The Lungs of the Earth

Dr. Lisa Polinsky

Majestic trees and other members of the plant kingdom are considered to be ‘the lungs of the earth’. They utilize the energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into the precious oxygen we breathe in a process called photosynthesis.  In essence, trees ‘breathe’ in carbon dioxide and ‘breathe’ out oxygen.

In humans medical conditions that affect the lungs are very common – asthma, chronic cough, shortness of breath, bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The lungs are a hardworking system expanding and relaxing thousands of times a day to bring in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Smoking, infections, family history and environmental exposure to airborne toxins (such as smoke from recent BC forest fires) cause most lung issues. The entire lung system includes both the lower respiratory system (lungs, bronchioles, bronchi, trachea) and the upper respiratory system (throat, sinus, ears, nose). In traditional chinese medicine the lung system is paired with the large intestine. As naturopathic doctors we often see this demonstrated in the connection between ingesting food sensitivities such as dairy or wheat and the worsening of sinus, asthma and ear infection symptoms.

Beyond providing our vital oxygen the ‘lungs of the earth’ also offer us inspiring botanical medicine. Utilizing extracts from the buds of trees or young shoots of shrubs has been utilized in herbal medicine for thousands of years. Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous German philosopher and scientist, mentions this in his book Metamorphosis of Plants published 1788. Formalized by Dr. Pol Henry in Europe during the 1950’s, phytoembryotherapy uses extracts of plant embryo tissue (buds or young shoots) rich in plant hormones, growth factors, phytonutrients and enzymes. When ingested as liquid extracts these remedies have affinity for various parts of the body where they act to stimulate various hormones and functions in the human body. Distinct from traditional herbal remedies these concentrations contain less plant matter, are considered more powerful therapeutically and allow the tree or plant to continue to grow as only 1/3 of the buds or shoots are cultivated. Thus constituting true Green Medicine!

Some popular Tree / Shrub remedies are:

Gingko Biloba Bud (Maidenhair Tree) This tree has survived over 180 million years on the planet and predates the human species. Having remarkably survived the radiation of Hiroshima these trees can live several thousand years. In the bud form this is used for improving mental function, memory, cognition and supporting microvascular health.

Ribes nigrum (Black Currant Bud) A shrub with remarkable effects on the health of adrenal glands.  It is used for increasing energy, reducing inflammation such as asthma, and as an overall stress management tonic. The increase in cortisol this bud produces helps the immune system ward off colds, flus, respiratory allergies and upper respiratory infections. Great for children and adults alike.

Al-gen (Combination of Black Currant bud, Rosemary young shoot & Juniper young shoot) Stimulates natural defence and modulates histamine response conditions (asthma, eczema, allergies) of both the upper and lower respiratory tract.

Tonic-gen (Combination of Oak bud, Giant Sequoia young shoot, Black Currant bud) This remedy combination helps treat adrenal insufficiency and adrenal burnout through the stimulation of 17-keto adrenal hormones. Helpful for increasing energy, stress tolerance and overall vitality this remedy has many uses. Beyond increasing energy it can assist in reducing hot flashes and insomnia related to a depleted adrenal system.

As Naturopathic Physicians we have many wonderful medical treatments available for our patient. The phytoembryotherapy remedies are unique in their ability to harness and carry not only the biochemical benefits but the energetic aspect as well resulting in very powerful extracts. The ‘lungs of the earth’ provide oxygen, medicine and beauty.

”Stay close to Nature, it will never fail you”

– Frank Lloyd Wright



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Phytembryotherapy, The Embryo of Gemmotherapy, Doctors Franck Ledoux, Gerard Gueniot, 2012, Editions Amyris
Tree Medicine, Conway, Peter, 2001, MPG Books, Bodmin, Cornwall  ISBN: 0 7499 2273 7