From the early centuries, plants have played a significant role in the life of humans either directly or indirectly. Human beings use plants for food, clothing, shelter, medicine, fuel and more. Here are five most useful plants and their uses that enrich our life:
1. Tulsi Tulsi also known as the Holy Basil is known for its medicinal properties. It provides cure for a number of ailments ranging from common cold, cough, fever, indigestion, respiratory diseases, skin disorders, heart diseases, stress and even poisonous snake bites. It is also worshipped in the Hindu religion.
2. Neem The Neem plant has a number of uses. It is used abundantly in agriculture as an effective insecticide. Neem has various medicinal properties and is used to treat ulcers, cleanse the blood and strengthen the immune system. It is also considered good for the skin and hence is used to make a variety of skin care products like soap, shampoos and creams.
3. Aloe Vera Aloe Vera consists of Vitamin D, minerals, enzymes and amino acids which are beneficial to humans. It is used to heal cuts, burns, stings, wounds and various other skin conditions. It is also used in the form of gels or juices to cure digestive and immune system related problems.
4. Eucalyptus The oil from the leaves of Eucalyptus is often used in the process of cleansing and in deodorants. Small quantities of the oil are also used to prepare sweets, cough drops and decongestants. It is also used as an ingredient in mosquito repellants and to make plant dyes.
5. Fenugreek Fenugreek belongs to the bean family and has several health benefits. It is used to treat wounds, inflammations, fever and muscle aches. Fenugreek also helps increase breast milk production, lower blood sugar levels and decrease cholesterol.
Plants have natural properties and hence their use is often regarded as safe without many side-effects.
NOT A DOOR YOU WANT TO KNOCK ON – BLADDERWORTS
Bladderworts are a family of land and water plants (with 120 members to be exact), which have small hollow sacs that capture and digest tiny animals. The favorite ‘eats’ of the water variety is insect larvae, water worms and water fleas. The small sacs or bladders of the water bladderworts have a `flexible door’ at the entrance. Nature has designed this plant in such a manner that this ‘door’ remains closed due to water pressure inside being less than that of the water pressure outside. And when small animals come knocking certain bristles on the door’s surface cause the door to open and the insects are sucked in with the water that flows inside.
SUNFLOWERS, ONE FLOWER OR MANY? (VSNL EZINE SEPT 16,02)
Take a close look at a sunflower in full bloom. What do you see? Can you see the small petal-like rays on the edges of the flowers? These are actually tiny imperfect flowers. And what makes them imperfect is the fact that they lack stamens – the pollen producing part of a flower. The disk in the middle is made up of small flowers yellow, brown or purple in color. The sunflower plant is very useful. Sunflowers yield a yellow dye, its seeds are used for producing oil and its leaves are used as fodder for animals.
WHAT IS COMMON TYRES, COSMETICS AND ICE CREAM?
The amazing plant Kelp is what is common between your car tyre, cosmetics and your favourite cup of ice cream? Algin, is the common substance in this, which is derived from Kelp, the largest of all marine plants. Algin is what keeps your ice cream from crystallizing. Kelp is a large leafy brown algae and giant varieties of kelp can grow to an astounding length of over 200 feet! Its preferred habitat is cold coastlines and it forms part of the staple food in Japan.
AN OCTOPUS LOOK ALIKE
Apart from the fact that it has a tongue twisting name `Welwitschia’ this woody plant that grows in the desert areas of Namibia and Angola resembles an octopus! The plant starts out with just two leaves that during the process of growth get parted into various sections. And a full-grown plant ends up looking like an octopus. And guess what, this plant has a whopping lifespan of several hundred years! Such a long lifespan in the desert is made possible by a long water absorbent taproot, which goes deep below the ground and is capable of absorbing the slightest amount of moisture it comes across.
Venus flytraps are amazing insect-eating plants. Unwary insects looking for a safe landing place are innocently lured to the leaves of this plant. These leaves are far from safe. The moment an insect brushes the sensitive hairs on the leaf’s surface, these hairs snap shut in a fraction of a second like a pair of jaws.
Then there’s the pitcher plant, which has traps shaped like jugs or pitchers at the end of its leaves. Insects are lured to the pitcher by sweet nectar produced around the slippery rim of the trap. When insect lands on the rim, it slips into the pitcher and drowns in the fluid at the bottom. Wow!
SAFFRON: WORTH AS MUCH AS GOLD
This exotic herb used to flavour food, and also an effective cure for many ills across Europe and Asia, is indeed precious. Consider this. To plant a field of one hectare you need 800,000 to 10,00,000 tubers of the crocus sativus flower. And, to get one kilo of powdered saffron, you need 120,000 to 150,000 flowers and about hundreds of hours of hard work. That’s because saffron is a dust that needs to be extracted from the stamen (the top part of the pistil) of the crocus flower. No wonder the word saffron comes from the Arabic word za’faran which means `it is worth as much as gold.’