Sunday, April 10, 2016

Magic of Medicinal Herbs and Flowers for the Aging - Bougainvillea

“Let your food be your medicine” Hippocrates

While the young may suffer from health issues, several health problems are more common with age. Modern medicines can relieve many common conditions but they often come with adverse side effects that can leave a person compromised in health and worse off in the long run. 

Before modern medicines became prevalent, humans treated many ailments with flowers, leaves, roots and barks of plants and trees. Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medicinal science, makes use of herbs and plant materials without substantial extraction of active ingredients as modern medicine does. These are called Ayurvedic medicines. The additional compounds in a medicinal or edible plant are an organic whole and a part of life that supports other life. It therefore helps to balance the chemicals in a way that is more conducive to life than a pure chemical in isolation would be. A modern example in wide use as food is sugar, a pure chemical isolated from juice of sugar cane. It may harm whereas the fresh juice itself has beneficial health giving properties (unless one is a diabetic and must avoid sugar in all forms). That is the reason why alcohol distilled from a natural fermented fruit juice and then diluted with water can give a headache and a hangover while the natural fermented juice with the same percentage of alcohol may not. The difference is created by additional balancing compounds in the natural fermented juice.

Aside from organic food and nutrients, a human also needs very tiny amounts of inorganic minerals as inorganic salts, the common salt being an example. These inorganic salts may be the only appropriate thing as a pure chemical for long term consumption. The same minerals requirements can however me met from organic sources too, for example copper, zinc, selenium, magnesium etc. that is also found in organic compounds in plant foods. Magnesium is as common to green leafy vegetables as iron is to red blooded animals, both playing a similar role in each type of life form.

Not all plants are medicinal. Some are just food and some poisonous too. Indeed there is no food or herb that does not contain a compound or two that could be from mildly to extremely dangerous if isolated and consumed but is beneficial as a group with other compounds. Ancient spiritual persons discovered effects of various herbs through experimentation and at times by observing animals that consumed these plants. However, the diversity and variety of different plants on the planet is so huge that many useful medicinal plants and their precise effect is yet to be discovered. Moreover, such discoveries are not the priority of modern medicinal industry driven by profits. It is not possible to patent a plant. If anything they would like to hide or even get its medicinal used banned as may have been done with cannabis. They would rather discover a new chemical, patent it and then exploit it for financial gain. Natural plant remedies, especially the most useful ones, are a threat to this industry. It seems when profit becomes a priority easing the suffering of fellow humans takes a back seat.

However there are also difficulties with ancient herbal science. It has not been put through the same sort of rigorous scientific analysis as modern medicines. Further the knowledge has not been recorded carefully Names of some herbs are misunderstood and some have become extinct. There is also much fraud in this area as humans are prone to resort to whenever there is profit and when regulation is lacking. Another major difficulty is that when a plant part is consumed as medicine or as a simple natural extract for example by boiling then it is not possible to control dosage with same precision as an isolated chemical and one may have to approximate or play it by the ear. Fortunately a natural plant material may do little harm in most cases as compared to a pure chemical if consumed in excess except the most powerful ones. Many common medicinal herbs are like food and do no more harm than food consumed in excess. As humans lose the glamour of modern science and once again realize value of natural plant materials, it is hoped that these would be subjected to more modern research and better ways can be found to control their use and required dosage.

Even when original source of a medicine is a plant, modern practitioners isolate the active or so called active agent and use that as a medicine, an unnatural product. The process of testing is so long that the scientist has little time to study combined effect of other ingredients in the plant that God put in there along with the so called active substance. The result is that many modern medicines are far more likely to cause a harmful side effect as compared to a natural herb that comes from life and supports life.

Even addictive herbs such as Marijuana and Opium in their natural state appear to be far less addictive than some chemical medicines. Steps are underway around the world to legalize Marijuana which this author supports, since it kills far fewer people than Alcohol does but governments must be careful not to legalize their extracts and so called active agents without considerable study not motivated by a desire of Pharma profits, something that seems to be lacking in many instances in these times driven by corporate greed.
Herbs and Flowers for the Aging
Earlier articles in this blog have described several useful herbs and flowers especially useful for the aging. Some of these may be found growing near you or even in your own garden while some may have to be acquired from elsewhere. An earlier article described the Palash flower that helped this author overcome back problems with magical speed. Another article described a common weed – Phyllanthus- that helps overcome urinary difficulties with a few weeks of use. 

A common problem with aging, especially aged persons who lead a sedentary modern life and tend to be overweight is diabetes type II and blood pressure as also a poor lipid profile that can go on to develop into cardiac problems and strokes in the worst cases. Just recently, this author discovered that there is a very common herb that deals with all three of these issues simultaneously. It is the common bush that grows in many a garden of warmer climates. While this plant has found traditional use for such ailments, modern research has also confirmed these benefits (for example see). 
Subsequent to some earlier annual medical tests the doctor had informed this author of the presence of slight high blood pressure and prescribed some medicines for it. On returning home, as usual this author threw the prescription in the dust bin. He avoids modern medicines except for most critical of needs and has managed with things like mindful breathing and herbs as when the need arose. But now, having learned of the use of bougainvillea, I have begun adding a few leaves of that to my morning tea daily. It has a mild taste and does not alter the flavor of tea. Modern research on this can wait but I am already feeling wonderful. LOL. 

A large bougainvillea bush with red flowers has been growing in front of my home for years as shown in the photo accompanying this post. It seems the plant contains pinitol among other chemicals which are considered to be helpful in the treatment of non-insulin diabetes, regeneration of cells, controls lipid profile and blood pressure. One can expect that in near future such chemicals extracted from the plant would be available in drug stores. However I shall not use them for reasons already explained at the outset even if they were given free. There is no need to with the Grace of the Lord and Mother Earth.

Different Colors

There are several varieties of bougainvillea and the flowers too come in a wide range of colors. Since precise chemical compositions of these varieties differ it goes without saying that their precise influence on human health and psyche would vary too. Aside from prominent health effects of different herbs and flowers, they have an influence on our psyche and emotional states too, indeed as all foods have. There is an older post in this blog about it – You are what you eat. Determining these second order effects precisely would need much more research.

Tomorrow morning, this author proposes to collect a whole lot of leaves and flowers, dry them and store them beside the tea in a jar. It is so much easier to use a dried herb then to go out in the garden every time one needs a cup of tea and the flowers have been used for drinks earlier by others as well. This blog is not recommending the use of this herb to others but more research into it but in case you take the chance as this author has, it would be nice if you share your experience as a comment here whenever you get the time for it. Best wishes to you.

UPDATE: The leaves and flowers dried in three days on a newspaper spread on the dining table. The leaves become very crisp on drying and crush easily if rubbed between fingers but the colorful bracts are less crispy and break off in bigger bits. The mix looks lovely.

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