Author: Sylvia Marinova, PhD student in the Genomic Stabilit lab at BAS
I am almost certain that I did not have a friend from the children's English courses who voluntarily wanted to be with me in one room at the summer camps in Pamporovo, as various bugs often crawled out of the wonderfully smelling thyme which I used to dry in our wardrobe.
Later, when I grew up a little, when we went to the mountains with my parents, I was bringing a large encyclopedia of the herbs in Bulgaria. If I liked a plant, I started flipping through the pages until I found out what it was and what properties it had.
Now I know a lot more herbs, and to be honest, I usually collect the same species and don't have to carry thick books in the mountains. However, it often happens that I am asked which plant is what, knowing that I studied biology, and since botany never became my favorite at university, there are definitely a lot of medicinal plants that I do not know well and can not always answer properly.
This is why in the article below, I will tell you about the Herbal and Natural Medicine app - a pocket encyclopedia for herbs and pure salvation for the biology student as more than a good alternative to herbal books, which are neither comfortable to carry in the mountains, nor fit well into lightweight mountaineering luggage. And not only - it is super useful in different situations, and I would definitely recommend it to any avid amateur and herbalist. Also to anyone who is interested in herbal treatment and how they can help themselves with the help of natural means and is looking for information about them that they can trust.
What is the app about
The essence of Herbal and Natural Medicine is to be an application that allows you to perform a search by a plant, an active substance or a disease. The cool thing is that it gives access to scientific publications related to a particular plant and its applications in both Western and Traditional medicine. Generally speaking - it plays the role of a search engine that extracts articles from the most famous scientific databases by giving a lot of useful information about all its studied properties. Imagine something like Google, but very closely specialized in the field of scientific publications related to the world of medicinal plants.
For example, if I write thymus vulgaris, the application will automatically sort the properties of the herb by how many scientific publications have examined them. This is already a great landmark, because it immediately shows me valuable information, and even if I don't read the listed papers, I already know that the antioxidant and antibacterial properties are much better studied ythan the laxative one of thyme. But why is this so important and convenient?
The answer is very simple - we live in a sea of information that floods us constantly, and it is easy to mislead which claims are credible and which are not. For this reason, it is very important to have points of reference when filtering information and not to trust everything read on the Internet, especially when it comes to our health.
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Herbal and Natural Medicine does just that - it helps us find scientifically proved information, systematizes it and allows us to handle it in a convenient and understandable way. Long story short - the application makes a connection between medicinal plants, properties and diseases and shows us scientific articles that we even have the opportunity to translate into our native language.
Associated with this feature is the possibility to conduct our search in reverse order - we set a disease or condition, and the application gives us a list of the herbs and plants that are associated with it, as well as the relevant scientific publications and their number.
Another great thing is that the app is appropriate even when we need to do a more complicated search by key active ingredients of plants that we want to know more about.
Identification of plant species
Another main feature of the application is that it can recognize plant species by a photo. And, you see, to get out of an awkward situation poorly learned textbook on plant taxonomy biologists.
You will see an option in the menu to directly capture the plant within the app, as well as one to upload a photo from the gallery of the phone. As long as the photo is in focus and you correctly determine which part of the plant is photographed (for example, flower or root), the application does everything else. It defines the Latin name and, most coolly, compiles a list of its properties and the scientific publications in which they were mentioned. Useful and easy, isn't it?
The plants around us
Last but not least, the third main function of Herbal and Natural Medicine is to show us a map of any plant of interest. Anyone who captures and identifies a plant can choose to keep it in a database. Thus, other people using the app can easily navigate where around them there is any specific plant that interests them.
Imagine wondering where to go for a walk in the mountains to pick thyme. The solution is given to you again by Herbal and Natural Medicine - open the application and see on the map in which regions thyme is marked on the map and plan your walk accordingly.
There is also a built-in store in the app. Whether you are looking for a specific plant or disease, you can find with a single click dietary supplements or products related to a keyword of interest. It operates with an integrated matching algorithm that delivers intelligent product suggestions.
In short, Herbal and Natural Medicine is an extremely convenient and useful application. Unlike other botanical applications that only identify plant species, here you get quick access to scientific publications extracted from the most reputable scientific databases. This is complemented by an intuitive view, well-organized information, shopping opportunities and geolocation of plant species of interest. Although recently released, Herbal and Natural Medicine already has over 100,000 downloads. So instead of looking for great herbal books and loading your luggage with them, download the app and go to the woods to try it out.