Plants Have Changed History
Much of human history and culture has been determined by what plants do or can be meant to do.

ship300In the 16th through 19th centuries, explorers sailed the seas and traders searched the globe in trading ships looking for good to trade and precious materials to make them rich.  But sailors often became deathly ill and deformed on long voyages until citrus fruits were found to prevent scurvy. Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C.

limeyVitamin C is abundant in capsicum fruit (especially sweet green peppers), cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts), and citrus fruits like oranges and limes. It was limes that enabled the British fleet to travel the globe (hence the term “Limeys” in  reference to the English) and build an empire western culture and making the English language dominant all over the globe.

Did you ever hear of “Cinchona?”

malaria-mosquitoTraded as early as 1650, it was found to be a treatment for MALARIA. Its use saved lives and increased the amount of land  available for colonization by  25%. People would not have been able to settle in places like Florida, Mississippi and Georgia.

Not to mention…..
Mulberry –

silwormsThe Silk Road in Asia introduced cultures to eachother and caused the transfer of ideas, people and wealth along  routes established for its trade.

NOTES ABOUT SILK: “Silkworms” are actually the caterpillars of a special type of mouth. The caterpillars can eat up to their own weight in leaves each day.  Mulberry leaves are the only leaves that silkworms will eat. The leaves must be fresh as silkworms will not drink water and the leaves supply all the moisture they need.  When ready, the caterpillars spins a cocoon of silk threads around itself. It is these threads from which silk is woven.

opiumPoppy –

Poppies (Papaver somniferous) produce opium, a white latex that yields 25 separate alkaloids, one of which is morphine – the addictive mental stimulant that yields a sense of well being and raised awareness  without inhibition. Its first recorded use is over 8,000 years ago. It was freely available in the 19th Century. Heroin is morphine that has been even further refined. Abuse of the drugs produced from the poppy plant have affected millions of lives throughout the past few centuries.

 Yam –

In New Guinea, yams are a staple food crop that also used for ceremonies. In 1942, American Russell Macherane extracted diosgenin and converted it into progesterone. 15 years latter the birth control pill was developed from the progesterone. It has had a profound effect on society and notions of sexuality and procreation.

“Yams” vs. Sweet Potatoes

That sweet, orange-colored root vegetable that we eat at Thanksgiving and call “yams” are really sweet potatoes. It is most likely that you have never eaten a real yam. Real yams are a tropical plant, usually from the Caribbean. They are more rough, scaly and white in color and lower in vitamins and especially beta carotene.

 

 
And don’t forget …..
papyrusPapyrus-

A swamp reed with a hollow, fibrous stem. Two layers of stem laid out at right angle over one another and are pounded smooth.  It was first used 5000 years ago in Egypt by scribes. Most of our written records today still remain on plant based material…paper from trees.

 
Cotton –

Spinning the fibers from cotton plants is among the oldest human technologies. There are fragments dating back to 5,000 years ago. The 19th century Industrial technology revolution lead to factories which could mass-produce…. but to grow cotton still meant slaves. By 1861, cotton was the US most valuable commodity for export in terms of dollars…more than all other exports combined.

Grapes-

Distilled to make wine by the action of the yeast, which turns grape sugar into alcohol,  a powerful depressant drug, that effects brain function. It was used in Egypt  and sent with the mummies for the afterlife. It provided sustenance in communities where water was not fit to drink.

Tea-

a small evergreen, green shrub; There still remains a 12th century Zen tea ceremony.  Monks developed it as an aid to contemplation. England became an international empire largely due to the trade of this herb.