How People Use Trees For Food And Medicine

Trees are some of the most important and versatile plant resources that humans have used for thousands of years. Trees have been used for food, medicine, building materials, fuel, and have cultural and spiritual significance. The traditional knowledge of using tree has been passed down through generations, often with the help of medicine men and tribal shamans. In this article, titled how people use trees for food and medicine, explores people have used trees in different parts of the world from generation to generation.

Traditional Tree Use North America

Native American cultures have a use for just about every tree that grows on the continent. Maple trees for example, were tapped for its sap to make maple syrup long before European settlers adopted this practice several centuries ago. Tribes around the Great Lakes used birch bark to make baskets, canoes, and even clothing; the leaves used to treat pain and fever. Another tree, the Eastern White Pine was a vital resource for the Mohawk, Huron, Ojibwe and Poyawatomi peoples of the Northeastern United States and Canada. During the winter months, when food was scarce, the inner bark was peeled from the tree and used to make broth or tea. Pine needles where often boiled to make medicinal elixirs that treated a wide range of aliments.

China And Their Trees

In traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese trees have been used for medicinal purposes for over 5,000 years. The bark of the cinnamon tree for example, is still used today to improve circulation and digestion, while the ginkgo tree, which has been imported to the states as a landscape tree, is used to enhance memory and cognitive function. Pine bark and pine needles are used to treat respiratory conditions, and parts of the wolfberry tree is used to boost the immune system.

Central American Tree Use

Mayan and Aztec cultures used tree in traditional medicine and for ceremonies. Archeologists recently discovered that branch of a Ceiba tree fashioned into a stake, was used as a dagger in sacrificial rituals. The Avocado tree, first grown for food by the Mayans, is grown worldwide today due in part to the Spanish importing this tree to Europe and beyond. The bark of the magnolia tree was used to treat respiratory and digestive issues, while the sap of the copal tree was used in religious ceremonies and as incense. The Palo Santo tree, which grows in the region, is believed to have cleansing properties, and is used as a spiritual tool in traditional rituals.

Trees In The Middle East

Olive trees, now well know and grown around the world, was first cultivated for food and medicine in the Middle East. The oil of the olive tree has become a staple ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, used often and unsparingly in a variety of pasta dishes. Olive oil is great for the skin and was used to nourish both skin and muscle in Roman baths. The fig tree rivals the olive tree in importance providing food a high nutrient food source that grows easily, just about everywhere in the region. The date palm, although technically not a tree, is called the tree of life due to its multi-use, storable (when dried like a prune) fruit.

Cultural Use Of Trees In Africa:

The baobab tree, also known as the "tree of life," in Africa is culturally important as a food source and medicinal purposes. Its leaves, fruit, and seeds are all used to prepare traditional meals and saves to treat various skin ulcerations and burns. The bark of the fever tree is boiled and used to treat malaria, while corkwood is a natural remedy for stomach ailments.

Europe People And Their Trees

Early Europeans also made use of trees. The hazelnut tree, for example was an important source of food and the bark of the willow tree used to make aspirin.

Traditional knowledge of tree use has been passed down through generations, often with the help of tribal elders who possessed ancient wisdom and knowledge of natural remedies and cures. These practices have played an important role in helping people adapt and thrive in their natural habitats. Today, as we face pressing global issues like climate change, the destruction of natural ecosystems and loss of biodiversity loss, it is more important than ever to understand and preserve this almost forgotten knowledge and the valuable resources that trees provide.

Medicine Trees, Article Posted May 21, 2023