BioXplore Discovers Healing Plants In Israel

wild marigolds israelWild marigold, sage and Palestine Oak? An international team sends researchers to Israel to forage medicinal plants native and special to this part of the Levant.

Old grandmothers, herbalists and nature lovers of all ages have long known that green medicine grows everywhere, as we’ve posted about here on how to grow 7 healing herbs at home. And to be inspired here is a list of 11 essential oils every medicine cabinet needs.  And Our Green Guide To Natural Home Cleaning Products talks more about using essential oils in the home.

Even many decorative garden plants like aloe vera have valuable healing properties.

But the Bioxplore project, funded by the European Union to the tune of Euros 2 million, has a goal with these plants that reaches much farther than home remedies.

The plants’ active ingredients are isolated and tested in laboratories against pests like bacteria, fungi and worms.  The ultimate aim is to develop new drugs, health supplements and cosmetics, exploiting the wild herbs’ medicinal properties. BioXplore hopes to develop local job opportunities and stimulate scientific, business and cultural exchanges between partner countries, based on these natural medicines and cosmetics.

The partners are are Israel’s Hadassah College, the Biodiversity and Environmental Research Center in the Palestinian Authority, the Leitat Technology Center in Spain and the Hellenic Regional Development Center in Greece. Rutgers University and North Carolina University are associates in the project as well.

Field researchers in Israel, Greece, and Spain have been actively gathering plant specimens since November 2011. In Israel, eighteen students from Hadassah College’s Biotechnology Department conduct regular hikes on plant-collecting trips. They have walked the ground  from the northern Negev to the Judean Hills, the Hula Valley and Mount Hermon – and many points in between.

President of the Israeli Herbalists Association, Dr. Mina Faran, wryly says, “The researchers need strong legs.”

The plan is to collect between 700 to 800 samples of native Israeli species.

Dr. Faran makes a number of skin creams based on medicinal plants (and indeed, this writer learned to make several kinds of creams in courses Dr. Faran teaches). She gives an example of a cream for atopic dermatitis based on purslane. Other products on their way to development and marketing might treat other major illnesses.

Among antibacterial herbs under research are:

1. The Palestine Oak

Palestine Oak

2. The Terebinth. Pistacia terebinthus, known commonly as terebinth and turpentine tree, is a species of Pistacia, native to Iran, and the Mediterranean region from the western regions of Morocco, and Portugal to Greece, western and southeast Turkey.

3. The Mediterranean Stinkbush, toxic and medicinal.

Mediterranean stinkbush

Mediterranean stinkbush photo via Project Noah 

4. Chamomile, which grows wild everywhere in the spring

wild chamomile in a crate

Wild chamomile in a crate

5. Carobs

carob beans unripe

Carob beans on a tree. Unripe and still green.

6. Sage

sage tea israel flowers healing medicine
7. Nettles


Nettles in a backyard in Jaffa, Israel

8 Marigolds

All these plants have been known for centuries as wild edibles and medicine. Some destroy bacteria, others  work against fungus, others are anti-inflammatory and soothing, and yet others boost the immune system. New plants are added often to BioXplore’s list.

It seems that Israel’s climate encourages medicinal plants to produce strong medicine: “The aridity of Israel’s climate allows the essential oils to develop inside the plants,” Faran explains.

Miriam Aborkeek, Bedouin beauty expert from Israel

Miriam Aborkeek makes Bedouin beauty products and medicine the way her grandmother taught her. From local foraged weeds and plants.

Essential oils are the most medicinal part of any herb. And look to the local Bedouin, traditionally nomadic people of the Levant for beauty tips and health hacks. Try this fascinating story on the Bedouin of Jordan; And this desert daughter Bedouin who makes medicine is Israel, as her grandmother taught her.

The medicine in plants is based on the mysterious interaction of its own chemicals. Isolating a few of a plant’s properties may exploit some of its healing potential, but to draw out the best, the all of plants’ medicinal parts should be used. Hopefully, when it comes to manufacturing natural medicines, Bioxplore’s researchers will remember this.

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One thought on “BioXplore Discovers Healing Plants In Israel”

  1. Thomas Thomidis says:

    Dr Sir or Madam

    My name is Dr. Thomas Thomidis and I work as Plant Pathologist in ATEI Thessaloniki, Department of Agricultural Technology. I am in collaboration with private companies working on the cultivation of medicinal plants and the production of essential oils. I have worked on the possibly uses of essential oils and their components to control pest and diseases of plants. We try to develop specific products for commercial uses. There is announcement of binational research project between Greek and Israili companies and I really interest to see the possiblity to submit a project together ( I and my research team really interest to collaborate and submit a proposal together. I will include one of the Greek companies of which I collaborate as a second partner in Greek side, I really appreciate if you accept my invitations

    Yours SIncerely
    Dr. Thomas Thomidis

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