Plants & Human Affairs
Cherries.wmf (7140 bytes) Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106)  -  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

Natural History of Medicinal Plants - Chapter 3


The author suggests that western medicinal patients (i.e., allopathic medicine) are unaccustomed to seeing or using herbal medicines and, in general, are relatively ignorant about medicinal plants.   

  1. Do you agree?  Why or why not?  If you agree, why did this situation arise?
  2. List as many medicinal plants are you can that you have used or know someone else to have used.
  3. Design an experiment to test the author�s hypothesis that �we� have �lost touch with medicinal plants.�

 Medicinal Plant Matching

a. chestnut d. ginseng g. motherwort j. yew
b. cinchona e. kukui nut h. St. John�s wort  
c. ginkgo f. may apple i.  taro  

_____ American mandrake
_____ bark used to treat breast cancer
_____ burned seed produces dye for clothing/tattoos
_____ kills Plasmodium
_____ living fossil
_____ native to central China
_____ native to Europe, likely introduced via medicinal plant gardens (2 responses)
_____ native to pacific northwest
_____ native to South America
_____ native to south Pacific (2 response)
_____ once common in forests in eastern US, nearly extinct due to a fungus
_____ poi
_____ pollution, salt, poor soil, and disease tolerant
_____ preserved in Buddhist temple gardens
_____ seed produces oil used to burn in lamps
_____ treat malaria
_____ treatment for depression, melancholy
_____ treatment for senility, memory loss, and Chinese use it for coughs, asthma
_____ treatment of warts, testicular and lung cancer
_____ tree (5 responses)
_____ used to treat problems during childbirth,
_____ valuable wood, nuts eaten, bark used to treat wounds and sores, tea for pertussis

Threats to Medicinal Plants

  1. There are many threats to medicinal plants in the wild including disease, deforestation, and over-collecting. For each of the following, identify the major threat to the long-term persistence of these plants in the wild.

_________________ ginseng
_________________ Chinchona
_________________ American chestnut
_________________ Pacific yew

  1. Now, identify potential solutions to protecting plants threatened by over-collecting, disease, deforestation.

Plant Distributions
    The author notes that plants in E Asia and the SE United States are similar.  In fact, 120 genera occur in both areas.  Two hypotheses have been used to explain this situation: (a) Land Bridge hypothesis; and (b) Plate tectonics.

  1.  Define disjunct distribution.

  2. Describe each hypothesis and how it could lead to disjunct plant distributions

  3. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that �indigenous peoples experimenting independently with their native plants across their natural range frequently discover medicinal uses that reflect a common chemical legacy.�  Explain why this occurs.

Traveling Plants
    Many of our medicinal plants in the US did not grow here before the settlers arrived. 

  1. Explain why the settlers (and other people around the globe) transported medicinal plants. 

  2. Why is this practice no longer common?

  3. Explain how these medicinal plants came to be growing wild in central Minnesota.  Provide examples.

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Last updated:  05/01/2005 � Copyright  by SG Saupe