You may already know that spending time in nature with trees releases endorphins, upping your happiness and mitigating against depression. And you’re probably aware that herbs and flowers have been used for centuries to treat various ailments as well. But, did you know that trees also house medicinal benefits?
While we wouldn’t recommend just walking up to a tree to nibble on its leaves and gnaw on its bark, its extracts have been used for ions to ease pain and treat infections. Here are just a few examples:
Evergreen Cinchona Tree
Millions of people have died from malaria; more than those killed by war and plague. Even Alexander the Great could not avoid the deadly disease. Thankfully, the Quechua Indians in the 16th Century discovered that quinine, derived from the bark of the evergreen cinchona tree, was able to treat the disease. This tree was so successful at defending off malaria that it was deemed the “miracle cure” and saved the lives of King Charles II and the Queen of Spain. Unfortunately, malaria has recently become resistant to the synthetic version of this treatment and so this tree could hold the answers once again.
The leaves and bark of this tree have been used to stir up teas that are then used for hemorrhoids, tonsillitis, and even as a fever reducer. Its extract has also been used as an astringent to clean deep wounds.
The bark salve of this tree was once used on the abdomen to ease fever and as a rub to treat gunshots wounds. When it’s used in tea, the high calcium content helps to promote the healing of broken bones, ease urinary and bowel conditions, such as UTIs and diarrhea, and to quell sore throats.
A leaf wound wash helps to relieve sore eyes and sore breasts of nursing mothers, while the tea treats kidney infections, bronchitis, and the common cold.
Have you ever taken an aspirin to relieve your headache or back pain? Today it’s a synthetic drug, but one form of the original main ingredient is found in Birch trees as it contains high concentrations of salicylic acid. It wasn’t widely used as it’s not the only source of the drug, but it is known that some would chew on the twigs to relieve their pain.
As a Pacific Northwest dweller, you may not have heard of this tree, which is popular in the southeastern U.S., but it is an aromatic tree that has long been used in teas and tonics. Specifically, it’s been used as an effective diuretic.
Like the cinchona tree, the Dogwood tree also produces quinine. Since it’s native to the eastern U.S., Civil War and Confederate doctors used this to treat malaria cases. Unfortunately, it’s a more diluted version and isn’t nearly as effective as its South American counterpart.
The buds of the Balsam Poplar are coated in a gooey, aromatic substance that has healing properties. This northern U.S. tree goo is called “balm-of-Gilead” and is a component of cold medicine, keeps ointments from spoiling, and can be used as a balm to expedite wound healing.
All parts of this aromatic tree are useful. While sap is used to make wine, the leaves are brewed for tea, both of which are helpful in treating gout. Meanwhile, the entire tree is one large antiseptic; while the inner bark relieves fevers, the leaves help dissolve kidney stones.
Pine is everywhere, but this particular version has medicinal properties. In fact, the extract from its needles can be used to make either vinegar or tea that will help ward of colds.
While the olive tree benefits are not the first thing that comes to mind when you pass by an orchard, it has actually been used in a variety of ways over the years to improve people’s lives. In fact, it is first thought to be used medicinally in ancient Egypt and since then, we’ve learned it contains compounds that have the following effects:
-Lower blood pressure
-Lower blood sugar
The olive tree benefits are often derived from its leaves and the fruit it bears. With this, it was used to make teas and extracts. While olive oil and olives have long been a staple of what is now known as the Mediterranean diet in Morocco, Italy, Spain, and others, they now greatly influence American dishes as well.
This tree found in Afghanistan, Nepal, and India is used as a pertinent ingredient in treating cancer as it contains Taxol. While this has been a wondrous discovery as an important addition to chemotherapy cocktails, it has also put the tree at risk of over-harvesting, according to the Global Trees campaign.
Red Stinkwood Tree
While originating in central and southern Africa, as well as Madagascar, this tree is internationally traded for its medicinal benefits. In fact, its bark is used to treat everything from malaria and kidney stones to fevers and prostate cancer. Unfortunately, like the Himalayan Yew, it is in great demand. Trade estimates are in the $200 millions per year as the species continues to decline due to demand.
This North American & Canadian tree extracts are great for easing coughs and as an antihistamine used for allergic reactions like insect bites.
While we may no longer rely on all of these trees as our main source of medicine, they are the original source of naturally occurring chemicals we still use today.
Advancements have since allowed us to develop more potent synthetic versions of these same elements so as to not devour forests while treating our varied ailments. However, it’s still nice to know that the tree that sits in our backyard has more to offer than we previously thought, so make sure to care for them.