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Last week we discussed some of the possible problems Mother Nature put into wood-here's a quick look at some of the benefits she also added.

About 25% of all medicines are plant derivatives, with more than 2,000 different types of trees having some medicinal benefit or use. One of the best known common medicines ever, aspirin, was originally derived from the willow. The sap from bibosi, a commercial wood in Peru and Bolivia, is used to ease stomach aches, and some people are studying species like the Yew tree, una-de-gato, and other plants for AIDS and cancer treatments. The malaria treatment, quinine, is from the bark of the cinchona tree. We have all used eucalyptus at some point when we've had a cold, and does anyone remember treating a cut with witch hazel? And you'd be amazed at how much sweet gum can do.

One of our most useful materials ever, rubber, comes from the natural latex of rubberood trees. Turpentine is from pine trees, camphor (pictured above) provides an insect repellent, and we use the tannin of oaks to flavor our wines and whiskeys. Walnuts and pecans, cherries and sassafras tea are some of the many treats from the forest.

Trees give us oxygen and food and clean our water for us. They hold the soil down and offer us medicines to heal our wounds.  They can warm us and shelter us and as long as we treat them with respect, they'll continue to grow and provide us endless gifts.

(Photo credit: Flickr/shibuya246)

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")