Are Medicinal Plant Treatments for Illnesses Effective?

Did you know that medicinal plant products have a global market value of more than $100 billion? Some of these products, in turn, come in the form of plant-based medicines.

So, does that mean all plant-based treatments work?

We’ll get to the bottom of that question in this guide, so be sure to keep reading.

Do All Medicinal Plant Treatments Have Proven Beneficial Effects?

The world is home to about 50,000 to 80,000 flowering species of plants used as medicine.

However, not all plant-based treatments have undergone enough studies proving their efficacy. In addition, many others only have anecdotal evidence to back them up. So, while many plants may have medicinal attributes, not all have scientific backing.

Examples of Medicinal Herbs and Plants Used in Modern Medicines

Of the 252 drugs the WHO regards as basic and essential, 11% have exclusive plant origin. Some medications also have formulations based on the pharmacological profiles of plants.

Let’s take a look at some common drugs based and derived from medicinal herbs and plants.

Willow Tree

Researchers say that the willow tree played a massive role in the discovery of aspirin. That’s because of salicin, the tree’s active ingredient. Salicin has anti-pain and anti-inflammatory properties, to name a few.

Aspirin’s active ingredient, in turn, is acetylsalicylic acid. That’s the synthesized (laboratory-made) version of willow’s salicin.

Opium Poppy

Oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine are medications derived from the opium poppy plant. They all belong to the class of drugs called opioids that treat moderate to severe pain. Some opioids may also help relieve coughing and diarrhea.


The main ingredient of digitalis medicines comes from the common foxglove. Such medications can help treat congestive heart failure (CHF) and atrial arrhythmias. They work by boosting the blood flow or circulation throughout the body.

Pacific Yew Tree

The Pacific yew, also called American yew, is an evergreen timber tree that belongs to the yew family. It’s native to North America and found in states like Alaska and California.

It was in 1964 when scientists first discovered the Pacific yew’s therapeutic effects. Back then, they found the tree’s bark to contain extracts with cytotoxic activity. Later on, they named the active component paclitaxel (trade name, Taxol).

In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration approved Taxol’s use for ovarian cancer. Then in 1994, the drug also received approval from the FDA for breast cancer.


Experts estimate medical cannabis to have a global market value of $16.47 billion in 2021. While it’s not legal everywhere, at least 20 countries have legalized its use as medicine. The US is one of them, although its legality still differs from state to state.

However, there’s a cannabis-derived drug with US FDA approval. That’s none other than Epidiolex, used to treat certain types of seizures.

So, if you’ve ever wondered, “does weed help with seizures,” the answer is yes, it does and can in some patients.

Harness the Power of Nature With Science-Backed Medicinal Plants

There you have it, your brief guide on what science has to say on medicinal plant products and treatments. Now, you know that some medicines, including those for pain and cancer, have plant origins.

That’s how powerful plants are, which is why scientists continue to study them.

With that said, it’s best to stick to plant-based treatments backed by science. In doing so, you can access resources detailing their efficacy and potential risks.

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