Borage

Botanical Name:Borago officinalis L
Family: Boraginaceae (borage family)
Kingdom: Plantae
Genus: Borago
Species: B. officinalis
Common Names:”starflower”
Parts Used:Fresh leaves. The blue flowers are sometimes tried as a food colourant

Habitat: Originating in Syria, but naturalized throughout the Mediterranean region, as well as Asia Minor, Europe, North Africa, and South America.The plant grows wild in Central and Eastern Europe.

Description:
Borage (Borago officinalis L.) is an annual herb.It grows to a height of 60-100 cm (2-3 feet), and is bristly or hairy all over the stems and leaves; the leaves are alternate, simple, and 5-15 cm (2-6 in) long. The flowers are complete, perfect with five narrow, triangular-pointed petals. Flowers are most often blue in color, although pink flowers are sometime observed. White flowered types are also cultivated. The flowers arise along scorpiod cymes to form large floral displays with multiple flowers blooming simultaneously, suggesting that borage has a high degree of geitonogamy. It has an indeterminate growth habit which may lead to prolific spreading. In milder climates, borage will bloom continuously for most of the year.
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The bright blue, star-shaped flowers (which bloom most of the summer) make borage one of the prettiest herb plants, thought the dark green leaves are rather plain. The flavor of the leaves resembles that of cucumber. The plant will grow to a height of about 18 inches, and spread about 12 inches. This hardy annual has a messy, straggling habit.

Cultivation:
Borage is not a fussy plant, but the richer the soil, the bushier the plant will be. It prefers full sun, and needs protection from wind as it is easily blown over. Seeds can be sown throughout the season, and once growth is established, it will continue to seed itself. Place plants close together so they can support each other. A plant or two in an indoor pot will provide leaves all winter, but it will need lots of sun.

Borage is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. The plant actually improves the flavor of tomatoes growing nearby.

Constituents:
The leaves contain an essential oil (below 0.1%) dominated by 2,6 nonadienal, which is also a main components in cucumber aroma (cucumber aldehyde).

Several non-volatile components have also been identified, among those the toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline and supinine. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are extremely common in the Boraginaceae family, are powerful hepatotoxins that cause severe liver damage on chronic ingestion, often with lethal outcome. Although the total concentration in borage is extremely small (around 10?ppm in the dried herb), it has been argued that borage is an unsafe herb when used in folk medicine; the risks associated with casual culinary usage are probably negligible. In the flowers, thesinine (a non-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid) has been found.

The fatty oil obtained from borage seeds (“borage oil”, “starflower oil”) is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, e.g., ?-linolenic acid (20%). Pyrrolizidine alkaloids seem to occur only in negligible traces in this oil, if at all.

The seed oil is desired as source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, 18:3, cis 6,9,12-octadecatrienoic acid), for which borage is the highest known plant-based source (17-28%). The seed oil content is between 26-38% and in addition to GLA contains the fatty acids palmitic acid (10-11%), stearic acid (3.5-4.5%), oleic acid (16-20%), linoleic acid (35-38%), eicosenoic acid (3.5-5.5%), erucic acid (1.5-3.5%), and nervonic acid (1.5%). The oil is often marketed as “starflower oil” or “borage oil” for uses as a GLA supplement, although healthy adults will typically produce ample GLA through dietary linoleic acid.

Culinary Uses:
Borage production does include use as either a fresh vegetable or a dried herb. As a fresh vegetable, borage, with a cucumber like taste, is often used in salads or as a garnish. The flower, which contains the non-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid thesinine, has a sweet honey-like taste and is one of the few truly blue-colored edible things, is often used to decorate dessert.

Vegetable use of borage is common in Germany and the Spanish regions of Aragón and Navarra. Although often used in soups, one of the better known German borage recipes is the Green Sauce (Grüne Sauce) made in Frankfurt. The leaves and flowers were originally used in Pimms before it was replaced by mint. It is used to flavour pickled gherkins in Poland.

*Borage flowers and leaves are the traditional decoration for gin-based summer cocktails, and may be set in ice cubes to garnish other drinks.

*The flowers and young leaves may be used to garnish salads. dips, and cucumber soups.

*Candied borage flowers make attractive cake decorations.

*Chopped leaves can be added to soups and stews during the last few minutes of cooking.

*The leaves can be cooked with cabbage leaves (two parts cabbage, one part borage.)

*Borage does not dry well for culinary use.

Medicinal Use:
Naturopathic practitioners uses of borage for regulation of metabolism and the hormonal system, and consider it to be a good remedy for PMS and menopause symptoms such as the hot flash. Borage is sometimes indicated to alleviate and heal colds, bronchitis, and respiratory infections in general for its anti-inflammatory and balsamic properties. The flowers can be prepared in infusion to take advantage of its medicinal properties. The oleic and palmitic acid of borage may also confer a hypocholesterolemic effect.It is notable that the leaves have been found to contain small amounts (10 ppm of dried herb) of the liver-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids: intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline and supinine.

Tea made from the dried flowers is a traditional calming drink in Iran (Echium amoenum ). It has a rich purple color that turns bright pink by adding a few drops of lemon juice

The ancient Greek naturalist Pliny said that borage ‘maketh a man merry and joyful.’ Dioscorides, the first century Greek physician, mentioned the use of borage to ‘comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the lunatic person.’
John Evelyn, the seventeenth century English herbalist, spoke of borage ‘to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student’, while his contemporary Culpepper used the plant for ‘putrid and pestilential fever, the venom of serpents, jaundice, consumption, sore throat and rheumatism.’
For centuries it was thought to be a mood elevator when ingested as a tea or as leaves steeped in wine. This may or may not be the case. There is some evidence that perparations made from seed oil have a use in soothing and relieving inflammations associated with respiratory disorders

*Because it is a tonic plant for the adrenal glands, borage provides an invaluable support for a stressful lifestyle.

*Borage is rich in minerals, especially potassium.

*A tea made with borage helps to reduce fevers and ease chest colds.

*An infusion of borage acts as a galactogogue, promoting the production of milk in breastfeeding mothers.

Other Uses:

*Borage makes an excellent facial steam for improving very dry, sensitive skin.

*The flowers may be dried to add color to potpourri.

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.gardenguides.com/plants/info/herbs/borage.asp#morebelow

http://www.piam.com/mms_garden/plants.html

http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Bora_off.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borage

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Baptisia tinctoria, Wild Indigo

Botanical Name:Baptisia tinctoria

Family: Pea (Fabaceae)

Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Genus: Baptisia
Species: B. tinctoria
Common Names:Baptisia, indigo-weed, yellow indigo, American indigo, yellow broom, indigo-broom, cloverbroom, broom-clover, horsefly-weed, shoofly, rattlebush.

Habitat:This native herb grows on dry, poor land, and is found from Maine to Minnesota, south to Florida and Louisiana.

Description:
Wild indigo (also called yellow wild indigo) is an upright, smooth, shrubby perennial which typically grows 2-3′ tall and occurs in open woods and fields from Maine to Florida and west to Minnesota. It features small, bright yellow to cream, pea-like flowers (to 1/2″ long) in numerous, sparsely-flowered clusters (terminal racemes to 4-5″) on stems extending above a foliage mound of stalkless, clover-like, trifoliate, gray-green leaves (leaflets to 1″ long). Blooms in late spring to early summer. Flowers give way to small inflated seed pods which turn black when ripe and have some ornamental interest. Seeds rattle around in the pods when ripe, thus giving rise to the sometimes common name of rattleweed for this species. Baptisia comes from the Greek word for dye and tinctoria comes from the Latin word for dye, all of which somewhat redundantly gets the point across that this is a dye plant which was used by early Americans as a substitute, albeit an inferior one, for true indigo (genus Indigofera) in making dyes.

Many who have been brought up in the country will recognize in the wild indigo the plant so frequently used by farmers, especially in Virginia and Maryland, to keep flies away from horses, bunches of it being fastened to the harness for this purpose.
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Wild Indigo grows about 2 to 3 feet in height and the cloverlike blossoms and leaves will show at once that it belongs to the same family as the common clover, namely, the pea family (Fabaceae.) It is an erect, much-branched, very leafy plant of compact growth, the 3-leaved, bluish green foliage somewhat resembling clover leaves. The flowers, as already stated, are like common clover flowers-that is, not like clover heads, but the single flowers composing these; they are bright yellow, about one-half inch in length and are produced in numerous clusters which appear from June to September. The seed pods, on stalks longer than the calyx, are nearly globular or ovoid and are tipped with an awl shaped style.

Another species, said to possess properties similar to those of Baptisia tinctoria and substituted for it, is B. alba R. Br., called the white wild indigo. This plant has white flowers and is found in the Southern States and on the plains of the Western States.

Root: Wild Indigo has a thick, knotty crown or head, with several stem scars, and a round, fleshy root, sending out cylindrical branches and rootlets almost 2 feet in length. The white woody interior is covered with a thick, dark brown bark, rather scaly or dotted with small, wartlike excrescences. The root breaks with a tough, fibrous fracture. There is a scarcely perceptible odor and the taste, which resides chiefly in the bark, is nauseous, bitter and acrid.

Cultivation: Wild indigo thrives in dry open areas with a little shade. The beans can be sown after the last frost, or the plant can be sprouted indoors in flats and transplanted. The plants should be grown at least 24″ apart. It does not tolerate frost well. The root is harvested after the fruits ripen and the plant begins to die, generally in September of the second year but possibly earlier, depending on the climate. It thrives best in southern states with a long growing season.

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun. Tolerates drought and poor soils. Over time, plants form slowly expanding clumps with deep and extensive root systems, and should not be disturbed once established. Difficult to grow from seed and slow to establish. Plants take on more of a shrubby appearance and tend to open up after bloom. Light trimming or shearing foliage after bloom helps maintain rounded plant appearance and obviates any need for support, but eliminates the developing seed pods.

Collection:The root of Wild Indigo is collected in autumn, and brings from 4 to 8 cents a pound.

In some sections the young, tender shoots are used for greens, like those of pokeweed, but great care must be exercised to gather them before they are too far advanced in growth, as otherwise bad results will follow.

Uses:
Cottage gardens, prairies, meadows and native plant gardens. Effective in naturalized settings. Best as a specimen or in small groups. May be used in borders, but flowers are smaller and less showy than many of the other Baptisias.A blue coloring matter has been prepared from the plant and used as a substitute for indigo, to which, however, it is very much inferior.

Medicinal Uses:
Large doses of Wild Indigo are emetic and cathartic and may prove dangerous. It also has stimulant, astringent and antiseptic properties, and is used as a local application to sores, ulcers, etc.

Preparations made from the roots and leaves were used by North American Indians (Mohicans and Penobscots) in poltices to treat bruises, snake bites and superficial lacerations. Such preparations have effective antiseptic properties.

Among the Cherokee and Iroquois, wild indigo is a traditional remedy for various sorts of pain, as well as for ailments of the liver and venereal disease. Among the Eclectic Physicians of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the plant was esteemed as a remedy in cases of intermittent fevers, typhus, and dysentery. Modern research has found that this plant stimulates the immune system. Although wild indigo is not extremely rare or extremely popular, it is uncommon in some parts of its range. If research into this plant makes it a popular remedy as it did for echinacea, there is a real possibility that wild indigo may disappear from these parts of its range.

Baptisia tinctora is used as a Homeopathic medicine (botanical). Homeopathic potencies accredit their strength and efficacy to the electromagnetic signatures of the original substrate; these are scientifically created dilutions and succussions of medicines such that generally not even a molecule of the original substrate or medicine is present in the medicine.

As a Homeopathic or used simply as a micro-nutritional, it has demonstrated effectiveness against the following symptomology: pulse frequent, full and soft; -chilly sensation over back and lower limbs; -thirst and flashes of heat over the face; feverishness with feeling all over as if bruised; great languor; feels sick all over, restless and uneasy; -difficult breathing, cannot get a full breath from lack of power in breathing organs; sharp pains in chest when taking a long breath; -restless sleep before midnight; -predominance of gastric symptoms; frontal headache, dizziness and sensation of weakness all over, especially lower limbs (Lilienthal) -indescribable sick feeling (Boericke).

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.nps.gov/plants/medicinal/plants/baptisia_tinctoria.htm

http://www.piam.com/mms_garden/plants.html

http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?code=J500

http://www.vaxa.com/ingredients/Baptisia-tinctora.cfm

http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/harding/baptisia.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptisia_tinctoria

http://www.nichegardens.com/catalog/item.php?id=2202

http://www.pbase.com/tmurray74/image/65425776

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Experts Nail Gene Behind Cancer Spread

A single gene appears to play a crucial role in deadly breast cancers, increasing the chances the cancer will spread and making it resistant to chemotherapy, US researchers said.
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They found people with aggressive breast cancers have abnormal genetic alterations in a gene called MTDH, and drugs that block the gene could keep local tumors from metastasizing or spreading, increasing a woman’s chances for survival.

“Not only has a new metastasis gene been identified, but this also is one of a few such genes for which the exact mode of action has been elucidated,” said Michael Reiss of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick.

“That gives us a real shot at developing a drug that will inhibit metastasis,” he said.

Stopping cancer’s spread is important — while more than 98% of patients with breast cancer that has not spread live five years or more, only 27% of patients whose cancer has spread to other organs survive. Reiss and Yibin Kang of Princeton University used several different research approaches to find the gene, which helps tumor cells stick to blood vessels in distant organs.

To get them in the right general area, they used big computer databases of breast tumors and found that a small segment of human chromosome 8 was repeated many times in people with aggressive breast tumors.

While most normal DNA sequences contain only two copies of a gene, they found some breast tumors had as many as eight copies of this gene segment.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Asthma Medicines Don’t Work and Can Be Dangerous

An overview of recent studies finds that there are no clear benefits to using long-acting beta2-agonists (LABAs) for the treatment of asthma in children. Researchers report that there is currently insufficient evidence to suggest that the drugs offer any additional benefit when used in conjunction with conventional preventative medications.

asthma,asthma medicine,vitamin DAn overview of recent studies finds that there are no clear benefits to using long-acting beta2-agonists (LABAs) for the treatment of asthma in children. Researchers report that there is currently insufficient evidence to suggest that the drugs offer any additional benefit when used in conjunction with conventional preventative medications.

LABAs, such as salmeterol and formoterol, can reduce the symptoms of asthma for periods of up to 12 hours. They are commonly given to relax the airways overnight or after exercise, and are recommended as add-on therapies to inhaled corticosteroids. But since LABAs have previously been shown to increase the risk of life-threatening adverse effects in adults when used as the only drug, they are not recommended as the main treatment agent in asthma in any age groups.

Now researchers say that their use does not generally provide any further benefit over regular ICS therapy for children. The overview included four previous reviews of trials in children above the age of four. They showed that LABAs did not reduce severity of asthma symptoms as measured by hospital admissions, or the need for steroid medication.

If you want something that really works for asthma, you might want to look into vitamin D. One study has shown that poor diets and the lack of vitamin D among mothers were the two strongest determining factors in whether their children suffered from asthma — more so even than whether or not the mothers smoked.

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Tipple Time

The economy may be slowing down and the job market may be dicey, but it’s the season to be jolly and everyone seems to be celebrating.

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Almost everyone uninhibitedly imbibes at parties, as alcohol flows freely. With a variety of small pegs (30ml) or large pegs (60ml) offered, it makes sense for a person who is not a regular drinker to stick to a single glass of wine or beer, and then make it last all evening. Beverages vary in their alcohol content and in the swiftness of their action.

This is because alcohol easily enters cell membranes and all the tissues in the body. Most importantly, it unobtrusively depresses the central nervous system. It suppresses social inhibitions and affects the higher brain functions. A quiet friend may be suddenly transformed into a joking, laughing, party animal. The effect depends on not only how much was drunk but when and by whom.

Control is the key to social drinking. Salty snacks served along with alcohol enhance thirst and subtly increase consumption. After the initial feeling of relaxation and good cheer, excessive drinking can cause a blurring of vision and co-ordination problems. Unfortunately vomiting can occur and may be followed by loss of consciousness. Fluid and food from the stomach may be aspirated into the lungs. This can lead to death, an unfortunate tragic end to a happy outing. Bets may be placed or an individual may be egged on by peers to consume more and more. Continuous uninhibited consumption can lead to alcohol poisoning and death. A blood alcohol concentration of 0.45 per cent will kill 50 per cent of the people.

The same high requires more and more alcohol in regular drinkers. This is because of habituation. The exact amount required for dangerous side effects varies from person to person. The effects of alcohol can also be slowed by eating a heavy meal prior to the drinks as the absorption is delayed (one reason to eat those delicious starters). Also, if you must drink, it is better to be a man. Women become intoxicated with much less alcohol as they constitutionally have more fat and less muscle in their bodies.

Rash driving “under the influence” is common. Reaction time is slowed, making essential split second decisions difficult. Blissfully unaware, convinced of vehicle control, the drunk may speed, take unnecessary risks, or drive poorly, leading to fatal or incapacitating motor vehicle accidents.

After a drink or two, desire rears its head. Inhibitions may be sufficiently lowered for consensual, casual sex between consenting, unprepared, unprotected partners. In the cold sober light of day, the scenario changes and accusations of rape or betrayal rear their heads. Such sex can result in sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B or C or an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy.

Date rape is a very real danger today. Rape is not gender specific or confined to women. Men too can be raped, with adverse psychological and health consequences. In 40 per cent of rape cases, the perpetuator and victim are casual acquaintances, friends, colleagues, classmates or neighbours.

A bouquet of date rape drugs — tasteless, odourless, fast acting chemicals — are available, like diazepam (Valium), lorazepam, the newer flunitrazepam (Rohypnol or roofies) hallucinogenic drugs, street drugs, GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid) and Ketamine.
Many unscrupulous antisocial elements know how to procure and use these to secretly spike alcoholic drinks, cola beverages or food, especially in dark surroundings like those found in bars and discos. The person suffers a short term memory loss, cannot recall the event or the perpetuators, and can be photographed in compromising situations. Robbery or blackmail then becomes an additional motive.

Unplanned, unprotected, casual, sexual encounters can result in unfortunate consequences like a pregnancy. Anxious days waiting for the results of a pregnancy test can now be avoided by using the i-pill for emergency contraception. It can be purchased over the counter and is effective if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. It should be taken after food. If vomiting occurs within three hours, the dose should be repeated as soon as possible. The i-Pill is meant for emergency contraception only and not for use on a regular basis. It is not an abortificant and will not terminate an established pregnancy.

Memory loss makes the victim disoriented and the recollection of the details hazy. Fear of society, guilt and social stigma make many victims hide crimes that occur while under the influence, wittingly or otherwise, of alcohol or drugs.

Avoid problems, and not parties. Remember, sensible partying requires a “designated driver” — a person who will not drink at all at that particular party, keep an eye out for friends, recognise dangers and then drive everyone safely home. A good time with no regrets can be had by all.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Sunlight Can Help Children Avoid Myopia

Spending a couple of hours outdoors each day could help children avoid becoming short-sighted, Australian researchers said .

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Exposure to bright light for two to three hours daily helps regulate the eye‘s growth, dramatically reducing the risk of myopia, an Australian Research Council study found.

Short-sightedness, traditionally a problem among the highly educated, has reached record levels in east Asia, lead researcher Professor Ian Morgan told the reporter.

Growing numbers of children in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China are struggling with their vision, with up to 90 percent of Singaporeans wearing glasses by the time they leave school, he said.

“That would compare with about 20 percent of Australians. We were quite intrigued by this— that for a country that’s quite well educated we have a serious lack of myopia in Australia,” Morgan said.

A comparative study showed 30 percent of six and seven-year-old Singaporean children had already developed the condition, compared with just 1.3 percent of Australians of the same age.

The figures were similar when contrasting children of Chinese descent from both nations, allowing researchers to eliminate ethnicity as a factor.

The one significant difference between the populations was time spent outdoors—children from Singapore spent
an average 30 minutes outside every day, compared with two hours for the average Australian.

Both groups spent about the same amount of time reading, watching television and playing computer games, debunking the theory that flickering screens were ruining children’s eyes, he said.

“There’s a driver for people to become myopic and that’s education,” Morgan said. “And there’s a brake on
people becoming myopic and that’s people going outside.”

“What we would suggest is that what’s happened in east Asia is that they have got the balance totally out of kilter.”

The study is part of a long-term project on eyesight at the government-funded council.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Baptisia australis,(Blue False Indigo)

 

Botanical Name:Baptisia australis
Family: Papilionaceae (pa-pil-ee-uh-NAY-see-ee) (Info)/Fabaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Genus: Baptisia
Species: australis
Common Name: Blue false indigo, Blue Wild Indigo
Habitat:rich woods, thickets.It is native to much of the central and eastern North America and is particularly common in the Midwest, but it has also been introduced well beyond its natural range.,

Description: Herbaceous Perennials. The plant may attain a height of 1.5 meteres (5 ft) and a width of 1 metre (3.2 ft), but most often it is encountered at about 1 metre tall (3.2 ft) with a 0.6 metre spread (2 ft). It is well known in gardens due to its attractive pea-like, deep blue flowers that emerge on spikes in the late spring and early summer. It requires little maintenance and is quite hardy. The seed pods are popular in flower arrangements, which also contribute to its popularity in cultivation. Several American Indians tribes made use of the plant for a variety of purposes. The Cherokees used it as a source of blue dye, a practice later copied by European settlers. They also would use the roots in teas as a purgative or to treat tooth aches and nausea, while the Osage made an eyewash with the plant.
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The name of the genus is derived from the Ancient Greek word bapto, meaning “to dip” or “immerse”, while the specific name australis is Latin for “southern”. Additional common names of this plant exist, such as Indigo Weed, Rattleweed, Rattlebush and Horse Fly Weed. The common name “blue false indigo” is derived from it being used as a substitute for the superior dye producing plant, namely Indigofera tinctoria. B. australis grows best in lime free, well-drained stony soil in full sun to part shade. Naturally it can be found growing wild at the borders of woods, along streams or in open meadows. It often has difficulting seeding itself in its native areas due to parasitic weevils that enter the seed pods, making the number of viable seeds very low.
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B. australis is an herbaceous perennial that reproduces both sexually and asexually by means of its spreading rhizomes. The plants are erect and emerge from the rhizomatic network. The roots themselves are branched and deep, which helps the plant withstand periods of drought. When dug up they are woody and black in colour and show tubercles, wart-like projections found on the roots. The plants branch extensively about halfway up. The stems are stour and glabrous, or hairless. If they are broken, a sap will be secreted that turns a dark blue upon contact to the air.

The trifoliate leaves are a grey-green in colour and are arranged alternately. The leaves are further divided into clover-like leaflets that are obovate in shape, or wider towards the apex. Flower spikes appear in June. Emerging at the pinnacle ar short, upright terminal racemes that have pea-like flowers that vary in colour from light blue to deep violet. The flowers, which bloom from April through August depending on the region, are bisexual and are roughly 2.5 cm long (1 inch). The fruit is a bluish black inflated and hardenend pod that ranges from 2.5 to 7.5 cm in length (1 to 3 inches) by 1.25 to 2.5 cm (0.5 to 1 inch). They are oblong in shape and are sharply tipped at the apex. At maturity they will contain many loose seeds within. The seeds are yellowish brown, kidney shaped and about 2 mm (0.08 inches) in size.The leaves emerge about one month before flowering and are shed approximately one month after the pods form. Once the seeds are fully mature, the stems turn a silverish grey and break off from the roots. The pods stay attached and are blown with the stems to another location.

Similar Species: There are many Baptisia species in North America but this is the only one with blue flowers.

Cultivation
B. australis is the most commonly cultivated species in its genus in North America, and it is also cultivated beyond its native continent in other areas such as Great Britain. It is considered a desirable plant in the garden due to its deep blue to violet spring flowers, the attractive light green compound leaves, and also for the somewhat unusual oblong fruits that emerge in the late summer. They grow to about 90 to 120 cm tall (3 to 4 feet) in height with a similar spread. Like other members of the genus, they have very deep taproots, which makes them quite difficult to move once planted.The plants thrive in full sun and require water only in times of low rainfall. One slightly negative feature it that the leaves tend to drop early in the fall, but this is often avoiding by cutting the dead stems as they die back. It is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8. It is commonly employed as a border plant in gardens. While there are no commonly available cultivars, several hybrids involving B. australis have been created, such as Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’, which is a cross with Baptisia alba. The variety Baptisia australis var. minor in also used occasionally in gardens. It is much shorter at only 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 feet) in height, but the flowers are equal in size.

Medical Uses: Native Americans used this plant to treat toothache. The Cherokee woul hold hot tea, root tea or beaten root on the painfull tooth. They used a poultice to treat inflammation. It seems contridictory but a hot tea was used as a purgative and a cold tea to prevent vomiting. Baptisia species are being investigated as an immune system stimulant.

American Indians used root tea as an emetic (to produce vomiting) and as a laxative. Root poultices were used to reduce inflammation, and held in the mouth against an aching tooth.

Baptisia has been used as an antiseptic, anti-catarrhal, febrifuge,and stimulant purgative. This plant is said to stimulate immune responses to infection, and is used for ear, nose and throat problems, laryngitis, tonsillitis, as a wash for mouth ulcers, and a douche for leucorrhea. Baptisia is considered toxic. Do not use this plant unless under the supervision of a trained qualified practitioner. It is not for long term use and not to be used if pregnant. The bark of the root is harvested in autumn. The leaves may be harvested anytime.

Native Americans used root tea of False blue indigo as an emetic and purgative. A cold tea was given to stop vomiting, a root poultice used as an anti-inflammatory, and bits of the root were held in the mouth to treat toothaches. Baptisia species are being investigated for use as a potential stimulant of the immune system. A decoction of stems has been used for pneumonia, tuberculosis and influenza, tips of stems combined with twigs of the Utah juniper, Juniperus osteosperma, have been used as a kidney medicine. Baptisia has also been used as a tea (tisane) for smallpox and externally as a cleansing wash. Trials using the extract of Baptisia to treat typhoid fever were made in the early 19th century. Current uses for this plant include: infection of upper respiratory tract, common cold, tonsillitis, stomatitis, inflammation of mucous membrane, fever, ointment for painless ulcers, inflamed nipples. Over-medicating will produce vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal complaints, and spasms due toquinolizidine alkaloid content.

The pods are utilised in dried arrangements. Wild blue indigo is said to repel flies when kept near farm animals. Hang a bunch of Baptisia off the tack of a working animal. The plant is also used in Witchcraft in spells or rituals of protection. Keep a leaf in your pocket or add to an amulet for protection

WARNING: some sources consider this species toxic.

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://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/18/

http://www.piam.com/mms_garden/plants.html

http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?code=B660

http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/24570/

http://2bnthewild.com/plants/H352.htm

http://www.ct-botanical-society.org/galleries/baptisiaaust.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptisia_australis

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Months After Smoking Ban, Heart Attacks Down by 40%

A smoking ban caused heart attacks to drop by more than 40% in one US city and the decrease lasted three years, federal health experts reported.

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Pueblo, Colorado, passed a municipal law making workplaces and public places smoke-free in 2003 and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials tracked hospitalizations for heart attacks afterward.

They found there were 399 hospital admissions for heart attacks in Pueblo in the 18 months before the ban and 237 heart attack hospitalizations in the next year and a half – a decline of 41%.

The effect lasted three years, the team reported in a CDC report. “We know that exposure to second-hand smoke has immediate harmful effects on people’s cardiovascular systems, and that prolonged exposure to it can cause heart disease in nonsmoking adults,” said Janet Collins, director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

“This study adds to existing evidence that smoke-free policies can dramatically reduce illness and death from heart disease.”

Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke can raise heart disease rates in adult nonsmokers by 25% to 30%, the CDC says.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Train That Brain

The negative effect of poverty on the intellectual level of children can be reversed.

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It may be a politically incorrect question to ask, but the answer may have profound implications for socio-economic development. How well can children from poor or uneducated families do in life? One could make the question even more incorrect, but at the least, equally relevant: what is the influence of children’s family backgrounds on their subsequent mental development? Research in the last few years has provided partial answers to the question, and they are deeply disturbing.

It now turns out that a child’s brain develops according to the stimulus it receives at home.
If you do not provide complex inputs, you do not get complex brains.

To give one example, the more sophisticated the language used at home, the better the chances of good brain development in the first 10 years of a child’s life.

To put it bluntly, if the parents are uneducated, the children can often end up with deficient brains by the age of 10, compared with children from more educated families. Is this the reason why poverty runs in many families through generations?

Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, are conducting a set of experiments to understand the real nature of the problem. They put cameras in the dining rooms of families — rich and poor — to monitor dinner time conversation. They got children to their labs and tried to give them tasks and measure the brain response. Their initial finding: the brains of children from poor families often resemble that of stroke victims by the age of 10.

Research in other labs around the world corroborates this finding, while also providing explanations as well as solutions to the problem. Parents in poor families do not talk much to their children. “We hope that parents in poor families will at least talk to their children more than they do,” says Mark Kishiyama, psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. But even if they do, their language is not complex enough. In fact, Adele Diamond, professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, has shown that children in poor families hear 30 million fewer words by the time they are four years old.

Those with low socio-economic status perform poorly in language tests and long-term memory tests. Martha Farah, director at the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, showed such differences two years ago. Enrico Mezzacappa at the Children’s Hospital in Boston also showed three years ago that low income children perform poorly in speed and accuracy in some problems when compared with those from higher income families. While common sense can attribute these differences to a lack of education and opportunities, neuroscientists suspected that some of these disparities stemmed from differences in the brain. There is now substantial proof for the differences of brain development in children.

The problem is in an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This area is in the front part of the brain, just behind the forehead. The prefrontal cortex is the seat of problem solving and creativity. A deficient prefrontal cortex makes you poor at complex tasks and problem solving. The experiment now being conducted at the University of California at Berkeley has already shown that poor children have deficient prefrontal cortex, thus substantiating the research of Martha Farah. But we also know the reasons, and other research provides us with a means of solving the problem.

It is not just the lack of intellectual stimulus that interferes with brain development. Poor children are usually under high stress, and it is known that high stress interferes with brain development, by producing chemicals that destroy neurons. Another important factor is pollution: they are exposed to a higher amount of pollutants — lead in water is an example — than children in richer families. All these factors combine to work against the brains of poor children. No wonder, then, that poor children are often not able to measure up to their richer counterparts if they manage to enter institutions of higher learning.

However, science also provides us with a solution to the problem.
“The differences in the brain of children can be reversed with proper training,” says Tom Boyce, a developmental psychobiologist at the University of British Columbia. Neuroscientists are now discovering that the brain remains plastic well into old age. For example, in experiments performed at the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have taken old rats — with only a few weeks to live — and made their brains look young purely by providing more inputs.

There is now a booming industry in the West called the brain improvement industry. Some of their products provide mental exercises with visual and auditory inputs that can improve the brain even in old age. We can thus train young brains to be on a par with those of children from more privileged backgrounds, provided we recognise the problem first.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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St.John’s Wort

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Saint John's Wort
Image via Wikipedia

Botanical Name: Hypericum perforatum
Family: Clusiaceae
Common Names: St. John’s wort, hypericum, Klamath weed, goat weed
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales
Genus: Hypericum
Species: H. perforatum
Other Names: Spotted St. John’s wort, Hypericum, Klamath Weed, Touch-and-heal, Goat weed, Rosin Rose

Habitat:
St. John’s Wort is a perennial herb native to North America and Canada from Nova Scotia, Ontario Quebec south to the United States, eastern states. Found growing in open sunny or partial shady areas, along roadsides in dry, gravelly soils.

Description:
St John’s wort is a perennial plant with extensive, creeping rhizomes. Its stems are erect, branched in the upper section, and can grow to 1 m high. It has opposing, stalkless, narrow, oblong leaves which are 12 mm long or slightly larger. The leaves are yellow-green in color, with transparent dots throughout the tissue and occasionally with a few black dots on the lower surface. Its flowers measure up to 2.5 cm across, have five petals, and are colored bright yellow with conspicuous black dots. The flowers appear in broad cymes at the ends of the upper branches. The sepals are pointed, with glandular dots in the tissue. There are many stamens, which are united at the base into three bundles.

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Identification
St John’s wort can be visually recognized by leaf and flower type. Yellow, five petaled flowers approximately 20 mm across occur between late Spring and early to mid Summer. Leaves exhibit obvious translucent dots when held up to the light, giving them a ‘perforated’ appearance, hence the plant’s Latin name. When flowers or seed pods are crushed, a reddish/purple liquid is produced.

Cultivation
St. John’s Wort is easy to grow from seed or root division in spring or autumn, in any well-drained but moisture retentive soil. Succeeds in dry soils, prefers sun or semi-shade.

.Seedlings of St John’s wort-

Chemical Composition:
Herb and flowers contain different flavonoids (rutin, hyperoside, isoquercetin, quercitrin, quercetin, I3,II8-biapigenin, amentoflavone, astilbin, miquelianin). Phenolic acids (chlorogenic acid, 3-O-coumaroylquinic acid). Different naphtodianthrones (hypericin, pseudohypericin, protohypericin, protopseudohypericin), phloroglucinols (hyperforin, adhyperforin). And also essential oils (composed mainly of sesquiterpenes). The naphthodianthrones hypericin and pseudohypericin along with the Phloroglucinol derivative hyperforin are thought to be the active components.

Herbal Use and Medicinal Properties:-
There are 400 species of St. John’s Wort found throughout the world, it has been used as a medicinal for thousands of years, but has only recently been studied for its medicinal value. Now proven to have many highly active compounds including rutin, pectin, choline, sitosterol, hypericin and pseudohypericin. The flowers and leaves are medicinal as analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, astringent, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, nervine, resolvent, sedative, stimulant, vermifuge and vulnerary. Some compounds of the plant have been shown to have potent anti-retroviral activity without serious side effects and they are being researched in the treatment of AIDS.Hypericum perforatum is thought to be a mild antidepressant of the class “MAO inhibitor.” The mechanism by which St. John’s Wort acts as an antidepressant is not fully understood. Early research indicated that this it mildly inhibits the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO). MAO is responsible for the breakdown of two brain chemicals – serotonin and nor epinephrine. By inhibiting MAO and increasing nor epinephrine, it may exert a mild anti-depressive action. The antidepressant or mood elevating effects of Hypericum perforatum were originally thought to be due solely to hypericin, but hypericin does not act alone, it relies on the complex interplay of many constituents such as xanthones and flavonoids for its antidepressant actions. Hypericum perforatum may also block the receptors that bind serotonin and so maintain normal mood and emotional stability.

Hypericum perforatum is used in treating a wide range of disorders, including pulmonary complaints, bladder problems, diarrhea and nervous depression. It is also very effectual in treating bed wetting in children. It has a sedative and pain reducing effect, it is especially regarded as an herb to use where there are menopausal changes triggering irritability and anxiety. In addition to neuralgic pain, it will ease fibrosistis, sciatica and rheumatic pain. The oil extract of the plant can be taken for stomach ache, colic, intestinal problems, and as an expectorant for the congestion in the lungs. Externally, a medicinal infusion of the flowers in olive oil is applied to wounds, sores, burns, ulcers, swellings, cramps, rheumatism, tumors, caked breasts, and other skin problems. It is also valued in the treatment of sunburn and as a cosmetic preparation to the skin. Persons with fair skin should avoid exposure to strong sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light, such as tanning beds, while taking St. John’s Wort. These individuals may suffer a dermatitis, severe burning, and possibly blistering of the skin. The severity of these effects will depend on the amount of the plant consumed and the length of exposure to sunlight.

Folklore
There are many ancient superstitions regarding this plant, its name Hypericum is derived from the Greek and means ‘over an apparition,’ a reference to the belief that it smelled so obnoxious to evil spirits that a whiff of it would cause them to fly. The plant was given to have magical powers. In ancient Greece, the herb was used to treat many ailments, including sciatica and poisonous reptile bites.

Recipes:-
For depression the usual dose is 300 mg 3 times a day. Timed release capsules are now on the market as well.One should remember to take it once a day. Effects should be felt within a few weeks.

“Medicinal” tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over l-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and steep for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Oil: Fill a pint jar loosely with dried herb, poor olive oil to top, seal tightly and allow to infuse for 4 to 5 weeks, shaking the jar occasionally.

What the Science Says:-
*There is some scientific evidence that St. John’s wort is useful for treating mild to moderate depression. However, two large studies, one sponsored by NCCAM, showed that the herb was no more effective than placebo in treating major depression of moderate severity.

*NCCAM is studying the use of St. John’s wort in a wider spectrum of mood disorders, including minor depression.

Side Effects and Cautions:-
*St. John’s wort may cause increased sensitivity to sunlight. Other side effects can include anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache, or sexual dysfunction.

*Research shows that St. John’s wort interacts with some drugs. The herb affects the way the body processes or breaks down many drugs; in some cases, it may speed or slow a drug’s breakdown. Drugs that can be affected include:

*Antidepressants

*Birth control pills

*Cyclosporine, which prevents the body from rejecting transplanted organs

*Digoxin, which strengthens heart muscle contractions

*Indinavir and possibly other drugs used to control HIV infection

*Irinotecan and possibly other drugs used to treat cancer

*Warfarin and related anticoagulants

*When combined with certain antidepressants, St. John’s wort may increase side effects such as nausea, anxiety, headache, and confusion.

*St. John’s wort is not a proven therapy for depression. If depression is not adequately treated, it can become severe. Anyone who may have depression should see a health care provider. There are effective proven therapies available.

*Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

You may click to learn more about St. John’s Wort

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://nccam.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_John’s_Wort

 

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