The Power of Plants

real medicine

When I was studying Biochemistry back in Quebec City, I took a history of pharmacy class out of personal interest, which was the only class I failed in my life, might I add (the prof swore there would be no dates on the final exam which counted for 70% of the final grade – turns out the final exam was heavily date-oriented. Major disappointment). I can, however, say that this class fascinated me beyond belief and I took an interesting tidbit of information with me from that class:

In the olden days, people resorted to plants to heal their loved ones and thought that foods that resembled particular body parts were helpful for the health of those respective body parts. For example, the general consensus was that walnuts, whose folds and wrinkles resemble the neocortex of the brain, were good for the ol’ thinker, tomato juice was good for the blood and that kidney beans were good for the kidneys. It’s like nature was God’s pharmacy. Turns out, walnuts have omega-3 fats which are great for maintaining the protective sheath of our neurons, tomato juice reduces the blood’s tendency to clot and kidney beans are kidney-healthy as they contain the minerals potassium and magnesium, which help prevent kidney stones. Yet another example is that celery, which ressembles bones with a little imagination,  contains silicon and vitamin K, which are contributors to optimal bone health.

One might ask, “who and how did someone first have the instinct of eating or utilizing plants that heretofore that time, were not known to be edible or useful”? There are no reports on the first use of plants as medicinal but it is thought that humans emulated fauna eating medicinal plants.

We sure have come a long way since then, as humans have uncovered the numerous benefits of many plants. Most researchers agree that plants and other organisms have been the most consistently successful source of ideas for new drugs. Today, 40% of prescription medications come from plant extracts or synthesized plant extracts. Here are a few examples of medications derived from plants:

Aspirin : derived from willow bark. The active ingredient is salicyn, which is efficacious for pain reduction, anti-inflammation and the prevention of heart attacks
-Malaria medications : derived from the bark of the cinchona tree
Throat losenges : made from mint leaves. The menthol from mint leaves may relieve itching, release muscle soreness and open up the sinuses and the respiratory tract
Codeine an antitussive (anti-cough agent) and analgesic (painkiller) and morphine (another painkiller): derived from the papaver somniferum plant
Colchicine (an anti-tumor agent): derived from the colchicum autumnale plant
Bromelain (an anti-inflammatory and proteolytic agent (helps digest protein): derived from pineapple
Tea tree shampoos (to rid oneself of lice): derived from tea tree leaves 
Not to mention promising leads such as the sap from the guggul tree (native to India) which is being tested for its role in fighting heart disease.
The bottom line is, I’m not going to recommend you start adding tree bark to your smoothie or making soups with it (I can hear your sighs of relief). However, the above medications were simply cited to illustrate the power of plants.
We can not only harness the power of plants to heal ourselves but also to prevent, as I try to communicate with you every time I write a blog post. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes are all foods containg phytocompounds (plant compounds) with proven health benefits in both preventing and managing disease, so get your natural pharmaceuticals from your local market today. 🙂

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