Each part of the world has made its own contributions to the valuable medicinal herbs we know about today. Read on for details of some of the miraculous healing herbs native to each continent, along with the benefits they offer.
North America – Echinacea
This flowering plant of the daisy family is sometimes referred to as coneflower. Blooming in late summer, it’s often used in herbal medicines. The oil of the hip of the plant has antimicrobial properties, while oil from the stem is said to stimulate the immune system. The root, however, is the most prized part of the plant, used to create remedies for the symptoms of the common cold.
South America – Damiana
The Damiana is a shrub with small, aromatic yellow flowers that produces fruit similar in taste to figs. Historically, South Americans used the plant to brew a tea believed to be an aphrodisiac and valued for its generally relaxing effects. Today it’s more commonly harvested for its use as an anxiolytic – a medicine that inhibits anxiety.
Africa – Buchu
Buchu is a herb that’s endemic to the Western Cape of South Africa. It’s a source of vitamins B, E and A and contains bioflavonoids such as hesperidin, quercitin, diosmin and rutin. Its anti-inflammatory diuretic, antiseptic and properties have been proven scientifically in the last 2 decades. For centuries, native South Africans have used buchu to treat various ailments and promote longevity. Today it’s also sold in a variety forms, such as topical gels and creams, soft gel capsules and flavoured herbal waters.
Europe – Arnica
The arnica plant gets its name from the Greek word for lamb, arna, due to its soft, hairy leaves. It’s in the hip of the flower, however, that the plant’s medicinal value lies. The sap of the flowers’ hip has been used for centuries as an ointment for sprains, strains and bruises, and is also known to help treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Asia – Ginseng
Ginseng has been used in Asia for centuries, as a stimulant and as an aphrodisiac. More recently it has been used to treat type 2 diabetes. The most prized part of the plant is its root, which may be dried and crushed, left whole or sliced. It’s commonly included as an ingredient in energy drinks and herbal teas, and is even used in hair tonics and cosmetic preparations.
Australasia – Ocimum
Also known as tulsi or holy basil, ocimum is a holy plant in India, where it’s used in the worship of Vishnu. It’s also commonly used in herbal teas as an Ayurvedic medicine. The plant has a high content of eugenol acid, making it effective as a painkiller. Like many modern, pharmaceutical painkillers, it works by inhibiting COX-2.