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Herbs & Plants

Chaparral (Larrea Tridentata)

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Botanical Name : Larrea tridentata
Family
: Zygophyllaceae
Genus: Larrea
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Zygophyllales
Species: L. tridentata

Common names: Chaparral, Creosote bush,hediondilla, Shegoi

Habitat : It is a prominent species in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts of western North America, including portions of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and western Texas in the United States, and northern Chihuahua in Mexico. It is closely related to the South American Larrea divaricata, and was formerly treated as the same species.

Description:
It is an evergreen shrub growing to 1-3 m tall, rarely 4 m. The stems of the plant bear resinous, dark green leaves with two leaflets joined at the base, each leaflet 7-18 mm long and 4-8.5 mm broad. The flowers are up to 25 mm diameter, with five yellow petals. Galls may form by the activity of the creosote gall midge. The whole plant exhibits a characteristic odor of creosote, from which the common name derives.
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Such chemicals, however, have failed to explain the peculiar regularity in the spacing of individual plants within a stand. Creosote bush stands tend to resemble man-made orchards in the even placement of plants. Originally, it was assumed that the plant produced some sort of water-soluble inhibitor that prevented the growth of other bushes near mature, healthy bushes. Now, however, it has been shown that the root systems of mature creosote plants are simply so efficient at absorbing water that fallen seeds nearby cannot accumulate enough water to germinate, effectively creating dead zones around every plant. It also seems that all plants within a stand grow at approximately the same rate, and that the creosote bush is a very long-living plant. As the Creosote Bush grows older, its oldest branches eventually die and its crown splits into separate crowns. This normally happens when the plant is 30 to 90 years old. Eventually the old crown dies and the new one becomes a clone of the previous plant, composed of many separate stem crowns all from the same seed. One creosote plant, named “King Clone“, near Lucerne Valley has been carbon dated to 11,700 years old.

Cultivation:
Creosote bush is most common on the well-drained soils of bajadas (alluvial fans) and flats. In parts of its range, it may cover large areas in practically pure stands, though it usually occurs in association with Ambrosia dumosa (burro bush or bur-sage). Despite this common habitat, creosote bush roots have been found to produce chemicals that inhibit the growth of burro bush roots, and much of their relationship is currently unexplained.

Contributing to the harshness of the germination environment above mature root systems, young creosote bushes are much more susceptible to drought stress than established plants. Germination is actually quite active during wet periods, but most of the young plants die very quickly unless there are optimal water conditions. Ground heat compounds the young plants’ susceptibility to water stress, and ground temperatures can reach upwards of 70°C (160°F). To become established, it seems the young plant must experience a pattern of three to five years of abnormally cool and moist weather during and after germination. From this, it can be inferred that all the plants inside a stand are of equal age.

Young plantMature plants, however, can tolerate extreme drought stress. In terms of negative water potential, creosote bushes can operate fully at -50 bars of water potential and have been found living down to -120 bars, although the practical average floor is around -70 bars, where the plant’s need for cellular respiration generally exceeds the level that the water-requiring process of photosynthesis can provide. Cell division can occur during these times of water stress, and it is common for new cells to quickly absorb water after rainfall. This rapid uptake causes branches to ‘grow’ several centimeters at the end of a dry season.

The leaves of the creosote bush have a high surface-volume ratio, maximizing the rate of heat escape. At the same time, water loss is minimized by the resinous, waxy coating of the leaves, and by their small size. Plants do drop some leaves heading into summer, but if all leaves are lost, the plant will not recover. Accumulation of fallen leaves, as well as other detritus caught from the passing wind, creates an ecological community specific to the creosote bush canopy, including beetles, millipedes, pocket mice, and kangaroo rats.

Medicinal Uses and toxicity

The Creosote bush serves many medicinal purposes: cure of fever, influenza, colds, upset stomach, gas gout, arthritis, sinusitis, anemia, and fungus infections (CRC Ethnobotany, June 12, 1999). Creosote also has antimicrobial properties, making it a useful first aid. It is also beneficial in the treatment of allergies, autoimmunity diseases, and Premenstrual Syndrome (Moore, 1989, p.29). Creosote serves as an analgesic, antidiarrheal , diuretic, and emetic. When used as a tea, the leaves and small twigs must be gathered, washed, and dried in the sun. The useable parts must then be ground into a powder and stored in a glass container because of the oils produced. (information provided by Nellie Chavez, Employee of Vita-Man Nutrition Center).

Creosote can be used on the skin as a tincture or salve, and can be taken internally as a tea or capsule (Moore, 1989, p.26). Although there are such a variety of medicinal purposes the Creosote serves, use of this plant is controversial to some. According to research “chemical constituents in Creosote bush may inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, but other studies have shown exactly the opposite” (Tilford, 1997, p.44). Another reason for the controversial use of Creosote bush is because of its “potential toxic effect on the liver” (Chevallier, 1996, p.224).

Creosote bush (often referred to as chaparral when used as a herbal remedy) is used as a herbal supplement and was used by Native Americans in the Southwest as a treatment for many maladies, including sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, chicken pox, dysmenorrhea, and snakebite. The shrub is still widely used as a medicine in Mexico.

Common Medical Uses : in Burns/SunBurn * Eczema * Natural Skin Care-Oils & Herbs * Parasites/Worms * Psoriasis * Rheumatoid Arthritis *

Chaparral has potent and long-lasting anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in the treatment of arthritis. Chaparral herb should only be externally in baths, and the tincture can be used to make creams and lotions. Applied to the skin, chaparral can have a remarkable healing effect on eczema, herpes, cold sores, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis. Not for long term extended use.

The Food and Drug Administration of the United States has issued warnings about the health hazards of ingesting creosote bush or using it as an internal medicine and discourages its use. In 2005, Health Canada issued a warning to consumers to avoid using the leaves of Larrea species because of the risk of damage to the liver and kidneys.

According to Gary Paul Nabhan in Gathering the Desert (1993, page 16): “…health food stores have been marketing Larrea as a cure-all that they whimsically called “chaparral tea” – the plant never grows above the desert in true chaparral vegetation.”

External uses of the herb include poultices placed on aching joints, and the tea or a fomentation (applied several times per day and left on the area) for such things as ringworm, skin fungi, and athletes’ foot. Has also been used for reducing fibroids A study in the Journal of Dental Research showed chaparral mouthwash reduced cavities by 75%.

Lipoxygenase and 5-hydroxyeicosatatraenois acid are usually high in the synovial fluid of arthritis sufferers which means Chapparal?s ability to inhibit these can help here as well. Larrea contains active flavonoids and ligans that, in addition to being anti-oxidants, act as antifungals, antibiotics, and antivirals. It is in this last capacity, as an antiviral that prompted investigations into its ability to inhibit the spl promoter HIV and as an inhibitor of Herpes simplex-1 in cell cultures; as well as Kaposi’s sarcoma virus. Clinical evaluations consisted of testimonies from close to 36 persons. Larrea was prepared as an extract in an aloe-based lotion and was effective in reversing symptoms in nearly all cases of HSV-1 and shingles within 12-24 hours and in greatly reducing the severity of sores from Kaposi’s sarcoma in people in full-blown AIDS. The lotion proved to work faster and to be more effective than acyclovir, the main drug for herpes.

When applied to the skin as a tea, tincture, or salve, Chaparral slows down the rate of bacterial grown and kills it with its antimicrobial activity. Chaparral will also help dry skin, brittle hair and nails and cracks in the hands or feet.


Creosote bush in pop culture

*In Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction series Dune, the Fremen inhabitants of the planet Arrakis rub the juices of the creosote bush into the palms of their hands to prevent water loss through the skin.
*Mary Hunter Austin, in The Land of Little Rain, said that the desert of the Death Valley “begins with the creosote.”

Side Effects:
FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY!! Reports of serious liver disease have been associated with the ingestion of chaparral. Seek advice from a health care practitioner before use and, in doing so, inform them if you have had, or may have had, liver disease, frequently use alcoholic beverages, or are using any medications. Discontinue use and see a doctor if vomiting, fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, or jaundice (e.g dark urine, pale stools, yellow discoloration of the eyes) should occur.

Other  Uses:
In addition to medicinal purposes, the Creosote bush is used as livestock feed, firewood, and roofing material for adobe houses (Mabry, 1977, p.252). It can be used to prevent rancidity of vegetable oils, as a mild sunscreen or massage oil. It also serves as a disinfectant for homes, an insecticide, as fish poison and fuel (Hocking, 1997, p.431)
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:
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail228.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larrea_tridentata
http://medplant.nmsu.edu/creosote.html

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Categories
Fruits & Vegetables Herbs & Plants

Blackcurrant

Botanical Name: Ribes nigrum
Family: Grossulariaceae
Genus: Ribes
Species:R. nigrum
Kingdom:Plantae
Order:Saxifragales

Common Name: Blackcurrant

Other Names: European Black Currant, Quinsy Berries

Habitat : Black Currant is native to temperate parts of central and northern Europe and northern Asia where it prefers damp fertile soils and is widely cultivated both commercially and domestically. It is cultivated throughout Finland, and other places of the world. It also grows in the wild.

Description:   Blackcurrant is a medium sized shrub, growing to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) by 1.5 metres (4.9 ft). The leaves are alternate, simple, 3 to 5 cm (1.2 to 2.0 in) broad and long with five palmate lobes and a serrated margin. All parts of the plant are strongly aromatic. The flowers are produced in racemes known as “strig”s up to 8 cm (3 in) long containing ten to twenty flowers, each about 8 mm (0.3 in) in diameter. Each flower has a hairy calyx with yellow glands, the five lobes of which are longer than the inconspicuous petals. There are five stamens surrounding the stigma and style and two fused carpels. The flowers open in succession from the base of the strig and are mostly insect pollinated, but some pollen is distributed by the wind. A pollen grain landing on a stigma will germinate and send a slender pollen tube down the style to the ovule. In warm weather this takes about 48 hours but in cold weather it may take a week, and by that time, the ovule may have passed the stage where it is receptive. If fewer than about 35 ovules are fertilised, the fruit may not be able to develop and will fall prematurely. Frost can damage both unopened and open flowers when the temperature falls below -1.9 °C (28.5 °F). The flowers at the base of the strig are more protected by the foliage and are less likely to be damaged.

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In midsummer the green fruit ripens to an edible berry up to 1 cm in diameter, very dark purple in colour, almost black, with a glossy skin and a persistent calyx at the apex, and containing several seeds dense in nutrients (notably Vitamin C). An established bush can produce about 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of fruit each year.


Cultivation and uses

The fruit have a high natural vitamin C content. Like the other true currants (not to be confused with the Zante currant, a type of grape which is often dried), it is classified in the genus Ribes.

In addition to the high levels of vitamin C, studies have also shown concentrated blackcurrant to be an effective Monoamine oxidase inhibitor (Bormann, et al. 1991.) Fifty grams of 5.5X concentrate was found to inhibit 92% of the Monoamine oxidase enzymes. Blackcurrant seed oil is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a very rare essential fatty acid.

When not in fruit, the plant looks very similar to the redcurrant shrub; they may be distinguished by the strong odour of the leaves and stems of the blackcurrant.

In Russia, it is common to infuse slightly sweetened vodka with blackcurrant leaves, making a deep yellowish-green beverage with a sharp flavour and an astringent taste[citation needed]. Blackcurrant berries can also be used to flavour vodka. In the UK, blackcurrant juice is often mixed with Cider to make a drink called Cider Black. This drink can be ordered at most pubs. It is also believed that adding a small amount of blackcurrant to Guinness will bring out a sweeter taste in the beer, making it a better beverage in some beer-drinkers’ opinions.

Blackcurrants have a very sweet and sharp taste. They are made into jelly, jam, juice, ice cream, cordial and liqueur. In the UK, Europe and Commonwealth countries, some types of confectionery include a blackcurrant flavour, but this is generally missing in the United States, even within the same brand. Instead grape flavour in candy (including grape jelly) almost mirrors the use of blackcurrant in both its ubiquity in the USA, and its rarity on the eastern side of the Atlantic.

The juicy berry is dark, purple-black in colour and highly fragrant and aromatic. It tastes slightly sour, but much sweeter (and better) than red or white currant. In Finland, blackcurrants are mainly used to make jellies, jams and juices, or used in various desserts. They are also eaten fresh, with sugar. The fragrant leaves are used to flavour vegetable preserves, especially pickled or salted cucumbers. Blackcurrants are high in vitamins C and B and hot blackcurrant juice is an old trusted cold remedy.

It may be small, but the mighty blackcurrant is bursting with more health promoting antioxidants than most other fruit and vegetables, including blueberries!

It’s the special antioxidants called anthocyanins, which give blackcurrants their distinctive dark colour. British blackcurrants are grown and bred especially for their deep colour, which makes them extra good for you. The Blackcurrant Foundation has been established by British growers to raise awareness of the numerous health benefits of British blackcurrants.

On this site you will find everything you need to know about this small, but great British fruit!

Blackcurrants are one of the richest sources of vitamin C – weight for weight they contain four times as much as oranges. Blackcurrants are also a rich source of potassium but very little sodium which makes them beneficial in the treatment of high blood pressure and water retention. Their skins contain anthocyanosides an anti-bacterial pigment which is good for sore throats.

Healthy Foods For Good Nutrition and Weight Control
Good diet nutrition is essential for healthy weight reduction. Fad diets or unbalanced eating plans lack the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients necessary to maintain efficient metabolism. Instead, choose a balanced diet plan, which includes foods from all food groups, and offers proper support to lose weight. A healthy choice is Anne Collins Weight Loss Program

History:
During World War II most fruits rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, became almost impossible to obtain in the United Kingdom. Since blackcurrant berries are a rich source of vitamin C and blackcurrant plants are suitable for growing in the UK climate, blackcurrant cultivation was encouraged by the British government. Soon, the yield of the nation’s crop increased significantly. From 1942 on almost the entire British blackcurrant crop was made into blackcurrant syrup (or cordial) and distributed to the nation’s children free, giving rise to the lasting popularity of blackcurrant flavourings in Britain.

Blackcurrants were once popular in the United States as well, but they became extremely rare in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s. The ban was enacted when it was discovered that blackcurrants helped to spread the tree disease White Pine Blister Rust, which was thought to threaten the then-booming U.S. lumber industry .

The federal ban on growing currants was shifted to individual States’ jurisdiction in 1966. The ban was lifted in New York State in 2003 as a result of the efforts of Greg Quinn and The Currant Company and currant growing is making a comeback in several states including Vermont, New York, Connecticut and Oregon.[2] However, several statewide bans still exist including Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Since the federal ban ceased currant production anywhere in the U.S., the fruit is not well-known and has yet to reach the popularity that it had in the U.S. in the 19th century or that it currently has in Europe and the UK. The first nationally available black currant beverage in the U.S. since the ban was lifted in many states is a powerful health-food nectar under the brand name CurrantC. Since black currants are a strong source of antioxidants and vitamins (much like pomegranate juice), awareness and popularity are once again growing in the U.S.

Cooking

Other than being juiced and used in jellies, syrups, and cordials, blackcurrants are used in cooking because their astringent nature brings out the flavour in many sauces and meat dishes and lends them to desserts. It was once thought that currants needed to be “topped and tailed” (the stalk and flower-remnants removed) before cooking. This however is not the case as these parts are easily assimilated during the cooking process. If one prefers to do this, however, the blackcurrants can be frozen, then shaken vigorously. The tops and tails are broken off and can be separated easily from the fruit.

Meditional Uses:

Blackcurrant fruits are a good source of minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin C. They have diuretic and diaphoretic actions, help to increase bodily resistance to infections and are a valuable remedy for treating colds and flu. The juice, especially when fresh or vacuum-sealed, helps to stem diarrhea and calms indigestion.

The leaves are cleansing, diaphoretic and diuretic. By encouraging the elimination of fluids they help to reduce blood volume and thereby lower blood pressure. An infusion is used in the treatment of dropsy, rheumatic pain and whooping cough, and can also be used externally on slow-healing cuts and abscesses. It can be used as a gargle for sore throats and mouth ulcers. The leaves are harvested during the growing season and can be used fresh or dried. French research has shown that blackcurrant leaves increase the secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands, and thus stimulate the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. This action may prove useful in the treatment of stress-related conditions.

An infusion of the young roots is useful in the treatment of eruptive fevers. A decoction of the bark has been found of use in the treatment of calculus, dropsy and hemorrhoidal tumors. The seed is a source of gamma-linolenic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid which assists the production of hormone-like substances. This process is commonly blocked in the body, causing disorders that affect the uterine muscles, nervous system and metabolism. There are no records of the oil from this species being used medicinally, though it is used in cosmetic preparations.

In Europe the leaves have traditionally been used for arthritis, spasmodic cough, diarrhea, as a diuretic and for treating a sore throat. The berries were made into a drink thought to be beneficial for treatment of colds and flu, for other fevers, for diaphoresis and as a diuretic. In traditional Austrian medicine, Ribes nigrum fruits have been used internally (consumed whole or as a syrup) for treatment of infections and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, the locomotor system, the respiratory tract and the cardiovascular system.

Blackcurrants prevent heart disease, cancer

Other uses:
The plant has various other uses. Blackcurrant seed oil is an ingredient in cosmetics and skin preparations, often in combination with vitamin E. The leaves can be extracted to yield a yellow dye and the fruit is a source for a blue or violet dye. The leaves have been used to assist in keeping vegetables fresh.

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:

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackcurrant

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