The Importance of Medicinal Plants

The medicinal properties of plants contribute to both traditional and modern medicine and have quietly helped save millions of lives. Though often not regulated by governmental health administrations, plants are often used like a medicine. Medicinal plants grow all around us, in every country and region on our planet, and are often local and cultural sources for remedies of a myriad of illnesses and conditions.

Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) helps take away weariness and can be used against many pains and aches.  Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) prevents fainting and allays nausea.  Sore throats, headaches and hoarseness can be treated with Sage (Salvia officinalis), and Aloe Vera is a well-known and used treatment for burns and wounds.  These are just a few examples of how plants are used to improve our health.

It is critical that though conservation efforts and educating ourselves on the importance of medicinal plants, that we begin taking steps to ensure the long-term protection of many of these species.  The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that between 50,000 and 80,000 flowering plants are used medicinally worldwide and of these, as many as 15,000 may be threatened with extinction from overharvesting and habitat loss.

While medicinal plants are often associated with traditional practices, the impact of these vital plants on the modern pharmaceutical industry is enormous.  For example, according to the National Cancer Institute, at least 70 percent of new drugs introduced in the United States in the last 25 years are derived from natural sources.  Additionally, in the United States, of the top 150 prescription drugs, at least 118 are based on natural sources.From Acacia Senegal (Gum Arabic plant; used to improve skin and hair care) to Zingiber officinale (Ginger; relieves nausea), the UIG collection features more than 10,000 images of medicinal plants and herbs.  UIG contributing partner Bilagentur-online’s collection of plants used in traditional medicine include a diverse range of global species both in the wild and shot against white backgrounds.


All photos credited to Bildagentur-online / Universal Images Group

National Library of Medicine

Medline “A Guide To Herbal Remedies”

World Health Organization

WHO global report on traditional and complementary medicine 2019. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019

Center for Biological Diversity “Medicinal Plants at Risk”, 2008, by Emily Roberson

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