The plum as a phytotherapeutic medicine

Plum tree is a deciduous, often shrubby tree that can grow to around 10 meters in height. Originally it only grew in Asia. Today it is grown in all temperate areas. The plum is a delicious fruit that can be eaten fresh or dried and used in jams, juices and desserts. It is a well-known folk medicine for constipation, but the plum has more healing power to offer. It is, among other things, a phytoterapeutic medicine for: osteoporosis, menopausal complaints, increased blood pressure and diverticulitis. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Drawing plum / Source: Alois Lunzer, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Contents:

  • Traditional use
  • Edibility
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Prunes as a laxative
  • Source of antioxidants
  • Boron and potassium in plums
  • Dose and safety
  • Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Traditional use

Alexander the Great probably took the plum tree with him on one of his conquests. The plum was first cultivated in the Middle East near Damascus, about 2000 years ago. The Roman writer and poet Marcus Valerius Martialis, who belonged to the ancient Romans, already knew that the plum was good for combating constipation in the elderly. He wrote: ‘ Take plums for the rotten burden of old age, for they love to relieve the hard, tense stomach .’

Edibility

Everyone understands that the fruit can be eaten, but not everyone knows that you can also eat the flowers and seeds. The flowers belong to the category: flowers to enjoy. The seeds are hard nuts that you can open and eat. However, sometimes the seeds taste quite bitter; then you shouldn’t eat them. Bitter seeds contain cyanide. An oil can be made from the non-bitter seeds.

Naming

In Latin, plum is called Prunus domestica . Prunus is the common Greek and Latin name for plums. The Dutch word plum, the English word prune and the French word prunier are derived from it. Pflaume is the German word for plum, which is ultimately derived from the word prunus. Domestica means ‘from home’. That probably refers to the fact that many people had a plum tree around their house.

Active substances

Prunus domestica / Source: Rasbak, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

The plum from the plum tree is used for phytotherapeutic purposes. This plum contains the most important active ingredients: water, natural sugars, fruit acids such as malic acid and other organic acids and fibers.

Prunes as a laxative

Plums have mild laxative properties. It is mainly the fibers and fruit acids that are responsible for this. Dried plums have a stronger laxative effect than fresh plums. Prunes, which mainly grow around Agen, a French city, are most effective as a laxative. In phytotherapy, folk medicine and naturopathy, eating plums is recommended for the following indications:

  • Constipation,
  • To prevent diverticulitis.

Source of antioxidants

Dried plums are an excellent source of antioxidants. These fight free radicals. When the body has insufficient resilience to fight free radicals, all kinds of diseases can arise.

Boron and potassium in plums

Plums contain two important minerals, boron and potassium. Boron can prevent osteoporosis or bone decalcification. In addition, it is a mineral that can combat menopausal complaints. Potassium is a remedy for hypertension or high blood pressure. In short: eating plums can make a valuable contribution to keeping the following conditions at bay:

Plum harvest / Source: Dulenac, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-3.0)

  • osteoporosis,
  • Menopausal complaints,
  • Raised blood pressure.

Dose and safety

There are a number of ways to use this medicinal plant.

  • Drink two glasses of prune juice per day.
  • Eat a few fresh plums a day.

Soak dried plums overnight and then drink both the plums and the used water. Eating too many plums can lead to diarrhea. Plums are healthy, but when using plums as a herbal medicine, organic plums should always be used. That’s because sulfur is added to non-organic supermarket plums. Sometimes paraffin oil is used. According to manufacturers’ reasoning, sulfur and paraffin oil would make the plums more appetizing to the consumer.

Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Much of the information about the medicinal plant mentioned in this article comes from the book Groot Handboek Medicinal Plants by Geert Verhelst. That is a handbook in phytotherapy. However, it is not suitable for self-healing. Anyone who suffers from something should consult a doctor or herbal therapist for a good diagnosis and choice of the best remedies, tailored to your personal situation. The knowledge and science mentioned here is of a purely informative nature.