PLANT OF THE DAY brings you easy to digest information exploring science backed plants for health and medicine. Written by scientists, it aims to increase understanding of how effective plant medicine is as well as encourage simple dietary interventions to increase health and prevent disease. Plant of the day promotes the scientific research on select plant medicines and thereby helps bridge the gap between the worlds of plant medicine and general medicine.
DID YOU KNOW? While you can take, for example, a cup of chamomile tea to aid relaxation and sleep anytime, to treat a condition with a plant medicine it is important to take the correct dose and prescription for your individual needs – and in that case always first consult a NIMH medical herbalist and inform your healthcare provider before giving to a child, if you are pregnant, have any medical condition or are taking any medication.
How do we know that a plant medicine works? The story so far
IMMUNE, RESPIRATORY AND ANTIVIRAL PLANTS
Here we take a quick look at plant medicines to used support immunity, be antiviral or treat respiratory infection. A number of plant medicines are often used to aid immunity and to protect against or treat infection during the winter months.
Plants like echinacea, rosehip, garlic, elderberry and thyme have laboratory research to show how they work to support immunity, for example by increasing immune cell production and antibody response or by being antibacterial and antiviral against different virus types and some also work to control inflammation and oxidation.
For some of these plants, like echinacea root, astragalus root, ginger root, liquorice root and elder berry, there have also been a limited number of controlled clinical trials in humans. These clinical trials indicate that in group comparisons of placebo and test plant, the plants, when taken at a particular dose, are effective as immunostimulants. NOTE: Echinacea and astragalus are contraindicated in some immune conditions.
Over the next few months we will look at plants with controlled trial evidence (human studies) and bioactivity potentially relevant to protection against or treatment of viral infections (such as covid 19) with key activities including anti-viral, immuno-stimulant, for respiratory health (including coughs, colds, flu, pneumonia) as well as antiseptic skin protection.
This list excludes many more plants that have positive results from lab studies – such as being anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, expectorant and decongestant – and are yet to be tested in controlled clinical trials.
Some of the plants we will look at are below (* indicates particular relevance) and we will also include plants that help boost mood, relieve stress and treat anxiety and insomnia.
*Astragalus root – immunostimulant, treats common colds and prevents respiratory infection
*Echinacea root: reduces respiratory infection, antiviral and immune-boosting
Elder berry – reduces symptoms and duration of upper respiratory infection
Elecampane (pictured) root – immunostimulant (inulin)
Garlic bulb and wild garlic (ransoms) leaf – immunostimulant and antiseptic
Ginger root – immunostimulant and anti-viral
Ivy leaf – treats respiratory disease
Liquorice root – immunostimulant
Rose hip (wild/ dog rose) – treats colds, immunostimulant ( vitamin C )
Sage leaf (Salvia officinalis) – antibiotic (eg. throat infections)
Tea tree and other essential oils – antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal
Thyme leaf – for coughs, respiratory infections as well as antibacterial and antiviral