Flora de la Terre

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Mistletoe, a parasitic plant that grows on a wide range of host trees, shows up on every continent but Antarctica - and on each continent, it's been used in folk medicine. From ancient Greece into twentieth-century America, it was prescribed for epilepsy. Over the centuries, healers have used mistletoe to treat arthritis, menstrual problems, miscarriage (through controlling bleeding), hypertension, and pain - and that's just the short list. It's prescribed frequently in Europe. But don't try any of these uses without a trained health practitioner, because mistletoe can be toxic.

Asian Ginseng

Jul 12, 2014

7/12/14: This week on The Plant Detective: Asian ginseng, Panax ginseng, helps people with Type 2 diabetes maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Both Asian and American ginseng contain ginsenosides, just in different proportions. Asian ginseng stimulates while American ginseng calms, and in the terms of Chinese traditional medicine, Panax ginseng promotes yang energy and cleans excess yin. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) does the opposite.

Tea II

Jul 5, 2014

7/5/14: This week on The Plant Detective: They may have different flavors but black, green, white and oolong teas all come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. They're just processed differently; black tea is fermented, green tea isn't. Unfermented green tea is especially high in catechins, those antioxidants that scavenge the blood for free radicals and are associated with lower rates of atherosclerosis.

Tea I

Jun 28, 2014

6/28/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:" According to archaeologists, human use of tea,  Camellia sinensis, goes back 500,000 years.  The flavonoids in tea are more effective antioxidants than Vitamins C or E - they seem to boost immunity and protect against cavities and ultraviolet rays. More research is needed to find out if tea's flavonoids protect against cardiovascular disease and certain kinds of cancer.

Bitter Melon II

Apr 11, 2014

4/12/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:" Bitter melon's ability to bring down blood sugar is proven, and it holds promise for treating complications of diabetes as a non-animal source of injectable insulin.

Bitter Melon I

Apr 4, 2014

4/5/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:" Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) goes by many names and is used as food and medicine across the world, especially in the tropics. It's got twice the calcium and potassium of spinach and bananas, but if you're going to try some raw, be ready: it's one bitter cucurbid.