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FROM THE EDITOR: January 2007

January 21, 2008  By Dave Harrison

Plants: just what the doctor ordered

It’s truly an amazing world in which we work.   

Used ‘decoratively’ in homes or offices, plants are efficient and ideal room humidifiers and air purifiers.


According to The Building Isn’t Green Until The Plants Arrive brochure from Plants At Work, NASA scientist Dr. B.C. Wolverton and others have found that interior plants can reduce the airborne molds responsible for sick-building illnesses in sealed office environments by as much as 50 per cent. Further, a two-year study of a typical office by Professor Tove Fjeld of the Agricultural University in Oslo, Norway, noted the following reductions in ailments following the introduction of plants: fatigue (20 per cent), headaches (45 per cent), sore/dry throats (30 per cent), coughs (40 per cent), and dry facial skin (25 per cent).

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is essential for good health and disease suppression. According to the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers website, “Canadians are increasing their intake of vegetables and fruit. In a recent study, 38 per cent say they are eating more than before and per capita consumption has increased by 12 per cent over the decade from 1985 to 1995.” The major greenhouse vegetable crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are high in vitamins and other essential nutrients.

And please excuse this commercial plug, but I’ve become quite dependent on COLD-fX, a patented natural cold and flu remedy derived from the roots of North American ginseng plants. (Quite possibly they were grown just a stone’s throw or so from my office here in southwestern Ontario.) The company’s website lists a number of endorsers, including past and present NHLers, along with Olympic cycling and speed skating multi-medalist Clara Hughes, among others.

I am convinced it has helped me stay largely upright and nasally clear the past two or three cold and flu seasons. True, by the time you’re reading this in mid-January and sipping your evening tea (a green variety, of course, another immune system enhancer) or glass of wine (great for the circulatory system, though in moderation, of course), I may be sniffling my way through a skid-load of tissues with a doozy of a cold. I still get the odd cold or flu, but nowhere near as many as I did before and they usually settle in for a much shorter stay. And I have highly purified ginseng to thank for this.

As another example, Texas A&M has a patent for a new use of a natural compound (diindolymethane) derived from certain vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, turnips and mustard greens) that it hopes might be used to treat cancer.

Medicinal plants may be the next frontier of greenhouse production. A University of Guelph research team, led by Dr. Praveen Saxena, has been working with Harster Greenhouses, located near Hamilton, Ontario, to improve propagation and production systems for such plants. Already well-known as one of North America’s leading producers of African violets, Harster’s might soon become just as well-known for its work with medicinal plants.

“The plant is often the most-neglected part of plant-based medicines,” Dr. Saxena said in a January 2005 news release posted by the university, announcing the project. He hopes this research will lead to an entirely new type of horticultural industry in Ontario and access to a huge export market of high-quality medicinal plants used in herbal products.

Greenhouses are the perfect production system. “The idea is to grow plants in a controlled environment to eliminate all the contamination and maintain optimum quantities of medicinal components,” Saxena said.
Prescribing plants as a low-cost remedy to cure sick building syndrome is just what the doctor ordered. And that same doctor will increasingly in future be recommending medicinal plant-based therapies and remedies for all manner of illness and disease.

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