The power of plants

Photo: iStockphoto.com/sethinacan
Grow your own healing remedies

Detoxification is a medical buzz term of the day for a good reason. Toxins lurk all around us and there are more man-made chemicals accumulating in our atmosphere than our detoxification systems can theoretically manage. Our livers need all the help they can get to clear these chemicals from our body. Plants to the rescue!

Plants transform carbon dioxide into oxygen. That makes life possible. But, they also add moisture into our atmosphere and they filter out harmful toxins. Plants can perform these essential functions in your home or office with similar function as a rain forest would provide to our earths biosphere. It has long been known that NASA researchers have been at work designing a breathable dome environment for a lunar habitat based on exactly this type of concept.

Plants are excellent filters—some better than others—of common pollutants such as ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene. These are chemicals you want nothing to do with. The Environmental Working Group is committed to helping consumers create safe home environments by identifying products and consumables that are free of dangerous chemicals and wasteful material. Hundreds of poisonous chemicals are released by furniture, carpets, and building material, and then trapped by closed ventilation systems, leading to the host of respiratory and allergic reactions now called Sick Building Syndrome. But the good news is plants remove these chemical toxins from the air!

Plants perform these miraculous feats by absorbing organic chemicals and rendering them harmless through process called “metabolic breakdown”. The Boston fern is one of the best known for its ability to do just this. My advice is to have these plants all over your home and workplace! A group of German scientists proved the metabolic breakdown phenomenon in spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum). They labeled formaldehyde with a radioactive carbon 14 tag and followed its absorption and metabolic destruction as it was converted into naturally occurring tissue products such as organic acids, sugars and amino acid.

If you are doing lots of dry cleaning, you are exposed to trichloroethylene. The Gerber daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) is a beautiful bright and colourful plant effective at removing these toxins that you innocently bring home in your clothes.  And, believe it or not, toilet paper, tissues, and personal care products contain a substantial amount of formaldehyde. A Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) placed in your bathroom will thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out common air pollutants found there.

The Negative in Positive

The Japanese have coined a term “Shinrin Yoku” which literally means to take a forest bathing trip by walking through a plant laden environment in order to achieve all of the wonderful benefits that come with the naturally occurring aromatherapy. It doesn’t just smell nice, in the air there are natural anti-microbial chemicals including a-pinene and limonene which are incidentally ingredients also found in citrus.

Forest bathing trips were first proposed in the early 1980’s by the Forest Agency of Japan. It has now become a recognized relaxation and stress management activity in that country. There is good science to back up that the improved cerebral blood flow and improved mood one gets from walking through a forested area compared to an urban environment. The science also suggests benefits beyond relaxation and aromatherapy.  It now appears that walking through a forest or surrounding yourself with plant life will immerse you in negative ions that are quite positive for human health. They boost the feel-good chemical in our brain known as serotonin.   Negative ions are charged molecules that we cannot smell, feel, see, or taste. The level of these molecules is dependent on the environment that surrounds us. Flora and fauna emit negative ions but indoor environments containing electronic devices, computer screens, photocopy machines, and televisions significantly reduce their levels. So, the solution is to quite simply have more plants around the house.

Grow Your Own Pharmacy

As a health care clinician entirely bent on methods of healing the body using natural interventions, I have long appreciated the power that plants and their constituents provide. So, what happens when an alternative health practitioner and a horticulturalist start talking? Well, the conversation naturally turns to the relationship between plants and people — how working with plants is directly related to improved mood and overall health, and how so many ailments can be cured using plants. I got to talking with Frank Ferragine aka Frankie Flowers and the next thing I knew, we were writing “Power Plants: Simple Home Remedies You Can Grow”.  In our book we discuss forty-nine plants which we included based on a strict criteria of ability to grow with ease north of 30 and south of 50 degrees latitude, easy to translate into a remedy, culinary dish, or useful health aid, and backed by excellent science that supports a track record of safety and efficacy.

Here are a few plants and one recipe that showcases their healing ability. I discuss health benefits in the book and Frankie tells you how to grow and harvest ‘em!

Aloe vera

Aloe is a cactus-like succulent plant with thick, fleshy leaves. The aloe family probably originated in Africa, but it has been cultivated all over the world for centuries.

The gel from Aloe Vera leaves has been used for thousands of years to treat wounds, skin infections, burns and other skin conditions. It may also be the most important plant discovered for digestive health. More than 60 million North Americans suffer from frequent heartburn and drinking homegrown aloe juice will reduce the acid in your stomach immediately.

Directions for use:

  • Using a sharp knife, peel away the rind from aloe leaves to extract six ounces of gel.
  • Discard the rind.
  • Peel away the top yellow layer (the aloe latex) and discard.
  • Transfer the aloe gel to a blender and add the freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon and 1/2 cup of water.
  • Blend on high speed until smooth (but not frothy). Drink immediately.

Haskap

These berries are touted to be the super berries of the coming years. It's known by the Japanese as the 'fruit of the longevity'.

The Haskap fruit is similar to blueberries in colour, but it is elongated and slightly cylindrical - more like a mini plum. The Haskap berry is known to have five times the amount of anti-oxidant found in a blueberry, making it an antioxidant superfood.

It helps prevent heart disease, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and osteoporosis. It's also well suited to the North American climate.

Directions for use:

  • 1 cup haskap berries, fresh or frozen
    1/2 cup strawberries
    1/2 cup raspberries
    2 cups coconut milk
    1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
    1 tsp chia seeds
    8 ice cubes
  • In a blender, combine all the ingredients above (sweeten with honey to taste) and blend on high speed until smooth.

Comfrey

This plant is nature's answer to a band-aid.

Comfrey's ability to help heal wounds comes from a compound called allantoin, which is believed to reduce inflammation and promote new cell growth.

Modern science seems to back up traditional beliefs. In one study, for example, a 35% comfrey cream applied topically to ankle sprains was very effective at treating tenderness, swelling, and pain even when compared with anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical creams.

Directions for use:

  • In a blender, puree the comfrey leaves with enough water to make a thick paste.
  • In a small heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water (acting as a double boiler), melt the coconut oil and beeswax, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the pureed comfrey and mix thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to a small glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Once the cream has cooled and solidified, apply it liberally to the affected area. The cream will keep in a cool, dry place for a year.

Capsicum

This hot pepper has the ability to block “substance P”, capsicum is also helpful for metabolism and weight loss.

If you already “like it hot,” you may have an advantage when it comes to keeping off the pounds. Research shows capsicum can help you lose weight in three ways: by increasing your metabolism (you can burn an extra 50 or more calories per day), improving your energy expenditure, and reducing your appetite.

Directions for use:

  • Consume 10 grams of cayenne pepper with food daily to eat less
  • Alternative to having in your food, you can make your own easy-to-swallow capsules at home.
  • 1,000 milligrams empty gelatin capsules (purchase at your local health food store)
  • Sun dry 30 peppers and place in a blender, cover with the lid, and pulverize to a fine powder.
  • Take 5 capsules twice daily with food to enjoy a significantly reduced appetite and an increased metabolism

Throughout Power Plants, Frankie Flowers gives easy instructions to lead you from planting to harvest. I pick up with clear guidelines on how to put the plants to work fighting everything from constipation to heartburn, high blood sugar to bad breakouts. We even include simple substitutions for those whose ailments include a thumb that is more black than green! Let Power Plants supercharge your health with a simple trip into your garden. Order Power Plants online at amazon.ca today!

 

Bryce Wyld Bryce Wylde is one of Canada’s leading alternative health experts. He is the Associate Medical Director at P3Health, CityTv’s Health Expert, and a Medical Advisor to the Dr. OZ show.