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Medicinal properties are the healing properties of a substance. It is not uncommon for many plants to be ascribed with medicinal properties. Numerous plants with medicinal properties are grown in temperate climates, and many more are likely yet to be discovered. Determining the medicinal uses of plants involves collaborative efforts by ethnobotanists, anthropologists, physicians and pharmacologists.
There are three ways in which plants have been found to be useful in medicine. First, plants are used directly as teas or in other forms for their natural constituents. Secondly, they can be used for the synthesis of drugs. Finally, organic molecules found in plants might be used as models for synthetic drugs.
Many uses for plants with medicinal properties have found their way into modern pharmacology. For example an analgesic is used as a painkiller, an anti-coagulant prevents blood from coagulating, and a hypnotic induces sleep. Most medicinal properties of plants that are used in synthesizing drugs are studied carefully. The study of the physiological effects of drugs on the human body is known as pharmacodynamics.
Herbs are also quite commonly used for their medicinal properties. The study of herbs dates back an estimated 5,000 years. The ancient Sumerians cited medicinal uses of such plants as laurel, caraway and thyme. Garlic, coriander, mint, indigo and many others are used today as medicine by people seeking an alternative means to pharmaceutical drugs. Medicinal herbs are quite popular around the world for treating common ailments with simple home remedies.
Medical treatments using alternative forms of therapy are a growing trend in many countries. There are skeptics to the various practices of alternative medicine, however. Conventional treatments are subjected to testing for potential side effects. Alternative treatments, on the other hand, do not undergo such testing.
Several companies now manufacture plant and herbal remedies touted for their medicinal properties. Industry standards have been set to ensure the safety and quality of these products in many places around the world. In the European Union, for example, the regulation of herbal medicines is under the European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products. Most herbal remedies in the United States are regulated as dietary supplements by the Food and Drug Administration. One can also check the products for a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) seal of approval, which indicates that they have undergone examination for safety as well as factory conditions.