About a century ago, there was no bridge across the Tombigbee River between Choctaw and Marengo Counties when my grandmother Elizabeth "Lizzie" Smith moved from one to the other, crossing with all her worldly possessions on a flat bottom boat and leaving both the Whitfield and Needham Communities formed by her ancestors decades earlier behind so that she could begin a new life. As a child, I loved to explore swamps like the one above located in Choctaw County. Sand, pine tree flats and hardwood hollows comprise the majority of these two counties - except for the swamps and the cypress trees and the alligators and the herbs.

Nature Can Teach Us About Longevity

The trees will talk to us if we just listen. I subscribe to the theory that you can learn something from everyone and everything. We too quickly pass over something said because previously there was something that we disagreed with. Momma used to say "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater". There can be deep truths in otherwise overlooked places if you look objectively and intuitively. That said, the tongue is a double edged sword. Truth and ignorance comes out of the same mouth. A visual perception of one object can be skewed into something else. However, when it comes to life, and in this example - health - there's much to see and hear by simply watching and listening to the trees. A biology professor years ago asked a profound question - "Would you put dirty gas in your brand new Porshe or Lamborghini?" Of course the class said "Noooo!" Then came the punch line - "Well, why do you drink and eat things that make your body work harder filtering out contaminants instead of eating and drinking the natural things your body was designed for such as water and natural foods?" A decade of time, donuts and soft drinks later that wisedom finally began to sink in. He said something else - "99% of your body is comprised of the very same elements that dirt is made of - Oxygen, carbon, Hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus. The remaining 1% consists of chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur. We were created from the dirt." Of course we came from the dirt - where else would we come from? It reminded me of the Creation story in Genesis and basically that was what he was referencing with scientific evidence to back it up. It's not like aliens dropped us off. We literally are comprised of the same elements that dirt is comprised of. We also know that through photosynthesis plants make the oxygen that our body requires, and likewise as we breathe, we produce the carbon dioxide that plants require - therefore plants and humans exist in a very personal and symbiotic relationship with each other. Without plants - humans and animals would die. Plants came before humans; otherwise there would not have been oxygen. Volcanoes came before plants, otherwise there would not have been plants. Today the volcanoes are mostly quiet and animals, humans and the burning of fossil fuels feed plants and trees instead of the volcanoes of the early days. It's a delicate balance that must go on for all of us to survive together.

Our intestines absorb nutrients and moisture from the food we eat just like a tree's roots absorb nutrients and moisture from the ground. If a tree goes without food or water - it dies. Obviously, if a humans goes without food or water - we die. If a tree gets sick, it can die. If a human gets sick, we could as well. If a tree goes through a tragedy, it's life span may be shortened. If a human goes through a tragedy, the same could also happen. We humans have the freedom to walk around in search for the food we desire whereas a tree is stuck to collect their nutrients where they are. Trees literally defecate the very leaves that convert into the fertilizer that sustains them. Aren't you glad you aren't a tree? Like humans, trees also have immune systems. If the immune system is weak, the tree or human is weak and lifespan shortened. Various fungi spores try to infect trees at an early age in their life, yet those spores cannot survive when the tree is strong because its immune system kills them just like our immune systems are exposed to bacteria and viruses daily that do not result in sickness because our immunes systems kill them instantaneously so that they don't take hold. As the tree gets older and its immune system becomes compromised, then disease (fungi) will set in. Spores to a tree are like cancer to a human. A trees immune system keeps the mycelium from taking hold, and likewise, as long as our immune systems are in tip top shape, our bodies fight off cancer and keeps it from metastasizing. When our immune systems become compromised, the potential for a disease "catching" begins to increase. You see, we can learn a lot from a tree and we're not as dissimilar as it appears on the surface.

We Need each Other - Humans & Plants

Often people forget that we humans need each other, and if we forget that we humans need each other, then how much easier it is to forget our relationship with the plant kingdom.

I mean - plants were made for humans and vice-versa. We create their food (carbon dioxide) and they create our food (oxygen). The symbiotic relationship and dependence that we share with plants is so profound that the cohabitation should be more prominently recognized by all of us. Whether a person believes in God or not, the story of a perfect harmony with plants and humans co-existing together brings forth great analogies and undeniable truths. For one, they lived with the plants and likewise had an opportunity to live forever. Then they were kicked out of the garden and had to work for a living. Even then, early humans are said to have lived for centuries. In one sense, it's as if they retained the knowledge of how to use the plants from the garden, but as they progressed through several generations, they apparently did not do a great job of passing that information down for future generations and people began to live shorter lives. We are in a similar situation today. Many of us were born into a world of pharmaceuticals. We really didn't know any better at first, like Plato suggested, our perceptions of reality were formed by seeing the shadows of the outside world. Our parents, grandparents and most certainly our great grandparents were born into a very different world - a world where they grew much of their own food, dug their own wells, dug roots for food and foraged herbs for much of their medicine. How quickly information can be lost within a few short generations. Looking back at my family tree, most of my ancestors from the 1600's, 1700's and 1800's, lived into their 80's,90's and even surpassing 100 years of age. This was before blood pressure pills, aspirin, cholesterol medicine and other pharmaceuticals. And believe it or not, they survived without health insurance. If they did see a doctor, the doctor came to them, and they gave him a dozen eggs or possibly a ham for his services. Times, they are a changin'. It amazes me how diverse the plant kingdom actually is appearance and chemical composition. Little chemical factories are what they are, and thousands of phyto-chemicals have not even been discovered yet.

The mentor of my mentor, Tommie Bass is quoted as saying "I always did believe that God never did make no mistakes. He never made anything He didn't make a remedy for. The Lord's put something out there if we would only get out there and hunt it."

Mr. Bass pretty much nailed it - my thoughts exactly. Through herbalism, plants have changed people's lives for the better today as they did for thousands of years in the past. But we can't stop learning, we can't stop teaching, we have to push forward with passing down generational knowledge and researching new discoveries. There are thousands of undiscovered plant uses out there which could be both life improving and extending. While it's true that genetics certainly play a key role in the strength of our immune systems, we can improve our natural systems through nutrition, exercise, proper hydration, reduction of stress and the use of herbs.

Isn't it time to start taking a closer look at this symbiotic relationship between plants and humans? After all - if plants supply the oxygen that enable us to live, it shouldn't be hard to believe that they can also supply us the very things which will improve, heal and extend our lives and the lives of those we love.

Don't Forget the Old Ways

Many people don't realize the situation that we are in today and the importance our legacy leaves to our children and grandchildren. It took all of human history up to around 1800 AD for the world's population to finally reach 1 billion people. In only around 200 years the population has increased 7 times that. In just the last 50 years the population doubled from 3.5 billion to 7 billion (now at 7.4 billion). If the population continues to double every 50 years, that means 2050 the population would be 14.8 billion and by the year 2100 it would be 30 billion and by 2150 it would be 60 billion and 2200 it would be 120 billion. For those of you who understand the power of compound interest based on a percentage of grouth, let that sink in. Regardless, for the first time in history, the majority of the population has forgotten how to grow their own food and use plants for medicine. Like me, many of you have ancestors that came to this country during colonial times. In my case, all of my ancestors were here during colonial times. What are they telling us? I believe their memories are telling us that they worked the land and survived so that their children could survive so that their children could survive and so on. Above are my great grandparents John Sanford Flowers and Sarah "Sallie" Grantham. John's ancestor was John Flower, Captain of the Dorset of London, who traded along the James River and Chesapeake Bay areas of Virginia in the 1600's and was our first Flowers colonial ancestor here. Sarah Grantham's grandparents are John David Grantham and Elizabeth Bass. John David Grantham's grandmother was Catherine Proctor who is descended from John Graye Proctor (1583-1628) of Jamestown. He is historically considered one of the "ancient planters". John Proctor is one of several of my ancestors who were from the early Jamestown settlement. The point is that my roots run deep, but so do yours, and the common denominator of all this is that our ancestors were not completely dependent on any government, grocery store, pharmacy or even electricity for that matter. Times have changed, but will we pass on the survival tools that our ancestors passed to their children, or will be pass on all the dependencies of the current age in the hopes that the leadership of world governments will do the right thing as the populations continue to rise exponentially over the next century?