Why Eating Plants is Hazardous For Your Health (And Why You Should Continue to Eat Them)

We all know that plants are stationary (with the exception of species like the sensitive plant and carnivorous plants). They don’t move on their own accord, they just kind of sit there. They can’t really run away or fight back against an animal that would want to come by and eat them.

If plants didn’t have ways of outsmarting animals, they would have died out a long time ago, having been chowed down by all the herbivores in the world. There are a couple strategies that plants use to prevent them from being devoured by animals.

  • Reproducing faster than animals can eat them (dandelions seem to come to mind as far as my garden and lawn!)

  • Developing physical defenses like thick waxy leaves, tough and hard bark and seed coats, hairs and thistles and spines and thorns (roses being a perfect example)

  • Developing their own pesticides or poisons to prevent predation (which this article is about and I’ll get into more in a moment)

It’s this last point that we’re most interested in. Plants are actually really amazing in the sense that they are waging a major chemical warfare that most people aren’t aware of. Like KGB assassins, plants can poison you - unnoticeable at first - an annoyance more than anything else, but then develops into fever and death.

Yeah. Plants are sneaky and deadly organisms.

They don’t mean to hurt you - they just don’t want be eaten.

While there is definitely a dark side to plants and their chemical compounds, there is also a very happy upside to all this in that certain plant compounds are beneficial, even medicinal when used in the proper amounts.

Aspirin - the extract of salicin from Salix alba, discovered by Edward Stone in 1763 - is isolated from the bark of the common willow tree.

Digoxin - extracted from Digitalis - the common garden flower known as foxglove - has the ability to regulate the heart for things like atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and heart failure.

Opium, cocaine, tobacco, caffeine - there are so many plant compounds we use that we don’t even realize and purely take for granted. Their properties are many, and powerful.

Take also for example the attention given recently to turmeric and ginger- both with naturally occurring antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties that are making them the focus of attention in the health world. Or the fact that coconut oil seems to be an almost catch-all for any ailment given its many health properties.

The intrinsic health properties from seemingly common and innocuous herbs and foods are only now being fully realized with some of these items that have been part of traditional cuisine for centuries (I feel like there’s a reason why certain foods were prepared and served the way they were for more than just taste).

It’s important to realize that these plant compounds also aren’t just direct effects either - it’s not just as simple as eating garlic to prevent cancer. By eating garlic, you are not only inhibiting cancer cells but also preventing them from forming in the first place, interfering with the messaging that could cause them to multiply and spread, discouraging the formation of any normal cells into cancer cells, and changing your body so that if any cancer cells would form that they would be stunted and weak.

As much as we understand about the human body and medicine, we are learning that the biology and the human body in particular is infinitely more complicated and complex than we initially thought.

This goes for diet and nutrition as well. While we once thought that it was important to eat vegetables for very direct reasons (fiber is good, vegetables have antioxidants) we are learning it is much more complicated than that (fiber is good because it feeds and encourages the good bacteria in our guts that then produce byproducts that protect us from cancer for starters).