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Trees for Your Health

Have you ever considered how much trees give to us? From building materials to paper, foods and even oxygen, trees have provided so many various gifts for us to use. Of all that the trees provide for us it would be easy to over look one of the most amazing things that our tall woody friends provide;

Medicine!

Of the many things that I have learned this past summer (and yes it is hard to believe that the summer is almost over already) the amazing healing power of the plant world has been perhaps the most useful and enlightening . Most of us know that herbs can be used to boost our health in various ways, but the more that I have explored this topic I have been amazed to find that almost all drugs that are used in modern medicine have been derived from the plant and fungal kingdom.

Plants have been created with the ability to synthesize chemical compounds that help them defend against attack from a wide variety of predators such as insects, fungi and herbivorous mammals. As it so happens, some of these compounds, while being toxic to plant predators, turn out to have beneficial effects when used to treat human diseases. Plants have many phenols and alkaloids that have tremendous healing power when used properly.

In the day we live in it is relatively easy to obtain plants from around the world but I thought that it would be interesting to look at some of the healing properties of local North East United States plants. Specifically some of the more common trees of our forests.

Willow

Willow tree

Aspirin was originally synthesized from willow. Willow bark is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and fever reducing. It can also be used for the flu and pain, including arthritis.

Elm

Leaves of the Elm tree

Chewing on the twigs, sucking on lozenges, or using the powdered bark can sooth sore throats and other inflammatory conditions. Slippery Elm can be very healing for many various digestive problems.

Sassafras

Leaves from the Sassafras tree

This tasty root is one of the main ingredients of traditional root beer. The root is commonly used as a blood cleanser to remove toxins from the body in such cases as skin rashes and inflammatory conditions.

Cherry

Cherry bark is a specific remedy for coughs and lung congestion. It is likely that Cherry flavored cough syrups were originally inspired by the real Cherry bark syrups.

Dogwood

Flowers of the Dogwood tree

A medicine made from the bark of this tree native to the eastern United States often has been substituted for quinine. During the Civil War, Confederate doctors used it to treat malaria cases.

These are just a few examples from the more common trees in our area. There are thousands more healing plants just in our area of the planet. It is just amazing when you consider all that nature could provide for us just outside our back doors.

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