Overview of uses of palms with an emphasis on old world and Australasian medicinal uses



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This report details the significance of the palm tree family or Palmae in the lives of humans. In chapter one, I summarize major palm uses around the world. As sources of products important to the world economic market, palms are ranked as one of the top three plant families. If additional products from national and local level markets are also considered, palms could possibly be the most important plant family to humans. A tremendous number of species are utilized across the world, mainly in subtropical and tropical areas, as vital sources for food, fiber, fuel, and medicine. The unique morphological and anatomical characteristics of palms are responsible for their great utility. These attributes are discussed in conjunction with the many uses they provide. A few species have been important in the lives of humans from some of the first civilizations; many of these species are still as important. Such a long history of interaction has also led to palms being interwoven into the religious and mythical frameworks of various societies and tribes. In chapter two, I detail the occurrence of medicinal uses for Old World and Australasian palms. Palms as novel sources of medicinal compounds have been underappreciated. A few papers in the last few decades have found a substantial number of medically relevant uses of Neotropical palms. As a parallel, this report presents medically relevant uses discovered in the last few decades for Old World and Australasian palms. Similar to Neotropical palms, the remainder of the world’s palms could possibly be important sources of medicines for more frequent traditional use and as possible sources for drugs created for application in conventional medical settings. An increasing awareness of palms as important sources of medicines could have implications for their conservation.