Plants go back a long way in traditional medicine. Records left by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Sumerians some 4000 years ago show that they not only used herbal medicines but possibly had clay-tablet prescription pads.
We have since learned about the chemical basis for the purported benefits of plants such as lavender (useful for de-stressing) and garlic (which can be used as a blood thinner, antiseptic and more). In addition, modern medicine can now harness old killers for good: the yew yields the cancer drug paclitaxel, while foxgloves give us the heart drug digitoxin.
Under duress, I’ve eaten the Bengali appetiser fried neem leaves (the bitterest dish on Earth), and tasted a more palatable papaya curry appetiser. Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a natural insecticide that is used to treat stomach ailments and intestinal parasites, whereas papaya is a digestive, and turmeric in curry contains curcumin, which has anticancer and antimicrobial properties.
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