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9 of the World’s Most Popular Herbal Medicines


For centuries, cultures around the world have relied on traditional herbal medicine to meet their healthcare needs.


Despite medical and technological advancements of the modern era, the global demand for herbal remedies is on the rise. In fact, it’s estimated that this industry grosses about $60 billion annually.


Some natural remedies may be more affordable and accessible than conventional medicines, and many people prefer using them because they align with their personal health ideologies.


All the same, you may wonder whether herbal options are effective.

Here are 9 of the world’s most popular herbal medicines, including their main benefits, uses, and relevant safety information.


1. Echinacea


Echinacea, or coneflower, is a flowering plant and popular herbal remedy.

Originally from North America, it has long been used in Native American practices to treat a variety of ailments, including wounds, burns, toothaches, sore throat, and upset stomach.

Most parts of the plant, including the leaves, petals, and roots, can be used medicinally — though many people believe the roots have the strongest effect.


Echinacea is usually taken as a tea or supplement but can also be applied topically.

Today, it’s primarily used to treat or prevent the common cold, though the science behind this isn’t particularly strong.


One review in over 4,000 people found a potential 10–20% reduced risk of colds from taking echinacea, but there’s little to no evidence that it treats the cold after you have caught it.

Though insufficient data exists to evaluate the long-term effects of this herb, short-term use is generally considered safe. That said, side effects like nausea, stomach pain, and skin rash have occasionally been reported.


You can find echinacea in most supermarkets and health food stores, though you can also buy it online.

SUMMARY


Echinacea is a flowering plant frequently used to treat and prevent the common cold. Research is limited, but it may reduce your risk of catching a cold by up to 20%.


2. Ginseng


Ginseng is a medicinal plant whose roots are usually steeped to make a tea or dried to make a powder.


It’s frequently utilized in traditional Chinese medicine to reduce inflammation and boost immunity, brain function, and energy levels.


Several varieties exist, but the two most popular are the Asian and American types — Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius, respectively. American ginseng is thought to cultivate relaxation, while Asian ginseng is considered more stimulating.


Although ginseng has been used for centuries, modern research supporting its efficacy is lacking.


Several test-tube and animal studies suggest that its unique compounds, called ginsenosides, boast neuroprotective, anticancer, antidiabetes, and immune-supporting properties. Nonetheless, human research is needed.


Short-term use is considered relatively safe, but ginseng’s long-term safety remains unclear. Potential side effects include headaches, poor sleep, and digestive issues.

Ginseng is available at most health food stores, as well as online.


SUMMARY


Ginseng is an herbal remedy frequently utilized in traditional Chinese medicine to boost immunity, brain function, and energy levels. However, human studies are lacking.


3. Ginkgo biloba


Ginkgo biloba, also known simply as ginkgo, is an herbal medicine derived from the maidenhair tree.


Native to China, ginkgo has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years and remains a top-selling herbal supplement today. It contains a variety of potent antioxidants that are thought to provide several benefits.


The seeds and leaves are traditionally used to make teas and tinctures, but most modern applications use leaf extract.


Some people also enjoy eating the raw fruit and toasted seeds. However, the seeds are mildly toxic and should only be eaten in small quantities, if at all.


Ginkgo is said to treat a wide range of ailments, including heart disease, dementia, mental difficulties, and sexual dysfunction. Yet, studies have not proven it effective for any of these conditions.


Although it’s well tolerated by most people, possible side effects include headache, heart palpitations, digestive issues, skin reactions, and an increased risk of bleeding.

You can shop for ginkgo online or at supplement shops.


SUMMARY


Gingko is traditionally used to treat numerous illnesses, including heart disease, dementia, and sexual dysfunction, but modern research has yet to prove its efficacy for any of these purposes.


4. Elderberry


Elderberry is an ancient herbal medicine typically made from the cooked fruit of the Sambucus nigra plant. It has long been used to relieve headaches, nerve pain, toothaches, colds, viral infections, and constipation.


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