Plant Detective, The

Monday 3:58 PM and Saturday 6:00 PM

Each week Flora Delaterre a.k.a. The Plant Detective investigates a new medicinal plant somewhere around the globe--and it could be in your backyard. Beth Judy writes and voices this minute-and-a-half program in consult with Bastyr University, Tai Sophia Institute, and the Vermont School of Integrative Herbalism. Produced by MTPR. Podcasts available on this website as well.....

Joozwa

The alkaloid atropine occurs naturally in plants like deadly nightshade, datura, and henbane. It can keep your heart rate steady after a heart attack, dilate your eyes - think belladonna - or dry up secretions during surgery. Soldiers carry atropine injectors because it's an antidote to nerve gas. But in high doses, it's hallucinogenic and poisonous. Remember the three fates of Greek mythology? One of them, Atropos, determined the mechanism of death for mortals. Atropine is named for her.

Henri Pidoux © CITES Secretariat

The powerful anti-inflammatory action of harpagoside, a compound in the roots of devil's claw, relieves the pain of osteoarthritis, and many herbalists recommend it for digestive problems. The San of the Kalahari have used it medicinally for centuries. But because devil's claw is gathered wild from the deserts of Southern Africa, where the tubers are an important source of income, there is pressure on the population. In some regions, the current rate of harvest might not be sustainable.

Flickr user, Kai Hendry

This feathery plant from the deserts of Afghanistan and the mountains of Iran stinks - until you cook it, that is, when its pleasant flavor and active antiflatulent and digestive properties emerge. You can find it in Worcestershire sauce and throughout South Indian cuisine as a flavor enhancer and digestive aid. Devil's Dung is also antimicrobial.

(Podcast: "The Plant Detective")

Antiflatulent, helps digestion.

Flickr user, Pfly

The gigantic leaves of devil's club barely hide its sharp thorns  - if you're ever sliding down a mountain slope, this is not a plant to grab. But inside the roots' bark lies medicine for all sorts of evils: native coastal North Americans treated as many as 34 types of ailments with it.

Flickr user, Ali Graney

The causes of migraine aren't well understood. Neither is the mechanism behind feverfew's proven ability to stop or prevent a migraine headache. Feverfew supplements used in clinical studies to treat migraine contain a standardized dose of 0.2 to 0.35% parthenolide, so if you research this herb, pay attention to dosage details.  Pregnant women and children under the age of two shouldn't use it, and people with allergies to ragweed, chamomile and yarrow are sometimes allergic to feverfew.

Goldenseal II

Sep 13, 2014

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) grows in eastern North America, where it's now threatened in the wild. An alkaloid in goldenseal, berberine, shows powerful antimicrobial effects against a wide range of bacteria, yeasts, and parasites. Herbalists prescribed goldenseal to stimulate the immune system, fight infection, and treat diarrhea.

(Podcast: The Plant Detective, 9/13/14)

Goldenseal I

Sep 6, 2014

There's a persistent urban legend concerning the herb,  goldenseal: take it before a urine test and you'll get false-negative results for a variety of recreational drugs. Disappointingly for those who try, goldenseal won't mask drug residues in the blood. The idea came from Stringtown on the Pike, a novel published in 1900 by plant pharmacist John Uri Lloyd. In the book, goldenseal causes a false-positive result for strychnine poisoning.

(Podcast: The Plant Detective, 9/6/14)

Mexican Yam

Aug 30, 2014

In the 1930s, scientists trying to synthesize estrogen and progesterone for therapeutic uses - and possibly to create a new kind of contraceptive - faced an obstacle: they needed an abundant, cheap source of the hormones for mass production. Chemist Russell Marker discovered a way to extract progesterone from plants, and began searching for one that could yield enough of the hormone. After searching for a decade, he found it: the wild Mexican yam.

(Podcast: The Plant Detective, 8/30/14)

Tea Tree

Aug 23, 2014

Indigenous Australians use the twigs and leaves of the melaleuca (tea tree) medicinally, and science has confirmed the tree's antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.  Tea tree oil is used topically to treat a range of skin infections, cuts, burns, insect bites and stings. A 2012 review by the National Institutes of Health found that "a 5% tea tree oil gel appears to be as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide" for treating mild to moderate acne.

(Podcast: The Plant Detective, 8/23/14)

Camptotheca

Aug 16, 2014

In southern China, where Camptotheca acuminata is native, people call these big-leafed trees "Happy Trees." Chinese herbalists have been prescribing medicine from the leaves for centuries to treat various ailments, including leukemia. In the 1950s, National Cancer Institute researchers in the U.S. isolated the alkaloid camptothecin from the leaves, and today, several drugs derived from camptothecin help treat ovarian and colon cancer.

(Podcast: The Plant Detective, 8/16/14)

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