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Medicinal Plants: Uses & Definition Video

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  • 0:00 Definition of Medicinal Plants
  • 0:32 Medicinal Plant Uses
  • 2:21 Are Medicinal Plants Common?
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
Alternative medicine typically refers to medicine that does not include Western methods or pharmaceuticals and instead uses natural or plant-based fixes. Many plants can be used medicinally. Following this lesson, you will be able to define medicinal plants and describe their uses.

Definition of Medicinal Plants

Have you ever noticed that when you drink peppermint tea while congested, your symptoms ease? If the answer is 'yes', you have experienced the effects of medicinal plants. A medicinal plant is a plant that has similar properties as conventional pharmaceutical drugs. Humans have used them throughout history to either cure or lessen symptoms from an illness. A pharmaceutical drug is a drug that is produced in a laboratory to cure or help an illness. Typically, pharmaceutical drugs are modeled after compounds found in medicinal plants.

Medicinal Plant Uses

Historically, medicinal plants have been used since ancient times. Humans commonly used spices because of their high essential oil content that helped to keep food from becoming diseased by bacteria or other microbes. These herbs and spices have special compounds in them to prevent disease. Today we spice food because we think it tastes good, but it is also helps to keep us healthy. These compounds that prevent microbial infection are usually essential oils which we can smell.

Medicinal plants typically have essential oils in their tissues or seeds that prevent bacteria, molds, or other microbes from growing. This quality confers antimicrobial properties. Common herbs like peppermint, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary have essential oils that prevent microbial growth. Oregano in particular has been used to help lessen the effects of bacterial infection by making a tea from its leaves.

Ancient Chinese medicine, still practiced today, utilizes everything from plant leaves to bark when treating illness. Chinese medicine has medicinal combinations to prevent cancer, lessen the effects of menopause, increase fertility, reduce blood pressure, and even make people more alert to help them study for tests or work.

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