To Your Health

By Bonnie Wood, April 25, 2020

We all know that eating more vegetables and fruits are key to good health, however few of us realize that around half of all of our current pharmaceuticals were originally derived from nature according to an article in Scientific American by Kate Wong on April 9, 2001 titled "Mother Nature's Medicine Cabinet." In this article Wong goes on to cite aspirin, found in the bark and leaves of the willow trees, anticancer compounds in the rosy periwinkle, the treatment of leukemia and Hodgkins, as well as the cancer-fighting drug Taxol was isolated from the Pacific Yew tree, to name a few.

So how are these wonder drugs found? Wong notes that researchers often consult indigenous people when possible and, according to Conservation International, studies which have shown that plants identified by locals are in fact up to 60 percent more likely to have pharmaceutical potential than their randomly collected counterparts.

What does this mean for the average American during these uncertain times? It simply means that while cures or vaccines for this new and not yet fully understood COVID-19, chances are good that a solution will be found thanks to the efforts of our medical and scientific community. And while this may be comforting in the long run, what most of us are wondering is what we can do now to protect the health of ourselves, our families and our communities?

First, let me say that I am not a doctor and therefore any thoughts I might share come from my own personal experience as a teacher and ethnobotany enthusiast and should not be taken as medical advice. Every person has individual dietary needs and even the simplest suggestions about making additions to one's diet are not appropriate for some. Check with a medical professional.

With this in mind, I can share with you some strategies I found to help me to stay cold and flu free year after year which I believe is quite an accomplishment for someone in the teaching profession.

Starting with the basics: getting enough rest, staying hydrated, striving for a healthy diet and walking my dog are at the foundation of my daily routines. Second, during cold and flu season I try to increase my intake of garlic either in food, or for those who are not a fan of garlic, odorless tablets are available. Beyond these habits, I keep zinc lozenges and vitamin C powder handy if I start to feel a little bit of a scratchy throat or under the weather which I take only as long as I experience symptoms. Vegetables that contain high levels of Vitamin C include members of the Brassica family like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. On another note, I must say that I am a compulsive hand washer as well as counter cleaner. I think I acquired these habits from my mom who was also a teacher.

Recently I have gathered information about what folks have done in the past when faced with an epidemic and found some interesting anecdotal stories. One story was shared with me by a Native American friend of mine who touted taking a sauna as a way to increase the body's temperature similar to how our own bodies run a fever when we are fighting an infection of some sort. I've not tried this myself but it sounds kind of logical. However just with any suggestion for maintaining health, whether it comes from anecdotal sources or even your doctor, it's up to each and everyone of us to research what is best for your individual situation.

So be well and know that this too will pass.

About Bonnie Wood
As a credentialed science educator and Botanist in California for over 25 years I have observed how my students benefit both physically and mentally from fresh air and sunshine while learning outdoors. For this reason, I have made it a priority to not only get my own daily dose of nature, but also worked to share outdoor experiences with my students. Research tells us that natural environments can reduce stress, which in turn helps to protect our health. What you see, hear and experience in nature can lift your mood and even improve your immune systems at the same time. Having grown up in a family that gardens, I worked my way through school running my own Gardening Business in San Francisco. After graduating I began offering students at the Nueva school a hands-on, original garden based curriculum on their school grounds. Since this time I have taught science and math at the High School level and volunteered at our local YMCA sharing the Garden Rangers program with 6-12 year olds.

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