• The Healing Power of Plants

     

    I have a wonderful neighbor who just loves to garden. She is always out in the yard digging and planting, and taking care of what she calls “her babies.” She talks to them, hugs them and moves some of them from one spot to another for better sun or shade, depending. She truly has a green thumb and can pretty much grow anything, which is why she caught my attention recently when she was “upset” with one of them. She was annoyed with a pineapple plant that has still not fruited after nearly two years. “What the heck is wrong with you?” I heard her asking in a frustrated tone.

    She was unaware that a pineapple usually takes somewhere around 24 months, or even longer, to produce a single fruit. I contemplated on how pineapples teach us patience. How long must we wait for one singular fruit? It also teaches us appreciation as we bite into that tangy, ripe sweetness, unlike any other fruit on the planet. I started to think about plants and how they heal us, feed us, nourish us and teach us. Here are some interesting things I uncovered about pineapples and mushrooms, both of which have incredible properties:

    Pineapples
    Aside from taking an average of two to three years to reach maturity, pineapples are surprisingly easy to grow. In fact, you can just cut off the leafy top of one bought from the grocery store! Here’s a link with instructions for growing your own: How To Grow Pineapples From Tops. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/children/planting-pineapple-tops.htm

    Pineapples are native to South America and the only fruit from the bromeliad family of plants that is edible. While the majority of the world’s pineapples now come from Southeast Asia, you can still find some that come from Costa Rica or Hawaii, which typically will be the freshest available in the United States. Pineapples were first introduced to Europe in the 1700s, where they were delicacies of great value sought after by the very wealthy. That is how the Pineapple came to be known as a symbol of warmth and hospitality. According to the Chef’s Blade website, “Any guest who was invited to a party where a whole pineapple was displayed knew that no expense was spared in guaranteeing the guests’ enjoyment. It was this that made the crowned fruit the high symbol of social events and became the meaning of welcome, friendship and hospitality.” And today it is not unusual to see a Pineapple adorning a doorknocker or banister post.

    In addition to tasting great, this delectable fruit is excellent for our health. It is chock full of vitamins and minerals and even has 1 gram of protein per serving. Fresh pineapple is also the only known source of the enzyme bromelain, which may alleviate joint pain, reduce inflammation, inhibit tumor growth and shorten recovery time following surgery. Pineapples are high in vitamin C and have been shown to aid in the treatment of a variety of other physical ailments such as asthma, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, digestion, fertility, inflammation and skin problems. On an emotional/spiritual level, pineapples are said to symbolize luck, money and chastity.
    If after reading this you feel inspired to run out and grab a nice, juicy pineapple, here are a few tips:

    • First, once harvested, pineapples don’t continue to ripen. That means that every single pineapple in the grocery store is as ripe as it will ever get, so don’t buy one thinking it will taste better over time.
    • Second, a green pineapple can be just as sweet and delicious as a golden-brown one. To test if a pineapple is ripe, put your nose to the bottom and smell; if it smells sweet, it’s ripe. If you can’t smell anything that means the sugar content of the fruit is low, and it will not be sweet. Also, the pineapple should “give” a little when you press on it. Remember, they are best served cold and great in smoothies. Here is a link to a healthy smoothie recipe. http:// www.eatingwell.com/recipe/251038/pineapplegreen-smoothie

    Mushrooms
    Another plant I’ve heard a lot about lately is the mushroom, although technically mushrooms are not plants; they are considered to be a fungus and usually placed in a kingdom of their own apart from plants and animals.

    The medicinal use of mushrooms has been employed for more than 3,000 years. They contain no chlorophyll and most are considered saprophytes, meaning they obtain their nutrition from metabolizing nonliving organic matter (they break down and eat dead plants). It’s estimated that there are more than 10,000 different species of mushrooms. While many are edible, about 20 percent will make you sick, and 1 percent can kill you—so don’t be going into the forest and foraging up any unless you have consulted an expert! There are roughly 270 species of mushrooms that are known to have therapeutic value such as delivering antioxidants, protecting the liver, and having anti-hypertensive and cholesterol-lowering properties, as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-viral and anti-microbial benefits. Wow! Who knew?

    Here are the top five therapeutic mushrooms that you can find them in most vitamin or health-oriented grocery stores: turkey tails, reishi, almond (himematsutake), zhu ling and lion’s mane. I will give a brief summary of each, but for more information about a particular issue, I recommend doing your own research.

    Turkey Tails: delivers anti-cancer agents. This mushroom contains an extract made up of two proteins, “PSK” (Polysaccharide Kurcha or Polysaccharide-K ) and PSP (Polysaccharide-protein complex), which are known to stimulate the immune system and offer antiviral as well as antibacterial properties. The turkey tails mushroom is commonly used in Asia to improve patient outcomes with gastric, esophageal, colorectal, breast and lung cancers.

    Reishi: improves cardiovascular and liver health. This mushroom has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and reduce harmful enzyme concentrations in the liver. In some patients with high blood pressure, it reduced blood and plasma viscosity. Further studies show reishi improves respiratory health, especially in older patients with bronchial asthma. Also, this mushroom enhances the immune system and increases oxygenation to the blood. It claims to be favored by athletes and even reduces altitude sickness.

    Almond (Himematsutake): improves immune system and anticancer actions. This mushroom stimulates the immune system, while offering anticancer properties, and is used when treating colorectal and gynecological cancers.

    Zhu Ling: offers anticancer actions. This Mushroom stimulates the immune system and is utilized in the treatment of lung and other cancers. It was demonstrated to have pronounced antitumor activity in in-vitro and in-vivo studies in animals. It helps reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and can help alleviate symptoms of chronic hepatitis.

    Lion’s Mane: provides memory and nerve support, offers anticancer actions and provides digestive and immune system support. This mushroom is known for possessing two potent nerve growth factors, helping those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment and multiple sclerosis. It also aids in the treatment of esophageal and gastric cancers and may extend the lifespan of cancer patients. It is effective against gastric and duodenal ulcers and gastritis, as well.

    I also want to discuss psilocybin mushrooms, otherwise known as “magic mushrooms,” which are in a class of their own known as psychedelics. Magic mushrooms have been around since prehistoric times and are used in a variety of ways from recreationally to spiritually/ritually. In addition to their psychedelic effects, they are known to have profound healing effects, as they take an initiate deeply within for greater spiritual awareness. Again, one is advised to do some research before engaging with psilocybin therapies.

    Other Fascinating Facts About Plants
    While researching, I stumbled across some fascinating trivia about the plants we eat. For instance, there are some foods that look like the body part they are known to help.

    If you look at a circle slice of carrot, it looks like an eye. Carrots contain beta-carotene, which our body converts into vitamin A, an essential nutrient for the eye. A walnut resembles a brain and is loaded with omega-3, folic acid and vitamin E, making walnuts one of the ultimate brain foods. A stalk of celery resembles bone, and it contains silicon, a substance that provides bones with their strength. Tomatoes have four chambers and resemble the heart. They also contain lycopene, which has been proven to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Kidney Beans look like the organ itself and help heal and maintain kidney function. Beets are the color of blood and are good for your blood health. Avocados are shaped like the uterus and have been shown to balance hormones and, interestingly, they also take nine months to grow…And, just in case you’re wondering, I found nothing regarding bananas or cucumbers in relation to male sex organs.

    Plants are Sentient Beings
    In a 2014 article in The New Yorker, Michael Pollan, activist, best-selling author and professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, notes: “Plants have astounding abilities to sense and react to the world around them. They have analogous structures. They have ways of taking all the sensory data they gather in their everyday lives. They integrate it and then behave in an appropriate way in response. And they do this without brains, which, in a way, is what’s incredible about it, because we automatically assume you need a brain to process information.”

    The article goes on to say plants have all the same senses as humans; they can hear and taste and even sense the presence of water. I can just imagine vegans everywhere moaning. So as I sip my cup of reishi tea, munch on some walnuts and dream of my pineapple smoothie tomorrow morning, I recognize the incredible wisdom, healing power and abundance provided to us by Mother Earth. Every day, I continue to be amazed by this beautiful planet. All around us She is there—nourishing us, supporting us, teaching us and loving us—and for that I am eternally grateful.

    May we all appreciate the great honor and responsibility for her well-being and return to her in kind the love and care that she so freely gives to us. Namaste.