Costa Rica has a rich medicinal flora, with about 406 species grouped in 104 genera located in different agro-ecological regions. However, their use has declined, with Costa Rica being the country with the lowest demand for medicinal plants in Central America.

Currently, species that require forest conditions to survive, and that have little plasticity to occupy different habitats, such as cuculmeca, sarsaparilla, and raicilla, are considered endangered. In fact, several studies on non-timber forest resources suggest that the sustainable development of medicinal plants should be achieved through the management and conservation of natural resources, and the orientation of technological and institutional change. This in order to ensure the continuous satisfaction of human needs.

Some medicinal plants of Costa Rica and their benefits


Under the scientific name Ocimum basilicum, basil is an aromatic herb used for culinary and medicinal purposes. It serves to soothe stomach discomfort and calm the nerves, and can help combat insomnia and physical and mental fatigue. Basil has a positive effect on the nervous system and mitigates manifestations of anxiety and stress in the stomach. Drinking a couple of cups of tea or infusion can calm the nerves in stressful situations or events.


Cardamom is a spice that has been used for centuries in both cooking and medicine. It comes from seeds of different plants belonging to the same family as ginger. Cardamom helps fight bacteria in the mouth, a common cause of bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. In addition, a recent study found that cardamom seeds and fruit may help improve oral health due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.


Another of Costa Rica’s medicinal plants is the culantro. It belongs to the apiaceae family. Before we continue we must clarify: culantro is not the same as cilantro. This plant is part of traditional herbal remedies for respiratory ailments such as asthma and stomach. For Amazonian communities, coriander may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Moreover, science shows that it contains high levels of calcium, iron, vitamin A, B2, B1 and C.


According to an ancient legend, shepherds in the region of Ethiopia observed that when their goats ate the red berries of the coffee bush they were more active and lively. The monks prepared infusions from these berries and in the 9th century discovered for the first time their stimulating action.

However, raw coffee beans contain mainly carbohydrates, as well as proteins, fats, phenolic compounds, mainly chlorogenic acids and 2-3% alkaloids, mainly caffeine. These are very important, as they act by stimulating the cerebral cortex, the center of respiration and circulation, and cause a dilation of the blood vessels. Therefore, folk medicine attributes to coffee curative properties for asthma, jaundice, headaches, overeating, consumption and constipation. 

Frijolillo (cojoba arborea)

It is a singular plant, whose leaves have the appearance of feathers. Its flowers are yellow and its clusters are not very flowery. Its fruits are elongated and compressed, with numerous brown seeds. The leaves of this plant stand out, they are used to treat stomach diseases, fevers, rheumatism, skin disorders, venereal diseases, dropsy and weakness. It is also used to treat colds and typhoid. Some authors qualify it as an analgesic.


The fruit is an excellent source of soluble dietary fiber, proteins, iron, fats, carotene and phosphorus. A group of specialists found that in addition to its high protein content, nanche can counteract gastrointestinal infections, skin diseases and degenerative conditions. 

Ruda (Ruta)

The rue, scientifically known as Ruta, is a genus of shrubs that encompasses a wide variety of species, the most common and the most commercialized being Ruta graveolens. The branches with their leaves are used, above all, to soothe abdominal cramps and eliminate intestinal parasites; as a reinforcement of menstrual flow in case of painful, irregular and weak periods.

The use of plants to prevent and alleviate health problems dates back to pre-Columbian times, but today they are still used despite the growing pharmaceutical industry. People use home remedies with plants because they are readily available, their cost is very low and they have fewer side effects. Unfortunately, knowledge about these plants and their proper medicinal use is very limited.


Zelda Walters for Sensorial Sunsets