As you learn the world of medicinal herbs, it's easy to get lost and overwhelmed by the sheer number of them.
Sometimes it helps to break them down into sections, so to speak, and an alphabetical list is an easy way to do that.
Today, we want to focus on herbs that start with C, discussing their history, benefits, and various uses.
Scientifically known as Ramnus purshiana, cascara sagrada is a shrub native to the western part of North America.
It’s important to note that the herb is different from the skins of dried coffee cherries that are also referred to as cascara.
For medicinal use, cascara sagrada has many pharmacological properties, which is why it was once approved by the FDA, though it has since been rescinded.
Its active compounds are known as anthraquinones, which act as laxatives.
They work primarily on the large intestine to promote fluid accumulation in the bowel, decrease fluid absorption, and facilitate the evacuation of stool.
Since it is a laxative, this herb is beneficial for use in constipation. Through natural means, it causes fluid to accumulate in the colon, making it easier to pass stool.
Chamomile is one of the most common natural herbs you’ll come across. The herb from which it is obtained has flowers that resemble daisies.
For centuries, chamomile has benefited a number of health conditions, being consumed primarily in the form of chamomile tea.
The health benefits of chamomile are based on two important properties - it is both a powerful antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent.
As an antioxidant, it helps neutralize reactive molecules of nitrogen and oxygen that are destructive to cells, while its anti-inflammatory properties relieve inflammatory symptoms and speed up the healing process.
Thanks to these potent antioxidants, chamomile also helps lower the risk of certain cancers.
Plus, its anti-inflammatory effects are useful in maintaining a healthy digestive system as well as controlling blood sugar.
This herb has only become popular over the past decade or so, despite the fact that it’s been acknowledged as beneficial for centuries.
Chicory is consumed as a beverage that tastes a lot like coffee.
In fact, many people trying to kick their coffee habit are able to do so successfully with chicory root, thanks to its roasted coffee bean flavor.
Besides containing anti-inflammatory components, chicory is rich in nutrients such as:
Inulin, the plant’s popular prebiotic fiber, has been attributed to weight loss and improved digestive function.
In the gut, inulin acts as food for good bacteria and facilitates their growth and proliferation. This single action aids in boosting immunity, healing leaky gut, and more.
For reasons mentioned above, chicory is a fantastic addition to a gut-healthy diet. Most gut issues are due to an imbalance of bad versus good bacteria.
Chicory root helps replenish the number of good bacteria (aka probiotics) in your gut.
On top of that, the other nutrients in chicory have been linked to improved brain health, which is why chicory is being studied for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.
Clary sage is native to the Mediterranean and is primarily used in essential oil form for aromatherapy and things like skin balms.
Besides its soothing scent, clary sage possesses potent antibacterial properties.
It also contains a compound called sclareol, which acts similarly to the hormone estrogen.
This herb is most commonly used in aromatherapy to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety.
But some studies have shown that its antibacterial effects are useful in wound care, both alone and synergistically with other herbs.
There’s a hormonal benefit of clary sage as well.
After menopause, estrogen production decreases in women, which contributes to their post-menopausal symptoms.
Thanks to the component sclareol, clary sage can help alleviate these symptoms naturally and effectively.
Though backed by science in many ways, the popularity of cat’s claw has grown in recent years due to anecdotal evidence that it is beneficial in conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, Lyme, and other infectious diseases.
Cat’s claw is incredibly anti-inflammatory and has immune-boosting mechanisms that make it useful in treating infections.
Studies have shown that the antioxidant effects of cat’s claw can help reduce the rapid progression of cancers.
Also, its anti-inflammatory effects help alleviate the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Thanks to its immune-boosting properties, cat’s claw has even been shown to boost the body’s ability to fight infection.
In days gone by, camphor was distilled from camphor wood, but now it tends to be chemically manufactured from turpentine oil.
Camphor works primarily as an anti-inflammatory and antifungal herb. It also improves blood flow and has been shown to support heart health.
However, camphor should never be applied to broken skin as it can seep into the bloodstream and cause poisoning.
This herb is used to treat fungal infections, especially those that affect toenails. Its anti-inflammatory effects are also beneficial in the treatment of inflammatory symptoms such as pain and itchiness.
When inhaled, camphor can help suppress cough and treat respiratory infections.
Calendula is a natural oil obtained from marigold flowers. For medicinal use, it has 3 properties that stand out above the rest - it is antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory.
Calendula is great for helping wounds heal quickly and without scarring as it’s a powerful antiseptic with skin-friendly nutrients.
It is also effective in soothing rashes, while fighting the cause behind them. For this reason, calendula is used to treat eczema, psoriasis, diaper rash, and even acne.
The health benefits of catnip are derived from its leaves and flowers, which are usually made into a tea.
Though native to central Europe, catnip can now be found growing throughout Canada and the northeastern United States.
The major health benefit of catnip is the calming effect it has on the body. It is rich in a compound called nepetalactone, which acts as a natural sedative.
Catnip also stimulates smooth muscle contraction, especially those of the uterus.
Catnip is primarily beneficial in people with anxiety disorders, restlessness, nervousness, and depression.
Its sedative effect has also been shown to improve sleep quality in those with insomnia.
As for its effect on smooth muscle contraction, catnip is especially useful for postpartum mothers in helping the body release its placenta. It can also initiate delayed menstruation.
One of the good things about chanca piedra is that the entire plant can be used for medicinal purposes.
It has both antibacterial and antiviral properties and has been hypothesized to relieve muscle spasms, reduce elevated blood sugar levels, and increase urinary output.
Chanca Piedra is largely used in the treatment of urinary tract infections and in the alleviation of symptoms such as urinary incontinence and pain that accompany such infections.
It’s also useful in managing gut disorders such as gas, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and intestinal infections.
Being both antibacterial and antiviral, chanca piedra is widely used in treating conditions such as the flu, sexually transmitted infections, typhoid, tuberculosis, and sore throat.
Chaparrals refer to a group of shrubs that grow in the desert climates of northern Mexico and southwestern United States as well as Bolivia and Argentina.
Chaparrals have antioxidant properties that aid in the preservation of food.
They also possess antibacterial properties, which have been used to treat upper and lower respiratory tract infections successfully.
Medicinally, chaparral has been used to treat the common cold along with bronchitis. It’s also one of the go-to herbs to alleviate stomach pain and joint pain caused by snake bites.
Interesting fact: In 1943, chaparral was approved by the United States as a means to preserve food in the battlefield during times of war.
Copaiba balsam is a sap extracted from the trunk of a species of trees called the Copaifera.
The sap can be used as medicine in the form of copaiba balsam or processed to form copaiba oil, which also has medicinal value.
Both copaiba balsam and copaiba oil contain chemicals that kill germs. Other chemicals in these forms are diuretic in nature, meaning they increase urine output.
It is also hypothesized that copaiba can be used as an expectorant to help alleviate chest congestion in conditions that present with cough and excess phlegm.
Its usage is dependent on its function as a diuretic, expectorant, and antimicrobial. It has been used to treat everything from diarrhea and constipation to bronchitis and UTIs.
A perennial herb with long, hairy leaves, Foxglove is mostly found in northern china, hence its name.
Chinese foxglove is a procoagulant, making it helpful in managing uterine bleeding after birth as well as regulating menstrual irregularities.
Chinese foxglove is one of those herbal remedies in traditional Chinese medicine with a variety of uses. However, it is largely used for symptomatic relief - not so much a cure for anything.
It is used to aid in blurry vision, dizziness, palpitations, and hearing problems. It is also effective against chronic fever, menstrual issues, restlessness, and joint stiffness.
Other medicinal herbs that begin with the letter "C" include: