Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Knew That

Wild Plants and Wooly Bears

Ever read something and say to yourself, “I knew that?” My chiropractor saves copies of a popular, health magazine and gives them to me at each visit. Every once in awhile I’ll extract some gem of wisdom from these, but most of the time it’s an, “I knew that” experience.

For instance, the last bath of magazines had a spread on newly-popular mushrooms and their health benefits. This showed the common names but not the botanical names. So when I saw a photo of something labeled, “Maitake,” I recognized it immediately as a mushroom that I commonly pick from the wild. The text said it was also known as Hen of The Woods, which clinched my suspicion. I have a freezer full of Hen of The Woods.

While the article didn’t say, I would imagine that Maitake is a Japanese name, which would indicate that this mushroom grows in Japan. Had the author included the indisputable, scientific name of Grifola frondosa, I would have known immediately the identity of the fungus in question.

Anyway, the article tells that the mushroom is good when frozen, which I knew. It also said it provides vitamins, which I also knew.

Next, an article described various bacteria-fighting herbs. Able to fend off E. coli and other nasty critters, these herbs may eventually be added to bagged, green vegetables to thwart bacteria. All well and good. But one of the herbs named got me suspicious. Goldenseal, a plant that wildcrafters have over-harvested from the wild and is now cultivated for the herb market, contains something called berberine. This told me that in the end, everything is about money. To find the answer to most any question, just follow the money trail. But I knew that.

Goldenseal is readily available…for a price. Another wild plant, however, also contains copious amounts of berberine and it is not in any danger from over-harvesting. It’s goldthread, Coptis groenlandica, and it grows all over Maine in woodland settings. Aptly named, goldthread plants produce a vast network of thin, golden roots. These abound in berberine. Each year, I harvest goldthread roots and make a goldthread tincture by steeping the cleaned roots in vodka. I take this as soon as I get a scratchy throat, and also as a prophylactic against infection.

So, big news, goldenseal contains berberine and berberine protects against harmful bacteria. I knew that, and I also knew about goldthread, which the author never mentioned. But goldthread is free and goldenseal is expensive. And now you know that.

Butternut Squash contains lots of beta-carotene, as well as a good dose of healthful vitamins and minerals. So the magazine said. But I knew that. Which is why I grow a bunch of butternut squash each year and eat them all fall and into the winter.

People are no longer in touch with nature, so another article said. In order to feel better, we need to get outside and commune with nature. I knew that, which is why I live in the woods and spend so much time in nature.

Finally, another article said that we should not drink water from plastic bottles, since the plastic leaches into the water. And when on a trip, bring water (filtered) from home in a stainless-steel thermos, not a plastic jug. I would never buy water in the first place, especially in a plastic container. I knew that. And on trips, I always carry a steel thermos of Waldo water with me.

The article also said that drinking water from the tap is dangerous and to only drink filtered water. I would imagine that this is probably true for water from a municipal water supply. But I have a spring, which produces pristine water. It doesn’t need filtering.

It just strikes me funny how all the things that come naturally, that so many of us were always aware of, are suddenly a very big deal. But again, I refer the reader to the money trail. Just remember that no matter the topic, somebody, somewhere, is making money on it. There really isn’t anything new under the sun, only new ways to make money on what already exists. And I suppose that that’s not a bad thing

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