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Populus balsamifera

Botanical Name : Populus balsamifera
Family: Salicaceae
Genus: Populus
Section: Tacamahaca
Species: P. balsamifera
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Malpighiales

Common Names : Balsam Poplar, Black cottonwood, Bam, Bamtree, Eastern balsam poplar, Hackmatack, Tacamahac poplar, Tacamahaca

Other common names :    Heartleaf balsam poplar, and Ontario balsam poplar.

The black cottonwood, Populus trichocarpa, is sometimes considered a subspecies of P. balsamifera and may lend its common name to this species, although the black poplars and cottonwoods of Populus sect. Aigeiros are not closely related.

Habitat : Populus balsamifera is native to northern N. America – Newfoundland to Alaska, south to New England, Iowa and Colorado. It grows in deep moist sandy soils of river bottomlands, stream banks, borders of lakes and swamps.

Description:
Populus balsamifera is a deciduous medium to large-sized, averaging 23 – 30 m (75 – 100 ft) high, broadleaved hardwood. Crown narrow, pyramidal with thick, ascending branches. Branchlets moderately stout, round, shiny reddy-brown, orange lenticels, buds are reddish-brown to brown, 2.5 cm (1 inch) long, curved, resinous and fragrant. Twig has a bitter aspirin taste. Trunk bark greenish gray with lighter lenticels when young, later becoming darker and furrowed with long, scaly ridges.

Leaves – alternate, simple, ovate, finely serrated, shiny dark green, paler and often blotchy orange below, petiole long with glands at the leaf base.

Flowers – dioecious, male and female as hanging, long pale yellow green catkins, appearing in May.

Fruit – small, 2-valved, dry capsule containing numerous small seeds. Capsules are a lustrous green during development but turn dull green at time of dispersal. Male flowers are shed promptly and decay; female catkins are shed shortly after dispersal is completed but remain identifiable for the remainder of the summer.

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Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation :
An easily grown plant, it does well in a heavy cold damp soil, though it prefers a deep rich well-drained circumneutral soil, growing best in the south and east of Britain. Growth is much less on wet soils, on poor acid soils and on thin dry soils. Does not do well in exposed upland sites. Dislikes shade, it is intolerant of root or branch competition A fast-growing and generally short-lived tree, though specimens 150 – 200 years old have occasionally been recorded. This is a pioneer species, invading cleared land, old fields etc, but unable to tolerate shade competition and eventually being out-competed by other trees. It is not fully satisfactory in Britain. In spring and early summer the buds and young leaves have a strong fragrance of balsam. Poplars have very extensive and aggressive root systems that can invade and damage drainage systems. Especially when grown on clay soils, they should not be planted within 12 metres of buildings since the root system can damage the building’s foundations by drying out the soil. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation:
Seed – must be sown as soon as it is ripe in spring. Poplar seed has an extremely short period of viability and needs to be sown within a few days of ripening. Surface sow or just lightly cover the seed in trays in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the old frame. If sufficient growth is made, it might be possible to plant them out in late summer into their permanent positions, otherwise keep them in the cold frame until the following late spring and then plant them out. Most poplar species hybridize freely with each other, so the seed may not come true unless it is collected from the wild in areas with no other poplar species growing. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, 20 – 40cm long, November/December in a sheltered outdoor bed or direct into their permanent positions. Very easy. Suckers in early spring[

Edible Uses:…The inner bark is often dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereals when making bread. Catkins – raw or cooked. A bitter flavour. It is best used in spring.
Medicinal Uses:
Anodyne; Antiinflammatory; Antiscorbutic; Antiseptic; Cathartic; Diuretic; Expectorant; Febrifuge; Stimulant; Tonic.

Balsam poplar has a long history of medicinal use. It was valued by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints, but especially to treat skin problems and lung ailments. In modern herbalism it is valued as an expectorant and antiseptic tonic. The buds are used as a stimulating expectorant for all conditions affecting the respiratory functions when congested. In tincture they have been beneficially employed in affections of the stomach and kidneys and in scurvy and rheumatism, also for chest complaints.

The leaf buds are covered with a resinous sap that has a strong turpentine odor and a bitter taste. They are boiled in order to separate the resin and the resin is then dissolved in alcohol. The resin is a folk remedy, used as a salve and wash for sores, rheumatism, wounds etc. It is made into a tea and used as a wash for sprains, inflammation, muscle pains etc.

The bark is cathartic and tonic. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the bark of most, if not all members of the genus contain salicin, a glycoside that probably decomposes into salicylic acid (aspirin) in the body. The bark is therefore anodyne, anti-inflammatory and febrifuge. It is used especially in treating rheumatism and fevers, and also to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps. A tea made from the inner bark is used as an eye wash and in the treatment of scurvy.

It is an excellent hemorrhoid treatment. For burns it lessens pain, keeps the surface antiseptic and also stimulates skin regeneration. The tincture is a very effective therapy for chest colds, increasing protective mucus secretions in the beginning, when the tissues are hot, dry and painful. Later, it increases te softening expectorant secretions when the mucus is hard and impacted on the bronchial walls, and coughing is painful. Are aromatics are secreted as volatile gases in expiration. This helps to inhibit microorganisms and lessen the likelihood of secondary, often more serious, infections.

Other Uses:
Pioneer; Repellent; Resin; Rooting hormone; Wood.

An extract of the shoots can be used as a rooting hormone for all types of cuttings. It is extracted by soaking the chopped up shoots in cold water for a day. The resin obtained from the buds was used by various native North American Indian tribes to waterproof the seams on their canoes. The resin on the buds has been used as an insect repellent. The bark has been burnt to repel mosquitoes. A pioneer species, capable of invading cleared land and paving the way for other woodland trees. It is not very shade tolerant and so it is eventually out-competed by the woodland trees. Wood – soft, light, rather woolly in texture, without smell or taste, of low flammability, not durable, very resistant to abrasion. It weighs 23lb per cubic foot, and is used for pulp, boxes etc. The wood is also used as a fuel, it gives off a pleasant odour when burning.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populus_balsamifera
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Populus+balsamifera
http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/populus/balsamifera.htm

http://www.borealforest.org/trees/tree11.htm

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Memory Loss Can be Reversed — Just Do THIS

Moderate physical activity performed in midlife or later appears to be associated with a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment — and a six-month high-intensity aerobic exercise program can improve cognitive function in individuals who already have the condition.
……………………….
Each year, 10 percent to 15 percent of individuals with mild cognitive impairment will develop dementia, as compared with 1 percent to 2 percent of the general population.

Physical exercise may protect against mild cognitive impairment by means of the production of nerve-protecting compounds, greater blood flow to the brain, improved development and survival of neurons and the decreased risk of heart and blood vessel diseases.

Rources:
Eurekalert January 11, 2010
Archives of Neurology January 2010;67(1):71-9
Archives of Neurology January 2010;67(1):80-6

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Depression Linked to Alzheimer’s


People who have had depression may be more prone to Alzheimer’s disease, two studies suggest.

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Depression has been linked to loss of brain cells

Dutch researchers found Alzheimer’s was 2.5 times more likely in people with a history of depression.

It was four times more likely in people with depression before aged 60. Dutch and US research appeared in Neurology and Archives of General Psychiatry.

The Dutch study was small – 486 people over an average of six years, with just 33 people developing Alzheimer’s

The researchers, from the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, said more work was needed to fully understand the link between Alzheimer’s and depression.

Lead researcher Dr Monique Breteler said: “We don’t know yet whether depression contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, or whether another unknown factor causes both depression and dementia.”

One theory is that depression leads to the loss of cells in two areas of the brain, the hippocampus and the amygdala, which then contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.

However, the latest study found no difference in the size of these two brain areas in people with depression and people who had never developed the condition.

Second study :

The findings were echoed in a second study by Rush University in the US published in Archives of General Psychiatry.

The researchers followed more than 900 members of the Catholic clergy for up to 13 years during which time 190 developed Alzheimer’s.

They found that those with more signs of depression at the start of the study were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

But there was little evidence of an increase in depressive symptoms during the early stages of disease.

Even after the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was made there was no general increase in depression, but rather an increase that was confined to individuals with certain personality traits.

The researchers said their findings suggested that depression was a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease – rather than a subtle early sign of its underlying pathology.

Researcher Dr Robert Wilson said: “Depressive symptoms may be associated with distinctive changes in the brain that somehow reduce neural reserve, which is the brain’s ability to tolerate the pathology associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Rebecca Wood, of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said the research was interesting, and potentially useful.

She said: “Identifying people at higher risk could lead to ways to reduce the number of people who develop dementia, help researchers to understand more about dementia and create new avenues of research.”

Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “More research is needed to clarify the relationship between dementia and depression and determine whether depression causes changes in the brain that make dementia more likely.”

“We don’t know yet whether depression contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, or whether another unknown factor causes both depression and dementia”says
Dr Monique Breteler of Erasmus University Medical Center

Sources: BBC NEWS:8Th.April.’08

Blood Test Can Tell Alzheimer’s Risk

A simple blood test will soon predict six years before any symptoms appear whether you are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s — a neurodegenerative disease which causes memory loss among older people.

The most disturbing feature of the disease is the difficulty in determining whether mild memory loss is the beginning of Alzheimer’s or just part of normal ageing.

Scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California now say that the blood test, with over 90% accuracy, will greatly help in the disease’s early diagnosis, thereby improving chances of slowing down its progress in the patient. This discovery on how to predict the old man’s disease proves to be of prime importance for India where by 2050, the average Indian might live from the current 64.7 years to 75.6 years.

According to the 2006 World Population Prospects, by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, by 2050, the number of Indians aged above 80 will increase more than six times from the current number of 78 lakh to nearly 5.14 crore. At present, 20% of this category in India suffers from Alzheimer’s.

The number of people over 65 years of age in the country is expected to quadruple from 6.4 crore in 2005 to 23.9 crore, while those aged 60 and above will increase from 8.4 crore to 33.5 crore in the next 43 years. According to one estimate, Alzheimer’s kills one out of four Indians over the age of 80.

The early stage of Alzheimer’s is often overlooked and incorrectly labelled as normal old age outcomes.

The blood test identifies changes in a handful of proteins in blood plasma that cells use to convey messages to one another. The research team discovered a connection between shifts in the cells dialogue and the changes in the brain accompanying Alzheimer’s.

Dr Anshu Rohatgi, neurologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said, “This is a huge breakthrough with enormous potential. It will be a valuable tool in the detection of early-stage mild cognitive impairment (MCI). We are now trying to see whether drugs meant for Alzheimer’s can retard or slow down the progress of the disease, when it is administered at the early state of MCI. This blood test will tell us when that early stage is approaching.”

“Just as a psychiatrist can conclude a lot of things by listening to the words of a patient, so by listening to different proteins we are measuring whether something is going wrong in the cells,” said Tony Wyss-Coray, professor of neurology and senior author of the study.

Currently, the clinical diagnosis for Alzheimer’s is one of exclusion — by testing for other causes of memory loss and cognitive decline, such as stroke, tumours and alcoholism.

If those conditions are eliminated as causes of memory loss, what remains is Alzheimer’s — a disease which robs patients of memory, thinking and the ability to communicate.

Source:The Times Of India