middle Ages in Europe, yarrow tea was taken to stop internal bleeding. Micmac Indians drank it with warm milk to treat upper respiratory infections.

Alcea rosea, Hollyhock
The flowers are used in the treatment of repiratory and inflammatory ailments and the root extracts to produce marshmallow sweets.

Alchemilla vulgaris, Lady’s Mantle
Lady's Mantle

The common English name is accounted for by the leaves resemblance to a cloak worn by English women in medieval times. A preparation of dried leave was used to control diarrhea and to stop bleeding.

Allium cepa, Onion
Like garlic, onions contain antibiotics and substances that lower blood sugar, serum cholesterol and blood pressure. Onion juice sweetened with sugar or honey is a traditional remedy for colds and coughs. Onions are rich in vitamins B-1, B-2 and Vitamin C.

Allium sativum, Garlic
It has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and as a culinary herb. In the Talmud Book of Ezra, Jews are encouraged to partake of garlic at the Friday night Shabbat meal for the following five reasons: (1) to keep the body warm; (2) to brighten the face; (3) to kill intestinal parasites; (4) to increase the volume of semen; and (5) to foster love and to do away with jealousy. Garlic is mentioned more than twenty times in the ancient Egyptian medical papyrus called the Codex Ebers dating back to ca. 1550 B.C. Pliny the Elder sited more than sixty therapeutic uses for garlic. Dioscorides, chief physician for the Roman army, prescribed garlic for intestinal parasitic disorders.
Garlic oil was first isolated in 1844. More than one hundred compounds have been identified as constituents of garlic oil. In the Middle Ages, it was eaten daily as a protection against the bubonic plagues that ravished the European continent. Louis Pasteur described its antibacterial properties in 1858. Tons of garlic were used in World War I in field dressings to prevent infection. Alliin and allicin are sulfur-containing compounds that are antibacterial and anti-fungal. When garlic cloves are sliced, diced, or minced, alliin converts allicin into a large number of thioallyl compounds that are effective in lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, serum cholesterol and serum triglycerides It is effective in boosting the immune system. Garlic is a natural pesticide against mosquito larvae.

Allium schoenoprasum, Chives
In traditional folk medicine Chives were eaten to treat and purge
intestinal parasites, enhance the immune system, stimulate digestion,
and treat anemia.
Garlic and scallions, along with onions, leeks, chives, and shallots, are rich in flavonols, substances in plants that have been shown to have anti tumor effects. New research from China confirms that eating vegetables from the allium group (allium is Latin for garlic) can reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Allium tuberosum, Garlic Chives
In Chinese herbal medicine, garlic chives have been used to treat fatigue, control excessive bleeding, and as an antidote for ingested poisons. The leaves and bulbs are applied to insect bites, cuts, and wounds, while the seeds are used to treat kidney, liver, and digestive system problems.

Althea officinalis, True Marshmallow
It is a native of Asia that has been naturalized in America. Marshmallow syrup from the roots is used in treating coughs and irritated throats.

Anchusa officinalis, Bugloss
Preparations made from roots and/or stems have been used in modern folk medicine primarily as an expectorant (to raise phlegm) or as an emollient (a salve to sooth and soften the skin).

Anethum graveolens 'Fernleaf', Dill
Dill is recorded as a medicinal plant for at least five thousand years in the writings of the Egyptians. Oil extracted from the seeds is made into potions and given to colicky babies. Adults take the preparation to relieve indigestion.

Angelica archangelica, Angelica
Though all parts of the plant are medicinal, preparations are made mainly from the roots. Its medicinal uses include:relief of ingestion, flatulence and colic; improvements of peripheral arterial circulation e.g. Buerger’s disease; a tonic for bronchitis

Anthemis nobilis a.k.a Chamaemelum nobile, Roman Chamomile
It is used for the relief of gastric distress. Peter Rabbit’s mother treated Peter with chamomile tea to alleviate the distress that followed the overindulgence of eating too much in Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden. Roman Chamomile resembles German Chamomile. Both Chamomiles are members of the same family. They have pale green feathery leaves and have flowers that resemble daisies with an apple-like fragrance.

Antirrhinum majus, Snapdragon
Preparations made from leaves and flowers are used to reduce fever and inflammation. In a poultice, it be applied to the body surface to treat burns, infections and hemorrhoids.

Apium graveolens, Celery
Essential oils have a sedative and anticonvulsant effect, and are used in the treatment of hypertension. Seeds used to treat arthritis and urinary tract infections.

Aquilegia canadensis, Columbine
Preparations of this plant are used as an astringent, analgesic, and a diuretic. American Indians used crushed seeds to relieve headaches.

Artemisia vulgaris, Mugwort
It is a natural insect repellant of moths as well as a culinary herb used in flavoring foods such as poultry stuffing. It is alleged to have many medicinal properties from hastening and easing labor to producing sedation. Its medicinal properties are questionable.

Asarum europeaum, European Ginger
In the past, it was used as an emetic, but it is obsolete because of toxicity. It is similar in use to Asarum canadense which was used by American Indians in the form of a root tea to treat respiratory, cardiac and “female” ailments. Asarum canadense contains aristocholic acid, an anti-tumor compound.

Asclepius incarnata, Butterfly Weed
It is used primarily in the treatment of respiratory disorders. Its uses are very similar to those of Asclepias tuberosa.

Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly Weed or Pleurisy Root
This plant is native to North America. Omaha Indians ate the raw root to treat bronchitis and taught the pioneers to do the same. It is an expectorant; it promotes coughing that raises phlegm. It also contains cardiac glycosides and an estrogen-like substance. It is a component of Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound (1875 to 1960) advertised for use in “womb trouble, sick headache, and nervous breakdowns”.

Asperula odorata, Sweet Woodruff
Research suggests that it may have anti-arthritic properties. Historically, it has been used to treat liver disorders. In Germany, it is an essential ingredient in May wine drunk as a “spring tonic”. The fragrance of dry leaves gives linen closets a sweet aroma that keeps moths away.

Baptisia australis, Blue False Indigo
American Indians used root tea as an emetic (to produce vomiting) and as a laxative. Root poultices were used to reduce inflammation, and held in the mouth against an aching tooth.

Baptisia tinctoria, Wild Indigo
Preparations made from the roots and leaves were used by North American Indians (Mohicans and Penobscots) in poltices to treat bruises, snake bites and superficial lacerations. Such preparations have effective antiseptic properties.

Borago officinalis, Borage
For centuries it was thought to be a mood elevator when ingested as a tea or as leaves steeped in wine. This may or may not be the case. There is some evidence that perparations made from seed oil have a use in soothing and relieving inflammations associated with respiratory disorders.

Calamintha ascendens, Mountain Balm
A preparation from this plant, calamint, stimulates sweating thereby loweing fever. It is also an expectorant and therefore a cough and cold remedy.

Calendula officinalis, Pot Marigold
Traditionally the flowers were used to impart a yellow color to cheese. Anti-inflammatory and antibiotic (bacteria, fungi and viruses) properties are responsible for the antiseptic healing effect when preparations of this plant are applied to skin wounds and burns. It can be used in the treatment of ringworm, cradle cap and athlete's foot.

Catharanthus rosea a.k.a. Vinca rosea Madagascar Periwinkle
Madagascar Periwinkle contains seventy alkaloids and four are medicinal. It is the source of the chemotherapeutic agents: Vincristine, Vinblastine, Vindesine, and Vinrelbine. Vincristine is used in the treatment of childhood leukemias and breast cancer. Vinblastine is used in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Disease and choriocarcinoma.

Chamomilla recutita or Matricaria recutita, German Chamomile

Chamomile

Tea made from dried flowers is used to treat a large variety of ailments. In experiments, the essential oil is found to be anti-fungal, anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory.

Colchicum autumnale, Autumn Crocus
Theophrastus (c.371-287 B.C.) noted it to be very toxic. In the fifth century (Byzantine Empire), it was used for the treatment of joint conditions. Colchicine is an alkaloid that relieves the joint pain and inflammation of gout. Colchicine is still derived from the plant itself because chemists have not been able to synthesize it inexpensively in the laboratory. Though they are called autumn crocus, they belong to the lily family and should not be confused with the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, which is a

Convollaria majalis, Lily-of-the-valley
A tea of flowers and leaves was used in treating heart disease. It contains cardiac glycosides similar to those of the digitalis plant family.

Dianthus anatolicus, Dianthus
D. anatolicus is a member of large genus of Dianthus (approximately 300) many of which have been used in Chinese and European herbal medicine for a large number of disorders including cardiac, urinary, nervous and gastrointestinal. Preparations are made from the flowers, leaves and stems but not the roots. The flower preparations are markedly diuretic.

Dictamnus albus, Gas Plant
Dittany, a distillate of very volatile essential oils from the roots and flowers, is rarely used today. It is a diuretic, an anti-spasmodic (relaxes the muscles of the gastro-intestinal tract), an anti-helminthic (expels intestinal parasites), and a stimulant to the contraction of uterine muscle.

Digitalis ambigua, Perennial Foxglove
All species of the genus Digitalis contain cardiac glycosides in their roots, stems, leaves and blossoms. Cardiac glycosides are a group of chemical compounds that taken by mouth slow the rate and regulate the rhythm of the heart beat as well as strengthen the heart muscle. These chemical compounds are very complex. They are difficult and very expensive to synthesize in the laboratory. All sources of the digitalis cardiac glycosides are, therefore, plant materials grown in cultivation specifically for medicinal purposes. Preparations made of the dried ground leaves are no longer prescibed. Individually extracted compounds are prescribed instead of the mixture of all the cardiac glycosides present in the dried ground leaf preparations.

Digitalis lanata, Grecian Foxglove
It is also called the wooly foxglove because of the texture of its leaves. It is a very important medicinal plant grown commercially for the cardiac glycoside digoxin. Lanoxin (digoxin) is used in the treatment of congestive heart failure alone or in combination with other drugs prescribed for the same purpose. Digoxin was first isolated from the other cardiac glycosides in 1930.

Digitalis lutea Yellow Foxglove
Like all other foxgloves, it contains cardiac glycosides but they are in weak concentrations and are not extracted commercially for the treatment on chronic congestive heart failure.

Digitalis purpurea, Common Foxglove

Foxglove

In 1775 Dr. William Withering, an English physician, discovered the efficacy of ingesting ground dried leaves of Digitalis purpurea in the treatment of severe congestive heart failure. He attributed its efficacy to a diuretic effect and published his findingsin l785 based on his clinical observations over a ten year period. In his paper, he recommended safe doses and warned of undesirable side effects from overdose including death from cardiac arrest. The pharmacological mechanisms of the cardiac glycosides in regulating the heart rate and rhythm and the strengthening of the heart muscle were discovered later.
The German ophthalmologist and botanist, Ernst Fuchs, is responsible for giving foxglove its Latin name in the Linneal binomial system of the naming of plants. To him and others before him, each blossom resembled a thimble so he arrived at digitalis as follows: digitus, i L. finger; alis, L. suffix meaning pertaining to the qualities or characteristics of a -----; Digitalis.a Latin adjectival noun meaning pertaining to the characteristics or qualities of a finger.
The thimble resemblance of the blossoms is also responsible for the English common name foxglove: “gloves for little folks” and the common German name der Fingerhut which translates into English as the finger hat (a thimble).

Echinacea purpurea syn E. angustifoli, Purple Cone Flower

Echinacea

Echinacea

Preparations of this plant were used by the Plain Indians (Comanche and Sioux) for the treatment of upper respiratory infections, burns, snakebites, and cancers. The European settlers learned about these indications from the Indians. It has been demonstrated that plant extracts stimulate the immune system to combat bacterial and viral infections. It also possesses antibiotic properties. Echinacea's name is derived from the Greek word for hedgehog and was inspired by the appearance of the flower's central cone.

fennel

Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare, Fennel
It is a native of the Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages, it was considered an antidote to witchcraft. It is an antispasmodic that is used to relieve bloating. It is also a diuretic.

Fragaria vesca, Wild Strawberry
America Indians and Europeans found multiple medicinal uses for this plant. The leaves are mildly astringent so that they can be used as a gargle to treat sore throats. The leaves as well as the fruit contain a diuretic.

Geranium Robertainum, Herb-Robert
Tea made from the leaves has been used for the treatment of tuberculosis, malaria and other systemic infectious diseases. It has antibiotic, antiviral properties and contains antioxidants.

Ginkgo biloba fastigiata, Maidenhair tree
The ginkgo tree is the oldest living tree species with at least a 200 million year history. It was present in the time of the dinosaurs. It predates the Mesozoic era. It was considered sacred by Buddhist monks who for centuries planted them around their temples and in nearby forests. It is extremely hardy and resistant to environmental pollutants. The hardy features and the special value placed on these trees insured their preservation into modern times. Extracts from the leaves are used to improve memory and are used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Evidence of efficacy in these treatments is lacking. It is a blood thinner that may be used in cases of poor circulation. Presumed better circulation to the brain is thought to be the reason why it might improve memory and be a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. It is being tried for use in the treatment of glaucoma. The Chinese have used it in treating asthma and cerebral disorders for at least three thousand years.

Hamamelis virginiana, Witch-hazel
Native Americans taught the English settlers to make a decoction of witch-hazel bark, twigs, and leaves to use in cold or warm compresses to treat bruises, to use it as an eye wash, and to take it by mouth for the treatment of diarrhea. Currently, it is used as a topical application for the treatment of eczema. A decoction is an extraction made by boiling a plant in water and removing the resulting mash from the liquid; the liquid contains the active ingredient in a concentrated form.
“Witch” refers to an Anglo-Saxon word meaning to bend; it has no reference to magic. This shrub blooms in the fall. There are other varieties of witch-hazel that bloom in late winter or very early spring.

Helianthus annuus, Common Sunflower
A tea made from the leaves is an astringent, a diuretic, an expectorant and an agent to reduce fever. Crushed leaves are used in poultices to treat snake bites and spider bites.

Helichyrsum italicum, Curry
Essential oils distilled from flowers are used in aromatherapy. The antioxidant activity of carbon dioxide extracts are under investigation. Preparations are used as anticoagulant, anasthetic, antispasmodic agents and for their antiviral and anti-fungal properties.

Hepatica acutiloba, Sharp Lobed Hepatica
A member of the buttercup family, hepatica was used by American Indians to make a tea for the treatment of liver and digestive ailments. The medicinal value of this plant is not established.

Humulus lupulus, Hops
Used to make beer. It contains antiseptic, antibiotic and anti-spasmodic properties.

Hypericum perforatum, St. John's Wort
Several plants bear the name of St. John's Wort and they are so called because they can be counted on to be in bloom on June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Extracts made from the blossoms have been used for centuries to treat mental disorders and to ward off evil spirits. American Indians treated tuberculosis, wounds and severe pain with a tea made from its flowers. Hypericin, a very complex molecule, is of questionable value in the treatment of mild depression; it is strongly antiviral and is being investigated for use in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Hyssopus officinalis, Hyssop
The herb or its oil is used to treat respiratory ailments. In small amounts, it is added to salads, soups, sauces and meat dishes to aid digestion.

Inula helenium, Elecampane
A legend has it that Helen of Troy had this plant in her hand when she left with Paris to live with him in Troy. From this legend, the plant gets its name. The ancient Greeks and Romans used preparations made from this plant to treat upper respiratory infections and to aid digestion. In the Middle Ages, wine was made from this plant and it was called potio Paulino which means Paul’s drink, a reference to St. Paul’s advise to “drink a little wine for the stomach’s sake”.

Iris cristata,  Crested Dwarf Iris
American Indians used the roots in tea to treat hepatitis and in animal fat ointments to treat skin ulcers.

Iris germanica, German Flag
The root (orris) is included in cough remedies primarily and never used alone. Dried orris has the fragrance of violets; it is included in some potpourris. Iris cristata and Iris versicolor are also used in Indian Medicine for the relief of symptoms and the treatment of various disorders without any scientific proof of efficacy thus far.

Laurus nobilis, Bay Leaf
Leaf preparations used to treat upper digestive tract disorders.

Lavendula officinalis syn. L. angustifolia, English Lavender

Lavender

Lavare is the Latin verb "to wash". The Romans used the fragrance of the blossoms in their bath water hence the origin of the name lavendula. In the Middle Ages, it was used alone or in combination with other herbs to treat insomnia, anxiety states, migraine headaches and depression. The fragrance is relaxing hence the dry blossoms were stuffed in pillows and given to agitated patients to produce sedation. The oil is strongly antiseptic and used to heal wounds.

Levisticum officinale, Lovage
Preparations made from the roots or leaves are used to treat edema, indigestion and to prevent the formation of kidney stones.

Liatris spicata, Gayfeather
American Indians used this plant for food as well as medicine. It was used as a cough syrup for the treatment of persistent coughs and urinary tract infections.

Lycopersicon esculentum, Tomato
Lycopene may be beneficial in the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy.

Malva sylvestris, Common Mallow
Pliny II, 1st Century A.D. wrote that tea made from the seeds and mixed with wine relieved nausea. In 16th century Italy, it was considered a cure-all. American Indians made poultices from the plant and applied them to sores, insect stings and swollen limbs to relieve pain. Taken internally, it may be useful in treating digestive and urinary tract infections because it contains a large amount of mucilage.

Marrubium vulgare, Horehound
Fresh or dried aerial parts of this plant are used to treat digestive and respiratory conditions. It is given for digestive complaints such as loss of appetite and indigestion. It is also used to treat the cough of chronic or acute bronchitis.

Matricaria chamomilla, German Chamomille
Essential oils distilled from dried flower heads are used topically for their antibiotic and antiseptic properties and internally for anti-inflammatory (gastritis), antiseptic, antispasmodic and sedative effects.

Melissa officinalis, Lemon Balm
Lemon balm was introduced into medicine by the Arabs for treatment of depression and anxiety. In the 11th century Avicenna, the famous theologian, philosopher-physician, taught that "it causeth the mind and the heart to become merry". New research shows that its polyphenols can help significantly in the treatment of herpes simplex and zoster infections.

Mentha piperita, Peppermint
Peppermint came into general use in the medicine of Western Europe only about the middle of the eighteenth century. Preparations made from fresh or dried leaves or distilled essential oil are used to relieve mild headache, to relieve pain, to relieve bowel spasm, and to relieve chest congestion.

Bee Balm

Monarda didyma, Bee Balm
The Oswego Indians made tea from the aromatic leaves and introduced this practice to the original settlers as a beverage. The Shakers thought that the tea was effective in treating upper respiratory infections. They prescribed it for young brides to stimulate the appetite and regulate menstruation. The early settlers steamed the plant and inhaled fumes to clear their sinuses. It contains thymol which is a pleasant aromatic substance used in dentistry as a preservative and a fungicide.
Oswego tea replaced imported tea after the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. The embargo of imported tea by all of the American colonies led to the bankruptcy of the British East India Company.

Nepeta cataria, Catnip
It is a mild sedative for the relief of insomnia. Chewing the leaves relieves toothaches. It lowers fever by increasing sweating because the evaporation of moisture from the skin is a cooling process. It is hallucinogenic in cats but not in humans.

Nicotiana sylvestris, Nicotiana
A member of a large family of Nicotianas whose leaves are used in making prepartions taken by mouth to induce vomiting and diarrhea, to relieve pain and to sedate. Preparations are used externally as a poultice in the treatment of joint swelling from arthritis, of skin diseases and of insect bites. Nicotine is a very effective biodegradable insecticide.

Ocimum basilicum, Sweet Basil
It is a native of India. Eating its leaves was prescribed by the first century Greek physician Dioscorides to relieve the pain of a scorpion’s sting. The Ancient Romans used it to alleviate flatulence, counteract poisonings and to stimulate breast milk production. Applied externally, it is an insect repellant.

Oenothera biennis, Evening Primrose

primrose
Evening Primrose

American Indians had multiple uses for this plant. External application of the seed oil may be useful in the treatment of eczema and other allergic skin disorders. There is some evidence that internal consumption of the oil is beneficial in the treatment of eczema. It is used for this purpose in Europe, but not permitted in the United States. Three to four grams of primrose oil per day may be beneficial in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome.

Paeonia officinalis, ‘Mollis’ Peony
A plant named after Paeon, physician to the Greek gods, by Theophrastus (372-c. 287 B.C.) For centuries, it has had a large place in classical antiquity as well as in ancient and modern Chinese medicine. In the time of Hippocrates, it was used to treat epilepsy. Dioscorides (40-90 A.D.) wrote that the root of the plant provokes menstruation and that it could be used to expel the placenta following childbirth. The root of herbaceous peonies has been used in Chinese medicine for 1500 years for menstrual disorders and to relieve the symptoms of menopause.

Paeonia suffruticos ‘Renkaku’, White Tree Peony
Root and bark preparations are used in Chinese medicine as an antiseptic, a liver tonic , for relief of menstrual cramps and in the treatment of female infertility. Bark and root preparations are under study for possible analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic medical uses.

Papaver rhoeas, Flanders Poppy or Corn Poppy
It is a native of Europe, North Africa and the temperate zones of Asia. Its latex contains substances very similar to the Opium Poppy but they are much milder in strength. It is called the “Corn Poppy” because of its frequent appearance as a wild flower in grain fields in England and elsewhere in Europe. It is the poppy referred to in “In Flanders Fields”, a poem written by John McCrae (1872-1918), a Canadian physician, who served on the Western Front in 1914. World War I veterans and subsequent war veterans annually memorialize the war dead with imitations of this poppy worn as boutonnières on Memorial Day in the United States and on November 11 in Canada.

Papaver somniferum, Opium Poppy

Poppy

It is a plant native to Turkey and Asia Minor with medicinal and recreational properties that have been known for more than six thousand years. By three thousand B.C., the Sumerians had named it the joy plant because consuming the dried milky sap of unripe pods caused euphoria.
By three hundred B.C., opium (sun dried milky sap taken from unripe pods) was being used by Arabs, Greeks and Romans as a sedative, a pain reliever and a soporific (a substance to induce sleep). Opium can be lethal; Agrippina, the fifth wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius (10 B.C.-A.D. 54) mixed opium with wine to poison Claudius and his son after Claudius adopted her son, Nero, making it possible for Nero to ascend the throne.
Opium has been the cause of international conflict: The Opium Wars of 1839-1842 and 1856-1860 between the United Kingdom and China.
Morphine was isolated from opium in 1803 by a twenty-year old German pharmacist who named it after Morpheus, the god of dreams. Morphine is the most effective painkiller known to medicine; it has ten times the pain relieving potency of aspirin. Heroin, a synthetic derivative of morphine, has all the properties of morphine to a much more dangerous degree. Heroin and opium are illegal and forbidden to be used in the practice of medicine. Opium, referred to as “brown sugar” in the legal and illegal trade is so-called because of its appearance to brown sugar. Opium dissolved in sherry is laudanum. Paregoric is a camphorated tincture of opium. Opium contains approximately twenty eight natural organic compounds that collectively are called the “opiates”. Five of the natural occurring opiates used in the practice of medicine are: morphine, codeine, thebaine, papaverine and noscapine. Synthetic derivatives of opiates (opioids) are created in the laboratory. They are: meperidene Demerol);diacetylmorpine (Heroin); Oxycodone (OxyContin): and Hydrocodone (Vicodin).

Passiflora incarnata, Passion Flower
The 16th Spanish explorers were enchanted by the beauty of the blossoms of this flowering vine and give it its name. For them, the blossom was full of the symbolism of Christ’s crucifixion; hence the name Passion Flower. The fringed corona reminded them of the crown of thorns, the three stigmas reminded them of the three nails piercing the hands and feet, white stood for purity and blue-purple for heaven, and the 10 sepals for ten of the twelve apostles. Peter and Judas were excluded because the former denied Christ and the later betrayed him. American Indians used the flowers and dried fruits in making sedative preparations.

Physalis alkekengi, Chinese Lantern
Physalis is the Greek word for bladder. It provides the plant its botanical name because the pod resembles a bladder; and because of the pod’s appearance, preparations from the red berry in the pod were used in the past as a diuretic and for the treatment of kidney and bladder stones. These medicinal properties have not been scientifically confirmed. It has not been prescribed since the end of the seventeenth century.

Podophyllium peltatum, May Apple
Extracts of the dried rhizome are used as a topical agent for removing warts. The drug etoposide is synthesized from podophyllotoxin taken from the underground parts and taken internally to treat testicular cancer.

Polemonium reptans, Jacob's Ladder or Greek Valerian
American Indians used the root in preparations to treat skin conditions such as eczema, lung conditions such as pleurisy, and for abdominal complaints.

Pulmonaria officinalis, Lungwort
It is a native of Europe and the Caucasus. The plant is so called because the spotted leaves resemble lung tissue. It is used to treat chest ailments such as chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Prunella vulgaris, Self Heal
It has been shown to possess antibiotic and antiviral properties. It is used in the treatment of labial herpes (herpes simplex) and genital herpes.

Rheum officinale, English Rhubarb
Anthraquinones in the rhizomes (roots) are strong laxatives and antibiotic against staphylococcus aureus.

Ricinus cummunis 'rubra', Castor Bean Plant

Castor Bean Plant

A native of East Africa that in some locations can grow as high as thirty feet. It has a striking red stalk and green palmate leaves making it a striking accent in the garden. The white flowers are male and female. The seed capsules are red. The seeds are very poisonous. Oil extracted from the seeds is not poisonous and has been used as a laxative for about four thousand years.

 

Rosa gallica officinalis, Apothecary Rose
A native of Persia (Iran) that was described by the Ancient Greek poet Sappho as “ the queen of flowers”, this rose has had many uses over time. The Ancient Romans consumed the petals as food and marinated them in wine to use them as a cure for hangovers. Avicenna, a famous eleventh century Arab physician and philosopher living in Moslem Spain, prepared rose water from the petals that he used in treating his patients for a variety of ailments. Knights returning from the Crusades brought the plant to Europe. It was grown chiefly in monastic gardens for medicinal purposes. In the Middle Ages, the blossoms were used in aroma therapy for the treatment of depression. In the nineteenth century beginning in the time of Napoleon, French pharmacists grew them in pots at the entrances of their shops, hence the origin of the common name Apothecary Rose. The Apothecary Rose became the professional symbol of the pharmaceutical profession much as the balanced scales became the professional symbol of the legal profession. French druggists dispensed preparations made from this rose to treat indigestion, sore throats and skin rashes.

Rosa rugosa Wrinkled Rose
This plant is indigenous to Asia; it gets its common English name, the wrinkled rose, from the appearance of its leaves. It has naturalized itself in the sand dunes of the New England seacoast. In China, the flowers are used to make tea to improve the circulation and to “soothe a restless fetus”. Tea and Jelly made from the rose hips are a very rich source of Vitamin C. The rose hips of this plant have the highest natural concentration of Vitamin C of any other natural source of Vitamin C, including all of the citrus fruits. For the sufferer of scurvy, the Rosa rugosa is a medicinal plant; for the rest of us, it is a nutritional plant.

Rosmarinus officinalis, Rosemary
"Rosemary that's for remembrance," Shakespeare. It is a symbol of fidelity between lovers. For centuries it has been used in bridal bouquets to make the statement that the bride will never forget the family she is leaving. It has been buried with the deceased and used in funeral bouquets to signify that the deceased member will never be forgotten by members of his or her family. In ancient Greece, students wore sprigs of this herb in their hair while they studied. Rosemary is believed to stimulate cerebral circulation thereby improving concentration and memory. The oil of the flowering spikes is anti-fungal and anti-biotic. The leaves contain COX-2 inhibitors that inhibit tumor growth and have anti-HIV activity. Rosemary aids in the digestion of fats. Possible improvement in memory may be related to improving circulation to the brain. Rosemary, used in food flavoring, is also important to the perfume industry.

Rudbechia hirta, Black-Eye-Susan
American Indians used root tea to treat parasitic infestations such as pinworm. They used it externally to treat snake bits, superficial wounds and earaches.

Ruta graveolens, Rue
It is native to the Mediterranean that was used in Ancient Greece to stimulate menstrual bleeding and to induce abortion.

Salix elaeagnos syn. Salix rosmarinifolia, Rosemary Willow
In Ancient Greece, the bark of the white willow (Salix alba) was chewed to relieve the pain of gout and to reduce fever. In the fifth century B.C., Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, prescribed ground willow bark to ease aches and pains. In the 1st century A.D. Dioscorides, a Greek physician in service to the Romans, wrote that the ingested bark and leaves of Salix alba reduce fever and relieve pain. For centuries, Europeans used tea made of the roots and leaves to lower fever and relieve aches. The Chickasaw Indians used tea made from the roots to relieve headache.
In 1830, German researchers isolated salicin from the bark of the white willow tree and from other plants. Their research determined that ingested salicin becomes salicylic acid in the stomach, and that salicylic acid is responsible for the desired effects as well as undesirable toxic side effects that include gastrointestinal bleeding. In 1875 a derivative, acetylsalicylic acid, was synthesized from salicylic acid. Acetylsalicylic acid was discovered to have the properties of and to have many fewer side effects than salicylic acid. In 1899 acetylsalicylic acid appeared in powder form for the first time; 1915 was the first time that it appeared in pill form. A part of the terms of the peace treaty with Germany following World War I was the surrender of the patent and of the trade mark ASPIRIN for acetylsalicylic acid. Since then acetylsalicylic acid (abbreviated as ASA) has been universally known as aspirin. Aspirin is one of the most important and one of the cheapest drugs in the medical armamentarium for the treatment of human diseases, for the relief of pain, and as a blood thinner in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes caused by disease in the blood vessel walls.


Salvia sclarea, Clary Sage
The seeds were once commonly used to treat eye diseases therefore it is also know as clear eye. It has also been used for gastro-intestinal disorders such as indigestion and flatulence. It stimulates estrogen production so it is used as a remedy for menopausal complaints such as hot flashes.

Salvia officinalis, Sage
Sage is better known as a culinary than as a medicinal herb. Its Latin name, Salvia, is derived from the Latin salvere, "to be saved", in reference to the curative properties of the plant. Sage has numerous traditional medicinal uses as an astringent, as an antiseptic, as a carminative and as an estrogenic.

Sanguisorba officinalis, Salad burnet
It grows in the wild from Maine to Minnesota and beyond. It is used to stop bleeding. American soldiers in the Revolutionary War drank tea made from the leaves before going into battle to prevent excessive bleeding if they were wounded. It is antibacterial. It is currently in use in Chinese herbal medicine to control bleeding and to stop vomiting.

Scilla siberica, Siberian Squill
Syrups and tinctures are used as emetics and cathartics as well as diuretics in the treatment of congestive heart failure. It is also used in expectorants to treat lung disorders. It was used by the Greek physician Epimerides hence it is also know as Epemenidiea.

Sedum purpureum

Sedum purpureum, Live-forever
In the first century A.D., Pliny, the Roman naturalist, stated that the juice of this plant was good for treating wounds and fistulas. In more recent herbal medicine, it has been prescribed to be taken internally for the treatment of ulcers, lung disorders, and diarrhea; and externally it has been prescribed for slow healing ulcers.

Sempervivum tectorum, Hen-and-chicks or Houseleek
The Latin botanical name has an historical reference. Charlemagne (742-814 A.D.) recommended that his subjects plant these hardy prolific plants on the roof of their houses to ward off lightening and fire. The leaves contain tannins and mucilage that are soothing to skin. It is used in the treatment of burns, skin wounds and infections.

Silphium perfoliatum, Cup Plant
A perennial native prairie wildflower whose roots are used in an oral preparation to increase sweating, to reduce fever, to induce abortion and as an expectorant in the treatment of pulmonary diseases.

Solidago canadensis, Golden Rod
The name Solidago, from the Latin solido, "to make whole", indicates its use as a wound-healing herb. Goldenrod is a safe and gentle remedy for a number of disorders. It is a valuable astringent remedy treating wounds and bleeding. Antioxidant and diuretic, goldenrod is a valuable remedy for urinary tract disorders. The plant contains saponins that are antifungal and act specifically against the Candida fungus, the cause of yeast infections and oral thrush. The herb can also be taken for sore throats, chronic nasal congestion, and diarrhea. Due to its mild action, goldenrod is appropriate for treating gastroenteritis in children. It may be used as a mouthwash or douche for yeast infections.

Stachys byzantina, Lamb's Ears
Lamb's ears foliage bandages wounds and reputedly reduces the pain of bee stings.

Stachys officinalis, Betony
In ancient times wood betony had no fewer than 29 uses in treating physical diseases and was used well into the Middle Ages to ward off evil or ill humors. In Europe, the aerial (above the ground) portions of the plant are harvested when the plant is in bloom and is used to treat almost any disease! It is a sedative. In addition, it has anti-diarrhea, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Stylophorum diphyllum, Calendine Poppy
It contains glaucine . Preparations are used in the treatment of insomnia, upper respiratory infections, and to reduce fever as well as in ointments for the treatment of burns and superficial abrasions. In veterinary medicine, ointments are used in the treatment of mastitis.

Comfrey

Symphytum officinale, Comfrey
Comfrey contains allantoin used in ointments for psoriasis and other skin problems. It has been known since Greek and Roman antiquity and used primarily externally as a poultice for surface wounds and to form a cast to hold broken bones immobile while they knit. Comfrey is a corruption of the Latin "con firma" implying that the bone is "made firm". "Symphyton" is derived from the Greek "plants growing together" in the sense of "causing to unite".

Tanacetum parthenium syn. Chrysanthemum parthenium, Feverfew
Parthenion is the Greek word for girl. Feverfew is Elizabethan English and comes from febrifuge, an old medical term for a medicine that reduces fever. Feverfew is an effective remedy for migraine. Parthenolide appears to inhibit the release of the hormone serotonin that triggers migraine. It has also been shown to reduce fever, hence the name Feverfew.

Tanacetum vulgare, Tansy
The blossoms were used as insect repellents in bedding and scattered on bedroom floors and ward floors of hospitals in The Middle Ages. The leaves were used as a preservative in meats and food products.

Taraxacum officinale, Dandelion
Used primarily in Eastern European traditional medicine. It is used primarily as a diuretic but also taken internally to treat arthritis and gastro-intestinal disorders. It is applied externally to treat eczema and other skin conditions. It is eaten raw in “spring salads” and cooked as a vegetable when the plants are very young before flowering.

Teucrium chamaedrys, Germander
Native to Central Europe and harvested when in bloom for tonics to treat diarrhea. It is also an astringent. It contains anti-microbial properties and has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.

Thymus citriodorus, Lemon Thyme
Used to make pediatric oral preparations that are tasty and sweet to relieve an “upset tummy”.  It is also in ointments and in “sleep pillows”.

Thymus vulgaris, Thyme
It was used in the Middle Ages as a treatment of epilepsy and depression. In 1975, a German pharmacist discovered that the plant’s essential oil, thymol, was a powerful disinfectant topically and an antibiotic/antifungal agent when taken orally. It is an antispasmodic and an anti-tussive used effectively in cough syrups to raise sputum and relieve coughing.

Tilia cordata ‘Greenspsire’ Linden Tree
A deciduous tree that is native of Europe and Southwest Asia. Pale yellow flowers and lime colored bracts are made into a lime tea that may be consumed simply as a beverage or as a remedy for the relief of headaches, tension, and insomnia.


Tropaelum majus, Nasturtium
A native of Peru, it is a culinary as well as a medicinal herb that is used in Andean Indian herbal medicine. All parts of the plant posses an antibiotic and vitamin C. Taken internally, it stimulates coughing and reduces phlegm production. Applied externally, it is antiseptic. Blossoms and leaves can be used in green salads for their high Vitamin C content.

Vaccinium angustifolium syn V. myrtilloides, Lowbush blueberry
The Chippewa Indians used the flowers to treat psychosis. The fruit contains anthocyanosides. These chemical compounds are very powerful antioxidants that are very effective in the prevention of heart disease and cancer.

Valeriana officinalis, Garden Heliotrope
Heliotrope's botanical name comes from the Latin, valere, which means "to be well". In the first century A.D., Dioscorides, a Greek physician in service to the Romans, described its pharmaceutical properties. It was used in the Middle Ages for treating epilepsy. It is used now to relieve stress, to reduce anxiety and to induce sleep. It is a muscle relaxant and it lowers the blood pressure. Preparations of this plant have very low toxicity and are not addictive; they are made from the root of the plant.

Verbascum thapsus, Mullein
An infusion of leaves and flowers is used to treat sore throats and bronchitis. It reduces the formation of mucous and stimulates coughing to raise phlegm. It is also applied externally to heal wounds. In Germany, the flowers are steeped in olive oil, and the olive oil is then used to treat ear infections. A cotton plug soaked in olive oil is placed in the ear canal.

Veronica officinalis, Speedwell
In modern herbal medicine, speedwell tea, brewed from the dried flowering plant, sometimes serves as a cough remedy or as a lotion applied to the skin to speed wound healing and relieve itching.

Viola tricolor, Johnny-jump-up or Heartease
From this plant a bitter tea is made that is taken internally for lung disorders and is applied externally for skin diseases. The tea is an expectorant and a diuretic. Its other common name, Heartease, refers to a romantic notion that it provides comfort and consolation to separated lovers. In the nineteenth century, the juice of the plant constituted the main ingredient of love potions.

Waldsteinia fragarioides, Barren Strawberry
American Indians preparations of leaves, roots, and flowers to induce labor and to regulate menstruation as well as for the treatment of other disorders.

Zingiber officinale, Ginger
It is a native of tropical rain forests. It contains a powerful substance that is very effective in the treatment of motion sickness and nausea following surgery. It is also used as a digestive remedy; and as a circulation stimulant, it causes blood vessels to dilate.

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Disclaimer: This page presents a description and history of the medicinal uses of these plants. The intention is not to provide specific medical advice. You should consult your personal physician before taking any form of medication.

REFERENCES:
“The Natural History of Medicinal Plants” Author: Judith Sumner Ph.D. Publisher:Timber Press
“The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants” Author: Andrew Chevallier Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.
“Botanical Latin” 4th edition Author: William T. Stearn Publisher: Timber Press, Inc. “Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants” Project Editor: Inge N. Dobelis Publisher: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
“Medicinal Plants and Their History” Author: Edith Grey Wheelwright Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.
“Medicinal Plants of the World” Authors: Ben-Erik van Wyk and Michael Wink Publisher: Timber Press
“Landscaping with Herbs” Author: James Adams Publisher: Timber Press “Biodiversity and Human Health” Editors: Francesca Grifo and Joshua Rosenthal Publisher: Island Press
“Healing Plants of the Bible” Author: Vincenzina Krymow Publisher:Wild Goose Publications
“Medicine of the Earth” Author: Susanne Fischer-Rizzi Publisher: Rudra Press “Medicines from the Earth: A Guide to Healing Plants” Author: William A.R. Thomson, M.D. Publisher: McGraw-Hill Book Company
“Growing 101 Herbs That Heal” Author: Tammi Hartung Publisher: Storey Books “Medicinal Plants: An Illustrated Guide to more than 180 Herbal Plants” Author: George Graves Publisher: Smithmark Publishers
“Gods and Goddesses in the Garden” Author: Peter Bernhardt: Rutgers University Press
“Report on the Indigenous Medical Botany of Massachusetts” Stephen W. William, M. D.
“The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another” W.Travis Hanes III, Ph.D. and Frank Sanello
http://www.herbs2000.com
http://www.botanical.com