Fall and Fallow


Plants in Medicine


Many cultures and communities can identify local plants that are used to treat ailments. Often, the elders of the community are the keepers of this knowledge, and it is passed down verbally from generation to generation. However, it is rare that the information is written down by the indigenous people. History shows that unless this information is recorded, either formally or informally, it tends to get forgotten or lost, as the older generation dies out, and the younger generation moves away to towns and cities.    Here is my challenge to you. If there is an elder that you know, who has knowledge of native plants and their medicinal properties, don’t let the opportunity pass by to engage with that person and glean from their wisdom. Then with their permission, document this valuable, personal knowledge.

We all can play a major role in data collection, so that this local knowledge is preserved, and not lost.  Smart phones have made it so much easier to record those conversations and to photograph the plants instantaneously; someone else may prefer collecting, identifying, and documenting the plant specimens the more traditional way, by using pen and paper.  Or the technologically gifted can choose to invent an app, where the information can be uploaded and protected.  Whichever method you choose, choose to get involved, and preserve the knowledge. Additional benefits are that it is also a great opportunity for some bonding time,

This pursuit can also lead to a career as an ethnobotanist. Ethnobotanists work collaboratively with professionals in other fields, including environmental ethics, ecological restoration, taxonomy, nutrition, and phytochemistry. They are sometimes required to travel to diverse geographical locations, live with the indigenous people, and with permission, gather, record, and classify information on native plants and their uses. Ethnobotanists also partner with drug companies to isolate the active chemical from a plant, synthesize it, and develop drugs that are then marketed. One of the most well-known examples of a drug extracted from a tree, is quinine, which is extracted from the cinchona tree.  Check out the links below for more information.