There are traditions that state that if you have a burn, you should put some aloe vera on it or if you are sick, you should have some green tea. These traditions are based on scientific evidence, however, and not just guesswork.
Plants have an incredible power to heal, and modern medicine has shown us that clearly. The research behind medicines can be combined with traditional knowledge about healing plants and used to create an incredible knowledge base that applies a plant-based solution to many medical problems.
What Kind of Power Do Plants Have?
Humans have known that there is power in plants from ancient times. Shamans from generations ago used plants in their healing rituals. Herbal medicines from China and other countries are based on the notion that plants can be used to bring balance to the body and its many systems. In homeopathy, plants are ascribed a vital force that denotes their healing power. Plants have played an important part in human development and health for as long as anyone can have recorded history.
Scientists have been delving deep into the power of plants and trying to figure out how they can benefit us even more than they do already. New techniques are being created to discover what plants have to offer, and we are just starting to realize the vast potential of plants.
Plants are just about the only thing on earth that can take energy from the sun and turn it into molecule that can be converted into something usable later. This photosynthesis process is amazing, and it is vital to our survival as a specifies.
Plants take in calcium, nitrogen, phosphorous and other minerals to craft incredible structures, and we consume those same minerals when we eat plants.
Plant chemistry is interesting as well, in relation to our diets. The fat, sugar and protein of the plant are all designed by that plant, and we get to consume and enjoy that.
Plants are used as both food and medicine for as far back as human history has been written down. Plants used as medicine are generally called herbs, and they create some amazing chemicals. By turning light, oxygen, water and minerals into different chemicals, they can provide important nutrients, protein, fat and amino acids. The chemicals that produce are able to provide medicinal effects in our bodies, and they can also poison us or have a neutral effect.
The Phytochemical Wonder
The chemicals that plants create are called phytochemicals. This comes from the Latin word for plant, and the majority of today’s herbalists claim that a plant’s power originates from its chemical makeup or its phytochemicals.
There has been a lot of scientific research into what makes plants make the chemicals they create. Researchers are interested to know what exactly makes some plant nutritious and others toxic or how one plant can heal and another hurt, so far as their chemical makeup is concerned. We are starting to understand some of that, which means that we may be able to use more plants for medicinal purposes soon. We may also be able to learn how to improve the effects of the chemicals to produce more beneficial effects.
It’s likely that you know some of these phytochemicals already. One of the better-known phytochemical classes is alkaloids.
This class can be broken down further into more specific classes, and one class is called xanthine alkaloids This includes theobromine and caffeine. Tea and coffee are famous examples of plants under this classification.
Caffeine is phytochemical whose benefits and effects we are all aware of. It stimulates the nervous system and provides alertness and focus.
Alkaloid phytochemical morphine sits on the other end of the scale, and it comes from plants as well. This powerful painkiller is used in hospitals around the world. It blocks the pain receptors within the body to help you feel less pain.
We have only scratched the surface of some of the alkaloids out there. There are also other classifications of phytochemicals, like saponins, which clean the blood, terpenes, which have distinct smells and polyphenols, which set rid of free radicals.
Oxygen is necessary for our survival, and it is important in turning sugar and fat into usable energy. However, oxygen can hurt our cells as it does this.
Free radicals are produced by oxygen. You may have heard of these, and oxygen makes more free radicals than any other element.
Oxygen is constantly on the lookout for new electrons to add to its structure. If it is unable to locate something that has the right amount of electrons, then it gets them from our cells.
This can end up happening too much and making the cells die after they fall apart.
Think about how much oxygen we are breathing in each day and how many times there is a chance for this process to occur. You can imagine the kind of effect it can have on your cells over your lifetime.
We solve this problem through the power of antioxidants. These are produced by our body naturally, but our body doesn’t make enough of them to counteract how much oxygen is floating around inside of our cellular tissue.
Many plants create antioxidants that go to the cells through the digestive system, and they find the oxygen that is gathering up electrons (also known as free radicals) and provide them with what they need. That way, they don’t have to destroy the cells.
This means that they neutralize the free radicals by imparting them some subatomic particles that they can feed off of. They no longer have to steal from our cells to survive.
You can easily get antioxidants from the plants you eat. Most plants have tons of them, and many of them are very good at releasing those necessary antioxidants into themselves to keep oxygen from destroying them as well.
Adaptogens are an often overlooked but very interesting plant type. Their leaves and roots have amazing power.
This is the classification given to a type of herb that helps balance out the body and promote good health. They don’t simply rely on a single action or mechanism. What they do is very broad, and it can have a powerful effect on many different types of diseases.
You may have seen ads for plants that detail benefits that are seemingly endless. It might seem absurd for any one plant to offer so many benefits, particularly if those benefits don’t seem to have anything to do with one another. However, adaptogens can actually provide tons of benefits without any manmade chemicals being added.
They support the body in a variety of ways to fight medical conditions and disorders.
They may affect the brain through homeostasis or they may supply antioxidants to the body. They can even help the body communicate within itself even better by restoring neurotransmitters.
There is a lot of power to be found in plants, and we are just starting to understand some of that. Modern research has allowed us to unlock a lot of the potential of plants, and we expect to discover much more the coming years.