What are the medicinal plants?
Medicinal plants also called medicinal herbs, are a group of plants that people use to fight diseases, used as a relief for headaches, spinal ache, massage, tummy trouble or even bites from bed bugs.
Medicinal plants can be consumed in teas, used as a garnish, applied as an essential oil or consumed as a pill. They date back since prehistoric times, noted first in Mesopotamia where hundreds of medicinal plants including opium were listed on clay tablets. There are certain regulations and restrictions how to take them, (who can take them or what herbs people could use depending on the type of the system and disease) and for a safe and rational use World Health Organization has set its own rules.
Today there are more than 50.000 plants registered as medicinal plants, and by the end of 2023, the market of herbal medicines is expected to reach €99.1 billion.
List of medicinal plants
As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of medicinal plants, we will mention only 10 of them:
1. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)- has a high concentration of antioxidants that make it a great plant for relieving a variety of ailments. Chamomile is commonly consumed as a tea and can be made at home by brewing dried chamomile flowers. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed can help relax and have a more restful night’s sleep.
2. Dandelion (Taraxacum)- are not only edible, but they are also full of health benefits. These medicinal plants are packed with vitamin K, vitamin C, iron, calcium and more. These vitamins and minerals help support strong bone and liver health. All parts of the dandelion are useful and good. For example, dandelion roots are commonly used for teas, the leaves are used as garnishes for different dishes and dandelion sap is great for the skin.
3. Garlic (Allium sativum)- this plant is great for fighting infections, aiding with cholesterol management and much more. Eating garlic on a regular basis is good for your overall health and easy to incorporate into a wide array of dishes. Raw garlic is the most potent, so eating it uncooked has the most health benefit.
4. Lavender (Lavandula)- is popular for its soothing scent and ability to calm the nerves. Lavender tea is another drink is perfect to unwind after a long day and have a good night’s rest. Also, lavender oil is popular for massage treatments, aromatherapy, and even hair treatment.
5. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)- is a longstanding medicinal plant used to help relieve stress and ward off insects. An intense amount of stress can cause complications for many functions of the body, so minimal stress is ideal for a healthy functioning body. This lemony plant is easily used in several dishes like teas, ice cream, etc.
6. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)- is a delicious garnish that’s helpful for supporting the immune system, bone health, and digestive health. The high concentration of antioxidants, vitamin K and other compounds help make this plant an all-around powerhouse herb. Parsley is also a good herb to reach for if you’re suffering from halitosis, also known as bad breath.
7. Sage (Salvia officinalis)- is another medicinal plant that helps support memory and combat degenerative diseases. Sage is also well-known for managing diabetes with its ability to naturally lower glucose levels. This plant is a popular ingredient for several dishes and beauty products too.
8. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)- is a popular herb used in cooking. Thymol is found in thyme and is commonly found in mouthwash and vapor rubs. This compound gives thyme its strong antifungal and antibacterial properties. Thyme’s antifungal properties also help prevent foodborne illnesses since it can decontaminate food and prevent infections in the body.
9. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)- is primarily known as a natural way to relieve symptoms of depression. It’s used to treat anxiety, mood swings, feelings of withdrawal and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. These medicinal plants are usually consumed as a concentrated pill or applied as an ointment. It’s important to note that St. John’s Wort can interact with a number of medications, so (as with all plants on this list) consult your doctor before consuming or applying this plant to your body.
10. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)- is a common herb used to garnish salads, pasta, and many other meals to add a delicious flavor. Thanks to the vitamins and minerals in basil, such as vitamin K and iron, this herb is helpful for combating common ailments. For example, the manganese in basil helps metabolize different compounds in your body.
Which countries are the top suppliers and consumers of herbs?
Currently, China is the biggest producer and exporter of medicinal herbs in the world, followed by India and Bulgaria. Other countries in Europe growing and exporting medicinal herbs are France, Hungary, Turkey, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, Croatia, Romania, etc.
Regarding the countries that consume the most medicinal plants in the world are: Germany, France, U.K., Spain, U.S.A., etc. Germany is by far the most important consumer of plant-based medicines in Europe accounting for 49% of all European herbal sales. Whereas France is both a major producer and consumer of medicinal plants, after Germany. France cultivates medicinal plants in an area of more than 5000 hectares.
Speaking of U.K., even though it is a consumer of medicinal plants since the 17th century, the country doesn’t have a reputation for growing medicinal plants, with British farmers putting little importance to this matter, choosing rather importing from European countries or beyond.
Albania, among the top ten producers of Europe for medicinal herbs
Data published by Eurostat, the agency of statistics of the European Commission, shows that Albania is among Europe’s top ten producers when it comes to aromatic and medicinal plants.
Albania’s rich biological diversity of over 3250 plant species including many medicinal and aromatic plants, more than 95% are wild-collected and not grown on farms, mainly dried herbs and distilled essential oils for the export market.
In 2012, Albania exported about 52.000 metric tons of medicinal and aromatic plants. Albania produces these types of medicinal plants the most:
Lavender Primrose Dandelion
Lemon Balm Elder Oregano
Chamomile Sweet Chestnut Sage
Mint Birch Savory (Summer and Winter Savory)
Sunflower Violet Laurel Leaf (or Bay Leaf) Mallow Basil
Clover Blackberry St. John’s Wort Rose Hip
Mullein Hawthorn Black Elderberry
Yarrow Butcher’s Broom Thyme
Poppy Rosemary Blueberry etc.
Also, Albanian companies produce and export their essential oils to these countries, such as: U.S.A., Canada, Australia, etc. Albania produces these types of essential oils:
Sage Oil Tea tree Oil Calamintha nepeta Oil
Peppermint Oil Rosemary Oil Black pine Oil
Oregano Oil Sweet orange Oil Myrtle Oil
Lavender Oil Juniper berry Oil Thyme Oil
Lemongrass Oil Laurel leaf Oil Winter savory Oil
Pine Oil Helichrysum italicum Oil Silver fir Oil etc.
Essential oils are used not only to combat ailments but as well in cosmetics, especially for people who have problems with the skin.
Source/ ProFlowers, Commonwealth iLibrary, ITC
If you are looking for a list of medicinal herbs and essential oils producers in Albania or have further questions, please use the contact form below.