Yesterday, I partially devoured the latest issue of Allure, a glossy magazine devoted to glorious exposés of all things glamorous and how to achieve an approximation of such. I had only thumbed through a couple of pages when I came across an ad for getting “ridiculously glowy skin”. It seems that the miraculous benefits of a certain plant called “Long Life Herb” had been harnessed for the greater good of women’s complexions everywhere.
My first thought: I gotta get me some of that!
My second thought: Maybe I could just grow the plant instead!
TWO ROSES WALK INTO A BAR. THE BARTENDER SAYS “THIS BUD’S FOR YOU!”
Humans and plants have had a pretty good relationship for a very long time although agriculture, horticulture and humans ravaging the places where the last of the wild plants still grow have given humans the better end of the bargain. And we’re still looking for more benefits. Even our humble backyard gardens can be a treasure trove of plant resources for living well, far beyond the nice environment they collectively create for chilling on a hot afternoon with a cool glass of wine.
Take, for instance, the Damask rose. Beyond making a lovely perfume from its petals or a tasty rose petal jam, the supposed pharmacological effects of Rosa damascena are mind boggling. Keeping it simple, if you want to try your hand at making a rose astringent or moisturizer, the article Growing a Beauty Products Garden on the Lovely Greens website is a great place to start.
Growing and harvesting Long Life Herb has proven trickier. The plant being proclaimed as the answer to “skinlongevity” is Peucedanum japonicum. Some websites might lead you to believe that it grows only along the sea-thrashed shores of Japan’s southernmost islands, including Okinawa—islands that just happen to have populations that live longer than most. But the plant actually grows wild in coastal areas, below 100 metres in elevation, in parts of Japan, Korea and the Phillipines, as well as Hong Kong and the mid-eastern shores of China.
In Okinawa, Peucedanum japonicum is a traditional cure for a variety of health issues, but I got the impression that to do so the plant has to be ingested. I couldn’t find any evidence of the plant being used traditionally as a topical skin treatment. But, hey, research is finding new ways plants benefit us every day. What I did find is an abstract published in PubMed.gov, a website serving the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, that reports this plant “may have chemopreventive potential for colon carcinogenesis.” Cool.
As for growing my own, I couldn’t find a North American source for seeds or seedlings. Just as well. Getting the soil and moisture right for the whole sea-thrashed-shoreline thing, in my Southern Ontario suburban back garden, might prove a little tiresome.
BEAUTY AND THE CARNIVOROUS BEASTIES
So, I picked up the magazine and went back to investigating easier ways to glow-y skin. Was it a coincidence that just a few pages beyond the Skinlongevity ad, I found an ad for a different product touting the benefits of another plant that, to my mind, also seemed a far reach in the skincare revolution department? This other ad was suggesting that teasel, with its “powerful antioxidants” would help “reduce the appearance of stress and aging” (on your face, presumably). Now, teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), a non-native wildflower of Ontario and most of the U.S. (it was introduced from Europe), is lovely to contemplate as a plant wonder (though it is considered invasive). Just Google “teasel” and up pops a long list of sites declaring the plant as a natural cure for a shocking variety of ailments. I prefer science-based research when it comes to proving a plant’s efficacy as a cure for anything, so I had to dismiss everything I saw online as pretty much a load of bunk.
But if teasel’s fame for transforming one’s complexion turns out to be a flash in the pan, I have no worries. It will always have a special place in my heart as a plant carnivore. In fact, research has proven that teasels produce more seeds when they eat more insects. Making the most out of what comes your way. Now if that isn’t a lesson in living well, I don’t know what is.