Herbs & Plants

Delphinium staphisagria

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Botanical Name : Delphinium staphisagria
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus:     Delphinium
Species: D. staphisagria
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Ranunculales

Synonym: Lousewort.

Common Names: Lice-Bane or Stavesacre.

Habitat:Delphinium staphisagria grows throughout the Mediterranean.(Asia Minor and Europe.)

Delphinium staphisagria   is  a stoutly-stemmed, hairy biennial plant with hairy stem and large (up to 6″) hairy palmate leaves, composed of five to seven oblong lobes, which have frequently one or two acute indentures on their sides. The flowers are mauve-blue to blue, short-spurred, and up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) across, occurring in racemes. The plant grows to a height of 4–5 feet.The dark-colored, wrinkled seeds of D. staphisagria are characteristically quite large (~5×6 mm), and it is likely that the species name, which translates to “wild raisin”  is based on their appearance. This name-derivation seems to have been arrived at independently by a modern horticulturalist, David Bassett, who also gives a detailed account of his experiences in growing this species. All parts of this plant are highly toxic and should not be ingested in any quantity.

click to see the pictures

The seeds of this species should be sown in April, where the plants are intended to remain and require no special treatment, growing in almost any soil or situation, but the plants are most luxuriant when given a deep, yellow loam, well enriched with rotted manure and fairly moist. They should be thinned to a distance of 2 feet apart.

Medicinal Uses:
Part Used:  The dried, ripe seeds. Shake the seeds out of the pods on trays and spread them out to dry in the sun. Then pack away in airtight boxes or tins. The dried, ripe seeds are brown when fresh, changing to a dull, earthy colour on keeping. In shape they are irregularly quadrangular, one side being curved and larger than the others, and the surface of the seed is wrinkled and pitted. They average about 6 mm. (nearly 1/4 inch) long and rather less in width, ten weighing about 6 grains. The seed coat is nearly tasteless, but the endosperm is oily and has a bitter and acrid taste. The seeds have no marked collour.

Chemical Constituents: The chief constituents of Stavesacre seeds are from 20 to 25 per cent of alkaloidal matter, which consists chiefly of the bitter, acrid, crystalline, alkaloid Delphinine, an irritant poison, and a second crystalline alkaloid named Delphisine, and the amorphous alkaloid Delphinoidine. Less important are staphisagroine, of which traces only are present, and staphisagrine, which appears to be a mixture of the first three elements.

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Traditional Uses:
As noted above, preparations made from D. staphisagria (apparently principally from the seeds) were used as a pediculicide throughout the last two millennia. Maud Grieve, in her famous Herbal, written in 1931, refers to stavesacre as being a “vermifuge” and “vermin-destroying”, as well as to its parasiticidal properties. She also mentions that it is “violently emetic and cathartic”.

Vermifuge and vermin-destroying. Stavesacre seeds are extremely poisonous and are only used as a parasiticide to kill pediculi, chiefly in the form of the official ointment, the expressed oil, the powdered seeds, or an acid aqueous extract containing the alkaloids.

These seeds are so violently emetic and cathartic that they are rarely given internally, though the powdered seeds have been given as a purge for dropsy, in very small quantities at first and increased till the effect is produced. The dose at first should not exceed 2 or 3 grains, given in powder or decoction, but the administration of the drug must always be accompanied by great caution, as staphisagrine paralyses the motor nerves like curare.

The seeds are used as an external application to some cutaneous eruptions, the decoction, applied with a linen rag, being effectual in curing the itch. It is made by boiling the seeds in water.

Delphinine has also been employed similarly to aconite, both internally and externally, for neuralgia. It resembles aconite in causing slowness of pulse and respiration, paralysis of the spinal cord and death from asphyxia. By depressing the action of the spinal cord it arrests the convulsions caused by strychnine.

Introduced into homeopathy by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, Leipzig, 1817. Hahnemann’s fellow provers were: Cubitz, Franz, Gross, Gutmann, Hartmann, Haymel, Herrman, Kumer, Langhammer, Staph, Teuthorn.

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


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Herbs & Plants

Centaurea jacea

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Botanical Name: Centaurea jacea
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Centaurea
Species: C. jacea
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Synonym: Brown Radiant Knapweed.

Common Names: Brown knapweed, Brownray knapweed, Knapwort Harshweed

Habitat : Centaurea jacea is  native to dry meadows and open woodland throughout Europe.

Centaurea jacea is a perennial plant. It grows to 10–80 cm tall.
It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from Aug to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, lepidoptera, self.The plant is self-fertile.


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

Succeeds in ordinary garden soil. Prefers a well-drained fertile soil and a sunny position. Tolerates dry, low fertility and alkaline soils. Plants are suitable for the wild garden and for naturalising. This species is hardy to at least -15°c. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Seed – sow April in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. Division in autumn. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer or following spring. This should be done at least once every three years in order to maintain the vigour of the plant. Basal cuttings in spring. Harvest the shoots when they are about 10 – 15cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Medicinal Uses:
Bitter;  Diuretic;  Ophthalmic;  Stomachic;  Tonic.

The root is bitter tonic, diuretic and stomachic. An excellent bitter for treating difficult digestive systems, it is still used in rural areas as a digestive and also to reduce the temperature of feverish children. A distilled water made from the leaves is used as an eye lotion in the treatment of conjunctivitis.

As an astringent it is used for piles, a decoction of the herb being taken in doses of 1-2 fl oz three times a day. This will also be useful for sore throat if used as a gargle.  An infusion of the flowering part is also helpful in diabetes mellitus.  The root is bitter tonic, diuretic and stomachic. An excellent bitter for treating difficult digestive systems, it is still used in rural areas as a digestive and also to reduce the temperature of feverish children. A distilled water made from the leaves is used as an eye lotion in the treatment of conjunctivitis. It was also applied as a vulnerary and was used internally. Culpepper describes it as a mild astringent, ‘helpful against coughs, asthma, and difficulty of breathing, and good for diseases of the head and nerves,’ and tells us that ‘outwardly the bruised herb is famous for taking away black and blue marks out of the skin.’

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


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Herbs & Plants

Ranunculus ficaria

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Botanical Name : Ranunculus ficaria
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Ranunculus
Species: R. ficaria
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales

Synonyms:   Ficaria grandiflora Robert, Ficaria verna Huds

Common Names :Lesser celandine

Habitat :Ranunculus ficaria is found throughout Europe and west Asia and is now introduced in North America. It prefers bare, damp ground and in the UK it is often a persistent garden weed. The flowers are orange, turning yellow as they age.

Ranunculus ficaria is a low-growing, hairless perennial plant, with fleshy dark green, heart-shaped leaves.It grows to  0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in) at a fast rate.It is not frost tender. It is in leaf 6-Jan It is in flower from Mar to May. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils.The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils..It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.It requires moist soil.

It exists in both diploid (2n=16) and tetraploid (2n=32) forms which are very similar in appearance. However, the tetraploid type prefer more shady locations and frequently develops bulbils at the base of the stalk. These two variants are sometimes referred to as distinct sub-species, R. ficaria ficaria and R. ficaria bulbifer respectively.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, celandine comes from the Latin chelidonia, meaning swallow: it was said that the flowers bloomed when the swallows returned and faded when they left. The name Ranunculus is Late Latin for “little frog,” from rana “frog” and a diminutive ending. This probably refers to many species being found near water, like frogs.

Prefers a moist loamy neutral to alkaline soil in full sun or shade[1, 238]. A very common and invasive weed[17, 90], especially when growing in the shade because this encourages formation of bulbils at the leaf bases[238]. You would regret introducing it into your garden, though it might have a place in the wild garden[90]. This is, however, a polymorphic species[90] and there are a number of named forms selected for their ornamental value[188]. These are normally less invasive than the type species. The plant flowers early in the year when there are few pollinating insects and so seed is not freely produced[4]. The plant, however, produced tubercles (small tubers) along the stems and each of these can grow into a new plant[4]. Grows well along woodland edges[24], and in the deeper shade of the woodland where it often forms dense carpets[4]. The flowers do not open in dull weather and even on sunny days do not open before about 9 o’clock in the morning and are closed by 5 o’clock in the evening[4]. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes[54].

Propagation :  
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. This species doesn’t really need any help from us. Division in spring.

Edible Uses   :
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Root.

Young leaves in spring – raw or cooked as a potherb. The first leaves in spring make an excellent salad. The leaves, stalks and buds can be used like spinach, whilst the blanched stems are also eaten. The leaves turn poisonous as the fruit matures. Caution is advised regarding the use of this plant for food, see the notes above on toxicity. Bulbils – cooked and used as a vegetable. The bulbils are formed at the leaf axils and also at the roots.  Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. The flower buds make a good substitute for capers.

Medicinal Uses:

Lesser celandine has been used for thousands of years in the treatment of haemorrhoids and ulcers. It is not recommended for internal use because it contains several toxic components. The whole plant, including the roots, is astringent. It is harvested when flowering in March and April and dried for later use. It is widely used as a remedy for piles and is considered almost a specific. An infusion can be taken internally or it can be made into an ointment and used externally. It is also applied externally to perineal damage after childbirth. Some caution is advised because it can cause irritation to sensitive skins. Externally also used for perineal damage after childbirth.  Combines well with plantain, marigold for agrimony for the internal treatment of piles.

Other Uses :

The flower petals are an effective tooth cleaner.  The plant often forms dense carpets when grown in the shade and can therefore be used as a ground cover though they die down in early summer. This should be done with some caution, however, since the plant can easily become an unwanted and aggressive weed in the garden.

Known Hazards :  All parts of the plant are poisonous. The toxins are unstable and of low toxicity, they are easily destroyed by heat or by drying. The sap can cause irritation to the skin

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.


Herbs & Plants

Acacia melanoxylon

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Botanical Name : Acacia melanoxylon
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Acacia
Species: A. melanoxylon
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales

Common Names : Australian Blackwood (The species is also known as Sally Wattle, Lightwood, Hickory, Mudgerabah, Tasmanian Blackwood or Black Wattle)

Habitat :Acacia melanoxylon is  native in eastern AustraliaNew South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria. Locally naturalized in S.W. Europe. It grows in wet forests on good soils up to the montane zone. Usually an under-storey tree in Eucalyptus forests.

Acacia melanoxylon is an evergreen .Trees often 10–20 m tall and 0.5 m dbh, but varies from small shrubs to one of the largest acacias in Australia, attaining heights up to 40 m and diameters of 1–1.5 m on lowlands in northwestern Tasmania, and in southern Victoria. In open situations the smaller and medium-sized  Blackwood trees are freely branched from near ground level, but the largest plants have  welldeveloped  trunk which is usually fairly cylindrical but may be shortly buttressed or flanged at the base…....CLICK   &   SEE

You may click to see the pictures of Acacia melanoxylon

Crowns dense. May spread by root suckers. Juvenile bipinnate leaves often persist on young plants. Bark hard, rough, longitudinally furrowed and scaly, brownish grey to very dark grey. This description is adapted from Doran & Turnbull (1997).

It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower in April. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)It can fix Nitrogen.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil.The plant prefers acid and neutral soils..It cannot grow in the shade.It requires dry or moist soil.

Prefers a sandy loam and a very sunny position. Prefers a deep moist soil. Succeeds in a hot dry position. Succeeds in any good garden soil that is not excessively limey. Most members of this genus become chlorotic on limey soils. This is one of the hardier members of the genus, tolerating temperatures down to about -10°c. It succeeds outdoors in Britain from Dorset westwards, also in south-western Scotland and in Ireland. However, even in the mildest areas of the country it is liable to be cut back to the ground in excessively cold winters though it can resprout from the base. It is planted for timber in south-west Europe. This species produces both phyllodes (basically a flattened stem that looks and acts like a leaf) and true leaves. The roots are very vigorous and extensive – they often produce suckers and can damage the foundations of buildings. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a sunny position in a warm greenhouse. Stored seed should be scarified, pre-soaked for 12 hours in warm water and then sown in a warm greenhouse in March. The seed germinates in 3 – 4 weeks at 25°c. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in a sunny position in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts, and consider giving them some protection from the cold for their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in individual pots in a frame. Overwinter in a greenhouse for the first winter and plant out in their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Fair percentage.

Edible Uses: Flowers – cooked. Rich in pollen, they are often used in fritters. The flowers have a penetrating scent.

Medicinal Uses:

Antirheumatic. :Bathe in a bark infusion for rheumatism.

Other Uses :
A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers. A green dye is obtained from the seed pods. The extensive root system of this plant helps to prevent soil erosion. The bark is rich in tannin.

Acacia melanoxylon wood is valued for its highly decorative timber which may be used as a cabinet timber, for musical instruments or in boatbuilding.(Wood is hard, dark, close grained, high quality, takes a high polish.)

The tree’s twigs and its bark are used to poison fish as a way of fishing.

Plain and Figured Australian Blackwood is used in musical instrument making (in particular guitars, drums, Hawaiian ukuleles, violin bows and organ pipes), and in recent years has become increasingly valued as a substitute for koa wood.

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.


Click to access melanoxylon.pdf

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Herbs & Plants

Fagus grandifolia (American Beech)

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Botanical Name : Fagus grandifolia
Family: Fagaceae
Genus: Fagus
Species: F. grandifolia
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales

Common Names : American Beech or North american beech

Habitat: Fagus grandifolia is native to Eastern N. America – New Brunswick to Florida, west to Texas and Ontario. Grows in  Rich uplands and mountain slopes, often forming nearly pure forests. In the south of its range it is also found on the margins of streams and swamps

It is a deciduous tree growing at a slow rate to 20–35 m (66–115 ft) tall, with smooth, silver-gray bark. The leaves are dark green, simple and sparsely-toothed with small teeth, 6–12 cm (2.4–4.7 in) long (rarely 15 centimetres (5.9 in)), with a short petiole. The winter twigs are distinctive among North American trees, being long and slender (15–20 mm (0.59–0.79 in) by 2–3 mm (0.079–0.12 in)) with two rows of overlapping scales on the buds. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.The fruit is a small, sharply-angled nut, borne in pairs in a soft-spined, four-lobed husk….

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It is hardy to zone 4 and is frost tender and shade-tolerant species, favoring shade more than other trees, commonly found in forests in the final stage of succession. Although sometimes found in pure stands, it is more often associated with Sugar Maple (forming the Beech-Maple climax community), Yellow Birch, and Eastern Hemlock, typically on moist well drained slopes and rich bottomlands. Near its southern limit, it often shares canopy dominance with Southern Magnolia.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

Thrives on a light or medium soil, doing well on chalk, but ill-adapted for heavy wet soils. Young trees are very shade tolerant, but are subject to frost damage so are best grown in a woodland position which will protect them. Although very cold hardy, this species requires hotter summers than are normally experienced in Britain so is not usually a success here and is very slow growing. The seeds are dispersed after the first frosts, they are sometimes gathered and sold in local markets in N. America. Good crops are produced every 2 – 3 years in the wild. This species produces suckers and often forms thickets in the wild. Trees have surface-feeding roots and also cast a dense shade, this greatly inhibits the growth of other plants and, especially where a number of the trees are growing together, the ground beneath them is often almost devoid of vegetation.

Seed – the seed has a short viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Protect the seed from mice. Germination takes place in the spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seedlings are slow growing for the first few years and are very susceptible to damage by late frosts. The seed can also be sown in an outdoor seedbed in the autumn. The seedlings can be left in the open ground for three years before transplanting, but do best if put into their final positions as soon as possible and given some protection from spring frosts.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Inner bark; Leaves; Seed.

Edible Uses: Coffee; Oil.

Young leaves – raw or cooked as a potherb. A very nice mild flavour but the leaves quickly become tough so only the youngest should be used. New growth is usually produced for 2 periods of 3 weeks each year, one in spring and one in mid-summer. Seed – raw or cooked. Small but very sweet and nutritious, it is sold in local markets in Canada and some parts of America. Rich in oil, the seed also contains up to 22% protein. The raw seed should not be eaten in large quantities since it is believed to cause enteritis. It can be dried and ground into a powder, then used with cereal flours in making bread, cakes etc. The germinating seeds can be eaten raw, they are tender, crisp, sweet and nutty. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. Inner bark. Dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread

Medicinal Uses:
Pectoral; Skin; Vermifuge.

A decoction of the boiled leaves has been used as a wash and poultice to treat frostbite, burns, poison ivy rash etc. The nuts have been eaten as a vermifuge. A tea made from the bark has been used in the treatment of lung ailments. It has also been used to procure an abortion when the mother was suffering.

A concoction made of fresh or dried leaves was applied by the pioneers to burns, scalds, and frostbite, Indians steeped a handful of fresh bark in a cup or two of water and used it for skin rashes, particularly those caused by poison ivy.  In Kentucky, beech sap was one ingredient of a syrup compounded to treat tuberculosis.  Decoctions of either the leaves or the bark were administered internally, as a treatment for bladder, kidney, and liver ailments..  A decoction of the root or leaves was believed to cure intermittent fevers, dysentery, and diabetes, while the oil from the nut was given for intestinal worms.

Other Uses:
American Beech is an important tree in forestry.The oil obtained from the seed has been used as a fuel in oil lamps. Wood – strong, hard, heavy, very close grained, not durable, difficult to cure. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot.The wood is heavy, hard, tough and strong, and, until the advent of the modern chainsaw, during lumbering beech trees were often left uncut to grow. As a result, many areas today still have extensive groves of old beeches that would not otherwise occur. Today, the wood is harvested for uses such as flooring, containers, furniture, handles and woodenware.  It makes an excellent charcoal and is used in artwork

Like the European Beech bark, the American Beech bark is an attraction for vandals who carve names, dates, gang symbols, and other material into it. One such tree in Louisville, Kentucky, in what is now the southern part of Iroquois Park, bore the legend “D. Boone kilt a bar” and the year in the late 18th century. This carving was authenticated as early as the mid-19th century, and the tree trunk section is now in the possession of The Filson Historical Society in Louisville.

It is sometimes planted as an ornamental tree, but (even within its native area) much less often than the European Beech; the latter species is faster-growing and somewhat more tolerant of difficult urban sites.

The mast (crop of nuts) from American Beech provides food for numerous species of animals. Among vertebrates alone, these include ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, raccoons, red/gray foxes, white tail deer, rabbits, squirrels, opossums, pheasants, black bears, porcupines, and man. For lepidopteran caterpillars feeding on American Beech, see List of Lepidoptera that feed on beeches. Beech nuts were one of the primary foods of the now-extinct passenger pigeon, and the clearing of beech and oak forests are pointed to as one of the major factors that may have contributed to the bird’s extinction

Known Hazards : Large quantities of the raw seed may be 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.



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