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Herbs & Plants

Vanilla planiforlia

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Botanical Name : Vanilla planiforlia
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Vanilloideae
Tribes: Vanilleae
Class: Equisetopsida
Subclass: Magnoliidae
Superorder: Lilianae
Order: Asparagales
Genus: Vanilla
Species: Vanilla planifolia

Synonyms: Vanilla planifolia Jacks, Notylia planifolia

Common name: Vanilla
Habitat:Vanilla planiforlia is native to Mexico and Central America. It grows in the tropical forests.
Description:
Vanilla planifolia is a tropical vine, which can reach a length of over 30 m. It has thick, fleshy stems and greenish flowers that open early in the morning and are pollinated by bees. The flowers have only a slight scent, with no element of the vanilla flavour or aroma. Once pollinated, the ovaries swell and develop into fruits called ‘pods’ similar to long, thin runner beans over a period of four weeks. The pods contain thousands of tiny black seeds.
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Cultivation:
Chris Ryan of Kew’s Tropical Nursery has found that propagation of this orchid is relatively straightforward and is usually done from stem cuttings.

A piece of stem is taken, with a minimum of three sets of leaves. The cutting is placed on sphagnum moss and kept damp in a warm and humid environment until new growth starts from one of the nodes. The cuttings are then planted into hanging baskets, using a compost mix made of three parts bark chips, two parts pumice and one part charcoal. The compost is watered only when it dries out, but the aerial roots are misted once a day.

The plants are kept in a warm zone of the nursery, with a minimum winter temperature of 18?C, and shaded when necessary. When the plants become large they require some support due to their climbing habit. Flowering can be induced by tip-pruning established plants, which promotes flowering on lateral shoots.

Edible Uses:The tiny seeds, whole fruit, powder or fruit extract of vanilla are used as flavouring agents in food, particularly in confectionery and sweet foods, sometimes to reduce the amount of sugar necessary to sweeten food.

Medicinal Uses:
Vanilla is used medicinally as an aphrodisiac, as a stimulant, and to relieve fevers and gastric complaints, although there is no scientific evidence for its effectiveness in these cases. In the 16th and 17th centuries vanilla was believed to have various medicinal properties and was used as a stomach herb, a stimulant and aphrodisiac and an antidote to poisons. It was first included in European pharmacopoeias in the 18th century and was listed in the British and American ones for many years. It acts on the nervous system and used to be used to treat hysteria and high fevers.

Research has shown that vanillin, the main flavour molecule in vanilla, does have antimicrobial and antioxidant activities.
Other Uses:
Vanilla is among the most important ingredients in perfumery.

Vanilla: Essence and aroma

The mature, unripe fruits have no flavour when they are harvested. The aroma and flavour of vanilla are released when the fruit is dried and cured by steaming and fermentation. The finest quality vanilla pods turn dark brown and accumulate a frosting of glucose and vanillin on the surface during fermentation.

Vanillin was first synthesised in 1874 from a compound extracted from pine bark, and then in 1891 from a different compound extracted from cloves, and is widely used as a synthetic substitute for natural vanilla. The ‘vanilla essence‘ commonly used today is synthesised from wood pulp as a by-product of paper-making and from coal-tar (toluene). However, the characteristic aroma and flavour of natural vanilla comprises a cocktail of over 200 different molecules.
Known Hazards: Vanilla may cause allergic responses when applied topically or taken internally. ‘Vanillism’ is a condition sometimes experienced by workers handling vanilla, the symptoms of which are headache, dermatitis and insomnia.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Vanilla_planifolia
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_UZ.htm
http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/vanilla-planifolia-vanilla

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Herbs & Plants

Agar-Agar

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Botanical Name: Gelidium amansii
Family:    Gelidiaceae
Genus:    Gelidium
Species:    G. amansii
Kingdom:    Archaeplastida
Phylum:    Rhodophyta
Class:    Florideophyceae
Order:    Gelidiales

Synonyms:   Japanese Isinglass.

Common names:   Agar-Agar,
Japansche scheleiachtige mos, Steen-or klipbloem, Hay tsay, Olus marinus, Sajur laut, Tschintschau, Tschoo-hoae (Madlener 1977).

Chinese: Niu mau tsai (Madlener 1977).

Japanese: Tengusa, Makusa, Genso (Madlener 1977), Kanten (Rhoads & Zunic 1978), Oyakusa (Chapman & Chapman 1980).

Common names used in commerce, often for edible algae:  Shie hua ts’ai {China}; Shima-ten-gusa {Jap}

Habitat :  Gelidium amansii grows  in  Japan, China, India,Indonesia,Taiwan,  Ceylon and Macassar.

Description:
A genus of about 20 species of red seaweeds, found mainly in waters off Japan, Spain, Portugal, W Scotland, Ireland, N, S, and W Africa, Madagascar, California, and Chile. They are collected with rakes from boats or by divers from deep water, and are now cultivated by the Japanese on poles in coastal waters. Gelidium amansii is a source of agar or Kanten, a collodial extract used in similar ways to gelatin. The earliers observations of the properties of G. amansii (tengusa) are attributed to a Japanese innkeeper, Minoya Tarozaemon, in 1660, though seaweed gels have been eaten in Japan for over 1,200 years. Its use as agar, a culture medium for bacteria, was developed in the 1880s by Robert Koch, who thereby discovered the organisms that cause tuberculosis. Some 30 species of algae, belonging to about ten different genera, are used worldwide for agar production; the main ones are G. amansii (Japan), G. cartilagineum (USA), Gracilaria verrucosa (Australia), and Pterocladia pinnata (New Zealand). The 20th century saw demand for Gelidium increase in many areas, including medicine, dentistry, forensic science, and the food industry. It is prepared as strips of solidified mucilaginous extract, which gels at 32°C (90°F) and melts at 85°C (185°F). The high melting point makes agar useful in food that might otherwise melt in warm temperatures. In addition, its constituents are non-toxic and not absorbed from the gut.
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Perennial, tuft-forming seaweed, with pinnately branched, rigid, cartilaginous fronds, divided into thread-like segments. Found in intertidal and subtidal zones around China, Japan, Korea, and Pacific coasts of Russia. Width 10-30cm (4-12in).

A seaweed gathered on the East Indian coast and sent to China, it is derived from the various species of Sphaerococcus Euchema and Gelidium. It is brownish-white in colour with thorny projections on its branches; the best variety, known as Japanese Isinglass, contains large quantities of mucilage. The seaweed after collection is spread out on the shore until bleached, and then dried; it is afterwards boiled in water and the mucilaginous solution strained, the filtrate being allowed to harden, and then it is dried in the sun. The time for collection of the Algae is summer and autumn when the bleaching and drying can take place, but the final preparation of Agar-Agar is carried out in winter from November to February. The Japanese variety is derived from several kinds of Algae and comes into European commerce in two forms: (1) In transparent pieces 2 feet long, the thickness of a straw, prepared in Singapore by treating it in hot water. (2) In yellowish white masses about 1 inch wide and 1 foot long. The latter is the form considered the more suitable for the culture of bacteria.

Edible Uses:  Powdered or flaked agar is used to set jellies. Kanten is a popular food in Japan, made into a firm jelly or into tokoroten (noodles).

Constituents:  Agar-Agar contains glose, which is a powerful gelatinizing agent. It is precipitated from solution by alcohol. Glose is a carbohydrate. Acetic, hydrochloric and oxalic acids prevent gelatinization of Agar-Agar.

Properties:  A nutritive, almost tasteless, gelatinous herb that acts as a bulk laxative.

Medicinal Uses:
Agar-Agar is widely used as a treatment for constipation, but is usually employed with Cascara when atony of the intestinal muscles is present. It does not increase peristaltic action. Its therapeutic value depends on the ability of the dry Agar to absorb and retain moisture. Its action is mechanical and analogous to that of the cellulose of vegetable foods, aiding the regularity of the bowel movements.

Other Uses:   Used in invalid foods, and as a gelling and stabilizing agent in canned meats, ice cream, sauces, deserts, and dairy products.

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.algaebase.org/search/species/detail/?species_id=1830
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/agara012.html
http://www.prcupcc.com/herbs/herbsa/agaragar.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelidium_amansii

Categories
Herbs & Plants

Tragopogon porrifolius

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Botanical Name : Tragopogon porrifolius
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Tragopogon
Species: T. porrifolius
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Synonyms: Purple Goat’s Beard. Vegetable Oyster.
(French) Salsifis des prés.

Common Names :Purple or Common salsify, Oyster plant, Vegetable oyster, Jerusalem star,Goatsbeard or Simply salsify (although these last two names are also applied to other species, as well).

Habitat :Tragopogon porrifolius is   native to Mediterranean regions of Europe but introduced elsewhere, for example, into the British Isles (mainly in central and southern England), other parts of northern Europe, North America, and southern Africa and in Australia; in the United States it is now found growing wild in almost every state, including Hawaii, except in the extreme south-east.This plant is normally found near the sea and estuaries in S.E. England

Description:
Tragopogon porrifolius is a common biennial wildflower plant growing  to around 120 cm in height. As with other Tragopogon species, its stem is largely unbranched, and the leaves are somewhat grasslike. It exudes a milky juice from the stems.In the UK it flowers from June to September, but in warmer areas such as California it can be found in bloom from April. The flower head is about 5 cm across, and each is surrounded by green bracts which are longer than the petals (technically, the ligules of the ray flowers). The flowers are like that of Goatsbeard Tragopogon pratensis, but are larger and dull purple, 30-50mm across. The flowers are hermaphroditic, and pollination is by insects.

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The fruits are of the clock variety.The seeds ripen from July to September.

Cultivation:     
Succeeds in ordinary garden soils, including heavy clays. Plants do not grow well in stony soils. Prefers an open situation and a cool moist root run. Salsify is occasionally cultivated in the garden for its edible root, there are some named varieties. Grows well with mustard.

Propagation:  
Seed – sow in situ as early in the year as possible, in March if weather conditions permit. Seed sowings often fail unless the soil is kept moist until the seedlings are growing well.

Edible Uses: 
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves;  Root;  Seed;  Stem.

Root – raw or cooked. The young root can be grated in salads, older roots are best cooked. The flavour is mild and sweet, and is said to resemble oysters. The roots are harvested as required from October until early spring, or can be harvested in late autumn and stored until required. Young shoots – raw or cooked. The new growth is used in spring. A sweet taste. Flowering shoots – raw or cooked. Used like asparagus. Flowers – raw. Added to salads[183]. The sprouted seeds can be added to salads or sandwiches. The root latex is used as a chewing gum.

Meditional Uses:

Antibilious;  Aperient;  Deobstruent;  Diuretic.

Salsify is a cleansing food with a beneficial effect upon the liver and gallbladder. The root is antibilious, slightly aperient, deobstruent and diuretic. It is specific in the treatment of obstructions of the gall bladder and jaundice and is also used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure

Other Uses : Gum.

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=Tragopogon+porrifolius
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragopogon_porrifolius
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/salsaf08.html

Categories
Herbs & Plants

Amelanchier arborea

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Botanical Name :Amelanchier arborea
Family : Rosaceae
Genus Amelanchier
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Species: A. arborea

Synonyms:   Amelanchier canadensis – Wiegand. non (L.)Med.,Mespilus arborea – F.Michx.
Other Names : Downy Serviceberry, Juneberry, Shadbush, Servicetree, Sarvis-tree


Habitat
: Eastern N. AmericaNew Brunswick to Florida, west to Minnesota and Texas. ,Rich woods, thickets and slopes.Woodland Garden; Canopy; Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Description:
It is hardy to zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen from June to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. The plant is self-fertile.

Amelanchier arborea is generally 5-12 m tall. Occasionally, it can grow up to 20 m tall and reach into the overstory. The trunk can be up to 15 cm diameter (rarely to 40 cm diameter). The bark is smooth and gray

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The buds are slender with a pointed tip, and usually more than two scales visible. The leaves are ovate or elliptical, 4-8 cm (rarely 10 cm) long and 2.5-4 cm wide, with pointed tips and finely serrated margins. A characteristic useful for identification is that the young leaves emerge downy on the underside. The fall color is variable, from orange-yellow to pinkish or reddish.

It has perfect flowers (so the plant is monoecious) that are 15-25 mm diameter, with 5 petals, emerging during budbreak in early spring. The petals are white. Flowers are produced on pendulous racemes 3-5 cm long with 4-10 flowers on each raceme. The flowers are pollinated by bees. The fruit is a reddish-purple pome, resembling a small apple in shape. They ripen in summer and are very popular with birds.]

It also commonly hybridizes with other species of Amelanchier, and identification can be very difficult as a result.

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

Cultivation :
Prefers a rich loamy soil in a sunny position or semi-shade but thrives in any soil that is not too dry or water-logged. Grows well in heavy clay soils. All members of this genus have edible fruits and, whilst this is dry and uninteresting in some species, in many others it is sweet and juicy. Many of the species have potential for use in the garden as edible ornamentals. The main draw-back to this genus is that birds adore the fruit and will often completely strip a tree before it is fully ripe. The plant becomes dwarfed when growing in sterile (poor and acid) ground. Hybridises with A. bartramiana, A. canadensis, A. humilis and A. laevis. Grafting onto seedlings of A. lamarckii or Sorbus aucuparia is sometimes practised in order to avoid the potential problem of hybridizing.

Propagation:
Seed – it is best harvested ‘green’, when the seed is fully formed but before the seed coat has hardened, and then sown immediately in pots outdoors or in a cold frame. If stored seed is obtained early enough in the autumn, it can be given 4 weeks warm stratification before being left out in the winter and it should then germinate in the spring. Otherwise seed can be very slow to germinate, perhaps taking 18 months or more. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a sheltered outdoor position, planting them out once they are 20cm or more tall. If there is sufficient seed it is best to sow it thinly in an outdoor seedbed. Grow the seedlings on for two years in the seedbed before planting them out into their permanent positions during the winter. Layering in spring – takes 18 months. Division of suckers in late winter. The suckers need to have been growing for 2 years before you dig them up, otherwise they will not have formed roots. They can be planted out straight into their permanent positions if required.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit has a few small seeds at the centre, some forms are dry and tasteless whilst others are sweet and juicy. The fruit ripens unevenly over a period of 2 – 3 weeks and is very attractive to birds, this makes harvesting them in quantity rather difficult. The fruit is borne in small clusters and is up to 10mm in diameter. It is rich in iron and copper.

Medicinal Actions &  Uses

Anthelmintic; Astringent; Tonic; VD.
A compound infusion of the plant has been used as an anthelmintic, in the treatment of diarrhoea and as a spring tonic. An infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of gonorrhoea.

Other Uses
Soil stabilization.
The trees have an extensive root system and can be planted on banks etc for erosion control. Wood – close-grained, hard, strong, tough and elastic. It is one of the heaviest woods in N. America, weighing 49lb per cubic foot. Too small for commercial interest, it is sometimes used for making handles.

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/database/plants.php?Amelanchier+arborea
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelanchier_arborea
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/images/low/H290-0901020.jpg
http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/a/amearb/amearb1.html

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Categories
Chemicals & Minerals

Sodium

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What is sodium?
A silvery-white mineral, sodium is one of the most abundant elements in nature. It is usually seen in combination with one or more elements and is chemically very active. About half of the sodium found in the body is in the soft tissues.

Why do we need it?
Sodium plays an essential role in the regulation of blood pressure and blood volume. It also assists with proper muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve impulses. Moderate sodium intake increases resistance to heat cramps and heat stroke, especially during periods of excessive fluid loss through sweating.In addition, manganese plays an important role in the synthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids, and is essential for the utilization of choline, thiamin, biotin, and vitamins C and E. It helps activate enzymes that regulate blood sugar, energy metabolism and function of the thyroid gland.

How much sodium should you take?

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for sodium is between 1,100-3,300 milligrams/day.

What are some good sources of sodium?
Sodium occurs naturally in nearly every food, from milk and beets to celery. It is most readily available in flavorings such as table salt, garlic salt, onion salt and soy sauce. One teaspoon of table salt contains approximately 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Sodium is also added to various food products. Added forms include monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and sodium benzoate. Processed meats such as bacon, sausage and ham, and canned soups and vegetables all contain added sodium. Fast foods are generally very high in sodium.

What can happen if you don’t get enough sodium?
Sodium deficiency can be attributed to starvation, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme sweating, or any condition with excessive fluid loss. Symptoms of sodium deficiency include intestinal gas, weight loss, short attention span, vomiting, heart palpitations and muscle weakness. Deficiency can cause a buildup of acids in the body, which can lead to arthritis, rheumatism and neuralgia.

What can happen if you take too much?
Excessive sodium intake can cause a loss of potassium in the urine, leading to potassium deficiency. Symptoms of excess sodium include edema, dizziness, and swelling of the legs and face. Excessive salt intake has also been linked to hypertension, and diets high in sodium may increase the likelihood of liver, heart and kidney disease.

Source:ChiroFind.com