In the past many people planted these trees for their beauty. Cities would line streets with them. As of late, many cities have been cutting down the Sweet Gum due to the Sweet Gum Balls that fall off of the tree a good part of the year. These can be messy and unattractive as they fall on the streets and sidewalks around them. Had they only known of Bag-A-Nut sweet gum ball picker-uppers, maybe they wouldn’t have already cut so many of these beautiful trees down.
Within the past few years it has been discovered that those unsightly, hazardous (if you slip on it) sweet gum balls actually contain within the seeds that come out of it shikimic acid, which is a hard to find compound, used to produce Tamiflu, a drug that helps prevent influenza infections. Soon after this discovery scientist developed a genetically modified bacterium that can be efficiently grown in labs to produce the shikimic acid.
Still today, many do not monopolize on some of the natural benefits of the sweet gum ball. Cherokee Indians would make a tea infusion of the inner bark as a sedative to calm the nerves, recently research found that an alcohol extract of sweet gum reduced angiotensin II signaling, thereby reducing hypertension. One article suggested the book called Herbal Remedies of the Lumbee Indians, which has a sweet gum section in it.
We all need to keep in mind that some annoying tree or weed may someday hold a cure for us!