Herbs & Plants

Artemisia mexicana

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Botanical Name : Artemisia mexicana
Family: Compositae: Asteraceae
Genus: Artemisia
Specis: Mexicana

Common Names: Mexican White Sagebrush , Mexican Wormwood, Agenjo del Pais, Ambfe (Otomi), Artemisia, Cola de Zorillo (‘little tail of the fox’), Ensencio de Mata Verde (‘incense of the green bush’), Guitee (Zapotec), Hierba de San Juan (Spanish, ‘Saint John’s herb’), Hierba Maestra (Spanish, “master herb’), Si’isim (Maya), Tlalpoyomatli (Aztec)

Habitat :Artemisia mexicana is native to South-western N. America – Missouri to Texas, Arkansas and Mexico. It grows in the prairies, hillsides, barrens and sands.

Artemisia mexicana is a perennial upright shrubby herb that can grow up to three feet tall. The leaves are whitish grey and covered on both sides with fine hairs. They exude an aromatic-bitter scent immediately when crushed. The flowers are small, yellow and clustered (Voogelbreinder 2009, 93).

The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

This plant is so similar to European wormwood in appearance that even experienced botanists have a hard time telling them apart. Some botanists even believe that A. mexicana is a sub-species of A. absinthium (Ratsch 1998, 73). A. mexicana is found in both dry and moist areas of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula. It may also be found in Arizona and New Mexico (Ohno et al. 1980).
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 should succeed outdoors in many parts of this country. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Easily grown in a well-drained circumneutral or slightly alkaline loamy soil, preferring a warm sunny dry position. Established plants are drought tolerant. Plants are longer lived, more hardy and more aromatic when they are grown in a poor dry soil. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Seed – surface sow from late winter to early summer in a greenhouse, making sure that the compost does not dry out. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Basal cuttings in late spring. Harvest the young shoots when about10 – 15cm long, pot up in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse or cold frame and plant them out when well rooted. Very easy.

Traditional Uses: The Aztecs and other native peoples of Mesoamerica have been using A. mexicana for various ritual and medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. The Aztecs used A. mexicana as a ritual incense – the plant is sacred to Uixtociuatl, the Aztec goddess of salt and salt makers. It is sacred to Tlaloc, the rain god, who also holds Argemone mexicana and Tagetes lucida as holy – this suggests a possible interesting psychoactive incense or smoking mixture. Today in Mexico it is used in folk medicine and smoked as a marijuana substitute (Ratsch 1998, 74).

Medicinal Uses:
The plant is emmenagogue, stimulant and vermifuge. The leaves can be chewed to treat sore throats. A poultice of the chewed leaves can be used on sores.
The Aztecs used the stems of A. mexica as a tonic and to relieve coughs. The flowers were consumed by those with low energy (Voogelbreinder 2009, 93). In Mexican folk medicine, which is strongly influenced by Aztec knowledge, an alcohol extract of A. mexicana herbage is taken for digestive troubles (Martínez 1994 cited in Ratsch 1998, 74). Similarly, a tea made from the plant is taken by those who have lost the desire to eat, as well as to treat coughs and diarrhea. The roots and plant material are used to treat epilepsy and as a form of birth control – the plant can bring on menstruation and cause abortions (Reza 1994 cited in Ratsch 1998, 74). The Yucatec Maya burn the herb as an incense to relieve headaches (Pulido Salas & Serralta Peraza 1993 cited in Ratsch 1998, 74).

Traditional Effects: A. mexicana contains a powerful essential oil, as well as several active alkaloids. Thujone is likely present in the plant, as it is so similar to A. absinthium, but the compound has not yet been formally detected. Smoking the dried herbage creates mild stimulation followed by pleasant euphoria if enough smoke is inhaled. The effects may vary widely from person to person, however. The plant contains fewer toxic alkaloids than A. absinthium and is therefore easier to work with (Martínez 1994 cited in Ratsch 1998, 74).

Known Hazards; Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, skin contact with some members of this genus can cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions in some people.
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.


Artemisia mexicana – Mexican Wormwood

Herbs & Plants

Vitis vinifera

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Botanical Name: Vitis vinifera
Family: Vitaceae
Genus: Vitis
Species: V. vinifera
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Vitales

Synonym: Grape Vine.

Common Name: Grape, Wine grape, Purpleleaf Grape, Common grape vine {The name vine is derived from viere (to twist), and has reference to the twining habits of the plant which is a very ancient one; in the Scriptures the vine is frequently mentioned from the time of Noah onward. Wine is recorded as an almost universal drink throughout the world from very early times. The vine is a very longlived plant. Pliny speaks of one 600 years old, and some existent in Burgundy are said to be 400 and over.}
Parts Used: Fruit, leaves, juice.

Habitat: Vitis vinifera is native to the Mediterranean region, central Europe, and southwestern Asia, from Morocco and Portugal north to southern Germany and east to northern Iran. There are currently between 5000 and 10,000 varieties of Vitis vinifera grapes though only a few are of commercial significance for wine and table grape production. It grows in riversides and damp woods. Grows on the banks of the Thames at Kew in Britain

Vitis vinifera is a deciduous Climber growing to 35 yards (32 m) tall, with flaky bark. The leaves are alternate, palmately lobed, 5–20 cm (2.0–7.9 in) long and broad. The fruit is a berry, known as a grape; in the wild species it is 6 mm (0.24 in) diameter and ripens dark purple to blackish with a pale wax bloom; in cultivated plants it is usually much larger, up to 3 cm (1.2 in) long, and can be green, red, or purple (black). The species typically occurs in humid forests and streamsides.


Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Irregular or sprawling, Spreading or horizontal, Variable spread. It is not frost tender. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
Landscape Uses:Arbor. Prefers a deep rich moist well-drained moderately fertile loam. Grows best in a calcareous soil, but dislikes excessively chalky soils. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 to 7 but tolerates a range from 4.3 to 8.6. Succeeds in sun or partial shade though a warm sunny sheltered position is required for the fruit to ripen. Very commonly grown in the temperate zones of the world for its edible fruit, there are many named varieties, some of which have been developed for their use as a dried fruit, others for dessert use and others for wine. Good and regular crops are a bit problematical in Britain, grapes are on the northern most limits of their range in this country and the British summer often does not provide enough heat to properly ripen the fruit. Late frosts can also damage young growth in spring, though dormant shoots are very hardy, tolerating temperatures down to about -20°c. Nonetheless, there are a number of commercial vineyards in Britain (usually producing wine grapes) and, given a suitably sunny and sheltered position, good dessert grapes can also be grown. In general it is best to grow the dessert varieties against the shelter of a south or west facing wall. There are a number of varieties that have been bred to cope with cooler summers. Grapes are very susceptible to attacks by phylloxera, this disease is especially prevalent in some areas of Europe and it almost destroyed the grape industry. However, American species of grapes that are resistant to phylloxera are now used as rootstocks and this allows grapes to be grown in areas where the disease is common. Britain is free of the disease at the present (1989) and grapes are usually grown on their own roots. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus. The flowers are intensely fragrant. Grapes grow well in the company of hyssop, chives, basil and charlock. They grow badly with radishes, both the grapes and the radishes developing an off taste. Plants climb by means of tendrils. Any pruning should be carried out in winter when the plants are dormant otherwise they bleed profusely. The cultivated grape is thought to have been derived from V. vinifera sylvestris. (Gmel.)Hegi. This form has dioecious flowers and produces small black grapes. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Six weeks cold stratification improves the germination rate, and so stored seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is obtained. Germination should take place in the first spring, but sometimes takes another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant out in early summer. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, December/January in a frame. These cuttings can be of wood 15 – 30cm long or they can be of short sections of the stem about 5cm long with just one bud at the top of the section. In this case a thin, narrow strip of the bark about 3cm long is removed from the bottom half of the side of the stem. This will encourage callusing and the formation of roots. Due to the size of these cuttings they need to be kept in a more protected environment than the longer cuttings. Layering

Edible Uses :
Edible Parts: Flowers; Fruit; Leaves; Oil.
Edible Uses: Oil.

Fruit – raw or dried for winter use. The dried fruits are the raisins, sultanas and currants of commerce, different varieties producing the different types of dried fruit. A fully ripened fresh fruit is sweet, juicy and delicious. The fruit juice can be concentrated and used as a sweetener. This fruit is widely used in making wine. Leaves – cooked. Young leaves are wrapped around other foods and then baked, they impart a pleasant flavour. Young tendrils – raw or cooked. The flower clusters are used as a vegetable. An edible oil similar to sunflower oil is obtained from the seed. It needs to be refined before it can be eaten. A polyunsaturated oil, it is suitable for mayonnaise and cooking, especially frying. Sap – raw. Used as a drink, it has a sweet taste. The sap can be harvested in spring and early summer, though it should not be taken in quantity or it will weaken the plant. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, a crystalline salt, is extracted from the residue of pressed grapes, and from the sediment of wine barrels. It is used in making baking powder

Constituents: The leaves gathered in June contain a mixture of cane sugar and glucose, tartaric acid, potassium bi-tartrate, quercetine, quercitrin, tannin, amidon, malic acid, gum, inosite, an uncrystallizable fermentable sugar and oxalate of calcium; gathered in the autumn they contain much more quercetine and less trace of quercitrin.

The ripe fruit juice termed ‘must’ contains sugar, gum, malic acid, potassium bi-tartrate and inorganic salts; when fermented this forms the wine of commerce.

The dried ripe fruit commonly called raisins, contain dextrose and potassium acid tartrate.

The seeds contain tannin and a fixed oil.

The juice of the unripe fruit, ‘Verjuice,’ contains malic, citric, tartaric, racemic and tannic acids, potassium bi-tartrate, sulphate of potash and lime.

Medicinal Uses:
Analgesic; Antiinflammatory; Astringent; Bach; Demulcent; Diuretic; Hepatic; Laxative; Lithontripic; Miscellany; Skin;

Grapes are a nourishing and slightly laxative fruit that can support the body through illness, especially of the gastro-intestinal tract and liver. Because the nutrient content of grapes is close to that of blood plasma, grape fasts are recommended for detoxification. Analgesic. The fresh fruit is antilithic, constructive, cooling, diuretic and strengthening. A period of time on a diet based entirely on the fruit is especially recommended in the treatment of torpid liver or sluggish biliary function. The fruit is also helpful in the treatment of varicose veins, haemorrhoids and capillary fragility. The dried fruit is demulcent, cooling, mildly expectorant, laxative and stomachic. It has a slight effect in easing coughs. The leaves, especially red leaves, are anti-inflammatory and astringent. A decoction is used in the treatment of threatened abortion, internal and external bleeding, cholera, dropsy, diarrhoea and nausea. It is also used as a wash for mouth ulcers and as douche for treating vaginal discharge. Red grape leaves are also helpful in the treatment of varicose veins, haemorrhoids and capillary fragility. The leaves are harvested in early summer and used fresh or dried. The seed is anti-inflammatory and astringent. The sap of young branches is diuretic. It is used as a remedy for skin diseases and is also an excellent lotion for the eyes. The tendrils are astringent and a decoction is used in the treatment of diarrhoea. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Dominating’, ‘Inflexible’ and ‘Ambitious’.

Other Uses :
Dye; Miscellany; Oil.

A yellow dye is obtained from the fresh or dried leaves. An oil from the seed is used for lighting and as an ingredient in soaps, paints etc. Cream of tartar, extracted from the residue of pressed grapes, is used in making fluxes for soldering. Especially when growing in hotter countries than Britain, the stems of very old vines attain a good size and have been used to supply a very durable timber.

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.


News on Health & Science

Why boys are brats

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The first Indian genetic study on a common behavioural disorder explores why inattentiveness and hyperactivity are more common in boys than in girls. G.S. Mudur reports .

Mothers who carry a ‘faulty’ version of the MAOA gene prefentially hand it down to their sons.

The exact biological basis for boys appearing naughtier than girls has long eluded scientists, but Calcutta-based geneticist Kanchan Mukhopadhyay has stumbled upon something that may at least partly explain why more boys than girls get into trouble in school and at home.

Mukhopadhyay has been looking for genes that might help unravel the complexity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — a behavioural disorder so common that psychiatrists expect two children in every class of 40 to have it. It’s a condition marked by inattentiveness, impulsive action and hyperactivity, and surfaces typically during early school years. Most children diagnosed with ADHD while in school continue to have the symptoms in adolescence and adulthood.

Now, in a study of a medium-sized gene on the human chromosome X — one of the two sex chromosomes — Mukhopadhyay and her colleagues have detected a possible mechanism that might explain why ADHD is four times more common in boys than in girls. The researchers at the Manovikas Biomedical Research and Diagnostic Centre, Calcutta, have discovered that mothers who carry a “faulty” version of the gene preferentially hand it down to their sons.

“This is an effort to understand better the biochemical changes in the brain that accompany ADHD,” said Swagata Sinha, a psychiatrist and a member of the research team. “When we treat patients with ADHD today — whether through behaviour therapy or medication — we find that some respond well, while others do not respond. A clearer picture of what’s going on inside the ADHD brain may help us improve therapy.”

In their study, the Manovikas Centre researchers analysed the genetic alphabets on a gene that makes an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAOA) in a group of 64 boys and nine girls with ADHD who were brought to their clinic as outpatients. They also examined the corresponding genes in both the parents of 67 children.

“We picked the MAOA gene because it has long been viewed as a candidate gene implicated in ADHD,” Mukhopadhyay told KnowHow.

Nearly a decade ago, researchers in the US had shown that mice that lack MAOA show aggressive behaviour. Several other studies have also pointed to a role for MAOA in human behaviour and brain physiology, perhaps through its action of altering the levels of various brain chemicals that neurons use to signal each other.

The study by the Manovikas Centre researchers has shown that one version of the gene that causes the MAOA enzyme to have lower-than-normal activity is associated with ADHD. Patients with ADHD are more likely to have this version of the gene than people without ADHD. Their findings were published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics: Neuropsychiatric Genetics.

The researchers caution that their findings need to be validated through larger samples of patients and that the presence of the variant of the gene that makes only low activity enzyme can at best only predispose people to ADHD. “Several genes are likely to be involved in ADHD — one gene alone cannot explain it,” said Mukhopadhyay.

Previous studies have suggested that environmental triggers may act on people who are already genetically predisposed to ADHD. And while ADHD had long been viewed as a problem emerging from a chemical imbalance in the brain, an imaging study three years ago revealed that there may also be subtle anatomical differences in areas of the brain that control behaviour changes observed in ADHD. In that study, US researchers had used a new brain mapping study to detect what they described as abnormal brain anatomy in a small set of children with ADHD.

The researchers at the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System in New York found abnormalities in the circuitry in several regions of the brain such as frontal cortex, basal ganglia and the cerebellum.

“These areas are involved in the processes that regulate attention, impulsive behaviour and hyperactivity — the key symptoms of children with ADHD,” said Manzar Ashtari, associate professor of psychiatry and radiology at the clinic.

The evidence for the role of environmental triggers was bolstered by another study in the US last year which showed that genetic variations may determine how children respond to potential toxins in the environment. The study by researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital suggested that genes can predispose a child to negative effects of environmental exposure to lead.

The study found that only children with certain variations of a gene that helps control the levels of a brain chemical called dopamine appear specially vulnerable to the adverse effects of lead on attentiveness.

Increasing lead exposure tended to impair performance in boys more than in girls. Boys appear more vulnerable than girls. “This is consistent with the fact that boys have higher rates of ADHD than girls,” said Tanya Froehlich at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

The Calcutta study has also revealed a possible additional mechanism to explain why boys have more ADHD than girls. The study has indicated that the version of the MAOA gene associated with low-activity enzyme is “preferentially transmitted” from mothers to boys with ADHD.

“It is still unclear why this variant of the gene is preferentially transmitted to boys,” Mukhopadhyay said. However, the researchers also point out that their study included only nine girls, and a larger study would be needed to ascertain that such transmission does not occur in girls.

The MAOA gene lies on the X chromosome which both boys and girls get from their mothers. In principle, this alone could explain why ADHD is less common in girls than in boys. The sex chromosome is XX in girls and XY in boys.

“Boys have only one copy of the X chromosome. If they get the low-activity version, they have nothing else to compensate for its low activity. But girls have two X chromosomes. In the event that one X has the low-activity enzyme, the other can compensate by producing normal levels,” said Mukhopadhyay.

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)