Have You Thanked a Plant Today

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Posted by @LarryR on
Plants are an integral part of our natural heritage. Among other things, they provide us with food, shelter, fragrance, and beauty. They also provide us with a surprising number of active ingredients in the medicines we take.

Over 100 chemical substances derived from plants are considered important drugs in the world of medicine.  More are being discovered all the time.  One recent study, reported in Current Chemical Biology (vol. 3, 2009), found that chemicals in a number of plants well-known to gardeners are quite active against tumors.  They include the five plants featured below.


Galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
Photo by  bonitin

Galanthus comes from the Greek gala (milk) and anthos (flower).  Nivalis refers to "whiteness" of both snow and the blossom. It's native to  Europe, stretching from Spain in the west all the way eastward to the Ukraine.  Snowdrops also contain an active substance called galantamine, which is helpful in treating Alzheimer's disease, but unfortunately, it's not a cure. More information on this plant here.


Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant)


Native to the southern islands of Japan, the cast iron plant is popular as a houseplant because, as its name implies, it's a robust plant that can survive and thrive in less than optimal conditions. The genus name is thought to come from the Greek aspis, meaning a round shield, but the  etymology is considered uncertain.  Elatior refers to the plant's relative "tallness."  More information on this plant here.

Polygonatum odoratum
(Solomon’s seal)
Photo by bulborumbotanic

Polygonatum odoratum has an extensive range of natural habitat in Europe (including Britain,  Scandinavia and Spain) as well as in Asia (including China, the Himalayas, and Siberia).  Polygonatum means "many joints or angles."  Odoratum, as you might guess, means "fragrant."  More information on this plant here.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus(daffodil)
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Commonly known as "wild" daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus has its origin in Europe and ranges from Spain and Portugal east to Germany and north to England and Wales.  Narcissus means "numbness," which is a reference to another of its properties, that of a narcotic.  Pseudonarcissus means "false narcissus."  More information on this plant here.
Ophiopogon japonicus
(mondo grass)
Photo by vic


As its horticultural name implies, Ophiopogon japonicus  is native to Japan.  Ophiopogon means "dragon's beard," a fanciful perception of the plant's characteristics. 

More information on this plant here.


The plants above have all been used in folk medicine for centuries, some most likely for millennia.  The World Health Organization estimates that about 80% of the earth's population uses plants for medicinal purposes.  An increasing number of Americans say they rely on plant medicines because they value natural alternatives which don't come with many of the side effects that mainstream medications provoke.  And they often cost a lot less.

Many natural medications are based on folk traditions in such countries as China, Europe, and Egypt and in this country among Native American tribes.  Anthropologists, along with other scientists, have recently begun visiting cultures around the world which have not yet been studied for their use of nature's medications.  Such research has already produced a number of new compounds that have found their way into traditional pharmaceutical research.

Because we have relied so heavily on plants in the past for restoring our health, and will continue to do so in the future, it's absolutely imperative that we prevent wholesale extinction of the flora that grace this planet.  The plant we save today may save many lives tomorrow.

Have you thanked a plant today?


Endnote:  You'll find a list of additional plants with medicinal properties here.

Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
So much to discover by blue23rose Jan 9, 2016 12:45 PM 5

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