Plant Medicine

When we discuss healing in the U.S., or western medicine, most people would think of prescription drugs. Traditional western medicine provides many wonderful practices and tools for healing, but they are only a part of a much broader and older picture.

 Before the advent of pharmaceuticals, people used “folk remedies.” Some folk remedies were most definitely not healing and some were actually detrimental to health; however, for thousands of years, herbs and plants were the principal means for healing ailments, sicknesses, and diseases. The breadth and depth of herbal lore is vast and plants are just as powerful as any pill that is prescribed by a doctor. 

In fact the basis for all pharmaceuticals began with plants. For instance, Willow tree bark contains salicylic acid, which is the primary ingredient found in aspirin. People used to treat fevers and a host of other issues with a “tea” of boiled and steeped from willow bark. For thousands of years people have been harnessing the healing properties of plants, making infusions, distillations, teas, poultices, essences, decoctions, powders, ointments, and syrups to treat hundreds of issues: joint and muscle pain, microbes (bacterial, fungal, and viral agents), intestinal parasites, congestion, insect bites, and inflammation, just to name a few.

Plants are amazing – they regularly engage in chemical warfare with other plants and with insects. Plants emit chemicals through their roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. With these chemical compounds, plants communicate with other plants, claiming space; attract pollinators; kill insects that are eating or harming them; or call other insects to kill the insects that were harming them in the first place. In this arms race, plants continue to develop and evolve new chemical compounds that benefit human beings in a variety of ways.

Just one plant can treat numerous issues. For example, Angelica’s roots and rootstock can be used as: 

antispasmodic 

carminative 

depurative 

diaphoretic 

diuretic 

emmenagogue 

febrifuge 

hepatic 

stimulant

muscle spasms 

excess gas 

blood purification 

increase sweating to release toxins 

increase urine production to eliminate toxins 

menstrual flow stimulation and cycle normalization 

fever treatment 

liver treatment

caffeine-like stimulant

Angelica was in fact a favored treatment for plague in the Middle Ages and Elizabethan eras in Europe. Plague killed millions of people across Europe and was nothing more than a bacteria spread through flea bites. Angelica assisted in purifying the blood and helping people to eliminate the bacteria from the body, as well as treat the fever. Today, Angelica has many applications, and as bacteria becomes more antibiotic resistant, plants may once again become the key to help us fight bacterial infections as there are many plants that inhibit bacterial proliferation or outright kill the bacteria.

Essential oils of the plants can be taken internally, applied topically, or inhaled. Essential oils can be added to teas to help with mucus, such as orange, clove, and cinnamon, which help calm coughs, sooth sore throats, and act as an expectorant. Custom blends of essential oils can also be applied topically to ease stiff joints, muscle pains, and spasms while breathing in the scent calms the nervous system, allowing us to better relax. The uses for essential oils are incredible and almost limitless! 

Plants are amazing!

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