Earth is called a green planet due to the presence of plants on it.
Plants are considered to be the first living organisms born on the earth.
Without plants, the environment and human life on this earth cannot exist.
We grow plants in our homes, gardens, farms, roadsides etc.
Their presence is inevitable for clean air, food and water in this world.
Even these plants contribute to our economy. People of many countries rely on plant products for their livelihood and income.
Plants people relationships is so much interlinked that we need them to survive.
The Importance of plants to humans
Benefits of plants to humans Plants are in following ways as
1. Food: Plants are the main source of food for humans. Plants, unlike humans and animals, manufacture their own food. They do so by the process known as photosynthesis in their green leaves by use of sunlight.
They can convert and store the light energy in the form of carbohydrates. This process takes place in the leaves (chlorophyll) by use of carbon-dioxide and water.
From this manufactured food, they consume some of it and store the remaining. This is stored in the form of fruits, seeds, tuberous roots etc. This fruits and other parts of plants are consumed by humans. The food is in the form of vegetables, fruits, grains, cereals, leaves, seeds, mushrooms etc.
They provide the complete food comprising of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. But still, for few vitamins we may need to rely on animal foods.
This is the prime importance of plants to humans.
2.Clothing: Plants are the largest providers of textile and fabric material.
These materials are eco-friendly, compatible and less expensive.
So they are used for making cloth and bedding material which is required by humans.
The plant materials like cotton, jute etc contribute for manufacturing of yarn and other clothing.
3. Furniture & Shelter: Plants are the important source of furniture. The plant wood is used to build houses and also to make other furniture items. We use wood for the purpose due to its features like durability, stylish finishing, resistance to temperature changes etc. The trees like teak, neem, red sandal etc. are good sources of wood for making doors, chairs, shelves, tables etc.
Even the presence of plants around the area of human life relieves stress. Hence we see many people growing small plants in their household to get fresh air and also give naturalness.
4.Flowers: Flowers are used widely by humans. They are used for beauty, to convey feelings and also for their fragrance. In some countries, they worn as garlands and even in the hair on the head for beauty. While some use them to convey their love to their beloved ones. They are also used to produce fragrance and even their scent is extracted for daily use.
5.Medicines: Plants are a great source of medicine even for life-threatening diseases.
For example drugs like
♦ Ginseng for vitality and immunity enhancement.
♦ Digoxin for congestive heart failure (from digitalis plant)
♦ Vincristine for cancer treatment (from vinca rosea)
♦ Theophylline for asthma (from coffee & Tea)
♦ Ergot for a migraine headache. (from Rye plant due to fungus ergot)
♦ Reserpine for blood pressure are obtained from them.
So we can even notice that plants are the sole sources of medicines for few life-threatening disorders too.
Also, plant medicine is safer due to their lower chances of side effects and also better compatibility to humans.
Besides, Bacteria, like microbes are which are classified as plants in taxonomy also support humans. For instance, they produce antibiotics, insulin, hormones, enzymes by recombinant DNA technology.
6. A source of vitamins: Plants are the largest source of essential vitamins to the body. The body cannot manufacture vitamins on its own for metabolism.
7. Rubber & Plastic: We obtain rubber required for tire, wiring, seats etc from plants.
8.Natural pesticides: Plants are also the source of insecticides and pesticides. Using artificial pesticides are harmful to the environment. They may even enter food causing health issue to human and animals. Using these naturally derived pesticides are safe. They degrade with time and even do not harm the soil. Ex: Pyrethrin (as Mosquito repellant), Neem, bacteria etc.
9. Bio fuels: Some plants are also grown for the sake of bio-fuels. The plants fuel is less toxic as it does not emit harmful gasses and also less expensive. Even the plant waste is used to generate electricity.
10. Economic contribution: Plants are great contributors to an economy. Many countries rely on agriculture as one of the main sources of revenue.
Plants are responsible for the production of food, cosmetics, drugs, cloth, honey, gum, tannins, essential oils (perfumes), alkaloids, resins etc. which are all money yielding. So plants provide a great contribution to economic growth. Even now many countries economy largely depends on plant products.
Importance of Plants in nature.
Environment and the climate are largely interlinked with plants. Rainfall, humidity, and temperature are influenced by the presence of plants. Cutting down plants also imbalance the environment which will indirectly affect human life.
See→Importance of Environment.
1. They form the starting point of food chains:
In every food chain, the plants occupy the first position and lead the chain as a source of food. For example
Grass→ Cow→ Lion.
Grass → Insect → Frog→ Snake→ Eagle.
Here the plant starts the chain and other animals live on it directly or indirectly. Without plants, there can be no life on earth.
2.Gaseous balance: Plants help maintain gaseous balance in the air. Animals emit carbon dioxide by taking in oxygen. This rise in carbon dioxide levels in air is reduced by plants. They consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen during photosynthesis. Thus oxygen the essential life force is kept intact on the earth due to plants alone.
3.Prevent soil erosion: Plants, when grown in dense, prevent soil erosion, i.e. in times of winds, the fertile top layer of soil is carried away by air. This is prevented by plants if grown around.
4.Ecological balance: Plants impart greenery to the atmosphere, they help reduce heat and prevent drying up of moisture. Thus they are environmental savvy.
5. Support rainfall: Plants and trees have a cooling effect on the atmosphere leading to rainfall. Hence we see no rains in deserts.
Rainfall is very important to provide water for drinking, cleaning, irrigation etc. Hence the role of forest in the cause of rainfall is indispensable.
6.Maintain soil fertility: Plants maintain soil fertility. Their droppings and shedding of leaves, fruits, and other parts degrade in the soil to form humus. This humus increases soil fertility as it is microbial friendly. Plants like blue-green algae and bacteria are also extensively used to fix nitrogen in the soil for agriculture.
7.Support for birds and animals:
Plants are the best places of shelter for birds and few animals like monkeys & squirrels to live.
Birds build their nests for hatching eggs, sleep, hunt, and safety on the trees.
In forests, animals can take shelter under trees in heavy summers and rain.
They also provide nutrition for many soil worms (earthworms), insects, rodents etc.
Importance of Plants in Environment
1.Reduce Gaseous pollution: In cities and towns, there is a rise in gaseous pollution like(CO2, CO, SO2 etc). So city environments are highly polluted and unsafe for living. This is due to automobiles and factories ejecting toxic gases and also reducing the healthy oxygen ratio of air. Air pollution causes diseases of various types. So growing plants on the roadside, parks etc. helps minimize the gaseous pollution. For the benefit of plants oxygen they can even be grow in office, residential areas, education institutes etc. For this we can use low maintenance plants like indoor potted plants, hanging plants etc.
8. Miscellaneous benefits: They are the source of essential oils which are used in perfumes. Their material is used for making beverages like wine, beer etc. Other items like paper, bio-diesel, bio-manure are also obtained by use of plant material.
So they contribute to all the types of living beings either big or small, on land or water.
But given the vast importance of plants to human, we need to strive for plant conservation.
Introduction and Importance of Medicinal Plants and Herbs
The term “medicinal plant” include various types of plants used in herbalism ("herbology" or "herbal medicine"). It is the use of plants for medicinal purposes, and the study of such uses.
The word “herb” has been derived from the Latin word, “herba” and an old French word “herbe”. Now a days, herb refers to any part of the plant like fruit, seed, stem, bark, flower, leaf, stigma or a root, as well as a non-woody plant. Earlier, the term “herb” was only applied to non-woody plants, including those that come from trees and shrubs. These medicinal plants are also used as food, flavonoid, medicine or perfume and also in certain spiritual activities.
Plants have been used for medicinal purposes long before prehistoric period. Ancient Unani manuscripts Egyptian papyrus and Chinese writings described the use of herbs. Evidence exist that Unani Hakims, Indian Vaids and European and Mediterranean cultures were using herbs for over 4000 years as medicine. Indigenous cultures such as Rome, Egypt, Iran, Africa and America used herbs in their healing rituals, while other developed traditional medical systems such as Unani, Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine in which herbal therapies were used systematically.
Traditional systems of medicine continue to be widely practised on many accounts. Population rise, inadequate supply of drugs, prohibitive cost of treatments, side effects of several synthetic drugs and development of resistance to currently used drugs for infectious diseases have led to increased emphasis on the use of plant materials as a source of medicines for a wide variety of human ailments.
Among ancient civilisations, India has been known to be rich repository of medicinal plants. The forest in India is the principal repository of large number of medicinal and aromatic plants, which are largely collected as raw materials for manufacture of drugs and perfumery products. About 8,000 herbal remedies have been codified in AYUSH systems in INDIA. Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Folk (tribal) medicines are the major systems of indigenous medicines. Among these systems, Ayurveda and Unani Medicine are most developed and widely practised in India.
Recently, WHO (World Health Organization) estimated that 80 percent of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some aspect of their primary health care needs. According to WHO, around 21,000 plant species have the potential for being used as medicinal plants.
As per data available over three-quarters of the world population relies mainly on plants and plant extracts for their health care needs. More than 30% of the entire plant species, at one time or other were used for medicinal purposes. It has been estimated, that in developed countries such as United States, plant drugs constitute as much as 25% of the total drugs, while in fast developing countries such as India and China, the contribution is as much as 80%. Thus, the economic importance of medicinal plants is much more to countries such as India than to rest of the world. These countries provide two third of the plants used in modern system of medicine and the health care system of rural population depend on indigenous systems of medicine.
Treatment with medicinal plants is considered very safe as there is no or minimal side effects. These remedies are in sync with nature, which is the biggest advantage. The golden fact is that, use of herbal treatments is independent of any age groups and the sexes.
The ancient scholars only believed that herbs are only solutions to cure a number of health related problems and diseases. They conducted thorough study about the same, experimented to arrive at accurate conclusions about the efficacy of different herbs that have medicinal value. Most of the drugs, thus formulated, are free of side effects or reactions. This is the reason why herbal treatment is growing in popularity across the globe. These herbs that have medicinal quality provide rational means for the treatment of many internal diseases, which are otherwise considered difficult to cure.
Medicinal plants such as Aloe, Tulsi, Neem, Turmeric and Ginger cure several common ailments. These are considered as home remedies in many parts of the country. It is known fact that lots of consumers are using Basil (Tulsi) for making medicines, black tea, in pooja and other activities in their day to day life.
In several parts of the world many herbs are used to honour their kings showing it as a symbol of luck. Now, after finding the role of herbs in medicine, lots of consumers started the plantation of tulsi and other medicinal plants in their home gardens.
Medicinal plants are considered as a rich resources of ingredients which can be used in drug development either pharmacopoeial, non- pharmacopoeial or synthetic drugs. A part from that, these plants play a critical role in the development of human cultures around the whole world. Moreover, some plants are considered as important source of nutrition and as a result of that they are recommended for their therapeutic values. Some of these plants include ginger, green tea, walnuts, aloe, pepper and turmeric etc. Some plants and their derivatives are considered as important source for active ingredients which are used in aspirin and toothpaste etc.
Apart from the medicinal uses, herbs are also used in natural dye, pest control, food, perfume, tea and so on. In many countries different kinds of medicinal plants/ herbs are used to keep ants, flies, mice and flee away from homes and offices. Now a days medicinal herbs are important sources for pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Recipes for the treatment of common ailments such as diarrhoea, constipation, hypertension, low sperm count, dysentery and weak penile erection, piles, coated tongue, menstrual disorders, bronchial asthma, leucorrhoea and fevers are given by the traditional medicine practitioners very effectively.
Over the past two decades, there has been a tremendous increase in the use of herbal medicine; however, there is still a significant lack of research data in this field. Therefore since 1999, WHO has published three volumes of the WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants.
Importance of some herbs with their medicinal values
- Herbs such as black pepper, cinnamon, myrrh, aloe, sandalwood, ginseng, red clover, burdock, bayberry, and safflower are used to heal wounds, sores and boils.
- Basil, Fennel, Chives, Cilantro, Apple Mint, Thyme, Golden Oregano, Variegated Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Variegated Sage are some important medicinal herbs and can be planted in kitchen garden. These herbs are easy to grow, look good, taste and smell amazing and many of them are magnets for bees and butterflies.
- Many herbs are used as blood purifiers to alter or change a long-standing condition by eliminating the metabolic toxins. These are also known as 'blood cleansers'. Certain herbs improve the immunity of the person, thereby reducing conditions such as fever.
- Some herbs are also having antibiotic properties. Turmeric is useful in inhibiting the growth of germs, harmful microbes and bacteria. Turmeric is widely used as a home remedy to heal cut and wounds.
- To reduce fever and the production of heat caused by the condition, certain antipyretic herbs such as Chirayta, black pepper, sandal wood and safflower are recommended by traditional Indian medicine practitioners.
- Sandalwood and Cinnamon are great astringents apart from being aromatic. Sandalwood is especially used in arresting the discharge of blood, mucus etc.
- Some herbs are used to neutralize the acid produced by the stomach. Herbs such as marshmallow root and leaf. They serve as antacids. The healthy gastric acid needed for proper digestion is retained by such herbs.
- Indian sages were known to have remedies from plants which act against poisons from animals and snake bites.
- Herbs like Cardamom and Coriander are renowned for their appetizing qualities. Other aromatic herbs such as peppermint, cloves and turmeric add a pleasant aroma to the food, thereby increasing the taste of the meal.
- Some herbs like aloe, sandalwood, turmeric, sheetraj hindi and khare khasak are commonly used as antiseptic and are very high in their medicinal values.
- Ginger and cloves are used in certain cough syrups. They are known for their expectorant property, which promotes the thinning and ejection of mucus from the lungs, trachea and bronchi. Eucalyptus, Cardamom, Wild cherry and cloves are also expectorants.
- Herbs such as Chamomile, Calamus, Ajwain, Basil, Cardamom, Chrysanthemum, Coriander, Fennel, Peppermint and Spearmint, Cinnamon, Ginger and Turmeric are helpful in promoting good blood circulation. Therefore, they are used as cardiac stimulants.
- Certain medicinal herbs have disinfectant property, which destroys disease causing germs. They also inhibit the growth of pathogenic microbes that cause communicable diseases.
- Herbal medicine practitioners recommend calmative herbs, which provide a soothing effect to the body. They are often used as sedatives.
- Certain aromatic plants such as Aloe, Golden seal, Barberry and Chirayata are used as mild tonics. The bitter taste of such plants reduces toxins in blood. They are helpful in destroying infection as well.
- Certain herbs are used as stimulants to increase the activity of a system or an organ, for example herbs like Cayenne (Lal Mirch, Myrrh, Camphor and Guggul.
- A wide variety of herbs including Giloe, Golden seal, Aloe and Barberry are used as tonics. They can also be nutritive and rejuvenate a healthy as well as diseased individual.
- Honey, turmeric, marshmallow and liquorice can effectively treat a fresh cut and wound. They are termed as vulnerary herbs.
As our lifestyle is now getting techno-savvy, we are moving away from nature. While we cannot escape from nature because we are part of nature. As herbs are natural products they are free from side effects, they are comparatively safe, eco-friendly and locally available. Traditionally there are lot of herbs used for the ailments related to different seasons. There is a need to promote them to save the human lives.
These herbal products are today are the symbol of safety in contrast to the synthetic drugs, that are regarded as unsafe to human being and environment. Although herbs had been priced for their medicinal, flavouring and aromatic qualities for centuries, the synthetic products of the modern age surpassed their importance, for a while. However, the blind dependence on synthetics is over and people are returning to the naturals with hope of safety and security. It’s time to promote them globally.
- PUBLISHED DATE : May 20, 2016
- PUBLISHED BY : Zahid
- CREATED / VALIDATED BY : Dr. Mahtab Alam Khan
- LAST UPDATED ON : May 20, 2016
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