As an herbalist and hobby-gardener, I am fascinated by the fact that many botanical families yield plants with powerful but varying medicinal properties. The carrot family, Umbelliferae, comprises dozens of plants used extensively in herbalism and homeopathy. Several of the world’s most popular medicinal herbs are members of the carrot family, but many herbalists and health enthusiasts are unaware of the plants’ close relationship with edible roots.
Here are just a few medicinal herbs in the carrot family.
Several angelica species, including Chinese angelica or dong quai, possess medicinal properties. Angelica is traditionally believed to stimulate female hormone balance, so folk healers often use it as a tonic for pregnancy problems, menopausal complaints and hormonal imbalances. Although there is little evidence supporting the medicinal use of angelica, it remains one of the most globally popular medicinal herbs in the carrot family.
The root, stalk, leaves, and especially seeds of the fennel plant contain strongly medicinal compounds. Fennel seed is a concentrated source of anethole, dianethole and photoanethole, which have estrogenic properties and may influence the female reproductive system. Historically, fennel has been used to stimulate breast milk production in nursing women. It can also help to combat digestive complaints such as gas and cramping.
Like fennel, anise contains a matrix of estrogenic compounds, which are particularly concentrated in the plant’s seed. These compounds give anise its characteristic licorice-like scent and its estrogen-stimulating medicinal properties. Anise seed is also a potent source of shikimic acid, which has antiviral and immunostimulating properties. Anise is a popular defense against colds and flu.
Long prized for its manifold medicinal properties, gotu kola is a member of the carrot family with striking value as a health-boosting tonic. Like many other members of te carrot family, gotu kola is mildly antibacterial and antiviral. Herbalists also prize gotu kola as a treatment for anxiety adn emotional disturbances. It can also be used as an adaptogen, or a product that enables the body to adapt to stress with fewer physical or mental disruptions.
Always consult your primary health care provider before using medicinal herbs, particularly if yu have a medical condition or take medication.