In the midst of a season of bad news (phenomenal drought in the US and elsewhere, with resultant crises in the rising price of food — which some evil-minded people rejoice in; political idiocy à la the GOP, which does not have an “image problem” with regard to women, but instead possesses severe problems with its own policies), here’s some good news:
Plants are our friends.
You may disagree, particularly if you’re recovering from a painful bout with poison ivy or a struggle with the weeds that – if you’re living elsewhere than the driest US states – have taken over your garden. And if you regard creepy-crawly molds and mildews, you might hold a different opinion. Allow me to change your mind.
Plants have always been used to cure illness and wounds. Even prehistoric people carried bunches of dried herbs and fungi on walkabouts, and back at the cave, I imagine a wise woman or ten knew exactly what to do with fresh herbs and food plants.
Aspirin, which seemed like a miracle when first marketed, contains the same salicylic acid as willow bark used for millennia. Quinine, which helps with the effects of malaria, was originally found in the bark of the cinchona tree by the pre-Columbian Quechua.
Part of the horror of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest is that potential cures are being lost every day. Unlike temperate forests, which contain millions of individuals of the same species (oaks, for instance), tropical forests are made up of relatively few individuals of many species. Destruction of a square mile might thus wipe out all members of a species before we discover how it can help humans.
So it comes as good news that two diseases may have found their match.
Green tea, it appears, not only tastes good. It can also be a topical cure for skin cancer. Research by British scientists has shown that when an extract derived from green tea is applied to melanoma cells it shrinks tumors without adversely affecting the healthy cells surrounding it. “This research could open doors to new treatments for what is still one of the biggest killer diseases in many countries,” according to Dr. Christine Dufes. That’s especially true in countries with high populations of the pale-skinned.
And we may be able to set aside those pink ribbons. Another kind of tea, that made from a plant called Fagonia cretica, found in Asia and parts of Spain, has been shown to kill cancer cells in the test tube – without affecting healthy cells. It has also been used for generations by Pakistani women with breast cancer, who drink the tea. While their condition may be more accurately described as remission rather than cure, it is important to note that remission achieved from merely drinking a tea is astounding. The plant extract apparently is able to “remedy defects in cell DNA that would normally resist tumour growth”, according to the British researcher, Dr. Amtul Carmichael, who adds that the women using the tea “live for a long time without losing their hair or putting on a large amount of weight, or experiencing other toxic side effects associated with chemotherapy, so we are confident this extract has something to contribute”.
Keep in mind that prevention of breast cancer is even better than cure! Keep weight low, alcohol use rare, and breastfeed your children.
For those with a loved one already struggling with cancer, this is good news.
Our friends, the plants. How welcome is that?