A favorite florist flower, passionflowers, or Passiflora incarnatas, live in the rain forest canopy, sending flowers via vines to the rain forest floor for pollination. Passionflowers were named for the passion of Jesus Christ, because the plant's reproductive parts look like a crown of thorns, not for inspiring passion in people. In fact, their medicinal use has the opposite effect. Passionflower leaves and stems have long been used for their sedative effects. Passionflowers are included in some herbal sleep aids. Other uses for this rain forest herb include anxiety treatment, stress relief and nervous disorders. Avoid taking passionflower if using other sedatives or drinking alcohol.
People indigenous to tropical rain forests depended on native herbs for health and healing since time immemorial. While many of these herbs have long been used in the developed world, others have recently been discovered by Western herbalists. The number of beneficial medicinal plants in the rain forest is still not known - yet another reason for rain forest preservation. Check with your physician before taking any herbal product.
Bitter melon, or Momordica charantia,is also known as wild cucumber, bitter gourd and leprosy gourd. This perennial herb is found in tropical rain forests from Africa to the Caribbean. Although extremely bitter-tasting, hence the name, it is used in both foods and for medicinal purposes. It is purportedly used to prevent cancer, treat AIDS, fever, diabetes and menstrual problems. Pregnant women should not take bitter melon as it may cause miscarriage.
Cat's Claw, or Uncaria tomentosa, is native to South American rain forests. Used for immune enhancement, other purported uses include cancer treatment, inflammation, gastrointestinal disorders and AIDS. Cat's Claw may also cause gastrointestinal upset in users, especially diarrhea. Do not take this herb if suffering from low blood pressure.
Kacip Fatimah, or Labisia pumila, native to the Malaysian rain forest, has long been used by local women to treat menstrual disorders or consumed after childbirth. Today, it is touted as a female aphrodisiac as well as an anti-aging herb.
- Vegetarianism & Vegetarian nutrition: Passionflower- Herbal Help For Stress and Anxiety
- Michigan State University: Passion Flower (Passiflora sp.)
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Bitter Melon
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Cat's Claw
- Herbal Medicine Research Centre: Kacip Fatimah (Labisia pumila)
- Photo Credit Philip and Karen Smith/Lifesize/Getty Images
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