The power of healing plants
By Dr. Oren Gersten
Plants and herbs are the original medicine used to treat human illness. In fact, many of our modern pharmaceuticals are based on chemicals that we discovered in plants or in nature. Spring is the perfect time for us to appreciate the medicinal properties of some of the plants growing around us.
An important thing to understand about medicinal plants is that “natural” does not always mean “safe.” Some people incorrectly assume that using natural substances to treat disease is safer than using pharmaceuticals. There can be risks and benefits to any treatment. Having an experienced herbalist or doctor trained in integrative medicine can help you understand the specifics of any treatment.
This hearty plant grows well in arid climates but is easy to cultivate almost anywhere. Specifically, we use the pulp within its leaves to treat a variety of maladies including skin burns and stomach upset. There are different formulations, some of which include the whole leaf and others that do not. Many over the counter burn treatments include derivatives of this plant.
Ginger root, which we commonly use in cooking, is an excellent way to treat nausea. Whether used in tea or in a pulverized form there are substances in ginger that are soothing to the stomach. Also, it can be a useful tool in any traveler’s formulary to combat motion sickness.
Turmeric is a root similar in appearance to ginger. Cooks commonly use it as a spice, especially in foods from India and the middle east. Tumeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which can be helpful in treating arthritis pain. You must use certain formulations and dosages to attain maximum anti-inflammatory pain relief.
We find this compound in hot chili peppers. In fact, it imparts the spicy flavor. Used topically capsaicin creams can combat muscle and joint pain through modulation of pain receptors. But use care and do not get capsaicin in your eyes or mouth. It is the same ingredient used in bear deterrent pepper spray!
These are only a few of the amazing healing plants that can aid humans. If you are interested in learning more consult your nearest local expert.
Oren Gersten is a board-certified family doctor who brings his passion for connecting and caring for people to his private practice, Portland Direct Primary Care, at 27 Ocean Street, #3, South Portland. Reach him at (207) 618-9792 or visit PortlandDirectCare.com.