animals and insects recognize the healing power of medicinal plants
mainstream medicine largely continues to deny the inherent healing capacity
of natural plants and herbs, the insect world is abuzz with activities that
confirm the plant world to be nature's medicine cabinet. According to a
new study published in the journal Ecology Letters, the Monarch butterfly
routinely uses medicinal plants to help its offspring resist disease and
observed that Monarch butterflies prefer to lay their egg larvae on milkweed
leaves, so they decided to investigate why this is the case. They discovered
that milkweed plants contain vital compounds that help the larvae to stay
have shown that some species of milkweed, the larva's food plants, can reduce
parasite infection in monarchs," explained Jaap de Roode, an evolutionary
biologist at Emory University, and author of the study. "[W]e have
also found that infected female butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on
plants that will make their offspring less sick."
are many types of milkweed plants, and some contain very high levels of
cardenolides. Cardenolides are toxic to predators, but safe for Monarch
butterflies. So when Monarch butterflies eat milkweed rich in the chemical,
or lay their larvae on it, they build up a natural resistance to invading
predators. The same chemical also helps to stop parasites that can develop
in the butterflies' intestines and kill them.
Hunter, a chemical ecologist from the University of Michigan who collaborated
with the research team on the study, believes that the findings hold promising
implications for humans as well.
I walk around outside, I think of the plants I see as a great, green pharmacy,"
he said. "But what also strikes me is how little we actually know about
what that pharmacy has to offer. Studying organisms engaged in self-medication
gives us a clue as to what compounds might be worth investigating for their
potential as human medicines."
more about the human benefits of milkweed, check out the HerbReference.com
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