As time marches on, I recognize a stronger acknowledgement of nature even amongst those who barely paid attention when they were younger. The distractions of technology, career and the chase for the almighty dollar mean that the rest of the animals and plants we share this planet with for a brief moment are basically strangers to us. How can they aid us in achieving optimal health?
In the midst of a pandemic, WE have to come up with better solutions for answering many problems surrounding our lifestyles and how our ways of life will have to change, in some ways quite drastically, to make it through the challenges this century intends to throw at us. That means drawing up a new compact with nature, and reintroducing ourselves to how it can heal us.
A big part of that is plant medicine, and while it’s caught on amongst younger generations, older folks may think more traditionally when it comes to wellness. Of course, in many countries, plant medicines ARE the older, time-tested tradition, but leave it to the good ol’ US of A to do things a bit differently. However, the tide has been turning, and as it has, it’s been showing those who are just getting acquainted with it some unexpected things. These are a few that pop up in our recent conversations with our community.
EVEN YOUR SALAD IS PLANT MEDICINE – AND MODERN MEDICINE IS CATCHING UP
While it might appear odd, it’s only been since the turn of the century that the concept of Lifestyle Medicine began its gradual adoption within physical health. Considering how many illnesses, from diabetes to hear disease, stem in part from lifestyle disorders, that’s quite surprising. This of course involves nutrition, and it’s a big reason why food is one of Medicine Box’s Seven Pillars. It’s gotten to the point where the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital now has a Therapeutic Food Pantry for patients, where food is specifically prescribed for individual conditions.
PLANTS CAN HEAL YOUR MIND AND YOUR BODY
This is key for us at Medicine Box – for us, you don’t have physical health without mental health, and our health care system’s over prioritization of one at the other’s expense must end, full stop. You may have heard of St. John’s Wort for moderate depression. There’s also valerian, which we have used for years in our Equanimity tincture for its calming effects. As anyone who’s ever attended to a houseplant knows, just having plants around can do a world of good when keeping people calm and attached to life itself.
IT DOESN’T EVEN HAVE TO BE A PLANT FOR IT TO BE MEDICINE
For us at Medicine Box, the soil is every bit as important as the plant, and we focus a lot on the rhizosphere – known as the environment and exchanges of minerals and nutrients which occur between the roots of the plant and the microbes in the soil – when it comes to the plants that are directly within our care. New attention has also been drawn to the fungi within the soil itself, of which only 2% of an estimated five million has even been identified. These fungi are now so important to science that a Citizen Science Soil Collection Program has now been enacted, which allows anyone to send samples of soil from anywhere in the world to be analyzed for the healing potential of its fungi. The cure for cancer, Alzheimer’s or any other condition may lurk within – that’s the hope.
EVEN THE POISON OAK FAMILY HAS ITS USES
Depending on where you live in the country, it’s possible you might drink dandelion tea for heartburn or as an appetite stimulant. We ourselves use purslane, also considered a weed, for Vital Recovery for its surfeit in essential vitamins and magnesium. There’s also a closely related cousin to poison oak which is used by the Japanese for a rich lacquer. And in case you’re ever interested post-COVID, there’s an Annual Poison Oak Show in Columbia, CA southwest of us where entrants compete for best poison oak arrangement, jewelry design and best rash.
WE’RE JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
Out of 300,000 plants in the world, only about 15% have been evaluated for their healing potential. Considering 65 to 80% of developing nations use plants primarily for healing, that means we’re just using what little what we know. Of course, we do have to mind that we don’t render these plants extinct. A recent report from Royal Botanic Gardens found that just shy of 40% are. So just remember that if you want plants to take care of you, you have to take care of them first.