Plants the Original Medicinal

A vast and amazing variety of plants flourish on this earth. To those who notice, centuries of observation and folk lore support the evidence of a wealth of benefits which humankind receives from plants. Plants provide food, flavorings, health and beauty aids, perfumes, teas, alcoholic beverages, medicines, fiber for cloth, rope and paper, dyes, vessels and containers, and visual stimulation and beauty.

Current scientific research proves significant disease fighting benefits from certain common garden plants and herbs. Essential oils of garlic, lavender, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, thyme act antiseptically against both bacteria and viruses. However, just as the lowly dandelion which spreads so prolifically in the worst soil imaginable is actually one of the most nutritious plants growing on the planet, incredible benefits and blessings from nature abound but often go unnoticed, or unfairly slandered.

As we now know today, personal cleanliness is one of the most vital of weapons against disease, along with clean water, clean air, and clean "real" food. We'll call these the "4 Cleans." If these elements are kept pristine, there is much evidence that this promotes an overall longer and more vital life. However, over the course of the history of civilization, it is clear that the "4 Cleans" have not been available to all populations. Today, experts agree many of the tragic epidemics which devastated certain populations were fueled as much by humans living in filth, with not enough clean water or clean, nutritious food.

The circumstances of poverty, lack of knowledge and religious superstition have repressed many advances in health and hygiene over the ages. A study of European history, for instance, reveals the church disapproved of both baths and reading (a period generally considered to be from around 400 AD to 1500 AD). Cities ran with raw sewage. Disease was rampant, but the cause was blamed on sin and the devil. Use of certain beneficial plants became associated with witchcraft and superstition.

However, there prospered a strong industry of perfume making. Obviously, there was a great need. Lavender was a primary crop. It has been noted that records indicate that people who worked in the lavender fields and with the essential oils in trades such as perfumery and glovemaking (as all skin gloves were scented at manufacture) generally escaped the ravages of the plagues which swept through Europe killing more than a third of the total population.

With the Enlightenment and the birth of modern science, an entirely different train of thought pursued the promises of chemistry and technology. There began a concerted effort to develop non-plant compounds, or synthetics, to be used as substitute or additive ingredients throughout an explosion of industries of all sorts. Within the evolving field of modern medicine, experimentations in chemistry gave rise to the business of pharmaceuticals. The resulting practice of popular medicine to exclusively dispense these manufactured compounds worked to discredit knowledge of the benefits of plants in health maintenance and healing.

The industrial age and advance of modern technology has spanned a relatively short period of time in history, but the ever growing volume of chemical use has now proven to severely affect the natural order on many levels. Synthetic chemicals now permeate all of our lives, in the air, in our food, in our water, in our homes as medicine, soaps and cleaning compounds, herbicides, pesticides, building materials, clothing, shoes! New chemical compounds and uses are invented every day. But evidence shows it now appears the toxic effects of the use of many of these chemicals imposes huge risks to our health and well-being, impacting all of the above mentioned necessary elements to health. But it drives multi-billion dollar industries, so it is unlikely to end.

Unless people stop buying those products.

In a shift in consciousness, there is a growing number of people wishing to avoid using chemicals. Many are working to bring credit back to the well-deserved reputations for more naturally integrated and non-toxic methods and products. Indeed, this focus is making progress today as respect is returning for simple uses of plants for domestic and medicinal purposes. There are many who do not believe all chemical claims of value, they do not want to purchase or ingest dangerous chemicals in products, they do not want to support businesses which denigrate the environment or pose risks to the populace and the balance of nature.

Being an active and informed consumer is the most direct way to affect a change. Be aware of what is in the products you buy, and support a more natural, non-toxic world. You can make a difference!
Maggie Volk © 2004

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