January 5, 2013

O Christmas Tree Thy Leaves Are So… Sterile?

If your neighborhood is anything like mine, you have started to see the Christmas trees on the side of the road for trash pick up. The once majestic and lovely tree that donned the house with holiday spirit now lies on the side of the road almost forgotten. I have not put a tree—real or fake—in years mostly because I do not want to have to take it down. Yeah, I know, that is lazy, but oh well. And one reason I do not put up a real tree is the environmentalist in me can’t justify having a tree for temporary decoration and then discarding it.

This has long been an issue for me. On the one hand, I love Christmas trees. I love how they look and feel, and if I could smell, I am sure I would love their scent. However, I also feel a sense of responsibility that I should not just kill a tree for a month’s worth of pleasure. It is a battle I feel every year, and so far the latter has won. That is until I read this press release from EurekAlert.

The research for this is published in the International Journal of Biomedical Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. In it, researchers explain that bacterial infection at the site of implanted medical devices, prosthetics, and sensors is one of the most disconcerting aspects of biomedicine. External sterilization procedures have not been enough, so scientists and doctors have been looking for an answer in the form of an antimicrobial, self-sterilizing composite material derived from the beloved Christmas tree—the Douglas Fir.

According to the press release, scientists (chemists to be exact) in Allahabad, India, have found that the needles of the Pseudotsuga menziesii, also known to laypeople like myself as the Douglas Fir, have the potential for sterilizing nano devices used in medical applications such as medical implants and surgical devices. Any of these devices would have a silver and chitosan bionanocomposite coating on the metals and other materials.

Scientists have found that the Douglas fir needles have an extract that sterilizes. This means that in conjunction with external sterilization procedures, the devices would then have internal sterilization. Together these can only lead to healthier and safer medical devices and procedures.

We often forget about the medicinal properties of plants. We have seen the benefits of synthetic medicine and forget that before the progress of Western medicine, people used the flora and fauna around them to help heal. The fact that doctors, scientists, and researchers are now looking back to plants in conjunction with other methods for medicine means that we are remembering and in some cases discovering how beneficial the natural world is to our health and health procedures.

This research shows just how scientists and doctors are incorporating the natural world into medicine. Frankly, it gives me hope that in the coming years, people will donate their Christmas trees so that the needles can be used in medicine and research. Or, perhaps, people will simply donate to the research and leave the Douglas fir alone. I think it would be a great idea for researchers to promote a fake tree that looks like a Douglas fir and market it by sending all the donations to research sterilization and other uses of the Douglas fir as well as replanting of the tree. In this way, people would have a Christmas tree for years to come, donate to medical and natural research, and not deprive the Earth of trees.

Hmmm…maybe I should contact those researchers?

Image Credit: Laura Stone / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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