Tea-Oil Plant (Camellia oleifera)

Botanical Name : Camellia oleifera
Family :        Theaceae
Genus :          Camellia
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales
Species: C. oleifera
Common NamesOil-seed Camellia, Tea Oil Camellia, or Lu Shan Snow Camellia

Habitat : E. Asia . It is widely distributed in China and is cultivated extensively there. It is found in forests, thickets, banks of streams and foothills at elevations of 500 to 1,300 metres. Woodland Garden; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;

Description
An evergreen Shrub growing to 4m by 1.5m.
It is hardy to zone 8 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from October to April, and the seeds ripen in September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.
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This species looks much similar to Camellia sasanqua except the dark green, evergreen leaves are a bit larger, three to five inches long and two to three inches wide. Single, white, fragrant flowers are produced in late winter, and this large shrub or small tree will reach a height of 16 to 20 feet with thin, upright, multiple trunks and branches. The crown forms a rounded or oval vase with lower branches removed

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Cultivation:
Prefers a woodland soil but thrives in a warm open well-drained loam if leafmould is added. A calcifuge plant, preferring a pH between 5 and 7. Prefers the partial shade of a light woodland. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. It succeeds on a wall at Kew and outdoors in milder areas. Prefers a wet summer and a cool but not very frosty dry winter. Plants are not very self-compatible, self-fertilized flowers produce few seeds and these are of low viability. This species has been cultivated for many centuries in China for the oil in its seed. A very ornamental plant, some named forms have been developed for their ornamental value. This species is closely related to C. sasanqua.

Propagation:
Seed – can be sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and the hard covering around the micropyle should be filed down to leave a thin covering. It usually germinates in 1 – 3 months at 23°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions when they are more than 15cm tall and give them some protection from winter cold for their first year or three outdoors. Cuttings of almost ripe wood, 10 – 15cm with a heel, August/September in a shaded frame. High percentage but slow. Cuttings of firm wood, 7 – 10cm with a heel, end of June in a frame. Keep in a cool greenhouse for the first year. Leaf-bud cuttings, July/August in a frame.


Edible Uses

Edible Uses: Oil.

An oil obtained from the seed is used in cooking.

Uses
The seeds of Camellia sinensis and Camellia oleifera can be pressed to yield tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil that should not be confused with tea tree oil, an essential oil that is used for medical and cosmetical purposes and originates from the leaves of a different plant. The seed oil can be used as treatment of ringworm. Tea-oil Camellia is commonly over 80% monounsaturated fat. As such, it reduces LDL (‘bad cholesterol’). Tea Oil is also known as “Tea Seed Oil” when sold as cooking oil in supermarkets throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

It can also used in textile manufacture, soap making and as an illuminant. Camellia oil is also traditionally used to protect Japanese woodworking tools and cutlery from corrosion and is currently sold for that purpose

Medicinal Actions &  Uses
Anthelmintic.
The seed oil is used in the treatment of ringworm.

Other Uses
Dye; Insecticide; Oil.

A non-drying oil is obtained from the seed – used in textile manufacture, soap making and as an illuminant. The oil consists mainly of olein. It is not subject to polymerize or oxidize, nor does it form solids at low temperatures. A grey dye is obtained from the pink or red petals. The seed cake has insecticidal activity.


Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Camellia+oleifera
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camellia_oleifera
http://www.asianflora.com/Theaceae/Camellia-oleifera.htm

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Water Arum(Calla palustris)

Botanical Name : Calla palustris
Family : Araceae
Subfamily: Calloideae
Genus :               Calla
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Alismatales
Species: C. palustris

Habitat :  Forest swamps, moorland marshes, by ponds and streams.
.Pond; Bog Garden;

Description:
It is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant growing in bogs and ponds. The leaves are rounded to heart-shaped, 6–12 cm long on a 10–20 cm petiole, and 4–12 cm broad. The greenish-yellow inflorescence is produced on a spadix about 4–6 cm long, enclosed in a white spathe. The fruit is a cluster of red berries, each berry containing several seeds.

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It is hardy to zone 4. It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires wet soil and can grow in water.

Cultivation details
Requires a wet lime-free humus rich soil by water or in shallow, still or slowly flowing water in full sun[200]. When grown on the pond margins it creeps in and out of the water[1]. Succeeds in water up to 25cm deep[188].

Propagation
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in late summer in a cold frame in pots standing in about 3cm of water[200]. Sow stored seed as early as possible in the year in a greenhouse. The germination rate of stored seed is often poor. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in trays of water in the greenhouse for at least their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring[200]. Very easy, it is possible to divide this plant at almost any time in the growing season. Any part of the stem, if placed in water or a pot of very wet soil, will quickly root away to form a new plant. Stem cuttings in summer, rooted in wet mud.


Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Fruit; Root; Seed.

Rhizome – cooked. It is usually prepared by drying the root, grinding it into a powder and then thoroughly cooking it to ensure that any acrimonious principle is completely destroyed. The resulting powder is rich in starch and can be used as a flour for making bread etc, especially in conjunction with cereal flours[1, 2, 55, 100, 183]. It is said to be very tasty[65]. Fruit (does this include the seed?) – it should be dried and then thoroughly cooked[172]. The dried fruit and rootstalk can be ground into an unpalatable but nutritious powder[172]. The seed is dried, cooked and ground into a powder.

Medicinal Actions &  Uses
Antirheumatic; Poultice.

Antirheumatic. Used in the treatment of colds and flu. A tea made from the dried root has been used in the treatment of flu, shortness of breath, bleeding and as a poultice on swellings and snakebites. The aerial stems have been used in the treatment of sore legs.
Known Hazards:The plant is very poisonous when fresh due to its high oxalic acid content, but the rhizome, like that of Caladium, Colocasia and Arum, is edible after drying, grinding, leaching and boiling.

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

Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Calla+palustris
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calla
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Calla_palustris

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Natural Product Derived From Periwinkle Plant Reduces Inflammation

A widely and safely used plant extract acts as a novel anti-inflammatory agent that may one day be used for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, as well as other inflammatory conditions. There is an urgent need for new therapies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as COPD, otitis media (ear infection), and atherosclerosis (chronic inflammation in the walls of arteries), because the most effective and commonly used agents – steroids – often cause serious side effects, such as liver damage, which prevent long-term use.

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Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center were the first to find that vinpocetine, a natural product derived from the periwinkle plant, acts as a potent anti-inflammatory agent when tested in a mouse model of lung inflammation, as well as several other types of human cells. Results of the study show that vinpocetine greatly reduces inflammation, and, unlike steroids, does not cause severe side effects.

“What is extremely exciting and promising about these findings is vinpocetine’s excellent safety profile,” said Chen Yan, a senior author of the study. “Previously, most drugs tested in this area have failed, not because of a lack of efficacy, but because of safety issues. We’re very encouraged by these results and believe vinpocetine has great potential for the treatment of COPD and other inflammatory diseases.”

Vinpocetine is a well-known natural product that was originally discovered nearly 30 years ago and is currently used as a dietary supplement for the prevention and treatment of cognitive disorders, such as stroke and memory loss, in Europe, Japan and China. The therapy has no evidence of toxicity or noticeable side effects in human patients. Scientists at the University of Rochester hope to reposition this compound as an anti-inflammatory agent for the treatment of COPD, and potentially other inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, otitis media, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis and psoriasis in the future.

While steroids successfully combat inflammation, patients often pay a high price when it comes to side effects. Steroids can cause liver damage, and can also suppress the immune system, increasing the likelihood of infections. With such a high risk profile, steroids are usually only used for a short period of time, which is problematic when treating chronic diseases.

“In managing chronic conditions such as COPD, it is crucial to have a therapy that can be used safely over the long term,” said Jian-Dong Li, a senior author of the study. “There is a great need for a drug like vinpocetine, because patients currently have no good options when it comes to long-term care.”

Vinpocetine decreases inflammation by targeting the activity of a specific enzyme, known as IKK. IKK is responsible for regulating inflammation, and does so through the activation of a key protein, nuclear-factor kappaB (NF-?B). By directly inhibiting IKK, vinpocetine is able to switch off NF-?B, which normally produces pro-inflammatory molecules that cause inflammation. Halting the activity of NF-?B ultimately reduces inflammation.

“Inflammation is a hallmark of a wide range of human diseases, so there is great potential for vinpocetine to be used for several indications,” said Bradford C. Berk, co-author of the study. “Given vinpocetine’s efficacy and solid safety profile, we believe there is great potential to bring this drug to market.”

Repositioning a therapy – taking a known compound that has been used safely in humans and testing it for a new application – can be an effective way to bring new therapies to market more quickly than starting the discovery process from scratch.

Inflammatory diseases are a major cause of illness worldwide. For example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. In people with COPD, airflow is blocked due to chronic bronchitis or emphysema, making it increasingly difficult to breathe. Most COPD is caused by long-term smoking, although genetics may play a role as well. Approximately 13.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with COPD each year, and in 2004 the annual cost of the disease was $37.2 billion.

Source: Elements4Health

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Prosopagnosia

Definition:

Prosopagnosia (sometimes known as face blindness) is a disorder of face perception where the ability to recognize faces is impaired, while the ability to recognize other objects may be relatively intact. The term originally referred to a condition following acute brain damage, but recently a congenital form of the disorder has been proposed, which may be inherited by about 2.5% of the population. The specific brain area usually associated with prosopagnosia is the fusiform gyrus.
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It is often accompanied by other types of recognition impairments (place recognition, car recognition, facial expression of emotion, etc.) though sometimes it appears to be restricted to facial identity. Not surprisingly, prosopagnosia can create serious social problems. Prosopagnosics often have difficulty recognizing family members, close friends, and even themselves. They often use alternative routes to recognition, but these routes are not as effective as recognition via the face.

Few successful therapies have so far been developed for affected people, although individuals often learn to use ‘piecemeal’ or ‘feature by feature’ recognition strategies. This may involve secondary clues such as clothing, hair color, body shape, and voice. Because the face seems to function as an important identifying feature in memory, it can also be difficult for people with this condition to keep track of information about people, and socialize normally with others.

Some also use the term prosophenosia, which refers to the inability to recognize faces following extensive damage of both occipital and temporal lobes.

There are a variety of explanations for prosopagnosia. Of course, all these explanations propose that the procedures necessary for normal face recognition are not working properly. However, the explanations differ in their characterization of the impaired procedures. It appears that prosopagnosia actually refers to a number of different types of impairments, so no one explanation will account for all cases of prosopagnosia.

History:-
Selective inabilities to recognize faces were reported throughout the 19th century, and included case studies by Hughlings Jackson and Charcot. However, it was not named until the term prosopagnosia was first used in 1947 by Joachim Bodamer, a German neurologist. He described three cases, including a 24-year old man who suffered a bullet wound to the head and lost his ability to recognise his friends, family, and even his own face. However, he was able to recognize and identify them through other sensory modalities such as auditory, tactile, and even other visual stimuli patterns (such as gait and other physical mannerisms). Bodamer gave his paper the title Die Prosop-Agnosie, derived from classical Greek  (prosopon) meaning “face” and  (agnosia) meaning “non-knowledge”.

Overview:-
The study of prosopagnosia has been crucial in the development of theories of face perception. Because prosopagnosia is not a unitary disorder (i.e., different people may show different types and levels of impairment) it has been argued that face perception involves a number of stages, each of which can be separately damaged.This is reflected not just in the amount of impairment displayed but also in the qualitative differences in impairment that a person with prosopagnosia may present with.

This sort of evidence has been crucial in supporting the theory that there may be a specific face perception system in the brain. This is counter-intuitive to many people as they do not experience faces as ‘special’ or perceived in a different way from the rest of the world.

A recent case report described a closely related condition called prosopamnesia, in which the subject, from birth, could perceive faces normally but had a severely impaired ability to remember them.

It has also been argued that prosopagnosia may be a general impairment in understanding how individual perceptual components make up the structure or gestalt of an object. Psychologist Martha Farah has been particularly associated with this view.

Until early in the 21st century, prosopagnosia was thought to be quite rare and solely associated with brain injury or neurological illness affecting specific areas of the brain. However, recently a form of congenital prosopagnosia has been proposed, in which people are born with an impairment in recognising and perceiving faces, as well as other objects and visual scenes. The cases that have been reported suggest that this form of the disorder may be heritable and much more common than previously thought (about 2.5% of the population may be affected), although this congenital disorder is commonly accompanied by other forms of visual agnosia, and may not be “pure” prosopagnosia. It has been suggested that very mild cases of face blindness are much more common, perhaps affecting 10% of the population, although there have not been any studies confirming this. The inability to keep track of the identity of characters in movies is a common complaint.

A classic case of a prosopagnosia is presented by “Dr P” in Oliver Sacks‘ 1985 book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Although Dr P could not recognize his wife from her face, he was able to recognize her by her voice. His recognition of pictures of his family and friends appeared to be based on highly specific features, such as his brother’s square jaw and big teeth.

Subtypes
Apperceptive prosopagnosia
Apperceptive prosopagnosia is thought to be a disorder of some of the earliest processes in the face perception system. People with this disorder cannot make any sense of faces and are unable to make same-different judgements when they are presented with pictures of different faces. They may also be unable to work out attributes such as age or gender from a face. However, they may be able to recognise people based on non-face clues such as their clothing, hairstyle or voice.

Associative prosopagnosia
Associative prosopagnosia is thought to be an impairment to the links between early face perception processes and the semantic information we hold about people in our memories. People with this form of the disorder may be able to say whether photos of people’s faces are the same or different and derive the age and gender from a face (suggesting they can make sense of some face information) but may not be able to subsequently identify the person or provide any information about them such as their name, occupation or when they were last encountered. They may be able to recognise and produce such information based on non-face information such as voice, hair, or even particularly distinctive facial features (such as a distinctive moustache) that does not require the structure of the face to be understood. Typically such people do not report that ‘faces make no sense’ but simply that they do not look distinctive in any way.

Developmental prosopagnosia
Developmental prosopagnosia (DP) is a face recognition deficit that is lifelong, manifests itself in early childhood and that cannot be attributed to acquired brain damage. However, a number of studies have found functional deficits in DP both on the basis of EEG measures and fMRI. It has been suggested that a genetic factor is responsible for the condition.

There seem to be two categories of DP patients:
– patients who are impaired in basic face processing (age estimation, judgment of facial affect) and also show deficits on other forms of visual processing;
– patients with pure face recognition impairments in the presence of intact basic visual processing.
The first group of patients fail to obtain view-centered descriptions. According to the Bruce and Young model of face recognition, these are precursors of the more abstract expression-independent descriptions. View-centered descriptions do not seem to be specific for faces, as the patients with impairments of processing the physical aspects of faces also show difficulties in non-facial tasks like object recognition or tests of visuo-spatial abilities.
However, there is as yet only limited evidence for a classification into different subtypes.

There are many developmental disorders that incorporate within themselves an increased likelihood that the person will have differences in face perception, of which the person may or may not be aware. That is to say, the person may or may not have insight in the clinical sense of the word. However, the mechanism by which these effects take place is largely unknown. A partial list of some disorders that often have prosopagnosiac components would include nonverbal learning disorder, Williams syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders in general. However, these types of disorders are very complicated, so arbitrary assumptions should be avoided.

Unconscious face recognition:-
One particularly interesting feature of prosopagnosia is that it suggests both a conscious and unconscious aspect to face recognition. Experiments have shown that when presented with a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar faces, people with prosopagnosia may be unable to successfully identify the people in the pictures, or even make a simple familiarity judgement (“this person seems familiar / unfamiliar”). However, when a measure of emotional response is taken (typically a measure of skin conductance), there tends to be an emotional response to familiar people even though no conscious recognition takes place.[9]

This suggests emotion plays a significant role in face recognition, perhaps unsurprising when basic survival (particularly security) relies on identifying the people around you.

It is thought that Capgras delusion may be the reverse of prosopagnosia. In this condition people report conscious recognition of people from faces, but show no emotional response, perhaps leading to the delusional belief that their relative or spouse has been replaced by an impostor.

Symptoms :-
Everyone sometimes has trouble recognizing faces, and it is even more common for people to have trouble remembering other people’s names. Prosopagnosia is much more severe than these everyday problems that everyone experiences. Prosopagnosics often have difficulty recognizing people that they have encountered many times. In extreme cases, prosopagnosics have trouble recognizing even those people that they spend the most time with such as their spouses and their children.

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One of the telltale signs of prosopagnosia is great reliance on non-facial information such as hair, gait, clothing, voice, and other information. Prosopagnosics also sometimes have difficulty imagining the facial appearance of acquaintances. One of the most common complaints of prosopagnosics is that they have trouble following the plot of television shows and movies, because they cannot keep track of the identity of the characters.

If you would like to assess your face recognition abilities, we currently have two tests of face recognition available. These tests include feedback on how your scores compare to the scores of people with normal face recognition.

click to see

Diagnosis (Test):
Screening for prosopagnosia is not an easy task, as what most doctors would say. Because of this, a specific tool in the diagnosis for prosopagnosia was developed, called Cambridge Face Memory Test. This is a test that is much reliable and can effectively test for a person’s ability to recognize faces. There was previous a test called Benton which also aims in testing the person for face recognition problems.

The difference between the two tests is that the Cambridge Face Memory test uses faces alone; without hair, ears or neck. While Benton uses images of faces with hair, ears and neck making the test provide results as false-negative. But the Cambridge Face Memory test is not considered the gold standard of prosopagnosia since the brain is a very complex part of a person’s body, which can alter its way of functioning. According to reports, the test is not widely used for it’s still in the process of making it a good and viable test for prosopagnosia.

Other tests such as the EEG and fMRI can be of health in the diagnosis of the condition, most especially the developmental prosopagnosia.

 Risk factors:
Those at risk of this condition are the people who have a family history of prosopagnosia. Those with first degree family members who suffer from prosopagnosia are most likely to develop such condition. It has been reported that children of a person with prosopagnosia are at risk of the condition. Other risk factors include the following:

*People who suffered from brain injury.
*People who have had stroke.
Those who have neurodegenerative disorders are also at risk of developing prosopagnosia.

Causes :-
Most of the cases of prosopagnosia that have been documented have been due to brain damage suffered after maturity from head trauma, stroke, and degenerative diseases. These are examples of acquired prosopagnosia: these individuals had normal face recognition abilities that were then impaired. It seems likely that more cases of acquired prosopagnosia have been published for two reasons. First, their impairment with faces is usually quite apparent to these individuals, because they have experienced normal face recognition in the past and so they quickly notice their impairment. Second, because these individual have had brain damage, they are in contact with medical doctors who have assessed their face recognition abilities. (Note that if you have experienced a noticeable decline in your face recognition abilities, you should contact a neurologist immediately. Any sudden decline may indicate the existence of a condition that needs immediate attention.)

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In contrast, in cases of developmental prosopagnosia, the onset of prosopagnosia occurred prior to developing normal face recognition abilities (adult levels of face recognition are reached during teenage years). Developmental prosopagnosia has been used to refer to individuals whose prosopagnosia is genetic in nature, individuals who experienced brain damage prior to experience with faces (prenatal brain damage or immediate brain damage), and individuals who experienced brain damage or severe visual problems during childhood. However, these etiologies should be differentiated, because they are different paths to prosopagnosia and so probably result in different types of impairment; they could be referred to as genetic prosopagnosia, preexperiential prosopagnosia, and postexperiential prosopagnosia, respectively. In some cases, it may be difficult to determine the cause of prosopagnosia, but many times individuals will either know that family members are also prosopagnosic or be aware of potential incidents that may have resulted in brain damage.

Individuals with developmental prosopagnosia often do not realize that they are unable to recognize faces as well as others. Of course, they have never recognized faces normally so their impairment is not apparent to them. It is also difficult for them to notice, because individuals with normal face recognition rarely discuss their reliance on faces. As a result, there are a number of individuals who have not recognized their prosopagnosia until well into adulthood. We have been contacted by far more developmental prosopagnosics than acquired prosopagnosics, and so it may be that this condition is more common than acquired prosopagnosia.

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Treatment:-
Prosopagnosia might be an enduring condition. However, patients may eventually recover if the damage is confined to their right hemisphere (Goldsmith and Liu, 2001). A study that tracked 18 people with prosopagnosia found that the time required for 50% of the people to recover was 9 weeks. Bilateral damage may be necessary in order for the people with prosopagnosia symptoms to endure past and acute period (Goldsmith and Liu, 2001).
However, for people whose prosopagnosia does not go away on it’s own, there is no real treatment. However, there are lifestyle changes that can help people to cope. Often learning to identify clothing, or distinctive features of people may help in recognition. Another helpful thing is to right down list of who you expect to see. Therefore, when you see someone you already have ideas about who they could be.

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Cecilia Burman wrote about what it is like to have prosopagnosia. She knows from experience. Please visit her website and read as much as you can. The following link goes to a page where she talks about how she has adapted and learned to identify people as best and as fast as she can. She also points out that all people with prosopagnosia are not alike. They are as different as can be. Their only similarity is their face-blindness.

click to see

You may click to see :-
*Prosopagnosia  Research
* Research Centres and study of Prosopagnosia

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://www.faceblind.org/research/index.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosopagnosia
http://www.macalester.edu/psychology/whathap/UBNRP/visionwebsite04/p%20treatment.html

http://mrdoctor.org/prosopagnosia-definition-symptoms-causes-test-treatment/

Periwinkle Plant

Botanical Name :Vinca minor
Family :Dogbane/Apocynaceae
Synonym(s): lesser periwinkle, myrtle
Kingdom:
Plantae
Order: Gentianales
Genus: Vinca
Species: V. minor

Habitat : .It is a plant native to central and southern Europe, from Portugal and France north to the Netherlands and the Baltic States, and east to the Caucasus, and also in southwestern Asia in Turkey.  It has been in North America since the 1700s. It has the capability of taking over large tracts of land by spreading out of control. In many states, such as Michigan, the periwinkle plant has overtaken the natural forest ground cover in deciduous woodlands.

Description:
It is a trailing, viny subshrub, spreading along the ground and rooting along the stems to form large clonal colonies and occasionally scrambling up to 40 cm high but never twining or climbing. The leaves are evergreen, opposite, 2-4.5 cm long and 1-2.5 cm broad, glossy dark green with a leathery texture and an entire margin. The flowers are solitary in the leaf axils and are produced mainly from early spring to mid summer but with a few flowers still produced into the autumn; they are violet-purple (pale purple or white in some cultivated selections), 2-3 cm diameter, with a five-lobed corolla. The fruit is a pair of follicles 2.5 cm long, containing numerous seeds.

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The closely related species Vinca major is similar but larger in all parts, and also has relatively broader leaves with a hairy margin.


Cultivation:

The species is commonly grown as a groundcover in temperate gardens for its evergreen foliage, spring and summer flowers, ease of culture, and dense habit that smothers most weeds. The species has few pests or diseases outside its native range and is widely naturalised and classified as an invasive species in parts of North America . There are numerous cultivars, with different flower colours and variegated foliage, including ‘Argenteovariegata’ (white leaf edges), ‘Aureovariegata’ (yellow leaf edges), ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ (white flowers), and ‘Plena’ (double flowers).

Other vernacular names used in cultivation include small periwinkle, common periwinkle, and sometimes in the United States, myrtle or creeping myrtle, although this is misleading, as the name myrtle normally refers to Myrtus species.

The periwinkle plant is extremely hardy and grows in almost any type of soil. It prefers shady placement but too much sun won’t be an insurmountable problem. The plant will not live over the winter in locations that go beyond thirty below zero. The periwinkle can be propagated by root cuttings or by seeds. It will grow where many other plants will not, such as in sandy soil and rock gardens. It is also deer resistant. After the flowers have finished blooming, the periwinkle plant grows cylindrical fruit up to two inches long. Each contains three to five seeds which are released to the wind.

If you wish to grow periwinkles from seed, you can start them inside eight to ten weeks before the final frost or outside after the last frost. Inside you can use a regular plant starter mix and outside you should plant in loose soil fertilized with compost. Simply cover the seeds with dirt, water them, and you will be growing periwinkle in no time at all. Do not transplant any seedlings grown indoors, outside, until all danger of frost has past.

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Medicinal Uses:

The periwinkle plant is used by herbalists as an astringent. Its major use throughout the centuries has been to help treat menstrual periods where there is too much heavy bleeding. It can be used during your period or in-between periods. It is also used to treat urinary tract problems, such as hematuria, or blood in the urine. Periwinkle has been used to treat colitis and diarrhea, plus other types of digestive problems which involve bleeding. Some people also use periwinkle in the treatment of such conditions as nose bleeds, bleeding gums, ulcers in the mouth, and sore throats. In medicinal use, the periwinkle plant is used in tinctures and infusions.


Other Uses:

It is an evergreen type of plant that is used for ground cover. In many locations, the periwinkle plant is considered invasive and cannot be legally planted, so check your local statutes before growing Vinca minor.

 

As a ground cover, the periwinkle plant is like a long, green mat, with growth only about six inches high. The leaves are bluish-green and it forms stems approximately two feet long before clamping down roots. Periwinkle blooms in the spring (March) with flowers which are lilac-blue or purple.

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


Resources;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinca_minor
http://www.gardeningcentral.org/periwinkle_plant/periwinkle_plant.html
http://www.invasive.org/species/subject.cfm?sub=3081
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=VIMI2&photoID=vimi2_003_avp.jpg
http://www.invasive.org/species/subject.cfm?sub=3081

Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

Vitex agnus-castus: Habitus
Image via Wikipedia

Botanical Name :Vitex agnus-castus
Kingdom: Plantae
Family: Lamiaceae
Common Name : Vitex, Chaste Tree, Chasteberry, or Monk’s Pepper.
Genus: Vitex
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Vitex
Species: V. agnus-castus

Habitat :This plant is native of the Mediterranean region.Southern Europe, in woodlands and dry areas

Description:
Deciduous shrub, up to 20 feet tall (6 m), 20 feet wide (6 m); palmately compound leaves, 3 to 4 inches wide (7.5-10 cm) with 5 to 7 fingerlike leaflets, reminding of Marijuana (Cannabis spp.)

Vitex leaves are hand-sized and consist of five to seven fingers that are dark green above and silvery underneath. While fairly drought resistant, Vitex grows faster and looks lovelier when watered regularly. Grape-colored flowers cover long panicles that can elongate up to 12 inches. Starting in early summer, flowers begin opening from the bottom of the flower stem and continue up the stem over the course of four or five weeks until the bush is completely blanketed in eye-popping bloom. Harvesting these flowers early in the bloom cycle is the best way to preserve them for craft use. They may be used fresh or hung upside down in small bunches for drying.
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As the flowers of summer fade, small dark purple berries follow. In the past these berries have been dried and used as a rather weak substitute for pepper and as an ingredient in Mediterranean spice mixtures. In the 6th century, the ground dried berries were touted as a must for monks trying to maintain their vows of chastity (thus, the common name Monk’s Pepper). Vitex is now considered a vital herb for regulating and relieving menstrual problems and infertility. For a good discussion of the medicinal properties of Vitex,  check in Andrew Chevalier’s book The Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. This book will guide you through the steps of  harvesting and preparing remedies from your garden.

Lavender or white flowers in the spring. They are followed by dry capsules with a peppery smell.

Dark green foliage, moderate littering. The name of Chaste Tree comes from the fact that when used as tea it was supposed to reduce sexual desire. Actually, modern studies show that some of the compounds in the leaves inhibit the action of males hormons. The species name “agnus-castus” comes from the Greek and Latine for “chast”.

Vitex, also a traditional plant in Africa, is a little-known fruit plant that has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.

Cultivation: Vitex agnus-castus is widely cultivated in warm temperate and subtropical regions for its aromatic foliage and flowers. It grows to a height of 1-5 meters. It requires full sun or partial shade along with well-drained soil.

Propagation: Seeds or cuttings, cuttings have the advantage of a known flower color.

Constituents: acubin, agnuside, casticin, chrysophanol d, alpha- and beta-pinene, isovitexin and vitexin.


Medicinal   Actions  & use

Herbal medicine
The leaves and tender stem growth of the upper 10 cm (4 inches), along with the flowers and ripening seeds, are harvested for medicinal purposes. The berries are harvested by gently rubbing the berries loose from the stem. The leaves, flowers, and/or berries may be consumed as a decoction, traditional tincture, cider vinegar tincture, syrup, elixir, or simply eaten straight off the plant as a medicinal food.A popular way of taking Vitex is on awakening as a simple 1:1 fluid extract, which is said to interact with hormonal circadian rhythms most effectively.

The berries are considered a tonic herb for both the male and female reproductive systems. The leaves are believed to have the same effect but to a lesser degree.

This plant is commonly called monk’s pepper because it was originally used as anti-libido medicine by monks to aid their attempts to remain chaste. It is believed to be a male anaphrodisiac, hence the name chaste tree. There are disputed accounts regarding its action on female libido, with some claims that it is anaphrodisiac and others that it is aphrodisiac.

It has also been used as a carminative and an anxiolytic.

Back in the 17th century, herbalist Gerard wrote that the seeds and leaves helped with pain and inflammation of the uterus.  The hormonelike substances found in the seeds help to correct female hormonal imbalances, such as those that can occur during menopause, premenstrual syndrome, or menstruation, and also help dissolve fibroids and cysts.  German researchers suggest the berries increase production of luteinizing hormone and prolactin. Another study adds the increase of the hormone progesterone to the list.  The seeds do stimulate mother’s milk flow as shown in a clinical study when 100 nursing mothers taking chaste seeds were compared to those who were not.  Christopher Hobbs suggests its use during the first 3 months only of pregnancy to help prevent miscarriage and, with ginger, to allay morning sickness.  Chaste berries can help regulate periods when there is excessive or too frequent bleeding.  It also reestablishes normal ovulation after contraceptive pills have been used.  In women without ovaries, chasteberry appears to lessen extremes of hormonal imbalance, perhaps through indirect effects on the endocrine system, liver and circulation. Women with PMS with significant depression should probably steer clear of chasteberry.  Some research suggests that PMS with depression is caused by excess progesterone, and chasteberry is said to raise progesterone levels.  Chasteberry may help some women trying to conceive if infertility is due to low progesterone levels.  Most of the research has been done on a chaste berry extract called Agnolyt.  When 53 women with excessive bleeding and short menstrual cycles were given this product, 65% showed improvement and about 47% were cured.  Those over age 20 experienced the most improvements.  Other studies with Agnolyt found the chaste berry helps control acne in both young women and young men

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Clinical evidence

Clinical studies have shown its beneficial effects in the management of premenstrual stress syndrome (PMS). and infertility. The use of extracts of the plant is recommended in Germany.

Its mechanism of action is not well known. A study has found that treatment of 20 healthy men with higher doses of Vitex Agnus-castus was associated with a slight reduction of prolactin levels, whereas lower doses caused a slight increase as compared to doses of placebo. A decrease of prolactin will influence levels of Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen in women; and testosterone in men.

Chemical analysis
Flavonoids, alkaloids, diterpenoids, Vitexin, Casticin and steroidal hormone precursors have been isolated from the chemical analysis of Vitex agnus-castus. It is believed that some of these compounds work on the pituitary gland which would explain its effects on hormonal levels. A study has shown that extracts of the fruit of VAC can bind to opiate receptors; this could explain why intake of VAC reduces PMS discomforts.

Current uses
Vitex Agnus-Castus is used as an Alternative medicine to alleviate symptoms of various gynecological problems:-

*PMS
*Galactagogue. This use is disputed.
*Potential as an Insect repellent.
*No clinical studies
*Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
*Uterine fibroids
*Menopause
*Infertility
*Luteal phase defect

It is used in some supplements for male bodybuilders as a secondary component because of its effects on testosterone levels.

Contraindications:  It is recommended that Vitex agnus-castus be avoided during pregnancy due to the possibility of complications.

Other types uses:
*Historical uses, uses outside the scope of medicine.

*Galactagogue, historical usage in very low concentrations and not advisable today. However one recent study did find “Oral administration of 70 mg/kg/day of Vitex agnus-castus extract in lactation stages, significantly increased serum prolactin, compared with the control group of rats.”

*Potential use as an insect repellent
Used in supplements for male bodybuilders as a secondary component because of its effects on testosterone levels

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

Resources:
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/Plants/Verbenaceae/Vitex_agnus-castus.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitex_agnus-castus
http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/vitagnus.htm
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail213.php

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm

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Cedar (Cedrus atlantica )

Botanical Name  :Cedrus atlantica.
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Cedrus
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Species: C. atlantica
Synonyms : C. atlantica. (Endlicher.)Manetti ex Carriére.

Common Names: Cedar , Atlas cedarwood

Habitat :
Cedrus atlantica is native to the Atlas Mountains of Algeria (Tell Atlas) and Morocco (in the Rif and Middle Atlas, and locally in the High Atlas).A majority of the modern sources treat it as a distinct species Cedrus atlantica, but some sources consider it a subspecies of Lebanon Cedar (C. libani subsp. atlantica. It grows on the upper slopes of the Atlas mountains where there is little or no rain in the growing season but the soil is fed by the melting snow from the peaks above.

Description:

It is a medium-sized to large tree, 30–35 m (rarely 40m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 1.5–2 m.It is very similar in all characters to the other varieties of Lebanon Cedar; differences are hard to discern. The mean cone size tends to be somewhat smaller (although recorded to 12 cm,[1] only rarely over 9 cm long, compared to up to 10 cm in C. brevifolia, and 12 cm in C. libani) though with considerable overlap (all can be as short as 6 cm), while the leaf length (10–25 mm) is similar that of C. libani subsp. stenocoma, on average longer than C. brevifolia and shorter than C. libani subsp. libani, but again with considerable overlap. In addition, many (but far from all) of the cultivated trees have glaucous (bluish) foliage, more downy shoots, and can have more leaves in each whorl; young trees in cultivation often have more ascending branches than many cultivated C. libani subsp. libani.
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Atlas Cedar forms forests on mountain sides at 1,370 to 2,200 m, often in pure forests, or mixed with Algerian Fir, juniper, holm oak and maple. These forests can provide habitat for the endangered Barbary Macaque, Macaca sylvanus, a primate that had a prehistorically much wider distribution in northern Morocco and Algeria.

Cultivation
It is common in cultivation in temperate climates. In garden settings it is most often the glaucous forms that are planted as ornamental trees. The glaucous forms may be distinguished as a Cultivar Group Glauca Group. There are also fastigiate, pendulous, and golden-leaf forms in cultivation. It is useful in cultivation because it is more tolerant of dry and hot conditions than most conifers.

Medicinal Action & Uses:
Astringent* Diuretic* Expectorant* Sedative* Muscle Relaxant* Insect repellents*

Parts Used: Essense obtained from wood
Constituents: terpenic hydrocabons, cedrol, sequiterpenes

Common medical Uses: Acne * Bronchitis * Cellulite Reduction * Insect Repellent *

Cedarwood can treat serious  skin conditions like eczema
There are two commercial oils which are known as cedarwood today, Cedrus atlantica, Atlas cedarwood, which is a true cedarwood, and Juniperus virginiana, known as red cedar. Cedarwood is known for use in problem skin, as an insect repellant, and as an inhalent in respiratory complaints. It’s actions are sedative, astringent, and antiseptic. It can be used to treat oily skin and scalp, relieve itching, and more serious skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, remembering that high concentrations will irritate the skin. Cedarwood is similar in action to the highly expensive sandalwood, it also has a sedative effect making it grounding in conditions of anxiety and nervous tension.

Cedarwood oil is extracted from the red cedar, a coniferous tree native to North America, commonly used to make pencils.This tree is closely related to the yellow cedar, the source of thuja oil. Atlas cedarwood (true cedarwood) comes from Morocco and is the more favored oil in aromatherapy. Cedarwood oil is clear, and blends well with rose, juniper and cypress. It is used as a fixative in perfumes. The balsamic, woody aroma of red cedarwood has relaxing, meditative properties and adds a warm note to blends. Deep, woody and rich, the aroma of Atlas cedar inspires emotional strength and centering awareness. Therapeutically both oils resemble sandalwood to some degree, but are hotter and more toxic.

Side Effects: A skin irritant in high concentrations.

Other Uses:
Essential; Hedge; Hedge; Repellent; Wood.

An essential oil obtained from the distilled branches is used in perfumery, notably in jasmine-scented soaps. The essential oil also repels insects. Plants can be grown as a tall hedge. Wood – fragrant and durable. It is prized for joinery and veneer and is also used in construction. It is also used for making insect-repellent articles for storing textiles
Cedar plantations, mainly with Cedrus atlantica, have been established in southern France for timber production.

An Atlas Cedar is planted at the White House South Lawn in Washington D.C. Washington, DC. President Carter ordered a tree house built on the Cedar for his daughter Amy. The wooden structure was designed by the President himself, and is self supporting so as not to cause damage to the tree.

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

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_Cedar
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail166.php

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Cedrus+atlantica

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Some Health Quaries & Answers

Protection during breast-feeding
Q: I am breast-feeding my nine-month old baby. I have not had my periods and am not using any contraception. I was told that if you are breast-feeding, you will not get pregnant. Is it true?

A:
It’s a myth, an old wife’s tale. You can become pregnant as soon as you have intercourse, even if you are breast feeding and have not had your periods. You need to check with your gynaecologist and ask for a reliable method of contraception which you can use until you are ready to have your next baby.

There are several options: your husband can use condoms, or you can have an intra-uterine contraceptive device (IUD) inserted, take progesterone-only pills daily or take an injection of a long-acting form of progesterone once in three months.

Familial cancer :-
Q: One of my maternal uncles had lung cancer and another had stomach cancer that spread to the brain. What precautions should I take so that I do not develop cancer?

A: Some cancers can be genetic or hereditary. But in your case, your uncles seem to have had different types of cancer. To reduce your risk of developing the disease, in general, lead a healthy life with one hour of exercise daily. Maintain your BMI (weight divided by height in metre squared) at 23. Eat four to five helpings of fruits and vegetables everyday. After the age of 50, do a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. The PSA level rises in prostrate cancer which is very common in men.

Still no baby
Q: We have no children even after seven years of marriage. My wife became pregnant four times, but each time the pregnancy ended in an abortion. We also tried to have a test tube baby but that too was unsuccessful.

A: Your wife seems to have no problem conceiving since she become pregnant naturally four times. The difficulty seems to lie in retaining the pregnancy and carrying it to term. This may be due to congenital malformations or tumours (like fibroids) in the uterus, or diseases such as kidney problems, diabetes and hormonal imbalance. There are several reasons which need to be investigated by an obstetrician. Investing in a test tube baby is not a solution unless you also plan to use a surrogate mother.

Sweaty palms
Q: I sweat excessively on my palms because of which am unable to shake hands with people or use a keyboard. I have tried several creams and lotions but to no avail.

A:
Sweating excessively on the palms is due to overdrive of the sympathetic nervous system and is independent of the temperature regulatory sweating that occurs on other parts of the body. You need basic blood tests to rule out thyroid and other endocrine malfunctions. These can be treated.

To begin with, try soaking your hands in boric acid solution twice a day. Then apply an anti perspirant roll or deodorant. Wipe your palms frequently. Also, you could use a “plastic skin” on the keyboard to type.

Some doctors prescribe anti cholinergergic tablets, beta blockers or sedatives. However, these have side effects — such as dry mouth and sleepiness — which are usually more distressing than the disease. Surgery can be done to remove the nerve ganglia responsible for the problem. But this should be the last resort.

Migraine attack
Q: I suffer from migraine. The headaches are incapacitating and I lose several working days every month. I do not want to keep on taking tablets.

A:
Migraine can be treated in one of two ways. Some patients are able to accurately predict the onset of an attack. They do very well with stemetil, phenergan, codeine or sumatryptan, which have to be taken before the headache is well-established and vomiting starts.

In others, the headaches are frequent and unpredictable. They need preventive medication like propanalol or amitryptiline, which must be taken daily. Sometimes regular physical exercise combined with relaxation techniques in yoga reduces the frequency and severity of the attacks. Accupressure applied to specific sites at the onset of the headache may help.

Right weight
Q: I am 38 years old and have two children. I am a little plump, not fat. What should my correct weight be?

A: After the age of two, a person’s ideal weight is determined not by age but by calculating the BMI. It is a good indicator of the body fat. Ideally, the BMI should be 23.

Based on this calculation, figure out how many kilograms you need to lose. Exercising one hour everyday should work off about 350 calories. You can tailor your diet so that every day you have a calorific deficit of 500 calories. A 3,500-calorie negative balance will result in a kilogram of weight loss.

Source
: The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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This Fat Can Actually Protect Against Hearing Loss

Increased intakes of omega-3 fats may reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss, says a new study.

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High omega-3 intake was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) in people over the age of fifty.Hearing loss is the most common sensory disorder in the U.S.

NutraIngredients reports:
“Other micronutrients have been linked to reducing the risk of age-related hearing loss. In 2007 scientists from Wageningen University reported that folic acid supplements delayed age-related hearing loss in the low frequency region …

Another study … indicated a role for beta carotene and vitamins C and E, and the mineral magnesium in preventing prevent both temporary and permanent hearing loss in guinea pigs and mice.”

Source: NutraIngredients June 11, 2010

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Hip Exercises Reduces Knee Pain

New research shows that a twice weekly hip strengthening regimen proved effective at reducing or eliminating the kind of knee pain referred to as patellofemoral pain (PFP) in female runners.  Stronger hips may correct running form errors that contribute to PFP.

Click to see video of heap exercises :

The study used a pain scale of 0 to 10, with 3 representing the onset of pain and 7 representing very strong pain. The injured runners began the six-week trial registering pain of 7 when they ran on a treadmill, and finished the study period registering pain levels of 2 or lower.

According to Science Daily:
“PFP, one of the most common running injuries, is caused when the thigh bone rubs against the back of the knee cap. Runners with PFP typically do not feel pain when they begin running, but once the pain begins, it gets increasingly worse … PFP essentially wears away cartilage and can have the same effect as osteoarthritis.”

Vigorous physical activity in young children results in stronger hip bones.

More than 200 six-year olds participated in a study. Researchers measured bone mass and analyzed the structure of the hip and thigh bone. Physical activity was assessed for seven days.

If you find the excerpt from the treatment video helpful you might want to consider the full DVD set that can be very beneficial for a large variety of injuries.

According to Science Daily:

“The results showed that there was a relationship between time spent in vigorous activity and strength of the femoral neck, both in terms of shape and volumetric mineral density. This was independent of other factors such as diet, lifestyle and physical size.”

Sources:
Science Daily June 7, 2010
Science Daily June 6, 2010

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