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Food

Poison or Medicine? A Good or a Bad Thing?

In this life, every choice matters. Sometimes whether it was good or bad is not so clear. Sometimes we find ourselves not knowing what to do. Even though we have rules for almost everything, the choice is ours. Decisions are made individually, but the impact they have, is for all. Our action is local but the result is global. Why care about our neighbor? Why care about the environment? How does this impact our lives? Does the use of products from animals/plants threatened with extinction have a bad impact in our lives? Is wearing a mask against COVID-19 connected with biodiversity conservation? How important are the life choices of Americans to the lives of Brazilians? Or the opposite? As human beings, we have an inner need to take care of our surroundings, family etc. It is in our basic survival manual. But nature is global, has no borders, and spreads everywhere. You plant something here and you find its seeds there. You plant something for beauty, and it spreads everywhere and invades the forest.

This reminds me of the foundations of herbal medicine and the use of plants. Even if nature made medicinal plants to be ‘bad’ for something, they are ‘good’ for humans if they use them properly. Medicinal substances are basically made by plants to avoid being eaten by animals. That is the true purpose plants make all these complex compounds – they are not selfless actions for the ‘common good’. But humans learn how to use this to their advantage and survive.

A medicinal plant can be poisonous if you use it in a wrong way – like almost everything in this life.

A great example is conium. This plant has the power to destroy you or to help you. With care and respect, you can use it and it can be “with you” rather than “against you.” Conium maculatum in Greek is conio with spots. These spots are the small dark dots on the bark of the plant. Although conio should be avoided for external use, used internally it helps in the treatment of skin cancer and other serious diseases involving tumors. Conio’s juice is poisonous and brings death without pain. That is this way the great philosopher Socrates died. Socrates was persecuted for his innovative ideas. He was accused of disrespecting the gods and corrupting the youth. And as the law prescribed, when he was convicted he had to drink conio – hemlock. The philosopher was sentenced to death. The real motivation was the envy of other leading philosophers of the time.

Nowadays, the many healing substances of this plant have brought it global fame. The ‘evil’ became a ‘cure’, the bad became good.

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.

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