Medicines for the Earth: The Eco-Physiology of Plants
By David Crow, L.Ac.
We are entering a period in history when human health will be seriously challenged. If the destructive trends of rapid global warming, accelerating loss of biodiversity, widespread pollution and degradation of ecosystems, deepening poverty, malnutrition, and political instability are not reversed, all forms of medicine will become increasingly ineffective, unaffordable, and unavailable. For large populations in many parts of the world, this future has already arrived.
The causes of these conditions are numerous, complex, pervasive, and seemingly overwhelming. There is, however, one solution that has the potential to unify humanity in worldwide healing the plants.
Plants are the foundation of civilization and culture. They created the biosphere of the earth's surface, and they regulate its functions. Plants are the ultimate source of all health and prosperity; they feed us, give us clothing and shelter, provide fuel, fiber, and countless other necessities. Every breath we breathe is the breath of plants, which supports all life. Plants are the origin of medicine.
When healing an illness, there is often relatively little that doctors and patients can do to directly produce optimum functioning of human physiology. Plants, however, provide the biochemical and nutritional compounds that assist the body's internal ecology and promote its innate homeostasis and equilibrium. Phytonutrients nourish the organs, support the tissues, and enhance immunity, while the medicinal constituents of botanical species detoxify metabolic waste and xenobiotics (harmful foreign substances). No synthetic pharmaceutical drug can perform these functions.
Similarly, there is relatively little that people can do to reverse global warming, to stabilize disturbed weather patterns, or to detoxify environmental contamination. But plants do all of these things. They cool the planet, help regulate the seasons, recharge groundwater, restore soil fertility and stop erosion, regenerate the ozone layer, bind atmospheric carbon dioxide, and purify the toxins we put everywhere. Plants perform the same crucial functions in the outer environment as they do in the inner environment of the body.
This article, along with The Peoples Pharmacy and The Pharmacy of Flowers, outlines a broad vision of plants as humanities primary resource for solving the complex and potentially devastating challenges we face. The article begins with a brief overview of how plants created and sustain the biosphere, followed by an exploration of the parallels between human and plant physiology, and comparisons between disease processes in the human body and planetary ecosystems. Finally, it outlines some of the ways plants are being used for healing the environment, and how these functions are similar to healing mechanisms in the human body.
Plant Physiology and Planetary Evolution
The life-supporting elements that we often take for granted are the result of unimaginably long cycles of evolutionary processes. It can accurately be said that plants created, and continue to create, the world we live in. Recognizing our dependency on the eco-functions performed by plants increases our sensitivity to the conditions of the environment, and encourages us to protect and restore the natural world.
The complete article is featured in the book Plants that Heal: Essays on Botanical Medicine by David Crow. Available in paperback and ebook formats.
Discover the healing powers of plants in a collection of essays by David Crow, a leader in botanical medicine and grassroots healthcare (paperback).
Discover the healing powers of plants in a collection of essays by David Crow, a leader in botanical medicine and grassroots healthcare (e-book).