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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Understanding Uses Of Botanical Medicine

By Patrick Hamilton

All through history, people have sought ways of staying healthy or recovering from illness. Our rich herbal tradition is testimony to centuries of experimentation, observation, and conclusions. As medical doctors and drug manufacturers began to dominate health care, this ancient wisdom was dismissed as 'folk lore'. However, continues use as well as scientific research continues to validate the benefits of botanical medicine.

Actually, much of mainstream medicine (something used to prevent or treat maladies) is derived from plants. Quinine, one drug many people know, is an extract of tree bark used to alleviate the symptoms of malaria. All over the world, bark, roots, leaves, fruit, flowers, and berries are used to strengthen, soothe, alleviate, and cure.

During long voyages of exploration on land and especially on sea, men learned that a diet of preserved meats and dried beans lacked nutrients needed for health. Scurvy was a disease that afflicted sailors or arctic travelers. It was discovered that the juice of fresh lemons and limes could prevent this condition or cure it if it were not too advanced. The Royal Navy of Great Britain made citrus fruit a part of the supplies for every ship.

People gathered rose hips during war time and still do today. The red seed pods contain a lot of vitamin C and bioflavanoids. Carrots were eaten by fighter pilots to boost their night vision. American ranchers watched wild horses gnaw the bark from trees and realized this was an effective way to dispel worms. Dandelion greens have long been used as a spring food after a long winter without fresh vegetables. Desert dwellers discovered the benefits of aloe vera, jojoba, and yucca.

Herbals sold as dietary supplements are a huge money maker today. Expectant mothers drink red raspberry leaf tea, nibble candied ginger for morning sickness, or turn to plant-based iron supplements. Fenugreek is sold as tea or in capsules to help nursing mothers feed their infants. Insomniacs drink chamomile and passion flower teas and sleep on hops-filled pillows. Fatigue, a common complaint, calls for ginseng, guarana, gota kola, and nutrient-dense green drinks.

Tea tree oil is sold as an antiseptic, a fungal fighter, and get rid of head lice. Neem oil is used for oral health, to prevent and cure fungus infections, and even as birth control. Tea tree oil comes from Australia, neem from India, pau d'arco from South America, ginseng from the Far East and from America, pine bark from France, and chlorella from Japan. Every country and continent has its beneficial plants which are becoming globally popular as information spreads and 'folklore' is investigated.

Plants are food as well as medicine. Herbs are essentially vitamin and mineral rich plants that have properties that can boost or restore well-being. There is an old saying: 'Food is the best medicine'. This is true, especially when people take the trouble to learn which foods are truly nutritious. In general, eating plants in their fresh, whole state or in carefully prepared dried or extract form is best. When foods are processed, maybe to make them more palatable or shelf-stable, they often lose their beneficial nature.

No one, even the medical profession, denies that plants are medicinal. Learning which garden-grown or wild-gathered plants are good for us - and good for what ails us - is sensible and may even one day be life saving.

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