Health’s Hidden Storehouse

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“We must reconnect with nature, with the world that ultimately defines our existence and produces our food and medicines. Indeed, the tiny pills that we hold in our hands and that heal our ailments originated, in most instances, not from humankind, but from the natural world. They are fundamentally out of nature.” — Kara Rogers

In many ways, we are still in our infancy when it comes to understanding the true benefits that nature provides. We all depend on the “ecosystem services” of food, nutrient cycling, clean air, and water. Vital to human health, plants also provide a storehouse of medicinal cures and healing compounds. Most scientists estimate that we are nowhere close to tapping all the curative powers of nature — just at this perilous time of habitat loss and declining biodiversity.

Kara Rogers’ Out of Nature: Why Drugs from Plants Matter to the Future of Humanity, explores how plants have been used for millenia in traditional systems of healing, and how they form the basis for modern medicine as well. This book also draws a direct line between the extinction of species and the extinction of future cures:

“In the modern era, habitats and the species they contain are at the greatest risk of extinction that they have ever known. The consequences on all fronts, from the aesthetic qualities of nature to the functioning of ecosystems to human health, are severe. In terms of medicine and our ability to fight disease, protecting Earth’s plants and the compounds they produce has become a necessity.”

Also pictured above, a very good companion to have on hand while you read Out of Nature: National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine by Rebecca Johnson and Steven Foster.

And here’s three more essential volumes on medicinal plants:

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Native American Medicinal Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary by Daniel E. Moerman, and Peterson Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and Christopher Hobbs.

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and the wonderfully illustrated Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill and Evelyn Dean.

An estimated 2,000 new species of plants are discovered each year. Modern plant hunters continue to span the globe, as did their renowned predecessors such as Joseph Hooker, George Forrest, and Joseph Banks. For more on the plant hunters of the past, and the global explorers of today, here’s one of our favorite past posts:

–Plant Hunters Enriching our World

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