Many people are familiar with the carnivorous plant Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), but many people are not aware that this plant offers numerous medicinal properties. In fact, different populations have used carnivorous plants for hundreds of years in traditional medicine all around the world.
The Venus flytrap is the only species of the genus Dionaea, and is a carnivorous plant that grows in marshy areas of North and South Carolina of the United States. To survive in these environments that are poor in nutrients, it has developed active traps to catch small insects, spiders, and other prey, that serve as an additional source of nutrients. The plant catches its prey with nectar produced by glands localized at the inner side of the trap and exposing a UV pattern. When the insect touches a sensitive trigger hair, a movement of ions is generated, producing an osmotic gradient that changes the size and shape of specialized cells of the trap that result in trap closure. Once the trap closes on the prey, other glands, also localized at the inner part of the trap, secrete a digestive acid liquid containing a number of enzymes for digestion of the prey. Nutrients are released and then reabsorbed by the plant through both digestive glands and by endocytosis (a cellular process in which substances are brought into the cell).
Venus Flytrap Plant Benefits
Dionaea muscipula has also been the subject of modern biomedical research. The analysis of the various different secondary metabolites (naphthoquinones, flavonoids, phenolic acids) isolated from the plant and identified revealed that they possess different interesting therapeutic properties.
Naphthoquinones are a class of organic compounds structurally related to naphthalene. Their spectrum of activity includes antibiotic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-proliferative effects.
Flavonoids are a group of plant metabolites thought to provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effects. Among the many benefits attributed to flavonoids are reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and stroke. They may also play a special role in protecting the brain. Flavonoids, like other antioxidants, do their work in the body by corralling cell-damaging free radicals and metallic ions.
A phenolic acid is a type of phytochemical called a polyphenol. Phenolic acids are found in a variety of plant-based foods; the seeds and skins of fruits and the leaves of vegetables contain the highest concentrations. Phenolic acids are readily absorbed through the walls of the intestinal tract, and they may be beneficial to your health because they work as antioxidants that prevent cellular damage due to free-radical oxidation reactions. They may also promote anti-inflammatory conditions in your body when consumed regularly.
The Venus Flytrap is rich in antioxidants and has traditionally been used for strengthening the immune system. The entire fresh plant is used medicinally. Juice from the pressed fresh plant stimulates the immune system, and has antineoplastic and antispasmodic uses, according to the Physician’s Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines. Also, according to this source, the chief active ingredient is believed to be a substance called plumbagin, and uses include the treatment of Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma as well as solid tumors.
A fascinating plant known for its carnivorous behavior, the Venus flytrap is also a powerful medicinal herb used for its active compounds and antioxidants that benefit the body’s immune system. With all these benefits of Venus flytrap, it’s almost impossible to ignore the power of this incredible herb!