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By: Efraim Harari

Healing with medicinal plants is as old as mankind itself. Healing properties can be found in barks, seeds, fruits, and other parts of the plants. Until quite recently, plants were our main source of medication.

Practically all of the most widely used drugs in use today have an herbal origin. The most widely used painkiller, aspirin, originated from the bark of a willow tree. Vincristine, an extract of the rosy periwinkle, is very effective against types of leukemia. Quinine, from the bark of the quinine tree, can cure malaria. Ginseng is used to cure many medical conditions, including heart problems and diabetes. Lungwort, an herb, is used to treat asthma, while the seeds from the opium poppy are used as powerful painkillers.

Even today, scientists are still researching the valuable healing properties of plants for use in conventional medicine.

of the Matter

Digitalis is an important heart drug that comes from the leaves of foxgloves. Foxgloves are short-lived perennials. Although very beneficial when used in small amounts, digitalis can be deadly if taken in large doses.

Torah Tidbit

In the Gemara, there are numerous plants mentioned as having medicinal properties, including plants that are mainly used as food, such as olives, dates, pomegranates, and garlic. In addition, the Gemara discusses certain wild plants which were used principally for remedial purposes. In Masechet Gittinin particular, there are many ailments spoken about, along with the names of the plants recommended to cure or prevent those particular illnesses. Some of those ailments include toothaches and tonsillitis (Gittin69a), heart conditions, intestinal pains, and fever (ibid. 69b) and skin conditions (ibid. 70a).

Beware of

Not all plants are safe to eat or even touch. As a matter of fact, there are many plants that can inflict serious harm to people.

There are thousands of plants worldwide that are poisonous. Some plants are toxic to eat, while some are toxic to touch, and then there are others that create allergic reactions through the air with their pollen.

Oleander, water hemlock, and rosary peas are all beautiful plants, but don’t let their attractive colors fool you. They are the most dangerous plants in the world. Eating any of them can cause a person to become very sick and can be fatal.

Some plants even release cyanide. Cyanide is a compound of carbon and nitrogen that can be deadly if swallowed. Many berry plants contain cyanide. Examples include cherry laurel, lantana, and moonseed. Never eat berries from plants or trees before checking with an adult who is familiar with the types of berries that may be poisonous.

Even some of our edible plants contain parts that are dangerous to eat. For example, cherry pits, potato leaves, and apple seeds are poisonous.

Deadly Plants

Oleanders:The oleanderis considered by many to be the most poisonous plant in the world. An oleander’s poison is so strong that people have died just by eating meat roasted on an oleander stick.

Water Hemlock:

The poison contained in the water hemlock is present in the entire plant, but it is most concentrated in the roots. The water hemlock’s white roots are sometimes mistaken for a parsnip plant, but they are extremely poisonous and deadly if ingested.

Rosary pea:The seeds of the rosary pea are used to make jewelry. These seeds are only dangerous when their coating is broken; swallowed whole, the seeds of the rosary pea will not cause harm, as no toxic can be released. But if the seeds are crushed and then eaten, they are deadly. There are reported cases of deaths when jewelers pricked their fingers while handling rosary pea seeds.

Deadly Nightshade:

As its name suggests, this plant – every single part of it – is highly poisonous, and eating even one of its berries can be fatal.

Poisons with a Purpose!

Many useful medications are actually poisons extracted from plants.
Many of these drugs are lifesavers!