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Herbs & Plants (Spices)

Betula papyrifera

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Botanical Name: Betula papyrifera
Family: Betulaceae
Genus: Betula
Subgenus: Betula
Species: B. papyrifera
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales

Synonyms: Betula alba var. papyrifera, Betula lenta var. papyrifera

Common Names: Paper Birch, Mountain paper birch, Kenai birch, white birch and canoe birch

Habitat: Betula papyrifera is native to Northern N. America to Greenland. It grows in woods, usually on slopes, edges of ponds, streams and swamps etc. Found in a wide range of soil conditions, but the best specimens are found in well-drained sandy-loam soils.
Description:
Betula papyrifera is a medium-sized deciduous tree typically reaching 20 metres (66 ft) tall, and exceptionally to 130 feet (40 m) with a trunk up to 30 inches (0.76 m) diameter. Within forests it is often grows with a single trunk but when grown as a landscape tree it may develop multiple trunks or branch close to the ground.

Paper birch is a typically short lived species. It handles heat and humidity poorly and may only live 30 years in zones six and up, while trees in colder-climate regions can grow over 100 years. B. papyrifera will grow on many soil types, from steep rocky outcrops to flat muskegs of the boreal forest. Best growth occurs on deeper, well drained to dry soils depending on the location.

In older trees the bark is white, commonly brightly so, flaking in fine horizontal strips to reveal a pinkish or salmon colored inner bark. It is often with small black marks and scars. In individuals younger than five years, the bark appears a brown red color with white lenticels, making the tree much harder to distinguish from other birches. The bark is highly weather-resistant. The bark has a high oil content and this gives it its waterproof and weather resistant characteristics. Often, the wood of a downed paper birch will rot away leaving the hollow bark intact.

* The leaves are dark green and smooth on the upper surface, the lower surface is often pubescent on the veins. The leaves are alternately arranged on the stem, oval to triangular in shape, 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long and about 2/3 as wide. The leaf is rounded at the base and tapering to an acutely pointed tip. The leaves have a doubly serrate margin with relatively sharp teeth. Each leaf has a petiole ~2.5 cm (1 in) long which connects it to the stems.

* The fall color is a bright yellow color which contributes to the bright colors within the northern deciduous forest.
* The leaf buds are conical and small and green-colored with brown edges.
* The stems are a reddish brown color and may be somewhat hairy when young.

* The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins, the female flowers are greenish and 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long growing from the tips of twigs. The male (staminate) flowers are 2–4 inches (5.1–10.2 cm) long and a brownish color. It flowers from mid-April to June depending on location.Paper birch is monoicous meaning that one plant has both male and female flowers.

* The fruit matures in the fall. The mature fruit is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts. They drop between September and spring. At 15 years of age the tree will start producing seeds but will be in peak seed production between 40–70 years. The seed production is irregular with a heavy seed crops being produced typically every other year and with at least some seeds being produced every year. In average seed years, 1 million seeds/acre are produced but in bumper years 35 million/acre may be produced. The seeds are light and blow in the wind to new areas, they may also blow along the surface of the snow.

* The roots are generally shallow and occupy the upper 24 inches (61 cm) of the soil and do not form taproots. High winds are more likely to break the trunk than to uproot the tree.

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Cultivation:
Succeeds in a well-drained loamy soil in a sunny position. Tolerates most soils including poor soils and heavy clays. Fairly wind tolerant. This species is very unhappy on our windy site in Cornwall. A fast-growing but short-lived species. It is often a pioneer species of areas ravaged by fire. The trunk and branches are easily killed by fire, though the tree usually regenerates from the roots. It hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. This species was an exceedingly important tree for the Indians – they utilized it for a very wide range of applications and it was a central item in their economy. A good plant to grow near the compost heap, aiding the fermentation process. Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in a sunny position. Spring sown seed should be surface sown in a sunny position in a cold frame. If the germination is poor, raising the temperature by covering the seed with glass can help. 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. If you have sufficient seed, it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, either as soon as it is ripe or in the early spring – do not cover the spring sown seed. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the winter.
Edible Uses:
Inner bark – raw or cooked. Best in the spring. The inner bark can also be dried and ground into a meal and used as a thickener in soups or be added to flour and used in making bread, biscuits etc. Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply. Sap – raw or cooked. A sweet flavour. Harvested in early spring, before the leaves unfurl, by tapping the trunk. The flow is best on warm sunny days following a hard frost. The sap usually runs freely, but the sugar content is lower than in the sugar maples. A pleasant sweet drink, it can also be concentrated into a syrup or sugar by boiling off much of the water. The sap can also be fermented to make birch beer or vinegar. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows:- “To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr’d together; then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm’d. When it is sufficiently boil’d, and become cold, add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work…and when the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and very harmless in operation within the body, and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante pastum.”[269]. Very young leaves, shoots and catkins – raw or cooked. A tea is made from the young leaves and also from the root bark.
Medicinal Uses:
Paper birch was often employed medicinally by many native North American Indian tribes who used it especially to treat skin problems. It is little used in modern herbalism. The bark is antirheumatic, astringent, lithontripic, salve and sedative. The dried and powdered bark has been used to treat nappy rash in babies and various other skin rashes. A poultice of the thin outer bark has been used as a bandage on burns. A decoction of the inner bark has been used as a wash on rashes and other skin sores. Taken internally, the decoction has been used to treat dysentery and various diseases of the blood. The bark has been used to make casts for broken limbs. A soft material such as a cloth is placed next to the skin over the broken bone. Birch bark is then tied over the cloth and is gently heated until it shrinks to fit the limb. A decoction of the wood has been used to induce sweating and to ensure an adequate supply of milk in a nursing mother. A decoction of both the wood and the bark has been used to treat female ailments. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Betula species for infections of the urinary tract, kidney and bladder stones, rheumatism.

Other Uses :
Dye; Fuel; Hair; Miscellany; Paper; Pioneer; Waterproofing; Wood.

The thin outer bark is used to make drinking vessels, canoe skins, roofing tiles, buckets etc. This material was very widely used by various native North American Indian tribes, it is waterproof, durable, tough and resinous. Only the thin outer bark is removed, this does not kill the tree. It is most easily removed in late spring to early summer. The outer bark has also been used as emergency sun-glasses in order to prevent snow-blindness. A strip of bark 4 – 5cm wide is placed over the eyes, the natural openings (lenticels) in the bark serving as apertures for the eyes. A brown to red dye can be made from the inner bark. A pioneer species, it rapidly invades deforested areas (such as after a forest fire or logging) and creates suitable conditions for other woodland trees to follow. Because it cannot grow or reproduce very successfully in the shade it is eventually out-competed by the other woodland trees. The tree has an extensive root system and can be planted to control banks from erosion. The bark is a good tinder. An infusion of the leaves is used as a hair shampoo, it is effective against dandruff. The thin outer bark can be used as a paper substitute. It is carefully peeled off the tree and used as it is. A fibre is obtained from the inner bark and another from the heartwood, these are used in making paper[189]. The heartwood fibre is 0.8 – 2.7mm long, that from the bark is probably longer. The branches of the tree can be harvested in spring or summer, the leaves and outer bark are removed, the branches are steamed and the fibres stripped off. Wood – strong, hard, light, very close grained, elastic, not durable. It weighs 37lb per cubic foot and is used for turnery, veneer, pulp etc. It is also used as a fuel. It splits easily and gives off considerable heat even when green, but tends to quickly coat chimneys with a layer of tar.
Known Hazards : The aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons in birch tar are irritating to the skin. Do not use in patients with oedema or with poor kidney or heart functions.

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://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_papyrifera
http://www.pfaf.org/USER/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Betula+papyrifera

Categories
Ailmemts & Remedies

Contact Dermatitis

As its name implies, contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin caused by contact with a specific substance. there are two types: irritant contact dermatitis, which is caused by primary irritants (substances, such as bleach, that harm anyone’s skin); and allergic contact dermatitis, which occurs when a person comes in contact with a particular substance to which he or she has developed a sensitivity over time.

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substances that commonly trigger irritation or allergic reactions include some cosmetics; the nickel contained in jewelry, buttons, earrings for pierced ears, or watch straps; certain chemicals; drugs in skin creams; and plants, such as poison ivy or ragweed.

It is a term for a skin reaction resulting from exposure to allergens (allergic contact dermatitis) or irritants (irritant contact dermatitis). Phototoxic dermatitis occurs when the allergen or irritant is activated by sunlight.

Contact dermatitis is a localized rash or irritation of the skin caused by contact with a foreign substance. Only the superficial regions of the skin are affected in contact dermatitis. Inflammation of the affected tissue is present in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) and the outer dermis (the layer beneath the epidermis).[1] Unlike contact urticaria, in which a rash appears within minutes of exposure and fades away within minutes to hours, contact dermatitis takes days to fade away. Even then, contact dermatitis fades only if the skin no longer comes in contact with the allergen or irritant. Contact dermatitis results in large, burning, and itchy rashes, and these can take anywhere from several days to weeks to heal. Chronic contact dermatitis can develop when the removal of the offending agent no longer provides expected relief.

Types of contact dermatitis
There are three types of contact dermatitis: irritant contact, allergic contact, and photocontact dermatitis. Photocontact dermatitis is divided into two categories: phototoxic and photoallergic.

Chemical irritant contact dermatitis
is either acute or chronic, which is usually associated with strong and weak irritants respectively (HSE MS24). The following definition is provided by Mathias and Maibach (1978): a nonimmunologic local inflammatory reaction characterized by erythema, edema, or corrosion following single or repeated application of a chemical substance to an identical cutaneous site.

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The mechanism of action varies between toxins. Detergents, surfactants, extremes of pH, and organic solvents all have the common effect of directly affecting the barrier properties of the epidermis. These effects include removing fat emulsion, inflicting cellular damage on the epithelium, and increasing the transepidermal water loss by damaging the horny layer water-binding mechanisms and damaging the DNA, which causes the layer to thin. Strong concentrations of irritants cause an acute effect, but this is not as common as the accumulative, chronic effect of irritants whose deleterious effects build up with subsequent doses (ESCD 2006).

Common chemical irritants implicated include solvents (alcohol, xylene, turpentine, esters, acetone, ketones, and others); metalworking fluids (neat oils, water-based metalworking fluids with surfactants); latex; kerosene; ethylene oxide; surfactants in topical medications and cosmetics (sodium lauryl sulfate); alkalies (drain cleaners, strong soap with lye residues).

Physical irritant contact dermatitis
is a less researched form of ICD (Maurice-Jones et al) due to its various mechanisms of action and a lack of a test for its diagnosis. A complete patient history combined with negative allergic patch testing is usually necessary to reach a correct diagnosis. The simplest form of PICD results from prolonged rubbing, although the diversity of implicated irritants is far wider.[citation needed] Examples include paper friction, fiberglass, and scratchy clothing.

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Many plants cause ICD by directly irritating the skin. Some plants act through their spines or irritant hairs. Some plant such as the buttercup, spurge, and daisy act by chemical means. The sap of these plants contains a number of alkaloids, glycosides, saponins, anthraquinones, and (in the case of plant bulbs) irritant calcium oxalate crystals – all of which can cause CICD (Mantle and Lennard, 2001).

Allergic Contact Dermatitis
This condition is the manifestation of an allergic response caused by contact with a substance. A list of common allergens is shown in Table 1 (Kucenic and Belsito, 2002).

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Although less common than ICD, ACD is accepted to be the most prevalent form of immunotoxicity found in humans (Kimble et al 2002). By its allergic nature, this form of contact dermatitis is a hypersensitive reaction that is atypical within the population. The mechanisms by which these reactions occur are complex, with many levels of fine control. Their immunology centres around the interaction of immunoregulatory cytokines and discrete subpopulations of T lymphocytes.

ACD arises as a result of two essential stages: an induction phase, which primes and sensitizes the immune system for an allergic response, and an elicitation phase, in which this response is triggered (Kimble et al 2002). As such, ACD is termed a Type IV delayed hypersensitivity reaction involving a cell-mediated allergic response. Contact allergens are essentially soluble haptens (low in molecular weight) and, as such, have the physico-chemical properties that allow them to cross the stratum corneum of the skin. They can only cause their response as part of a complete antigen, involving their association with epidermal proteins forming hapten-protein conjugates. This, in turn, requires them to be protein-reactive.

The conjugate formed is then recognized as a foreign body by the Langerhans cells (LCs) (and in some cases Dendritic cells (DCs)), which then internalize the protein; transport it via the lymphatic system to the regional lymph nodes; and present the antigen to T-lymphocytes. This process is controlled by cytokines and chemokines – with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and certain members of the interleukin family (1, 13 and 18) – and their action serves either to promote or to inhibit the mobilization and migration of these LCs. (Kimble et al 2002) As the LCs are transported to the lymph nodes, they become differentiated and transform into DCs, which are immunostimulatory in nature.

Once within the lymph glands, the differentiated DCs present the allergenic epitope associated with the allergen to T lymphocytes. These T cells then divide and differentiate, clonally multiplying so that if the allergen is experienced again by the individual, these T cells will respond more quickly and more aggressively.

Kimbe et al (2002) explore the complexities of ACD’s immunological reaction in short: It appears that there are two major phenotypes of cytokine production (although there exists a gradient of subsets in between), and these are termed T-helper 1 and 2 (Th1 and Th2). Although these cells initially differentiate from a common stem cell, they develop with time as the immune system matures. Th1 phenotypes are characterised by their focus on Interleukin and Interferon, while Th2 cells action is centred more around the regulation of IgE by cytokines. The CD4 and CD8 T lymphocyte subsets also have been found to contribute to differential cytokine regulation, with CD4 having been shown to produce high levels of IL-4 and IL10 while solely CD8 cells are associated with low levels of IFN?. These two cell subtypes are also closely associated with the cell matrix interactions essential for the pathogenesis of ACD.

White et al have suggested that there appears to be a threshold to the mechanisms of allergic sensitisation by ACD-associated allergens (1986). [10] This is thought to be linked to the level at which the toxin induces the up-regulation of the required mandatory cytokines and chemokines. It has also been proposed that the vehicle in which the allergen reaches the skin could take some responsibility in the sensitisation of the epidermis by both assisting the percutaneous penetration and causing some form of trauma and mobilization of cytokines itself.

Common allergens implicated include the following:

Nickel (nickel sulfate hexahydrate) – metal frequently encountered in jewelry and clasps or buttons on clothing
Gold (gold sodium thiosulfate) – precious metal often found in jewelry
Balsam of Peru (Myroxylon pereirae) – a fragrance used in perfumes and skin lotions, derived from tree resin (see also Tolu balsam)
Thimerosal – a mercury compound used in local antiseptics and in vaccines
Neomycin – a topical antibiotic common in first aid creams and ointments, cosmetics, deodorant, soap and pet food
Fragrance mix – a group of the eight most common fragrance allergens found in foods, cosmetic products, insecticides, antiseptics, soaps, perfumes and dental products
Formaldehyde – a preservative with multiple uses, e.g., in paper products, paints, medications, household cleaners, cosmetic products and fabric finishes
Cobalt chloride – metal found in medical products; hair dye; antiperspirant; metal-plated objects such as snaps, buttons or tools; and in cobalt blue pigment
Bacitracin – a topical antibiotic
Quaternium-15 – preservative in cosmetic products (self-tanners, shampoo, nail polish, sunscreen) and in industrial products (polishes, paints and waxes).

Photocontact Dermatitis
Sometimes termed “photoaggravated”(Bourke et al 2001)[13], and divided into two categories, phototoxic and photoallergic, PCD is the eczematous condition which is triggered by an interaction between an otherwise unharmful or less harmful substance on the skin and ultraviolet light (320-400nm UVA) (ESCD 2006), therefore manifesting itself only in regions where the sufferer has been exposed to such rays. Without the presence of these rays, the photosensitiser is not harmful. For this reason, this form of contact dermatitis is usually associated only with areas of skin which are left uncovered by clothing. The mechanism of action varies from toxin to toxin, but is usually due to the production of a photoproduct. Toxins which are associated with PCD include the psoralens. Psoralens are in fact used therapeutically for the treatment of psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo.

Photocontact dermatitis is another condition where the distinction between forms of contact dermatitis is not clear cut. Immunological mechanisms can also play a part, causing a response similar to ACD.

 

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Symptoms:
Contact dermatitis usually affects the area that has been in direct contact with the substance that triggered the reaction. In irritant contact dermatitis, the skin inflammation develops soon after contact with the substance. the severity of the resulting rash depends both on the concentration of the irritant and on the duration of exposure.

Allergic contact dermatitis usually develops slowly over a period of time, and it is possible to have contact with a substance for several years without any skin inflammation occurring. however, once your skin has become sensitive to the substance, even a small amount of it, or a short exposure time, can trigger an allergic reaction.

In either form of contact dermatitis, the symptoms may include:

* Redness and swelling of the skin.This is the usual reaction. The rash appears immediately in irritant contact dermatitis; in allergic contact dermatitis, the rash sometimes does not appear until 24-72 hours after exposure to the allergen.

* water- or pus-filled blisters that may ooze, drain, or become encrusted. Blisters, welts, and hives often form in a pattern where skin was directly exposed to the allergen or irritant.

* flaking skin, which may develop into raw patches.

* persistent itching…..Itchy, burning skin. Irritant contact dermatitis tends to be more painful than itchy, while allergic contact dermatitis often itches.

While either form of contact dermatitis can affect any part of the body, irritant contact dermatitis often affects the hands, which have been exposed by resting in or dipping into a container (sink, pail, tub) containing the irritant.


Causes:

In North/South America, the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis are plants of the Toxicodendron genus: poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Common causes of irritant contact dermatitis are harsh (highly alkaline) soaps, nickel, detergents, and cleaning products and rubbers.

Treatment:

Self-care at Home
Immediately after exposure to a known allergen or irritant, wash with soap and cool water to remove or inactivate most of the offending substance.
– Weak acid solutions [lemon juice, vinegar] can be used to counteract the effects of dermatitis contracted by exposure to basic irritants [phenol etc.].

If blistering develops, cold moist compresses applied for 30 minutes 3 times a day can offer relief.
Calamine lotion and cool colloidal oatmeal baths may relieve itching.
Oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Ben-Allergin) can also relieve itching.
For mild cases that cover a relatively small area, hydrocortisone cream in nonprescription strength may be sufficient.
Avoid scratching, as this can cause secondary infections.

What might be done?
Your doctor will want to know when the skin inflammation developed and whether you have any known allergies. the site of the reaction is often a clue to its cause. For example, a patch of dermatitis on the wrist may be caused by an allergic to nickel in a watch or watch strap. people who handle chemicals at work often develop irritant or allergic contact dermatitis on their hands.

Your doctor may prescribe a topical corticosteroid to relieve itching and inflammation. however, even with treatment, contact dermatitis may take a few weeks to clear up.

If you handle chemicals at work, it is particularly important to find the cause of your skin allergy. If the cause cannot easily be identified, you may need to have patch testing.

Once the trigger has been identifies, you should avoid it as much as possible. If you cannot do so, you may need to use creams, protective clothing, or gloves whenever you come into contact with the trigger.

Medical Care
If the rash does not improve or continues to spread after 2-3 of days of self-care, or if the itching and/or pain is severe, the patient should contact a dermatologist or other physician. Medical treatment usually consists of lotions, creams, or oral medications.

Corticosteroids. A corticosteroid medication similar to hydrocortisone may be prescribed to combat inflammation in a localized area. This medication may be applied to your skin as a cream or ointment. If the reaction covers a relatively large portion of the skin or is severe, a corticosteroid in pill or injection form may be prescribed.
Antihistamines. Prescription antihistamines may be given if nonprescription strengths are inadequate.

Prevention
Since contact dermatitis relies on an irritant or an allergen to initiate the reaction, it is important for the patient to identify the responsible agent and avoid it. This can be accomplished by having patch tests, a method commonly known as allergy testing. The patient must know where the irritant or allergen is found to be able to avoid it. It is important to also note that chemicals sometimes have several different names.

Summary
The distinction between the various types of contact dermatitis is based on a number of factors. The morphology of the tissues, the histology, and immunologic findings are all used in diagnosis of the form of the condition. However, as suggested previously, there is some confusion in the distinction of the different forms of contact dermatitis (Reitschel 1997). Using histology on its own is insufficient, as these findings have been acknowledged not to distinguish (Rietschel, 1997), and even positive patch testing does not rule out the existence of an irritant form of dermatitis as well as an immunological one. It is important to remember, therefore, that the distinction between the types of contact dermatitis is often blurred, with, for example, certain immunological mechanisms also being involved in a case of irritant contact dermatitis.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contact_dermatitis
http://www.charak.com/DiseasePage.asp?thx=1&id=149

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