Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wisdom Wednesday: Endangered Plants with Medicinal Properties

Humans have used plants as medicine from the beginning of our time on Earth. The “doctrine of signatures” says that for every ailment there is a plant and the characteristics of that plant will tell you how to use it. However, the popularity of using these plants has grown exponentially in recent years. This has led to heavy pressure on the native population plants when they are collected from the wild. In some cases, overharvesting of a particular plant has led to their endangerment.

This is a list of just some of the endangered plants on our planet that are highly valued for the medicines that they provide:

Black Cohosh:
used by Native Americans to support women’s health during menopause and for menstrual issues. I use it for the same purposes. Studies indicate that its’ estrogenic activity is restricted to secondary sites like bone but I still avoid use with any history of breast cancer. Harvesting pressures, habit loss and invasive species have all contributed to its’ decline.

another North American herb. The root was used by indigenous tribes along the east coast to support the immune system. I use it for acute infections. Overharvesting is the major issue.

American Ginseng:
a perennial herb also native to Eastern North American. The root has many healing properties, including adaptogenic, cardiotonic, sedative and immune support. Overharvesting and habit loss are the primary issues.

Asian Ginseng:
The root has been used for thousands of years in China. It boosts many of the same properties as its’ American cousin. Due to overharvesting the majority of Asian Ginseng on the market today is cultivated.

Wild Yam:
native to North America, Mexico and Asia. The roots and stems are used for inflammation, as a digestive aid, to support healthy blood sugar, and as an antioxidant. I use it as a natural source of progesterone as the precursors found in the plant are converted in the stomach. Topical Wild Yam has no progesterone activity. It also has been overharvested.
Slippery Elm – native to Eastern and Central U.S. and into Canada, the mucilaginous inner bark of the tree has many uses, including soothing coughs, sore throat, and digestive inflammation. I use it as a prebiotic with its high soluble fiber content and as an anti-inflammatory for the gut. Dutch elm disease and aggressive harvesting practices have severely threated this tree.

What can you do to help endangered medicinal plants?

First, purchase them only from well-respected sustainable companies, preferably those who cultivate rather than harvesting in the wild. Medi-Herb, my favorite herb company has discontinued the use of certain herbs on the endangered list.

Second, you can learn to grow many medicinal plants yourself. Most of the plants listed above are native to the U.S. Please visit to view and purchase herbs that are endangered or at risk. Black cohosh, Echinacea angustifolia, Goldenseal, and Slippery Elm are all available and reasonably priced.

The Bottom Line:
Please do what you can to preserve herbal plant life. Your health may depend on it someday.

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