I started to take herbal medicine nearly fifteen years ago. Because I had a defective heart before the age of thirteen, I could not do intensive sports which might stimulate my heart. My father worried about me often and tried many ways to help me. I became very familiar with the hospital near my home since I was three years old because my parents took me there at least once a month in order to check whether there was anything wrong with my organs, especially my stomach and heart. However, this situation changed a few months after I started to take traditional Chinese medicine at the suggestion of my father's friend. After I went to middle school, I was able to play and do most sports regularly as an ordinary child. In fact, there are thousands of people who were healed by herbs. Thus, herbal plants have had a great impact on humans' lives since many years ago. Various herbs are most famous for their medical uses. Herbaceous plants are capable of benefiting humans since they can not only be utilized as a food source and medicine, but can also help improve the living environments.
First and foremost, a great variety of herbs are culinary herbs. In other words, there are many different kinds of edible herbal plants which are provided as important food sources for humans. There are thousands of herbs can be served as regular food. According to Bremness (1994), for example, peanuts are not only legumes, but also an essential source of cooking oil. Bananas and plantains, which both belong to Musa species, are edible fruits (Bremness, 1994). Durian, ficus carica, pomegranates, purple-black berries, raspberries, pineapple, grapes and mangos are all herbal fruits that are commonly eaten by people nowadays. Gingers, garlics and wolfberries are usually used as edible spices, especially in Asian countries. Additionally, herbal plants such as hawthorn, rosemary, coffee beans, lemon grass and ginkgo can be combined in different ways to make drinks. For instance, people can make 'after-dinner tea' by simply putting spearmint leaves and licorice roots together and cover them with boiling water (Smith, 2010). Also, a large quantity of herbs such as corn, tomato, pumpkin, cucumber and sweet pepper are culinary vegetables. Because herbal plants provide humans various foods as an important energy to keep themselves alive, they are obviously a necessary part of humans' daily lives.
Furthermore, humans can use different parts of a herbal plant which have specific functions. For example, Small (2006) states that 'Most herbs are eaten directly, usually to flavor other foods. Plants organs used include roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds' (p. 15). Different parts of a culinary herbal plant have different values in cooking. For instance, storage organs such as roots and rhizomes, which are the particular parts of herbs help plants to regrow in the spring, can be edible (Small, 2006). Moreover, as 'their taste is too concentrated', Small (2006) writes that 'those storage organs are usually characterized by uniquely tasting chemicals' (p. 15-16). When I was in China, my family and I liked cuisines with a touch of ginger root. Based on the purpose of Chinese dishes, flavors like ginger and garlic have the ability to improve the overall tastes of a dish or soup by helping other flavors being absorbed well.
Most significantly, culinary herbs have respectable values for protecting both human health and the natural food chain. There is a 'notable content of vitamins and minerals, occasionally also of protein or other dietary constituents' in culinary herbal plants (Small, 2006, p. 33). Minerals from vegetables, such as calcium, iodine, iron and sodium help keep good health of human beings. Although merely a little quantity of these elements are in certain herbs, they still allow people to have healthy bones and teeth, avoid mental retardation and strengthen nerves and muscles. In addition, different herbaceous fruits and vegetables have different good impacts on human bodies. According to Bremness (1994), bananas have 'quick conversion to energy'; peanuts have rich vitamins; durian contains high protein seeds; pineapple helps 'reduce welling, intensify antibiotics, and break down the fibrin protein that causes heart attacks and strokes' (p. 146). As a vital part of the food chain, herbal plants not only support humans' lives directly, but also indirectly. Most herbs on the earth are the main food source for animals, especially herbivores and omnivores. While herbivores grow up eating plants, both omnivores and carnivores are benefited. Thus, culinary herbs help support human beings in many different ways.
Secondly, people profit from a variety of therapeutic uses of herbal plants. Kumar, Prajapati, Purohit and Sharia (2003) state that herbal medicines have different effects on body systems, and these effects rely on different chemical constituents of particular plants. Similar to one of the most significant supporting points in last paragraph, herbs are able to maintain and even improve human health. In the same way, a number of herbs allow patients who have diseases to attain specific nutrients from them and recover well without undergoing the chemical treatment and injection. Hawthorn, which has white flowers clusters and red fruits, can heal heart weakness which results from kidney disease, thickening tissue, artery spasm, and irregular heartbeat (Bremness, 1994). Bremness (1994) also writes that 'A blackberry leaf decoction is a blood and skin tonic, and a poultice treats eczema' (p. 123). Functioning the same as blackberry, the cooling rhizome juice of sacred lotus help patients with eczema to recover naturally (Bremness, 1994). Furthermore, some specific characteristics of Traditional Chinese Medicine have special connections with their therapeutic uses. In China, traditional herbs are now classified into sweet-tasting, bitter-tasting, hot-tasting herbs by herbalists based on their connections between their tastes and temperatures (Kumar et al., 2003). For example, bitter-tasting herbs are especially effective for drying extra dampness which exists in human bodies, and 'hot-tasting herbs are used for treating cold conditions and vice versa' (Kumar et al., 2003). As a result, herbal plants in specific categories are capable of healing people who have specific types of illness.
More importantly, medicinal herbs are definitely reliable and safe. Since fifty years ago, herbs have been the predominant natural medicine for people, and people only used plants to cure diseases (Kumar et al., 2003). Even though some infections now have resistance to conventional medicine, there are still other herbal plants can be used to deal with these contagious diseases. For example, the artemisin, an important element in qing hao, is now widely used as the effective treatment of malaria, a serious malady, in certain areas where the protozoa do not respond to traditional drugs any more (Kumar et al., 2003). In general, most people today prefer to take synthesized drugs than natural treatment. In other words, people would more likely to take western medicines which are usually made of chemical materials in the laboratory. Although it is true that this kind of drug may work faster than conventional herbal medicines, we have to admit that herbal plants, which are a part of the nature, are safer to use. 'Most commonly used herbs are extremely safe to use' (Kumar et al., 2003, p. 34). Most of chemical medicines seem to work well with body systems. However, they can have side-effects that cause people to get sick as well. On the contrary, according to Kumar, Prajapati, Purohit and Sharma (2003), it is not easy for people to gain side-effects from herbal medicine. Nowadays, there are a growing number of medicines that are combined with both herbal and chemical medicines as it was been discovered that herbs are able to complete and improve the function of contemporary medicine. This field of drugs is called biomedicine. It is becoming more and more popular because it can not only work as quickly as chemicals, but also as safely as herbal medicines. Additionally, herbs such as panax and ganoderma help old people to maintain health by improving their immune systems and protecting their cardiovascular systems.
Thirdly, herbal plants help human beings protect the natural environment. According to the experiments of planting herbs such as Cassia and Leonotis nepetaefolia on the bank of River Damodar, Masto, Ram and Srivastava (2009) found that these herbs do function as a great protection of the soil. All soil, water and nutrient conservation values there have been increased rapidly since those native riparian herbs were planted (Masto et al,. 2009). Thus, it is confirmed that there will be a great deal of soil and nutrients losses if the bare area continues to be bare. On the other hand, there are minimal nutrients and soil losses from vegetated areas (Masto et al., 2009). Morgan and Rickson (1995) state that vegetation is a popular and useful way to protect the soil condition (cited in Masto et al., 2009). Also, 'Kovacic (1993) reported that dense herbaceous vegetation on the slopes could help reduce sediment inputs, provide important sources of organic matter, and stabilize stream banks' (cited in Masto et al., 2009, p. 406). Therefore, we can not deny that growing herbs keeps a good environment for people.
Moreover, people have a great opportunity to have better living habitats with the help of herbs. First, we have to admit that herbaceous plants have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide and release fresh oxygen. This process is called photosynthesis which provides human beings with oxygen, indispensable elements that all the living animals need in order to be able to breath and be alive. More essentially, particular herbs are capable of absorbing certain kinds of chemical gases that are harmful to men's heath. For example, spathiphyllum kochii, a type of plants which a lot of people like to raise indoors in China, can help absorb ammonia (NH3) and benzene, which might possibly cause benzene poisoning. Similarly, I put little green tea leaves at the top of each new furniture several months before I moved into my new apartment. Tea would help wipe out all the bitter and chemical emissions released by the paint on the floors, walls, new desks and garderobe. Thus, herbal plants improve the quality of the atmosphere human beings live in.
In conclusion, we can not deny that herbal plants play an extremely essential part in our lives. There are a large number of herbs that can be divided into various classifications, and they are beneficial to our daily lives as they have the ability to provide us fundamental sources to survive. Herbs allow humans to sustain their lives by offering food with different types of nutrients and serving a variety of medicinal plants which contain different chemical elements that can cure harmful diseases effectively. Furthermore, herbs not only allow people to gain health by using edible herbaceous plants, but also provide them with a sustainable living environment by preventing erosion. Meanwhile, they help people protect their health by absorbing toxic emission and purifying the air. Therefore, herbal plants bring about diverse benefits to human beings. In addition, herbs are supposed to be protected and used widely, and I believe that herbs will continue to be utilized and discovered in the future. In order to improve people's lives, scientists should keep doing research on herbal plants, dig out their other unique valuable functions and use them in more fields.
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