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Plants as Medicine

Real World Question
You may have read about using peppermint to relieve an upset stomach, or taking Echinacea, to boost your immune system and fight off illness. But did you know that pioneers brewed a cough medicine from lemon mint? In this lab you will explore plants and their historical use in treating illness, and the benefits and risks associated with using plants as medicine. How are plants used in maintaining good health?


  • Identify two plants that can be used as a treatment for illness or as a supplement to support good health.

  • Research the cultural and historical use of the two selected plants as medical treatments.

  • Review multiple sources to understand the effectiveness of each of the two selected plants as medical treatment.

  • Compare and Contrast the research and form a hypothesis about the medicinal effectiveness of each of the two plants.

Data Sources

Make a Plan
  1. Search for information about plants that are used as medicine and identify two plants to investigate.

  2. Research how these plants are currently recommended for use as medicine or to promote good health. Find out how each has been used historically.

  3. Explore how other cultures used these plants as medicine.
Follow Your Plan
  1. Make sure your teacher approves your plan before you proceed.

  2. Record your data in your Science Journal.
Analyze Your Data
  1. Write a description of how different cultures have used each plant as medicine.

  2. How have the plants you investigated been used as medicine historically?

  3. Record all the uses suggested by different sources for each plant.

  4. Record the side effects of using each plant as a treatment.
Conclude and Apply
  1. After conducting your research, what do you think are the benefits and drawbacks of using these plants as alternative medicines?

  2. Describe any conflicting information about using each of these plants as medicine.

  3. Based on your analysis, would you recommend the use of each of these two plants to treat illness or promote good health? Why or why not?

  4. What would you say to someone who was thinking about using any plant-based, over-the-counter, herbal supplement?

Post your data in the table provided.

Plant Data
Plant Name
Historical Use
Current Use (if any)
Plant Name
Historical Use
Current Use (if any)
Plant Name
Historical Use
Current Use (if any)
Plant Name
Historical Use
Current Use (if any)
* City:
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* School:
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