Medicinal plants: a traditional and natural option to preserve health
Nowadays, more and more people are using medicinal plants not only to improve their health but also to recover the knowledge of natural medicine, because it has always been known that the use of plants is a good way to prevent diseases, complementing the benefits with a good diet and some exercise.
Mexico enjoys a great vegetable diversity and wide biodiversity which has favored the use of plants for medicinal purposes since pre-Hispanic times, this cultural heritage has been transmitted from generation to generation, so that some customs are still exercised on a daily basis until now, both in rural and urban areas.
On the other hand, medicinal plants can represent the basis of the economy in many communities, since there is an important demand from the pharmaceutical herbal products industry. However, we must be aware that the excessive collection of some species could put them in a critical situation, that is why it is important to cultivate and conserve them.
Medicinal plants are a rich source of bioactive compounds to which their beneficial properties have been attributed and even several drugs used today have their origin in the study of these, such as paclitaxel, a drug used to treat some types of cancer, which has its origin in the bark of the tree known as the Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia).
Currently, it has been reported that about a third of the world's population still uses plants as a natural remedy. In this regard, even the World Health Organization presents on its website a four-volume compendium of monographs on plants used worldwide with parameters for their safe use.
In Mexico, there are about 23,000 plants, of which about 11,600 are considered to be endemic. Many plant species have been used in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times to treat ailments such as intestinal parasites, inflammation, infections, flu, diarrhea, headaches, wounds, burns, cancer, and diabetes, among others.
Of the medicinal plants, both the leaves and the stems, bark, roots, etc. can be used, either alone or in combination, and the most common form in which they are administered is through infusions. It is in these preparations that the compounds responsible for the reported beneficial effects are solubilized. These compounds are known as natural products, of which phytochemicals are the most commonly studied.
Phytochemicals are secondary metabolites that all plants produce and are not involved in their development, but are intended to defend them from adverse conditions such as insects, parasites, herbivores, drought, ultraviolet light, etc. Among the best-known phytochemicals are alkaloids, terpenes, and phenolic compounds. The importance of these compounds lies in the fact that several studies have linked their frequent consumption to the prevention of chronic-degenerative diseases such as different types of cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
According to a study by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the country has a total of 4,500 variants of medicinal plants after China, which only surpasses it with 500 more species. Most of these plants are consumed directly from nature, and for their extraction, people usually visit forests and jungles to select the species that can help them in their sufferings.
The same document points out that only 15% of plants are cultivated on purpose, and of these, the achiote flower, the cempasúchil, and the epazote are the most sought after. The achiote flower is used to reduce anxiety and relieve sore throats, while the cempasúchil flower is concentrated for digestive disorders and respiratory tract problems. Epazote, in addition to stomach discomfort, is used to treat swelling or stings from poisonous insects.
Now, how many medicinal plants do you know? Here is a small list of them:
Arnica, is used to treat inflammatory conditions and bumps, bruises, sprains, rheumatic problems, wounds, bruises, and pain.
Peppermint is good for treating nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Chamomile: its infusions are used to treat fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids.
Aloe Vera has anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and wound healing effects, making it an attractive crop in the field of biomaterials.
Nopal helps to regulate sugar levels, fight gastritis problems, lose weight, heal small wounds and in the form of syrup, it helps to reduce coughing.
Therefore, an option that allows us to protect and care for natural resources with healing properties is the implementation of the medicinal backyard garden, through which, in addition to preserving and reproducing traditional herbal knowledge, we avoid its depletion of raw material.