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Allium canadense

 

Botanical Name : Allium canadense
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Allioideae
Genus: Allium
Species: A. canadense
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales

Common Names; Canada onion, Canadian garlic, Wild garlic, Meadow garlic and Wild onion, Fraser meadow garlic, Hyacinth meadow garlic

Habitat : Allium canadense is native to N. America – New Brunswick to Minnesota, south to Florida and Colorado. It grows on the sandy soils in low woods, thickets and meadows.

Description:
Allium canadense has an edible bulb covered with a dense skin of brown fibers and tastes like an onion. The plant also has strong, onion-like odor. Crow garlic (Allium vineale) is similar, but it has a strong garlic taste

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The narrow, grass-like leaves originate near the base of the stem, which is topped by a dome-like cluster of star-shaped, pink or white flowers. These flowers may be partially or entirely replaced by bulblets. When present, the flowers are hermaphroditic (both male and female organs) and are pollinated by American bees (not honeybees) and other insects. It typically flowers in the spring and early summer, from May to June.The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, insects.

Varieties:
The bulblet-producing form is classified as A. canadense var. canadense. It was once thought that the tree onion could be related to this plant, but it is now known that the cultivated tree onion is a hybrid between the common onion (A. cepa) and Welsh onion (A. fistulosum), classified as A. × proliferum.

Five varieties of the species are widely recognized:

*Allium canadense var. canadense – most pedicels replaced by bulbils rarely producing fruits or seeds, most of the range of the species
*Allium canadense var. ecristatum Ownbey tepals deep pink and rather thick, coastal plain of Texas
*Allium canadense var. fraseri Ownbey – flowers white, Great Plains from Texas to Kansas
*Allium canadense var. hyacinthoides (Bush) Ownbey – tepals pink, thin, flowers fragrant, northern Texas and southern Oklahoma
*Allium canadense var. lavandulare (Bates) Ownbey & Aase – flowers lavender, not fragrant, northern Arkansas to South Dakota
*Allium canadense var. mobilense (Regel) Ownbey – flowers lilac, pedicels thread-like, southeastern US
Cultivation:
Prefers a sunny position in a light well-drained soil. A moisture loving plant according to another report. The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply. Bulbs grow to a good size under cultivation. Some forms of this species produce many bulbils and are considered to be a pernicious weed in some areas of America, there is some risk that they could spread aggressively in Britain. A. canadense mobilense. (Reg.)F.M.Ownb. is a form that does not produce bulbils and is much better behaved. Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.
Propagation:
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle – if you want to produce clumps more quickly then put three plants in each pot. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter and plant them out into their permanent positions in spring once they are growing vigorously and are large enough. Division in spring. Very easy, the plants divide successfully at any time in the growing season and the divisions can be planted straight out into their permanent positions if required. Bulbils planted in situ when ripe.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Root.

Bulb – raw or cooked. It can be used as a vegetable, or as a flavouring in soups and stews, and can also be pickled[2]. The bulb is up to 30mm in diameter, it is crisp, mild and with a pleasant flavour. Used as a leek substitute according to one report, it is a garlic substitute according to others. Leaves – raw or cooked. A delicious mild flavour, they are available from early spring until the autumn. They make a very acceptable salad and can also be used as a greens or as a flavouring in cooked foods. Flowers – raw. A little bit stronger flavour than the leaves, especially as the seeds begin to form, they can be used as a flavouring and garnish on salads. Some forms of this species produce bulbils. These top-setting bulbils make a fine onion flavoured pickle. They are said to have a superior flavour to other pickled onions.
Medicinal Uses:

Antiasthmatic; Carminative; Cathartic; Diuretic; Expectorant; Stimulant.

The plant is antiasthmatic, carminative, cathartic, diuretic, expectorant and stimulant. A tincture is used to prevent worms and colic in children, and also as a remedy for croup. Although no other specific mention of medicinal uses has been seen for this species, members of this genus are in general very healthy additions to the diet. They contain sulphur compounds (which give them their onion flavour) and when added to the diet on a regular basis they help reduce blood cholesterol levels, act as a tonic to the digestive system and also tonify the circulatory system.

Other Uses: The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent. The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles. The plant can be rubbed on exposed parts of the body to protect them from insect bites and the bites of scorpions, lizards etc

Known Hazards:
Although no individual reports regarding this species have been seen, there have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of certain members of this genus. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible

This plant can cause gastroenteritis in young children who ingest parts of this plant. Chronic ingestion of the bulbs reduces iodine uptake by the thyroid gland, which can lead to problems. No specific treatment is suggested other than to prevent dehydration (Lampe and McCann 1985). Livestock have also been poisoned by ingesting wild onions, and some have died (Pipal 1918). Horses have developed hemolytic anemia from ingesting wild onion leaves (Scoggan 1989)

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/Allium_canadense
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Allium+canadense

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Butterfly Ginger or White Ginger (Dolon Champa)

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Botanical Name :Hedychium coronarium
Family: Zingiberaceae
Genus: Hedychium
Species: H. coronarium
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Zingiberales
Common Names:White ginger lily,Dolan champa  (in Bangal)   Takhellei angouba in Manipur, Sontaka in Maharastra, and Suruli sugandhi in Karnataka.
Bengali Name : Dolon Champa
Habitat:   It is originally from the Himalayas region of Nepal and India.Grows in Brazil where it is very common and considered to be an invasive weed. It was introduced in the era of slavery, brought to the country by African slaves who used its leaves as mattresses. It is also considered an invasive species in Hawaii.
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In Cuba it is the National Flower, known as “Mariposa blanca” literally “White Butterfly Flower”, due to its similarity with a flying white butterfly. This particular species is incredibly fragrant and women used to adorn themselves with these flowers in Spanish colonial times; because of the intricate structure of the inflorescence, women hid and carried secret messages important to the independence cause under it. It is said that a guajiro’s (farmer’s) house is not complete without a white ginger in its garden. Today the plant has gone wild in the cool rainy mountains in Sierra del Rosario, Pinar del Rio Province in the west, Escambray Mountains in the center of the island, and in Sierra Maestra in the very west of it, but the plant is not endemic of Cuba.

Description:
Hedychium coronarium is a perennial herb growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).It is a robust, attractive plant that will reach 6 feet in containers. It is a vigorous grower and needs to be divided often.Blooming time is  Summer-Fall. The white flowers are extremely fragrant and are good for cutting.
It is hardy to zone 9 and is frost tender. It is in flower from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

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The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils.The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils..It cannot grow in the shade.It requires moist or wet soil.

Cultivation:
Requires a rich moist soil and a sunny position. It succeeds in shallow water and can also be grown in a sunny border as a summer sub-tropical bedding plant. Plants are not very hardy, they tolerate temperatures down to about -2°c and can be grown at the foot of a south-facing wall in the milder areas of Britain if given a good mulch in the winter. The flowers have a delicious perfume which is most pronounced towards evening. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits. The tubers should be only just covered by soil.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a warm greenhouse at 18°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on for at least their first winter in the greenhouse. Plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Division as growth commences in the spring. Dig up the clump and divide it with a sharp spade or knife, making sure that each division has a growing shoot. Larger clumps can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, but it is best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a greenhouse until they are established. Plant them out in the summer or late in the following spring.

Edible Uses :-
Edible Parts: Flowers.

Young buds and flowers are eaten or used as a flavouring.   Root – cooked. A famine food used when all else fails.

Medicinal Uses
Antirheumatic;  Aromatic;  Carminative;  Febrifuge;  Stomachic;  Tonic.

The seed is aromatic, carminative and stomachic. The root is antirheumatic, excitant and tonic. The ground rhizome is used as a febrifuge. An essential oil from the roots is carminative and has anthelmintic indications. The plant has been used as a remedy for foetid nostril.

Other Uses
Essential;  Paper.

The stems contain 43 – 48% cellulose and are useful in making paper. An essential oil obtained from the flowers is valued in high grade perfumes. The root contains 1.7% essential oil, which is used medicinally.

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/Hedychium_coronarium
http://www.plantoftheweek.org/week086.shtml
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Hedychium%20coronarium

Tremor (When the muscles refuse to obey)

At 40 plus, just at the peak of a successful career, the sudden onset of tremor can be devastating. Careers nosedive as the young executive, although with intelligence undiminished, is unable to speak lucidly. The handwriting has little spidery spikes and is illegible. The head constantly moves in a side-to-side motion, a  yes-yes no-no  see saw oscillation that sends confused signals to the bemused bystander. Eventually, the involuntary to and fro motion affects other muscle groups in the arms, legs and trunk. Gait is affected and becomes unsteady and lurching. Speech becomes tremulous with an up and down intonation as the vocal cords get affected. Even daily tasks like dressing and eating become difficult to perform. Worse still, typing and computer keyboard coordination become impossible. And once rapid button-pressing skills are compromised, life in the 21st century becomes impracticable.

Parkinsons disease  is the diagnosis that leaps to the mind. However, all tremors are not Parkinsons. Parkinsonism occurs later, around the age of 60 years. The tremor is typical and is described as  pill rolling . The face is mask-like and expressionless.

A young person is more likely to have hereditary essential tremor. This is inherited as an autosomal dominant condition (if one parent has tremor the offspring has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting it). It affects around 0.4-3 per cent of the population (both male and female) around the age of 40 years.

Any malfunction of the areas of the brain that control movement can cause tremor. This can be caused by infectious diseases like meningitis or encephalitis, stroke, traumatic brain injury, tumours and neurodegenerative diseases. Tremor can also be brought on by low blood sugar and a hyper functioning thyroid gland.

However, not all tremors are sinister. Standing for a long time in a particular position may cause the legs to shake. This tremor is normal and disappears if the person sits down.

Sometimes a person may complain of tremor and yet nothing may be grossly visible. This fine physiological or normal tremor can be proved by asking the person to hold a small, lighted torch and focus it on a wall. The light shakes from side to side. This kind of tremor is increased by anxiety and fear but disappears at rest and when the person is calm.

Alcohol can provoke or normalise tremor, depending on whether it is due to excessive consumption or withdrawal.

Tremors caused by an underlying medical condition spontaneously disappear once the condition is removed. Appropriate treatment depends on accurate diagnosis of the cause.

Symptomatic drug therapy is available for several forms of tremor. Parkinsonian tremor can be treated with a combination of levodopa, other dopamine-like drugs and anticholinergic medication. Unfortunately, the response decreases over time so the dosage has to be increased or more drugs added.

Essential tremor may be treated with beta blockers and primidone, an anticonvulsant drug. The response is variable.

Caffeine in coffee, tea and cola drinks, nicotine in cigarettes, and alcohol behave as tremor  triggers . Eliminating them from the diet controls all kinds of tremor.

Sometimes, the tremor can become so uncontrolled that the person expends all his or her energy. Food intake cannot keep pace and the person becomes cachexic and moribund. If the response to medication is also inadequate, surgical intervention may help. These procedures are usually performed only when the tremor is severe and does not respond to drugs.

The thalamus is the part of the brain that is responsible for most tremors. Implantable electrodes can be used to send high-frequency electrical signals to this region. A hand-held magnet can be used to turn on and turn off a pulse generator that is surgically implanted under the skin. This temporarily disables the tremor. The batteries in the generator last about five years and have to be replaced surgically. This procedure can be performed for both Parkinsonian and essential tremors.

If this is not practical, in severe cases the thalamus can be electrically ablated with brain surgery. This permanently cures the tremor without disrupting sensations or voluntary control of the muscles.

Tremor is debilitating and depressing for the patient. The caregiver also has a difficult time trying to cope with the uncoordinated and uncontrolled motor activity of a person whose muscles simply refuse to obey commands. Physical therapy helps to reduce the tremor. A qualified physiotherapist can work with the patient to improve coordination, muscle strength, control and functional skills. Control in a tremulous limb can be regained to some extent by bracing the limb and regularly exercising using weights and splints. Some traditional forms of exercise like yoga and Taichi are also beneficial. They may help to retard the progress of the disease if started in the early stages in conjunction with medication.

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.

Written by:Dr Gita Mathai is a paediatrician with a family practice at Vellore. Questions on health issues may be emailed to her at yourhealthgm@yahoo.co.in