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Banana Story

Banana plant- wikimedia
When I was your age, I lived on the island of Ponape far out in the Pacific Ocean.  It was a tropical, volcanic island covered with jungle and lots of banana plants.  One day while playing outdoors with no shoes on (we never wore shoes), I stubbed my big toe on a sharp object.  It was bleeding badly!  Two gardeners working close by heard my cries.  Immediately the younger man came running and taking his long machete, he cut down a small banana plant in our yard.  I was confused.  I didn’t understand why he was chopping it down!  The older man filled a tub with water, and started chopping up the stalk of the banana plant in the water to make a mash of banana stalk.  All I could do was stare at the mash.   

“Put your foot into the tub!” said the older man.  Dazed, I followed his directions.  To my amazement the blood stopped flowing!  I started to pull my foot out.  “No, no your foot is not healed yet” he said.  “Keep your foot in a little longer.”  It took about 20 minutes.  When I pulled my foot out, my big toe looked as if it were healed!  I sat on the ground staring at my toe, thinking, “How can a cut heal so quickly?”

Once in a while I think about this event and I wonder, “What was in those banana plants to create such healing? How can I find out?”

The plant world is filled with species that contain chemicals with medical properties, including neuroactive properties. Like in the banana story, traditional healers use plants to treat illness. Current research seeks to understand the potential health benefits of different plants and is exploring whether documented health benefits are due to single chemicals found within the plant or many chemicals within the plant working together.

Read more about the banana.