Herbs & Plants

Rhus glabra

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Botanical Name : Rhus glabra
Family: Anacardiaceae
Genus: Rhus
Species: R. glabra
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales

Synonyms: Upland Sumach. Pennsylvania Sumach. Rhus copallinum (Mountain Sumach). Rhus typhinum (Staghorn or Velvet Sumach).

Common Name: Smooth sumac

Parts Used: Bark of branches and root, dried, ripe berries, and exudation.

Habitat: Rhus glabra is native to North America, from southern Quebec west to southern British Columbia in Canada, and south to northern Florida and Arizona in the United States and Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico.
It grows on the thickets and waste ground on dry soil and by streams. The best specimens are found in rich moist soil.

Rhus glabra has a spreading, open-growing shrub growing up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) tall, rarely to 5 metres (16 ft). The leaves are alternate, 30–50 cm long, compound with 11-31 leaflets, each leaflet 5–11 cm long, with a serrated margin. The leaves turn scarlet in the fall. The flowers are tiny, green, produced in dense erect panicles 10–25 centimetres (3.9–9.8 in) tall, in the spring, later followed by large panicles of edible crimson berries that remain throughout the winter. The buds are small, covered with brown hair and borne on fat, hairless twigs. The bark on older wood is smooth and grey to brown…...CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

In late summer it sometimes forms galls on the underside of leaves, caused by the parasitic sumac leaf gall aphid, Melaphis rhois. The galls are not harmful to the tree.

When broken on the plant, a milky fluid is exuded from both bark and leaves, which forms later a solid gum-like body.

Succeeds in a well-drained fertile soil in full sun. Tolerates poor sandy soils. A very hardy plant, when fully dormant it can tolerate temperatures down to at least -25°c. However, the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. A fast-growing but short-lived plant in the wild. Single-stem plants are short-lived in cultivation, but if the plants are coppiced regularly and allowed to form thickets, then they will live longer and also be more ornamental with larger leaves. Any coppicing is best carried out in early spring. It is a very ornamental plant, there are some named varieties. Closely allied to R. typhina, it hybridizes with that species where their ranges overlap. Plants have brittle branches and these can be broken off in strong winds. Plants are also susceptible to coral spot fungus. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. A good bee plant. Many of the species in this genus are highly toxic and can also cause severe irritation to the skin of some people, whilst other species such as this one are not poisonous. It is relatively simple to distinguish which is which, the poisonous species have axillary panicles and smooth fruits whilst non-poisonous species have compound terminal panicles and fruits covered with acid crimson hairs. The toxic species are sometimes separated into their own genus, Toxicodendron, by some botanists. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Special Features: Attracts birds, North American native, Attractive flowers or blooms.

Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in hot water (starting at a temperature of 80 – 90c and allowing it to cool) prior to sowing in order to leach out any germination inhibitors. This soak water can be drunk and has a delicious lemon-flavour. The stored seed also needs hot water treatment and can be sown in early spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings 4cm long taken in December and potted up vertically in a greenhouse. Good percentage.  Suckers in late autumn to winter.

Edible Uses:
Fruit – raw or cooked. An acid flavour, it has been used as a substitute for lemon juice. The fruit is rather small and with very little flesh, but it is produced on fairly large panicles and so is easily harvested. When soaked for 10 – 30 minutes in hot or cold water it makes a very refreshing lemonade-like drink (without any fizz of course). The mixture should not be boiled since this will release tannic acids and make the drink astringent. Root – peeled and eaten raw. This report should be treated with some caution due to possible toxicity. Young shoots – peeled and eaten raw. This report should be treated with some caution due to possible toxicity. The bark has been eaten as a delicacy by children. This report should be treated with some caution due to possible toxicity.

Constituents: The berries contain free malic acid and acid calcium malate coexist, with tannic and gallic acids, fixed oil, extractive, red colouring matter, and a little volatile oil. The active properties of both bark and berries yield to water.

Medicinal Uses: The bark is tonic, astringent, and antiseptic; the berries refrigerant and diuretic.

A strong decoction, or diluted fluid extract, affords an agreeable gargle in angina, especially when combined with potassium chlorate. Where tannin drugs are useful, as in diarrhoea, the fluid extract is an excellent astringent.

The bark, in decoction or syrup, has been found useful in gonorrhoea, leucorrhoea, diarrhoea, dysentery, hectic fever, scrofula and profuse perspiration from debility. Combined with the barks of slippery elm and white pine and taken freely, the decoction is said to have been greatly beneficial in syphilis. As an injection for prolapsus uteri and ani, and for leucorrhoea, and as a wash in many skin complaints, the decoction is valuable. For scald-head it can be simmered in lard, or the powdered root-bark can be applied as a poultice to old ulcers, forming a good antiseptic.

A decoction of the inner bark of the root is helpful for the sore-mouth resulting from mercurial salivation, and also for internal use in mercurial diseases. A free use of the bark will produce catharsis.

The berries may be used in infusion in diabetes, strangury bowel complaints, and febrile diseases; also as a gargle in quinsy and ulcerations of the mouth and throat, and as a wash for ringworm, tetters, offensive ulcers, etc.

The astringent excrescences, when powdered and mixed with lard or linseed oil, are useful in haemorrhoids.

The mucilagic exudation, if the bark be punctured in hot weather, has been used advantageously in gleet and several urinary difficulties.

Other Uses:
The leaves, and, to a less extent, the bark, are largely used in tanning leather and dyeing. This Sumach, for the manufacture of extract for tanner’s use, is largely cultivated in Virginia, where the annual crop amounts to from 7,000 to 8,000 tons. The percentage of tannin in Virginian Sumach varies from 16 to 25 per cent. That in the European or Sicilian Sumach (R. coriaria) falls from 6 to 8 per cent below the percentage of the Virginian Sumach, yet the European is preferred by tanners and dyers, since by its use it is possible to make the finer, white leathers for gloves and fancy shoes.

The American product gives the leather a yellow colour, apparently due to the presence of quercitrin and quercitin.

Large quantities of a dark-red, semi-fluid, bitter, astringent extract are prepared in Virginia from Sumach, and is said to contain 25 to 30 per cent of tannin. It is used both in Europe and America. An infusion of the berries affords an excellent black dye for wool. A medicinal wine can also be prepared from them.

Oil of Rhus may be extracted from the seeds of this and other species of the genus. It will attain a tallow-like consistency on standing, and can be made into candles, which burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke.

Known Hazards:   There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated. See also notes in ‘Cultivation’.

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.



Dealing with Sexual Assault

We perceive India as a safe, tradition bound country that honours women and loves children. Yet, our cities are becoming famous, even internationally, for molestation and rape. The number of cases reported has increased 700 per cent since Independence. And this is probably only the tip of the iceberg.CLICK & SEE

Shame, family pressures, social stigma, economic vulnerability and lack of knowledge of legal procedures coerce a victim into silence. To make things worse, the victim is often regarded by our inadequately educated, underpaid and insensitive police personnel as the one at “fault”.

Rape is traditionally considered a crime against women. But times are changing. Horror stories abound about homosexual sexual predators targeting, kidnapping and victimising young boys. The victims range from six-month-olds to 80-year-olds. The perpetuators of rape, however, are almost always male.

Around 80 per cent of the crime is committed by someone known to the victim. Often, the abuser is a member of the victim’s family or belongs to his or her circle of acquaintances. In such cases, the crime is perpetuated in a known place, in either of their homes or that of a friend, relative or neighbour.

Today, children of both sexes are in danger, in exclusive neighbourhoods as well as the slums. Their lack of knowledge, inexperience and trusting nature make them ideal victims. Many of these attacks are not random but well planned by a predator known to the victim.

Police complaints are often followed by unwelcome media publicity. There are no “special victim units” in the police force yet, that may be trained to handle such cases with discretion and empathy. The guidelines provided deal mostly with the rape of women. The concept of male or child rape is new and the level of expertise in dealing with this is low.

Despite this, if a parent or the victim wishes to prosecute the assailant, a physical medical examination, documentation of the evidence and registration of an FIR (First Information Report) must be done.

Even otherwise, a thorough medical examination must be undertaken as soon as possible to treat and record lacerations and injuries, both external and internal.

The greatest fear about sexual assault is that of acquiring STDs. The number infected varies between 5 and 10 per cent. Infection depends upon several factors, such as the type of sexual contact, number of assailants, and whether or not they had an STD at the time of the assault.

The risk of contracting STDs can be reduced by taking medication as a preventive measure. Immediate and effective treatment options are available for some STDs such as hepatitis B, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, chlamydia and trichomonas vaginalis.

The regimen recommended is a single injection of ceftriaxone, plus an oral dose of azithromycin, plus either secnidazole, tinidazole or metronidazole. Herpes can be tackled with a five or seven-day course of acyclovir.

The risk of acquiring HIV infection is less than 1 per cent. However, it is important for medico-legal reasons to document the HIV status immediately. The test should be repeated after six months and then a year. A 28-day regimen of zidovudine and lamivudine provides post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and should be started as soon as possible, preferably within 72 hours.

Injuries and lacerations require a single booster dose of tetanus toxoid. Hepatitis B can be sexually transmitted. Most children today have received three doses of the vaccine as part of their immunisation schedule and are thus protected against the infection. In that case, only a booster dose needs to be given. If the victim has not been immunised in childhood, immunoglobulin needs to be given. In addition, three doses of the vaccine must be given — immediately after the incident, after a month and after six months.

Prophylactic treatment against syphilis is not advised. Instead, a blood test can be done after three months to ascertain if infection has occurred.

Counselling, psychiatric evaluation and support are necessary for the victim as well as his or her family to overcome the trauma.

To protect children —

• Make them learn addresses and phone numbers by heart

• Teach them certain body parts are not to be touched

• Discourage them from talking to strangers

• Do not send them anywhere alone, especially after dark

• Escort them to and from school bus stops

• Encourage physical fitness and teach them martial arts

• Teach them to trust their survival instincts and, if needed, run in the opposite direction as fast as they can, shouting all the way.

For adults, the best bet is —

*To have peepholes in the front door

*Avoid dark and deserted areas

*Be physically fit and able to run fast.

Source: The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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