American Ginseng

Jun 21, 2014

6/21/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:"  Even today, many elderly Chinese still prefer a good ginseng root to health insurance. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is used to aid digestion, treat diabetes, boost immunity, and balance qi, or life energy.


Mar 28, 2014

3/29/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:" “Holy basil” helps many ailments. It's sacred - dedicated to Vishnu - and has been cultivated by Indian people for centuries, as medicine for fever, digestion, diabetes, stress, and more.

Star Anise

Feb 21, 2014

February 22nd, 2014: In traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese star anise is prescribed for colicky babies and sluggish digestion. But today, it's also a source of shikimic acid, a precursor in the pharmaceutical synthesis of Tamiflu, one of the only treatments right now for avian influenza. Japanese star anise, Illicium anisatum, a similar tree, is highly toxic and inedible.


Frankincense: Tears of a Tree

Dec 20, 2013

December 21st & 23rd, 2013:For millenia throughout the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, resinous nuggets from the frankincense tree have made fragrant and insecticidal smoke when burned. Frankincense is considered sacred as well as medicinal, but today, the trees aren't reproducing.


Licorice I: Never Mind the Spoonful of Sugar

Nov 22, 2013

November 23rd & 25th, 2013: Licorice is an important shrub around the world, treating many ailments. The chemicals contained in licorice are thought to decrease swelling, thin mucus secretions, decrease cough, and increase the chemicals in our body that heal ulcers.


Prickly Ash

Nov 15, 2013

November 16th & 18th, 2013: The leaves, bark (sans thorns), root bark and berries of Prickly Ash are medicinal, soothing sore throat and skin inflammation, increasing saliva, and improving blood flow and digestion. North Americans used it to numb toothache.