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What is considered a "Medicinal Plant?" How did plants get to be known as "medicinal?" Follow this virtual tour to learn some of the history behind famous medicinal plants such as lavender and peppermint, and others not so famous, like cattails. We'll take you all around the Gardens as you learn the medicinal properties of 30 of our plants. We also have included medicinal recipes for you to try, as well as growing tips for you to try growing these plants at home.

One of the biggest historical events for medicinal plants was "The Doctrine of Signatures." Coming from the Middle Ages, herbalists at the time believed that a plant, or plant part shaped like an organ, would heal that organ. For example, Ginkgo biloba, shaped like two lobes of a brain (hence biloba), was thought to help improve memory. Many of these specific examples were wrong, but just as many were actually right.

Herbalism refers to folk and traditional practices based on the use of plants as medicine, with knowledge tested and often passed down over many generations of healers.

We hope that this tour instills a sense of curiosity and wonder for you.

References and acknowledgements

Mentha × piperita (Peppermint)

Chemical constituents: volatile oil, tannins, triterpenes, flavonoids, coumarins.
Medicinal properties: antispasmodic, choleretic, cholagogue, stomachic, carminative, astringent, antimicrobial.
Parts used: leaves.

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Anemopsis californica (Yerba Mansa)

Chemical constituents: volatile oil, lignans
Medicinal properties: antimicrobial, antispasmodic
Parts used: Roots


Salix irrorata (Blue Stem Willow)

Chemical constituents: phenol glycosides, flavonoids, salicin, phenolic acids
Medicinal properties: Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, astringent
Parts used: bark

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Humulus lupulus var. neomexicanus (Common Hops)

Chemical constituents: bitter principles, volatile oil, flavonoids, tannins
Medicinal properties: sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, tonic, aromatic, antibacterial, antifungal, estrogen-like
Parts used: strobiles

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Alnus hirsuta 'Harbin' Prairie Horizon™ (Manchurian Alder)

Chemical constituents: tannins, flavonoids, triterpenes, phytosterols
Medicinal properties: astringent
Parts used: bark, leaf

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Sassafras albidum (Sassafras)

Chemical constituents: volatile oil, lignans, tannins, resin, phytosterols
Medicinal properties: aromatic, diuretic, antimicrobial, carminative
Parts used: Root bark

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Symphytum officinale (Common Comfrey)

Chemical constituents: allantoin, mucilaginous polysaccharides, tannins, alkaloids
Medicinal properties: anti-inflammatory, emollient, astringent, wound-healing
Parts used: leaves, root

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Verbascum bombyciferum 'Polarsommer' Arctic Summer (Mullein)

Chemical constituents: saponins, mucilaginous polysaccharides, flavonoids, glycosides
Medicinal Properties: expectorant, demulcent, emollient, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, diuretic, vermifuge
Parts used: Leaves, flowers

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Lavandula angustifolia 'Buena Vista' (English Lavender)

Chemical constituents: volatile oil, tannins, coumarins, triterpenes
Medicinal properties: aromatic, sedative, cholagogue, carminative, rubefacient, antimicrobial
Parts used: flowers

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Coffea arabica (Coffee)

Chemical constituents: caffeine, phenolic acid derivatives, trigonelline
Medicinal properties: adsorbent, astringent, ascites, pleuritic effusion, diuretic
Parts used: berries, seeds (beans)

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Sambucus nigra 'Eva' BLACK LACE® (Black Elder)

Chemical constituents: flavonoids, mucilaginous polysaccharides, tannins, phenolic acids, volatile oils
Medicinal properties: expectorant, antioxidant, diuretic, emollient, laxative, demulcent
Parts used: flower, berries

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Crataegus ambigua (Russian Hawthorn)

Chemical constituents: flavonoids, oligomeric proanthocyanins, sapogenins, biogenic amines
Medicinal Properties: anti-spasmodic, cardiac, anxiolytic, vasodilator, astringent, diuretic
Parts used: berry, leaf, flowers

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Typha latifolia (Common Cattail)

Chemical constituents: proteins, volatile oils
Medicinal properties: hemostatic, astringent


Eschscholzia californica (California Poppy)

Chemical constituents: isoquinoline alkaloids, flavone glycosides
Medicinal properties: antispasmodic, sedative, analgesic
Parts used: leaves, stems, flowers

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Ephedra sinica (Chinese Ephedra)

Chemical constituents: non-heterocyclic alkaloids, ephedrine, flavonoids, phenolic acids
Medicinal properties: nervine, stimulant, expectorant
Parts used: stems:

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Pinus ponderosa 'Dixie' (Ponderosa Pine)

Chemical constituents: volatile oils, turpentine, limonene, flavonoids, acids.
Medicinal properties: expectorant, rubefacient, antimicrobial, antiseptic, tonic, antibacterial
Parts used: needles, pine resin from inside tree, occasionally bark


Althaea officinalis (Marsh Mallow)

Chemical constituents: mucilaginous polysaccharides, pectin, sucrose
Medicinal properties: demulcent, antitussive, emollient
Parts used: leaves, roots, flowers

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Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)

Chemical constituents: volatile oil, flavonoids, triterpenes, polyphenols, tannins
Medicinal properties: relaxant, antispasmodic, increases sweating, carminative, antiviral, tonic
Parts used: leaves

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Salvia officinalis (Common Sage)

Chemical constituents: volatile oil, tannins, flavonoids
Medicinal properties: aromatic, stomachic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antihidrotic
Parts used: leaves

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Acorus calamus (Sweet Flag)

Chemical constituents: volatile oil, saponins, acorin, mucilage
Medicinal properties: carminative, antispasmodic, tonic, stimulant
Parts used: roots

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Angelica archangelica (Garden Angelica)

Chemical constituents: volatile oil, coumarins, furanocoumarins, phenolic acids
Medicinal properties: aromatic, tonic, antispasmodic, choleretic, cholagogue, antibacterial, diuretic
Parts used: root, stem

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Valeriana officinalis (Common Valerian)

Chemical constituents: volatile oil, baldrinals, valepotriates, GABA
Medicinal properties: sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, antiulcer, analgesic
Parts used: root

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Hyssopus officinalis (Hyssop)

Chemical constituents: terpenes, volatile oil, flavonoids, tannins, resin
Medicinal properties: tonic, sedative, expectorant, vermifuge, emmenagogue
Parts used: leaves

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Taxus baccata 'Stricta' (Irish Yew)

Chemical constituents: taxol, taxine, diterpenes, tannins, resin
Medicinal properties: purgative, anti-tumor
Parts used: skin of berries (arils)


Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo)

Chemical constituents: lactones, ginkgolides, flavonoids, tannins, organic acids, lignans
Medicinal Properties: increase blood flow, vasodilator
Parts used: leaves

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