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Botanicals and Herbs

Wild Medicine - Botanical Garden Exhibit

NY Botanical Garden Exhibit
“Wild Medicine”
Healing Plants Around the World

What are Botanicals?

Botanicals are plants or parts of plants that have been used for medicinal purposes throughout history.

Herbs are a subgroup of botanicals, that is, any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume.

Countless plants have restorative and curative properties.

Over time, ancient cultures have utilized botanicals to make remedies and have figured out which part of each plant (e.g., root, stem, leaf, flower, etc.) is most effective for a specific health condition.

In the 1600’s, the Botanical Garden of Padua in Italy was the first botanical garden associated with a medical school.

Much of modern medicine is based upon the knowledge of how plants can be used to heal.

“Today, 25 percent of prescription medicines are derived from plant ingredients and 4.5 billion people worldwide use plants for some part of their health care needs.” — The New York Botanical Gardens

The Healing Power of Plants … in a Dietary Supplement

Some people still make their own homemade remedies from plants. However, in the United States and Europe, more people take a dietary supplement that contains the whole botanical, an extract or tincture of it, or a concentration of its most active constituents.

There are hundreds of botanicals used in integrative medicine today. Some you may be familiar with are:

Acai, Aloe, Ashwagandha, Avocado, Bilberry, Black Cohosh, Boswellia (Frankincense), Cacao, Chamomile, Chaste Tree, Cinnamon, Coconut Palm, Dandelion, Echinacea, Eucalyptus, Flaxseed, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Ginkgo, Ginseng, Goldenseal, Hops, Kava, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Licorice, Marshmallow, Milk Thistle, Nutmeg, Orange, Papaya, Passion Flower, Peppermint, Pineapple, Rosemary, Saw Palmetto, St. John’s Wort, Tamarind, Tea, Thyme, Turmeric (Curcumin), Valerian, Willow.

For more information, check out the work by renowned ethnobotanist,
James A. Duke, PhD.

One of my favorites is Dr. Duke’s book on herbal remedies, Green Pharmacy: New Discoveries in Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases and Conditions from the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs.

Dr. Duke is also the author of the CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, a reference book on over 800 of the world’s most important medicinal plant species with hundreds of botanical illustrations. In addition, James A. Duke developed the Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases at the USDA.

The American Botanical Council website,, is a wonderful online resource for botanical medicine and herbalism. The “ABC” has a collection of in-depth monographs on specific botanicals.


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