Nonfood Uses Of Plants

In addition to providing us with food, plants provide us with thousands of other essential products. It is hard to imagine how we could live without plants, given the variety of products that contain substances from plants.

Medicines

The ancient Greeks treated headaches with the bark of the white willow tree, which contains the chemical salicin. This use gave scientists the idea to test the chemical acetylsalicylic (uh-SEET-uhl-SAL-uh-SIL-ik) acid. The willow is in the genus Salix, hence the names salicin and salicylic. Acetylsalicylic acid is aspirin, the world's most widely used medicine. Besides pain relief, aspirin is used to thin blood and thereby prevent heart attacks and strokes. Plants were our first medicines, and early plant biologists, like Linnaeus, were often doctors.

TABLE 27-2 Plants in Medicine

Plant Genus name Drug Use

TABLE 27-2 Plants in Medicine

Plant Genus name Drug Use

Cinchona

Cinchona

quinine

treat malaria and certain

The Prevention and Treatment of Headaches

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