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Herbs & Plants

Ferula conocaula

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Botanical Name : Ferula conocaula
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Ferula
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Apiales

Habitat : Ferula conocaula is native to Central Asia. It grows on montane semi-deserts. Mountain valleys at elevations around 2800 metres in Tibet.

Description:
Ferula conocaula is a perennial monocarpic, strongly onion-scented plant. Stem solitary, very stout, up to 15 cm thick at base, tapering towards apex, hispid, paniculate-branched, branches thick, lower branches alternate, upper branches verticillate, purplish tinged with age. Basal leaves petiolate; blade triangular in outline, ternate-pinnatifid; ultimate segments lanceolate or lanceolate-elliptic, to 27 × 7 cm, finely crenate, adaxially glabrous, abaxially densely puberulous. Cauline leaves reduced with expanded sheaths, uppermost almost wholly sheathing. Terminal umbels often sessile or short-pedunculate, lateral umbels long-pedunculate, usually exceeding terminal; umbels 8–14 mm across; bracts absent; rays 12–50, subequal; bracteoles few, lanceolate, small, deciduous; umbellules ca. 15-flowered. Stylopodium low-conic, base dilated; styles elongate, recurved. Fruit ellipsoid, ca. 10 × 5 mm; vittae 1–2 in each furrow, 8–14 on commissure.

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It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Jun to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Cultivation:
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it could succeed outdoors in some parts of this country. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Succeeds in most soils. Prefers a deep fertile soil in a sunny position. Plants have a long taproot and are intolerant of root disturbance. They should be planted into their final positions as soon as possible. Monocarpic, the plant takes some years before it flowers and dies after flowering.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as the seed is ripe in a greenhouse in autumn[1]. Otherwise sow in April in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Plant them out into their permanent positions whilst still small because the plants dislike root disturbance. Give the plants a protective mulch for at least their first winter outdoors. Division in autumn. This may be inadvisable due to the plants dislike of root disturbance.

Medicinal Uses:
The gum resin, obtained from the roots, is anthelmintic, carminative, digestive and expectorant. It is used in the treatment of indigestion, dysentery, tumours, parasitic and anthelmintic infections. The essential oil in the resin can be expelled through the lungs and so is used in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough.

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/Ferula
http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=200015532
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Ferula+conocaula

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Down With a Cold ?

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At some time or another, everyone — even a robust fitness freak — gets felled by the common cold, developing sniffles, sneezing, puffy eyes, fever, body ache and malaise. Children start to develop colds during their first year, the frequency of which may increase to up to six times a year. This leaves the mothers with the feeling that the child is “always ill”. The average adult gets three to four colds a year.

Almost 40 per cent of outpatient medical consultations in a general practice deals with colds and their complications. This is not surprising, as colds are unavoidable infections. They are caused by viruses, 80 per cent of which belong to the rhinovirus family. Not only are there more than a hundred members in this group alone, but the types also mutate at a rapid rate. This makes immunity practically non-existent, or at best short lived. To make matters worse, there is no vaccine available, except for flu or influenza.

Colds are highly contagious. The spread is rapid as the virus, contained in nasal secretions, can be propelled forcefully into the environment by coughing and sneezing. It can also be transferred from the nose to the hands of infected people. Patients can then transfer the virus to door knobs, telephones, banisters, switches and other such objects. The virus can remain dormant but viable for 18 hours or more until it finds a susceptible host. Any person touching the contaminated surface has a 50 per cent chance of picking up the infection.

Infection increases during the rainy season and winter months. People tend to huddle together under umbrellas or shelters. Windows may be kept closed. The close contact and lack of ventilation provide ideal conditions for the spread of the cold virus. Contrary to popular myths, colds are not aggravated by washing the hair at night, eating ice cream or using air-conditioning.

The infection incubates for a day or two before symptoms appear. It may then last a variable period of time, usually 5-14 days. If there is no recovery within two weeks, there may be secondary bacterial infection and complications like sinusitis, ear infection, bronchitis and pneumonia may have set in.

Smokers develop colds more frequently than non-smokers do. Their colds are more severe, take longer to subside and are more likely to be complicated by secondary infection. This is because the cilia — fine protective hairs that line the respiratory passages — are paralysed by nicotine. They, therefore, clear accumulated mucous sluggishly and inefficiently. Also, smokers’ lungs are likely to be scarred, distorted, have a reduced blood supply and function sub-optimally, making elimination of the infection difficult.

Man has reached the moon but a cure for the common cold remains elusive. We still rely on “grandma’s recommendations” of hot drinks like ginger tea, lime juice with honey, rice gruel and chicken soup. These do soothe the irritated throat. Also, resting helps. It reduces the pain in the muscles and bones. Steam inhalations liquefy the secretions and help them to drain, providing relief.

Stuffed and blocked nasal passages can be cleared with saline (not chemical) nose drops. Aspirin and paracetamol reduce fever and pain. Anti histamines reduce itching in the nose and throat and dry up dripping nasal secretions. The older first-generation anti histamines (Avil, Benadryl) are very effective but they cause sedation. The second-generation non-sedating products (loratidine, cetrizine) are less effective.

Many health supplements are advocated to boost immunity and reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Many are of doubtful efficacy and have not been studied scientifically. Zinc supplements, however, have been proven to be useful. They can be used as lozenges, syrups or tablets. Not more than 10-15 mg a day of elemental zinc should be taken.

Antibiotics do not work and administering them is futile and inappropriate. They do not shorten the course of the infection. Nor do they prevent complications. Antiviral medications used against the influenza and herpes viruses are ineffective against the rhinovirus. If the cold just refuses to go away and there are no bacterial complications, it may not be a cold at all. It may be an idiosyncratic allergic reaction to something inhaled or ingested from the environment. Mosquito coils, liquid repellents, room fresheners and incense sticks are particularly notorious.

The best advice for someone with a cold — “wait it out”.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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