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Herbs & Plants

Sea Bindweed

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Botanical Name :Convolvulus Soldanella
Family: Convolvulaceae
Genus: Calystegia
Species: C. soldanella
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Solanales
Synonyms :Convolvulus sepium, Hedge Convolvulus. Old Man’s Night Cap. Hooded Bindweed. Bearbind.  Convolvulus soldanella.

Common Names :Sea Bindweed or Hedge Convolvulus (C. sepium), is a hedge plant found abundantly throughout England and Scotland, but only of local occurrence in Scotland. Like the Field Convolvulus, it is, in spite of the beauty of its flowers, regarded as a pest by both the farmer and the gardener, its roots being long and penetrating in a dense mass that exhausts the soil, and its twining stems extending in masses over all other plants near, and strangling them to a still greater degree than its smaller relative

Common Name :Sea Bindweed , seashore false bindweed, shore bindweed, shore convolvulus and beach morning glory

Habitat :The Sea Bindweed is a very beautiful species growing only on sandy sea-shores, decorating the sloping sides of sand-hills with its large, pale rosecoloured flowers striped with red. It is native to Coastal areas of Europe, including Britain, N. Africa, Asia, N. and S. America and Australasia.

Description:
Sea Bindweed  is a perennial creaper growing to 0.6 m (2ft).
It is hardy to zone 6.Its stems are not climbing being usually buried beneath the sand, the flowers and leaves merely rising above the surface. The leaves are fleshy, roundish or kidney-shaped, about the size of the Lesser Celandine, placed singly on alternate sides of the stem on long foot-stalks. The flowers are produced singly at each side of the stem, on four-sided, winged stalks, and blossom in July, being succeeded by round capsules. The bracts are large, egg-shaped and close to the flower, which is nearly as large as the Great Bindweed, and expands in the morning and in bright weather, closing before night. This species is also frequently assigned to the genus Calystegia.  It is in flower from Jun to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera.

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

Cultivation:   
Easily grown in ordinary well-drained garden soil in a sunny position. This species is very difficult to establish successfully in the garden.

Propagation:          
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame in a free draining compost and only just cover. The seed usually germinates in 1 – 3 months at 15°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in early spring whilst dormant.

Edible Uses :  
Young shoots – cooked as a vegetable or pickled and used as a samphire substitute. Caution is advised since the plant might have a purgative effect.

Medicinal Uses :

Antiscorbutic;  Diuretic;  Febrifuge;  Irritant;  Purgative;  Vermifuge.

The dried rhizomes, roots, and leaves are used in the preparation of laxatives and remedies for gallbladder problems. It was also used in folk medicine for jaundice. Women drank this tea to help stomach cramps or to guard against a miscarriage. The fresh leaves, made into a poultice, helped to bring a boil to a head. American Indians were said to have rubbed the leaves of the plant over their bodies and then handled rattlesnakes without dancer. The fresh sap of the plant when crushed is an effective treatment for fevers relating to infections such as tonsillitis, sinusitis, otitis, etc. Take 1 Tbsp juice, 3 times a day for it. A mother tincture made from the root is used primarily to treat hepatic constipation.

Other Uses:
The stems are very flexible and are used as a string for tying. Fairly strong but not long-lasting.

Known Hazards :  This species is said to be purgative, some caution is advised.

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://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/binwes41.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Calystegia+soldanella
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calystegia_soldanella

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm

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Herbs & Plants

Quassia amara

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Botanical Name :Quassia amara
Family: Simaroubaceae
Genus: Quassia
Species: Q. amara
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales

Common Names :Amargo, Bitter-ash, Bitter-wood,Quassia, Jamaica Quassia

Habitat :Quassia amara is native to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Brasilia, Peru, Venezuela, Suriname, Colombia, Argentinia, French Guiana and Guyana. Q. amara is widely planted outside its native range.

Description:
Amargo is a shrub or rarely a small tree, growing to 3 m tall (rarely 8 m). The leaves are compound and alternate, 15–25 cm long, and pinnate with 3-5 leaflets, the leaf rachis being winged. The flowers are produced in a panicle 15–25 cm long, each flower 2.5-3.5 cm long, bright red on the outside, and white inside. The fruit is a small drupe 1-1.5 cm long.  It has beautiful red flowers and fruits that turn red as they mature.

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Quassia amara is marketed and used interchangeably with another tree species, Picrasma excelsa. Sharing the common name of quassia (and many of Quassia amara’s constituents and uses), P. excelsa is much taller (up to 25 m in height) and occurs farther north in the tropics of Jamaica, the Caribbean, the Lesser Antilles, and northern Venezuela. In herbal medicine in the United States and Europe, very little distinction is made between the two species of trees; they are used identically and just called quassia. The name amargo means “bitter” in Spanish and describes its very bitter taste.

Chemical Constituents:
In the wood a share of 0.09 to 0.17% of quassin and 0.05 to 0.11% of neoquassin was detected in Costa Rician plants. Quassin is one of the most bitter substances found in nature.

Other identified components of bitterwood are: beta-carbolines, beta-sitostenone, beta-sitosterol, dehydroquassins, gallic acid, gentisic acid, hydroxyquassins, isoparain, isoparaines, isoquassins, malic acid, methylcanthins, methoxycanthins, methoxycantins, nigakilactone A, nor-neoquassin, parain, paraines, quassialactol, quassimarin, quassinol, quassol and simalikalactone D.

Medicinal Uses:
In the Amazon rainforest, Quassia amara is used much in the same manner as quinine bark: for malaria and fevers and as a bitter digestive aid. It grows at lower elevations (where quinine does not) and contains many of the same antimalarial phytochemicals (plant chemicals) as quinine. In addition, it is used as an insecticide and tonic, and for hepatitis. Brazilian Indians use the leaves in a bath for measles as well as in a mouthwash used after tooth extractions. Indians in Suriname use the bark for fever and parasites. Throughout South America, amargo is a tribal remedy for debility, digestion problems, fever, liver problems, parasites, malaria, snakebite, and back spasms. In the rainforests of Suriname, carved cups made out of amargo wood can be found in local markets. They are called “bitter cups” and they used medicinally in indigenous Saramaka traditional medicine systems. Drinking from these cups are thought to help digestion with the “bitters” leached from the wood.

In current Brazilian herbal medicine systems, Quassia amara is considered a tonic, digestion stimulant, blood cleanser, insecticide, and mild laxative. It is recommended for diarrhea, intestinal worms, dysentery, dyspepsia, excessive mucus, expelling worms, intestinal gas, stomachache, anemia, and liver and gastrointestinal disorders. In Peru, amargo is employed as a bitter digestive aid to stimulate gastric and other digestive secretions as well as for fevers, tuberculosis, kidney stones and gallstones. In Mexico, the wood is used for liver and gallbladder diseases and for intestinal parasites. In Nicaragua, amargo is used to expel worms and intestinal parasites as well as for malaria and anemia. Throughout South America, the bitter principles of amargo are used to stimulate the appetite and secretion of digestive juices, as well as to expel worms and intestinal parasites.

In herbal medicine in the United States and Europe, amargo is employed as a bitter tonic for stomach, gallbladder, and other digestive problems (by increasing the flow of bile, digestive juices, and saliva); as a laxative, amebicide, and insecticide; and to expel intestinal worms. In Europe, it is often found as a component in various herbal drugs that promote gallbladder, liver, and other digestive functions. In Britain, a water extract of the wood is used topically against scabies, fleas, lice, and other skin parasites. U.S. herbalist David Hoffman recommends it as an excellent remedy for dyspeptic conditions, to stimulate production of saliva and digestive juices, and to increase the appetite (as well as for lice infestations and threadworms). He also notes, “It may safely be used in all cases of lack of appetite such as anorexia nervosa and digestive sluggishness.”

The preparation of a tea out of young leafs is used traditionally in French Guyana. Experiments showed a high inhibition of Plasmodium yoelii yoelii and Plasmodium falciparum.

Other Uses:
Insecticide:
Extracts of Quassia wood or bark act as a natural insecticide. For organic farming this is of particular interest. A good protection was shown against different insect pests (eg. aphids, Colorado potato beetle, Anthonomus pomorum, Rhagoletis cerasi, Caterpillars of Tortricidae).[3] Quassin extract works as a contact insecticide. Adverse effects on beneficial organism were not found.

For Switzerland, a licensed formulation available for organic farming.

Formulation:
Around 200 gramms of Quassia wood chips are put together with 2 liters of water. It is allowed to stand for 24 hours and then it is cooked for 30 min. It is then diluted with 10 to 20 liters of water and used as a spray.  The use of approximately 3-4.5 kg wood extract per hectare seems to be optimal to minimize the damage of Hoplocampa testudinea on apple trees.

Flavouring:
Extracts of Q. amara wood or bark are also used to flavor soft drinks, aperitifs and bitters which can be added to cocktails or to baked goods.

Contraindications:
•Amargo should not be used during pregnancy.

•Amargo has been documented to have an antifertility effect in studies with male rats. Men undergoing fertility treatment or those wishing to have children probably should avoid using amargo.

•Large amounts of amargo can irritate the mucous membrane of the stomach and can lead to nausea and vomiting. Do not exceed recommended dosages.

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/Quassia_amara
http://www.rain-tree.com/amargo.htm#.UgY4yL7D92Y
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail488.php

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Herbs & Plants

Carthamus tinctorius

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Botanical Name:Carthamus tinctorius
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Carthamus
Species: C. tinctorius
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Synonyms : Carduus tinctorius. Carthamus glaber. Centaurea carthamus.

Common Name :Safflower

Habitat :Carthamus tinctorius grows in  N. Africa – Egypt. A rare casual in Britain .It is native to arid environments having seasonal rain.(Poor dry soils in full sun.)

Description:
Carthamus tinctorius is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant, growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in). It is in leaf 10-May It is in flower from Aug to October, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile.  It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds. Plants are 30 to 150 cm (12 to 59 in) tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange, or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head.  It grows a deep taproot which enables it to thrive in such environments.

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Cultivation:  
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil. Safflower thrives in heavy clays with good water-holding capacity, but will also grow satisfactorily in deep sandy or clay loams with good drainage[269]. It needs soil moisture from the time of planting until it is flowering[269]. It requires a well-drained soil and a position in full sun.  Safflower is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation of 20 to 137cm, an annual average temperature range of 6.3 to 27.5deg.C and a pH in the range of 5.4 to 8.2. Plants are reported to tolerate bacteria, disease, drought, frost, fungus, high pH, phage, salt, sand, rust, virus and wind[269]. Safflower grows in the temperate zone in areas where wheat and barley do well, and grows slowly during periods of cool short days in early part of season. Seedlings can withstand temperatures lower than many species; however, varieties differ greatly in their tolerance to frost; in general, frost damages budding and flowering thus reducing yields and quality[269]. Safflower is a long-day plant, requiring a photoperiod of about 14 hours. It is shade and weed intolerant, will not grow as a weed because other wild plants overshadow it before it becomes established. It is about as salt tolerant as cotton, but less so than barley[269]. Safflower matures in from 110-150 days from planting to harvest as a spring crop, as most of it is grown, and from 200 or more days as an autumn-sown crop. It should be harvested when the plant is thoroughly dried. Since the seeds do not shatter easily, it may be harvested by direct combining. The crop is allowed to dry in the fields before threshing[269]. Plants are self-fertile, though cross-pollination also takes place . Plants have a sturdy taproot that can penetrate 2.5 metres into the soil. Safflower has been grown for thousands of years for the dye that can be obtained from the flowers. This is not much used nowadays, having been replaced by chemical dyes, but the plant is still widely cultivated commercially for its oil-rich seed in warm temperate and tropical areas of the world. There are many named varieties. A number of spineless cultivars have been developed, but at present these produce much lower yields of oil than the spiny varieties. Safflower is unlikely to be a worthwhile crop in Britain since it only ripens its seed here in long hot summers. There is more chance of success in the drier eastern part of the country with its usually warmer summers, the cooler moister conditions in the west tend to act against the production of viable seed.

Propagation:   
Seed – sow spring in gentle heat in a greenhouse. Germination usually takes place within 2 – 4 weeks at 15°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in April/May but plants may not then mature their seed.

Edible Uses:   
An edible oil is obtained from the seed. It contains a higher percentage of essential unsaturated fatty acids and a lower percentage of saturated fatty acids than other edible vegetable seed oils. The oil, light coloured and easily clarified, is used in salad dressings, cooking oils and margarines. A very stable oil, it is said to be healthier than many other edible oils and its addition to the diet helps to reduce blood-cholesterol levels. Seed – cooked. They can be roasted, or fried and eaten in chutneys. Tender young leaves and shoots – cooked or raw. A sweet flavour, they can be used as a spinach. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails. An edible yellow and a red dye are obtained from the flowers. The yellow is used as a saffron substitute to flavour and colour food. The (fried?) seeds are used as a curdling agent for plant milks etc .

Medicinal Uses:
Safflower is commonly grown as a food plant, but also has a wide range of medicinal uses. Modern research has shown that the flowers contain a number of medically active constituents and can, for example, reduce coronary heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Alterative, analgesic, antibacterial, antiphlogistic, haemopoietic. Treats tumours and stomatitis. The flowers are anticholesterolemic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, laxative, purgative, sedative and stimulant. They are used to treat menstrual pains and other complications by promoting a smooth menstrual flow and were ranked third in a survey of 250 potential anti-fertility plants. In domestic practice, the flowers are used as a substitute or adulterant for saffron in treating infants complaints such as measles, fevers and eruptive skin complaints. Externally, they are applied to bruising, sprains, skin inflammations, wounds etc. The flowers are harvested in the summer and can be used fresh or dried. They should not be stored for longer than 12 months. It is possible to carefully pick the florets and leave the ovaries behind so that seed can be produced, though this procedure is rather more time-consuming. The plant is febrifuge, sedative, sudorific and vermifuge. When combined with Ligusticum wallichii it is said to have a definite therapeutic effect upon coronary diseases. The seed is diuretic, purgative and tonic. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism and tumours, especially inflammatory tumours of the liver. The oil is charred and used to heal sores and treat rheumatism. In Iran, the oil is used as a salve for treating sprains and rheumatism.

Other Uses:  
The seed yields up to 40% of a drying oil, it is used for lighting, paint, varnishes, linoleum and wax cloths. The oil can also be used as a diesel substitute. It does not yellow with age. When heated to 300°c for 2 hours and then poured into cold water, the oil solidifies to a gelatinous mass and is then used as a cement for glass, tiles, stones etc or as a substitute for ‘plaster of Paris’. If the oil is heated to 307°c for 2½ hours, it suddenly becomes a stiff elastic solid by polymerization and can then be used in making waterproof cloth etc. A yellow dye is obtained by steeping the flowers in water, it is used as a saffron substitute. A red dye can be obtained by steeping the flowers in alcohol. It is used for dyeing cloth and, mixed with talcum powder, is used as a rouge to colour the cheeks

Known Hazards :  Avoid during pregnancy. Use with caution if suppressed or decreased immunity.

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://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Carthamus+tinctorius
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safflower
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail86.php

 

 

 

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Herbs & Plants

Tanacetum vulgare

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Botanical Name :Tanacetum vulgare
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Tanacetum
Species: T. vulgare
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Common Names:Tansy , Bitter Buttons,Common Tansy, Cow Bitter, Mugwort, or Golden Buttons.

Habitat :Tansy is native to Eurasia; it is found in almost all parts of mainland Europe. It is absent from Siberia and some of the Mediterranean islands. The ancient Greeks may have been the first to cultivate it as a medicinal herb. In the sixteenth century it was considered to be “necessary for a garden” in Britain.

Description:
Tansy is a flowering herbaceous plant with finely divided compound leaves and yellow, button-like flowers. It has a stout, somewhat reddish, erect stem, usually smooth, 50–150 cm tall, and branching near the top. The leaves are alternate, 10–15 cm long and are pinnately lobed, divided almost to the center into about seven pairs of segments, or lobes, which are again divided into smaller lobes having saw-toothed edges, giving the leaf a somewhat fernlike appearance. The roundish, flat-topped, button-like, yellow flower heads are produced in terminal clusters from mid-to-late summer. The scent is similar to that of camphor with hints of rosemary. The leaves and flowers are toxic if consumed in large quantities; the volatile oil contains toxic compounds including thujone, which can cause convulsions and liver and brain damage. Some insects, notably the tansy beetle Chrysolina graminis, have resistance to the toxins and subsist almost exclusively on the plant.

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Edible Uses:
Tansy was formerly used as a flavoring for puddings and omelets, but is now almost unknown. The herbalist John Gerard noted that tansy was well known as “pleasant in taste”, and he recommends tansy sweetmeats as “an especial thing against the gout, if every day for a certain space a reasonable quantitie thereof be eaten fasting.” In Yorkshire, tansy and caraway seeds were traditionally used in biscuits served at funerals.

During the Restoration, a “tansy” was a sweet omelette flavoured with tansy juice. In the BBC documentary “The Supersizers go … Restoration”, Allegra McEvedy described the flavour as “fruity, sharpness to it and then there’s a sort of explosion of cool heat a bit like peppermint.” [25] However, the programme’s presenter Sue Perkins experienced tansy toxicity.

According to liquor historian A. J. Baime, in the 19th century Tennessee whiskey magnate Jack Daniel enjoyed drinking his own whiskey with sugar and crushed tansy leaf.

Medicinal Uses:
* Amenorrhea * Insect Repellent * Parasites/worms * Scabies

Properties::  * Abortifacient * Antiparasite * Aromatic * Bitter * Bitter * Carminative * Emmenagogue * Stimulant * Vermifuge

Parts Used: The leaves and tops. The plant is cut off close above the root, when first coming into flower in August.

Constituents:  volatile oil (containing up to 70% thujone), bitter glycosides, sesquiterpene lactones, terpenoids including pyrethrins, tannin, resin, vitamin c, citric acid, oxalic acid

Tansy was once a widely grown herb with a number of traditional medicinal uses, but one that has lost favor over time with the modern herbal community. Older herbals recommend the use of tansy for many purposes including as an anthelmintic, for migraine, neuralgia, rheumatism and gout, meteorism( distended stomach due to trapped gas), and loss of appetite. Mrs. Grieve highly recommends an infusion of tansy be given to children to kill worms among other things.4 This is an excellent example of how we need to filter our readings of the wisdom of our elder teachers with today’s better understanding of plant chemistry. The danger with using tansy is primarily with it’s thujone content, which is responsible for much of tansy’s medicinal actions, but which is toxic in large doses. The amount of thujone contained can vary from plant to plant making safe dosing problematic. According to the German Commission E ” Uncontrolled usage of tansy, depending on the quality of the herb, can result in the absorption of thujone in toxic amounts, even at normal dosages.” 3

Tansy was a popular strewing herb in times past because it’s clean, camphorous scent repelled flies and other pests. It is still a good custom to plant tansy outside the kitchen door and around the garden for the same reasons. Although tansy is useful as a vermifuge, and can be used externally as poultice to treat skin infections, it might be wise to look to less dangerous herbs that can serve the same purposes.

For many years, tansy has been used as a medicinal herb despite its toxicity. 19th-century Irish folklore suggests bathing in a solution of tansy and salt as a cure for joint pain. A bitter tea made with tansy flowers has been used for centuries as an anthelmintic to treat parasitic worm infestations, and tansy cakes were traditionally eaten during Lent because it was believed that eating fish during Lent caused intestinal worms. Various Tanacetum species are used ethnomedically to treat migraine, neuralgia and rheumatism and as anthelmintics. Traditionally, tansy was often used for its emmenagogue effects to bring on menstruation or end an unwanted pregnancy, and pregnant women are advised to not use this herb. Research published in 2011 identified 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid (3,5-DCQA) and axillarin in tansy as antiviral compounds that are active against herpes simplex virus.

Other Uses:
In England, bunches of tansy were traditionally placed at windows to keep out flies. Sprigs were placed in bedding and linen to drive away pests.

Tansy has been widely used in gardens and homes in Melbourne, Australia to keep away ants.

Some traditional dyers use tansy to produce a golden-yellow colour. The yellow flowers are dried for use in floral arrangements.

Tansy is also used as a companion plant, especially with cucurbits like cucumbers and squash, or with roses or various berries. It is thought to repel ants, cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, and some kinds of flying insects, among others.

Dried tansy is used by some bee-keepers as fuel in a bee smoker.

Known Hazards:
Tansy contains a volatile oil which can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. If taken internally, toxic metabolites are produced as the oil is broken down in the liver and digestive tract. It is highly toxic to internal parasites, and for centuries tansy tea has been prescribed by herbalists to expel worms. Tansy is an effective insecticide, and is highly toxic to arthropods.  Because it contains thujone, the U.S. FDA limits the use of tansy to alcoholic beverages, and the final product must be thujone-free.

The active components of the volatile oil include 1,8-cineole, trans-thujone, camphor and myrtenol, with the quantities and proportions of each varying seasonally and from plant to plant.

1,8-cineole is a toxin believed to defend the plant leaves against attacks by herbivores. It has many biological activities including allelopathy, anesthetic, antibacterial, carcinogenic, fungicide, herbicide, insectifuge, nematicide, sedative, testosterone hydroxylase inducer, and others.

Thujone is a GABA receptor antagonist that sensitises neurons; it is reputed to be an aphrodisiac, increasing brain activity and causing hallucinations, spasms, convulsions, and even death.

Camphor has various uses, including manufacture of plastics, lacquers and varnishes, explosives and pyrotechnics; as a moth repellent; as a preservative in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics; to relieve itching and pain by creating a cooling effect on the skin; as an injectable antibacterial for root canals in dentistry; as a food flavor enhancer; and as a medical ingredient in chest rubs.

Myrtenol has been used as an insect pheromone in insect trapping, as a beverage preservative, a flavoring and a fragrance

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/Tansy
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail254.php

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Herbs & Plants

Serenoa repens

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Botanical Name :Serenoa repens
Family: Arecaceae
Subfamily: Coryphoideae
Tribe: Trachycarpeae
Subtribe: Livistoninae
Genus: Serenoa
Hook.f.
Species: S. repens
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Arecales

Synonyms : Sabal serrulata – (Michx.)Schult.&Schult.f.

Common Names : Serenoa,saw palmetto

Habitat :Serenoa ios native to  South-eastern N. America – South Carolina to Florida, west to Arkansas. It is endemic to the southeastern United States, most commonly along the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal plains, but also as far inland as southern Arkansas.
It grows in low pine woods, savannahs and thickets, where it often forms substantial thickets. Also found on coastal sand dunes

Description:
Saw palmetto is a small palm, normally reaching a height of around 2–4 m (3–6 ft). Its trunk is sprawling, and it grows in clumps or dense thickets in sandy coastal lands or as undergrowth in pine woods or hardwood hammocks. Erect stems or trunks are rarely produced but are found in some populations.

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It is a hardy plant; extremely slow growing, and long lived, with some plants, especially in Florida where it is known as simply the palmetto, possibly being as old as 500–700 years.It is a fan palm, with the leaves that have a bare petiole terminating in a rounded fan of about 20 leaflets. The petiole is armed with fine, sharp teeth or spines that give the species its common name. The teeth or spines are easily capable of breaking the skin, and protection should be worn when working around a Saw Palmetto. The leaves are light green inland, and silvery-white in coastal regions. The leaves are 1–2 m in length, the leaflets 50–100 cm long. They are similar to the leaves of the palmettos of genus Sabal. The flowers are yellowish-white, about 5 mm across, produced in dense compound panicles up to 60 cm long. The fruit is a large reddish-black drupe and is an important food source for wildlife and historically for humans. The plant is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species such as Batrachedra decoctor, which feeds exclusively on the plant. This plant is also edible to human beings, but the more green it is the more bitter tasting it would be.

It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf all year. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

Edible Uses:

Edible Parts: Fruit; Seed.click to see

Fruit – raw or cooked. A sweet flavour but with a soapy taste and a strong vanilla-like aroma[238]. Regular consumption of the fruit is supposed to be very beneficial to the health, improving the digestion and helping to increase weight and strength. Seed – raw or cooked.

Cultivation:
Requires a warm sunny position in a moist but well-drained soil. Plants can succeed in quite dry soils so long as their roots can penetrate to underground water. Growing mainly in coastal areas in its native range, this species is likely to be very tolerant of maritime exposure, though not of cold winds. This species is one of the hardiest of palms and succeeds outdoors in warm temperate zones. It is only likely to be marginally hardy, even in the mildest areas of Britain, and probably tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. Palms usually have deep penetrating root systems and generally establish best when planted out at a young stage. However, older plants are substantially more cold tolerant than juvenile plants. In areas at the limit of their cold tolerance, therefore, it is prudent to grow the plants in containers for some years, giving them winter protection, and only planting them into their permanent positions when sheer size dictates. Palms can also be transplanted even when very large. Although the thick fleshy roots are easily damaged and/or desiccated, new roots are generally freely produced. It is important to stake the plant very firmly to prevent rock, and also to give it plenty of water until re-established – removing many of the leaves can also help. Plants usually sucker freely in the wild and form dense thickets.

Propagation:
The seed is best sown in a warm greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. It usually germinates freely. Stored seed is more difficult to germinate, it should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water before sowing in a warm greenhouse. 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 two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Although the plant forms suckers, these do not usually transplant well and so seed is the only sure method of propagation

Medicinal Uses:
Antiseptic; Aphrodisiac; Diuretic; Expectorant; Sedative; Tonic; Uterine tonic.

Saw palmetto berries are a tonic herb that is used in the treatment of debility, urinary tract problems and for reducing enlarged prostate glands. The partially dried ripe fruit is aphrodisiac, urinary antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant, sedative and tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of impotence, debility in elderly men, prostate enlargement and inflammation, bronchial complaints associated with coldness, and wasting diseases. Saw palmetto is one of the few Western herbs that are considered to be anabolic (strengthening and building body tissue and encouraging weight gain). The fruit pulp, or a tincture, is given to those suffering from wasting disease, general debility and failure to thrive. The fruit also has a beneficial effect on the urinary system, helping to reduce the size of an enlarged prostate gland and strengthening the neck of the bladder. The fruit has a probable oestrogenic action, it is prescribed in the treatment of impotence, reduced or absent sex drive and testicular atrophy in men and to stimulate breast enlargement in women. The fruit is also used in the treatment of colds, coughs, irritated mucous membranes, asthma etc. A suppository of the powdered fruits, in cocoa butter, has been used as a uterine and vaginal tonic.

The fruits of the saw palmetto are highly enriched with fatty acids and phytosterols, and extracts of the fruits have been the subject of intensive research for the symptomatic treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This extract is also commonly used for other medical conditions, such as baldness, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and other hyperandrogen conditions, though research on such uses is preliminary.

Numerous meta-analyses of clinical trials S. repens extract in the treatment of BPH have found it safe and effective for mild-to-moderate BPH compared to placebo, finasteride, and tamsulosin Two larger trials found the extract no different from placebo. An updated meta-analysis including these trials found that saw palmetto extract “was not more effective than placebo for treatment of hyperplasia but following two million U.S. who use saw palmetto, urinary problems are greatly reduced. However, saw palmetto extract was comparable to tamsulosin and finasteride in this meta-analysis. Longer-term (2 years; most clinical trials have been 1 year) open studies suggest that saw palmetto reduces the risk of men with BPH ultimately needing to have surgery

Other Uses:

The leaves are used for thatching by several indigenous groups; so commonly so that there is a location in Alachua County, Florida named Kanapaha (“palm house”). The fruits may have been used to treat an unclear form of fish poisoning by the Seminoles and Bahamians

Basketry; Brush; String.

The leaf stems have been used in making baskets. The plant has been used to make brushes and cordage.

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/Serenoa_repens
http://digedibles.com/database/plants.php?Serenoa+repens