Tamus communis

Botanical Name:  Tamus communis
Family: Dioscoreaceae
Genus: Dioscorea
Species: D. communis
Kingdom:    Plantae
Order: Dioscoreales

Synonyms:
*Dioscorea communis
*Tamus cretica L.
*Tamus racemosa Gouan
*Smilax rubra Willd.
*Tamus cordifolia Stokes
*Tamus edulis Lowe
*Tamus norsa Lowe
*Dioscorea canariensis Webb & Berthel.
*Tamus canariensis Willd. ex Kunth
*Tamus parviflora Kunth
*Tamus baccifera St.-Lag.
*Tamus cirrhosa Hausskn. ex Bornm.

Common Names:  Black bryony, Lady’s-seal, and Black bindweed

Habitat: Tamus communis  is a native spontaneous species widespread throughout southern and central Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia, from Ireland to the Canary Islands, east to Iran and Crimea. It  is a typical plant of the forest understory, from the sea to the mountains, usually in dense woods, but it can also be found in meadows and hedges.

Description:
Tamus communis is a climbing perennial  herbaceous plant growing to 2–4 m tall, with twining stems. The leaves are spirally arranged, heart-shaped, up to 10 cm long and 8 cm broad, with a petiole up to 5 cm long. It is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The flowers are individually inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, 3–6 mm diameter, with six petals; the male flowers produced in slender 5–10 cm racemes, the female flowers in shorter clusters. The fruit is a bright red berry, 1 cm diameter. Its fairly large tuber is, like the rest of the plant, poisonous. The large, fleshy root is black on the outside and exceedingly acrid, and, although an old cathartic medicine, is a most dangerous remedy when taken internally. It is like that of the yam, thick and tuberous and abounding in starch, but too acrid to be used as food in any manner……..CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

Cultivation:    
Requires a moist well-drained fertile soil. A climbing plant, the weak stems support themselves by twining around other plants and are capable of growing quite high up into shrubs and trees. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation:  
Seed – sow in a cold frame in early spring or as soon as the seed is ripe in the autumn. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle, and plant out in the summer or in late spring of the following year.

Edible Uses: Young shoots  are cooked & eaten. A decidedly bitter flavour. An asparagus substitute, it is best if the water is changed once whilst cooking.

Constituents:  The rhizome contains phenanthrenes (7-hydroxy-2,3,4,8-tetramethoxyphenanthrene, 2,3,4-trimethoxy-7,8-methylenedioxyphenanthrene, 3-hydroxy-2,4,-dimethoxy-7,8-methylenedioxyphenanthrene, 2-hydroxy-3,5,7-trimethoxyphenanthrene and 2-hydroxy-3,5,7-trimethoxy-9,10-dihydrophenanthrene).

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Medicinal Uses:
Antiecchymotic;  Antirheumatic;  Cathartic;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Haemolytic;  Poultice;  Rubefacient.

Rubifacient, diuretic. The expressed juice of the fresh root, mixed with a little white wine, has been used as a remedy for gravel, being a powerful diuretic, but it is not given internally now, and is not included in the British Pharmacopoeia. Death in most painful form is the result of an overdose, while the effect of a small quantity, varying not with the age only, but according to the idiosyncrasies of the patient, leaves little room for determining the limit between safety and destruction. The expressed juice of the root, with honey, has also been used as a remedy for asthmatic complaints, but other remedies that are safer should be preferred.

The berries act as an emetic, and children should be cautioned against eating them.

As an external irritant, Black Bryony has, however, been used with advantage, and it was formerly much employed. The scraped pulp was applied as a stimulating plaster, and in gout, rheumatism and paralysis has been found serviceable in many instances.

A tincture made from the root proves a most useful application to unbroken chilblains, and also the fruits, steeped in gin, are used for the same remedy.

Black Bryony is a popular remedy for removing discoloration caused by bruises and black eyes, etc. The fresh root is scraped to a pulp and applied in the form of a poultice.

For sores, old writers recommend it being made into an ointment with ‘hog’s grease or wax, or other convenient ointment.’

Known Hazards:    The whole plant is poisonous due to its saponin content. Although toxic, saponins are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish. The toxic effect of this plant is not caused by saponins, but by calcium oxalate crystals which are found mainly in the fruit.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioscorea_communis
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/brybla75.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Tamus+communis

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