Medicinal Weeds-Getting to Know Them

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Here’s an experiment for you – take a walk in your neighborhood and see how many of the plants you pass by you can identify. It’s possible that any one of those plants could have undiscovered medicinal properties. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“People walk by these plants every day. If you asked them how many plants they could namethey might be able to point out an oak tree or perhaps one of the pine trees and that would be about it- completely oblivious to the fact that they are surrounded by 150-200 species within a very small area.”

Rick Stepp is an assistant professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He studies how different cultures around the world use common plants as medicines.

“It’s probably a source of comic relief to have someone who is so completely ignorant of common day-to-day activities, including medicinal plants. You know, when I work with these peoples I am very much a novice to their knowledge. Over the years I have certainly become more knowledgeable, but still I am constantly amazed with how much just the average person knows and just the wealth of information that people carry around with them that is not written down in books for the most part, but rather they pass it on orally and transmit it to the younger generations starting at a very young age.

“In lots of cultures worldwide where people spend a lot of time interacting with plants and using a lot of plants at a very early age children will start to learn the names and uses for them. So for example, with the Highland Maya that I work with in Mexico its not uncommon to find a 4-5 year old child that can name 100 plants much in the way that a child in the United States could name 100 Pokemon characters. It is really through a study of the every day that a lot of interesting things can come out like people’s medicinal plant use. For most people that use a lot of medicinal plants for their healthcare it is a very mundane, commonplace activity. Talking to somebody about it is no different then asking them for example, what they had for breakfast.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Medicinal Weeds-Getting to Know Them

Highland Maya children can often identify as many as 100 plants. How many local plants are you familiar with?
Air Date:05/17/2007
Scientist:
Transcript:

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Here's an experiment for you - take a walk in your neighborhood and see how many of the plants you pass by you can identify. It's possible that any one of those plants could have undiscovered medicinal properties. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"People walk by these plants every day. If you asked them how many plants they could namethey might be able to point out an oak tree or perhaps one of the pine trees and that would be about it- completely oblivious to the fact that they are surrounded by 150-200 species within a very small area."

Rick Stepp is an assistant professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He studies how different cultures around the world use common plants as medicines.

"It's probably a source of comic relief to have someone who is so completely ignorant of common day-to-day activities, including medicinal plants. You know, when I work with these peoples I am very much a novice to their knowledge. Over the years I have certainly become more knowledgeable, but still I am constantly amazed with how much just the average person knows and just the wealth of information that people carry around with them that is not written down in books for the most part, but rather they pass it on orally and transmit it to the younger generations starting at a very young age.

"In lots of cultures worldwide where people spend a lot of time interacting with plants and using a lot of plants at a very early age children will start to learn the names and uses for them. So for example, with the Highland Maya that I work with in Mexico its not uncommon to find a 4-5 year old child that can name 100 plants much in the way that a child in the United States could name 100 Pokemon characters. It is really through a study of the every day that a lot of interesting things can come out like people's medicinal plant use. For most people that use a lot of medicinal plants for their healthcare it is a very mundane, commonplace activity. Talking to somebody about it is no different then asking them for example, what they had for breakfast."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

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