Living – Plants That Heal

3 min read
The most insignificant weeds have properties you may not be aware of. The next time you go for a walk, take a closer look at the trees and plants along the roadside and appreciate their worth.

Trees and plants have contributed to the well-being of both humans and animals since the beginning of time. They provide us with oxygen and cleanse our environment. According to the American Department of Agriculture, one acre of forest trees can take away six tonnes of carbon dioxide. The same acreage can supply four tonnes of oxygen — enough to serve 18 people for the whole year.

Trees and plants also serve as herbal remedies in many cultures. For years, people have made use of them to treat various ailments both in humans and animals. Today, even with advances in science and technology, plants are still used for therapeutic purposes. Many of these healing agents are roadside plants and trees that we pass regularly when we go on walks or drives.PENNYWORT
The Asiatic pennywort (also known as gotu kola) has small, round green leaves and tends to grow close to the ground and in wet areas. It grows untended in many parts of Singapore. It is a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine, and is the main ingredient of gotu kola sambol, which combines shredded gotu kola leaves with shallots, lime juice, chilli and grated coconut. A member of the parsley family, it is commonly used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Herbalists have long used gotu kola poultices and ointments to aid in wound healing. Studies show it is able to stimulate collagen production and promote the development of new blood vessels at the injury site. It is also said to be effective in improving poor circulation in those with chronic venous insufficiency. This condition occurs when the wall or valves in the leg veins are not working effectively. The fresh leaves are also thought to help sharpen thinking and memory. These days, you can find gotu kola sold as a dietary supplement in capsule, powder, tincture and topical formulations.

SNAKE WEED
This is one of Singapore’s most common weeds, and can be found in the nature reserves of Singapore along cleared paths as well as on sidewalks. The leaves taste like spinach, with a slight bitterness. Snake Weed is said to have antimicrobial and antidiuretic properties. The juice of the plant is used to treat abdominal pain and stomach ailments. Snake Weed is also well known as a treatment for dengue, especially in the Philippines.

TAMARIND
The tamarind tree is found in most parks. It has a dense, rounded crown with reddish flowers that turn to yellow and white as they mature. The fruits are oblong and brown, with a thick pulp enclosing brown seeds. Tasting sweet and sour at the same time, the tamarind fruit is frequently used as a souring agent in Malay and Indian cooking. The bark — when incorporated into lotions and poultices — may be used to relieve sores, ulcers, boils and rashes. A sweetened decoction of leaves can be used to treat cough and fever.BEACH MORNING GLORY
This creeper — with bright-purple, trumpet-shaped flowers and fresh green leaves — can be seen growing wild on our sandy beaches at the highest water mark. Its anti-inflammatory properties have been discovered by various cultures, while the sap of the leaves is used to treat jellyfish and fish stings. Indonesians use the sap from the young leaves boiled in coconut juice to treat sores and ulcers, while in the Philippines, the boiled leaves are used to treat rheumatism.

While plants have many benefits, we do not recommend that you self-medicate; instead, consult a doctor if you are unwell.

ESSENTIAL OILS
Did you know that many beneficial characteristics of a plant can be distilled into an essential oil from that plant’s roots, seeds, flowers and bark? This essential oil is a convenient way to enjoy the power of the plant’s highly potent chemical compounds.

AA Singapore’s AAShop carries several ranges of essential oil products. Check them out here.

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