Some obvious benefits of plants are air purification; houseplants and trees remove toxins from indoor and outdoor environments. Trees, shrubs, vines, roots, and grasses, provide an assortment of foods (nuts, grains, and vegetables), and clothing materials such as cotton and flax originate from flowers and shrubs.
Indeed the agricultural, horticultural, and textile industry make up a large portion of commerces that utilize plants, but are far from the only ones. The medical industry (traditional and non-traditional) with its myriad of prescriptions, over the counter medications, and supplements also employ plants.
The sap of the notorious Papaver somniferum is one of the oldest medicines known to man. Recognized for its pain killing properties, it is not without detractors and should be prescribed and used with care.
The sap of the Aloe Vera has healing properties, and generally used as a topical to treat minor burns.
Marketed as Sambucol, the dark black berries originate from the Native American Bush, and used in cold remedies. The syrup is sweet, and does not lose potency when blended in beverages. Take Sambucol at the first onset of a cold. If using raw berries, cook before use, as berries can have toxic properties.
With public health concerns on the rise, The Food and Beverage Industry has followed suit to incorporate more wholesome ingredients into their products. Sweeteners were once relegated to just sugar and honey, now there are a variety of sweetener alternatives (plant and chemical based) on the market. Note: While chemical based sweeteners have much of the same benefits as stevia and monk fruit, many are still controversial (think Splenda).
An herb touted for its production of steviol glycosides, or non-glycemic sweetener. Stevia is an alternative for people with diabetes, cancer, and other health conditions where sugar cannot be consumed. Stevia is an acquired taste, as some people find it bitter.
Blue Agave Syrup or Nectar comes from the Blue Agave Plant. An impressive succulent that reach up to 7 feet at maturity. Though agave syrup is regarded as a vegan alternative to honey, it is not a good substitute for individuals who cannot consume sugar, as the nectar contains fructose. Fun Fact: The Blue Agave Plant is also the tequila plant.
Monk fruit is not a new sweetener, yet its availability was limited back in 2011 when I discovered it. Many large Asian Markets sale monk fruit as produce, the average grocery store carries the powder form. Monk fruit resembles kiwi, but larger. It is non-glycemic like stevia, but unlike stevia, does not run the spectrum of bitter to sweet that is off putting to people.
Vegan meat, soy, and hemp milk are some of the creative ways plants are being reintroduced into our diets. While these ideas are not new, people are adopting new attitudes towards food consumption. A healthier diet, natural diet, or a tasty plant-based diet has allowed these concepts to fruition, and become industries of their own.
The benefits of plants is an exhaustive list, and their use extend well past what people consume, drink, or wear. Consider we also wash in plant-based soaps and shampoos. Build houses out of wood, maintenance lawns with mulch or pine needles, and create privacy fences out of arborvitaes. The flora kingdom is one of many keystones to our survival on Earth, and we owe it much gratitude, so the next time you are out, please stop and smell the roses.