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Herbs & Plants

Dipteryx odorata

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Botanical Name : Dipteryx odorata
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Dipteryx
Species: D. odorata
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales

Synonyms: Tonka Bean. Coumarouna odorata.

Common Name: Tonquin Bean, “cumaru” or “kumaru

Habitat: Dipteryx odorata is native to Central America and northern South America.It is a forest tree.
Description:
Dipteryx odorata is a species of flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae, that is native to the Orinoco region of northern South America. Its seeds are known as Tonka Beans. They are black and wrinkled and have a smooth brown interior. Their fragrance is reminiscent of vanilla, almonds, cinnamon, and cloves. The tree itself grows up to 25–30 meters, with a trunk of up to one meter in diameter. The tree bark is smooth and gray, whereas the wood is red. The tree has alternate pinnate leaves with three to six leaflets, leathery, glossy and dark green, and pink flowers. Each developed fruit contains one seed. D. odorata is pollinated by insects. The worst pests are the bats because they eat the pulpy flesh of the fruit. A few known fungi may cause problems: Anthostomella abdita, Diatrype ruficarnis, Macrophoma calvuligera and Myiocopron cubense.

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-The odour of coumarin, which distinguishes the Tonka Bean, is found in many plants, especially in Melilotus, sweet vernal grass, and related grasses.

One pound of the beans has yielded 108 grains of coumarin, which is the anhydride of coumaric acid. In addition to its use in perfurnery as a fixative, coumarin is used to flavour castor-oil and to disguise the odour of iodoform.

The fatty substance of the beans is sold in Holland as Tonquin butter.

Cultivation:
Today, the main producers of tonka beans are Venezuela and Nigeria. The cumaru tree is an emergent plant, and a light-demanding calcifuge tree which grows on poor, well drained soils. The best growth is reached on fertile soils rich in humus. In the native region there is a mean annual temperature of 25°C and about 2000 mm rainfall per year with a dry season from June to November. In general, it has a very low plant density, but depending on the agricultural use, the density and the age of the trees diversify. In seed production systems, the plant density is higher and the trees are older than in timber production systems. The tree flowers from March to May, and the fruits ripen from June to July. So, the fresh fruits are picked up in June and July, and fallen pods are harvested from January to March or sometimes earlier. The hard outer shell is removed and the beans are spread out for 2–3 days to dry, after which they can be sold. The major producer is Venezuela, followed by Brazil and Colombia. The most important importing country is the United States, where it is used especially in the tobacco industry

Part Used: Seeds.

Constituents: The tonka seed contains coumarin, a chemical isolate from this plant, which also gave the name to it. The seeds contain about 1 to 3% of coumarin, rarely it can achieve 10%. Coumarin is responsible for the pleasant odor of the seeds and is used in the perfume industry. Coumarin is bitter to the taste, however, and, in large infused doses, it may cause hemorrhage and liver damage, as well as it can paralyze the heart. It is therefore controlled as a food additive by many governments. Like a number of other plants, the tonka bean plant probably produces coumarin as a defense chemical. Radio-carbon dating of D. odorata stumps left by a large logging operation near Manaus by Niro Higuchi, Jeffrey Chambers, and Joshua Schimel, showed that it was one of around 100 species which definitely live to over 1,000 years. Until their research, it had been assumed unlikely that any Amazonian tree could live to old age due to the conditions of the rain forest.

Medicinal Uses:
Aromatic, cardiac, tonic, narcotic. The fluid extract has been used with advantage in whooping cough, but it paralyses the heart if used in large doses.

Herbal and Mythological Properties:
In the Pagan and Occult communities the Tonka Bean is considered to have magical properties and uses. One who practices magical arts believe that by crushing a Tonka Bean and steeping it in an herbal brew or tea it will help cure ailments of depression, disorientation, confusion, and suicidal behavior, as well as boosting the immune system.

It is also believed by some practitioners of various occult traditions that Tonka Beans can grant or help one’ fulfill desires and wishes by using the bean in a variety of methods. Such methods include holding the bean in your hand while whispering your wish or desire then carrying it with you until your wish or desire is fulfilled, then burying the bean afterwards; another common method is by making your wish with the bean in your hand then stomping on it afterwards. Other methods include making your wish then planting it in fertile earth, when and as the plant grows so does your wish so become fulfilled.

Other Uses:
Tonka Beans had been used as a vanilla substitute, as a perfume, and in tobacco before being banned in some countries. They are used in some French cuisine (particularly, in desserts and stews) and in perfumes. Today, main producers of the seeds are Venezuela and Nigeria.

Its use in food is banned in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. Many anticoagulant prescription drugs, such as warfarin, are based on 4-hydroxycoumarin, a chemical derivative of coumarin initially isolated from this bean. Coumarin itself, however, does not have anticoagulant properties.

The beans were formerly also spelled “Tonquin” and “Tonkin”, although it has no connection with Tonkin, now part of Vietnam.

Soap companies, like Lush, are using Tonka as part of a vanilla smelling soap product. Thorntons has produced a variety of milk chocolate made with tonka-infused cocoa butter, winning the Academy of Chocolate’s Silver Award in 2009.[5]

Tonquin is still used today to flavor some pipe tobaccos like Dunhill Royal Yacht and Samuel Gawith 1792 Flake.

Cumaru, also known as Brazilian Teak, is an increasingly popular hardwood used for flooring in the US. It has a very appealing natural color variation and is considered quite durable as it has a 3540 rating on the Janka Hardness Scale.

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/Dipteryx_odorata
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/t/tonqbe24.html
http://www.theplantencyclopedia.org/wiki/Dipteryx_odorata

Categories
Herbs & Plants

Melilotus officinalis

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Botanical Name : Melilotus officinalis
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe:     Trifolieae
Genus:     Melilotus
Species: M. officinalis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Fabales

Synonyms:  Yellow Melilot. White Melilot. Corn Melilot. King’s Clover. Sweet Clover. Plaster Clover. Sweet Lucerne. Wild Laburnum. Hart’s Tree.

Common Names :Yellow sweet clover, yellow melilot, ribbed melilot and common melilot

Habitat :  Melilotus officinalis is  native to Eurasia and introduced in North America, Africa and Australia.It is found in dry fields and along roadsides, in waste places and chalky banks, especially along railway banks and near lime kilns.

Description:
Melilotus officinalis is perrinial or biennial plant is 4–6 feet (1.2–1.8 m) high at maturity. The plant has a bitter taste.

It blooms in spring and summer. Flowers are yellow. Its characteristic sweet odor, intensified by drying, is derived from coumarin.

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The smooth, erect stems are much branched, the leaves placed on alternate sides of the stems are smooth and trifoliate, the leaflets oval. The plants bear long racemes of small, sweet-scented, yellow or white, papilionaceous flowers in the yellow species, the keel of the flower much shorter than the other parts and containing much honey. They are succeeded by broad, black, one-seeded pods, transversely wrinkled.

All species of Melilot, when in flower, have a peculiar sweet odour, which by drying be comes stronger and more agreeable, somewhat like that of the Tonka bean, this similarity being accounted for by the fact that they both contain the same chemical principle, Coumarin, which is also present in new-mown hay and woodruff, which have the identical fragrance.

Cultivation:
Prefers a well-drained to dry neutral to alkaline soil in a sunny position. Prefers a clay or a saline soil. Dislikes shade. Established plants are drought tolerant. The flowers are rich in pollen making this a good bee plant. If they are cut back before flowering, the plants will grow on for at least another year before dying. The dried plant has a sweet aromatic fragrance like newly mown hay. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Propagation:
Seed – sow spring to mid-summer in situ. Pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water will speed up the germination process, particularly in dry weather. Germination will usually take place within 2 weeks

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves;  Root;  Seedpod.
Edible Uses: Condiment.

Root. Consumed as a food by the Kalmuks. Young shoots – cooked. Used like asparagus. Young leaves are eaten in salads. The leaves and seedpods are cooked as a vegetable. They are used as a flavouring. Only fresh leaves should be used, see the notes above on toxicity. The crushed dried leaves can be used as a vanilla flavouring in puddings, pastries etc. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Flowers – raw or cooked. The flowers and seeds are used as a flavouring. The flowers also give an aromatic quality to some tisanes

Constituents: Coumarin, the crystalline substance developed under the drying process, is the only important constituent, together with its related compounds, hydrocoumaric (melilotic) acid, orthocoumaric acid and melilotic anhydride, or lactone, a fragrant oil.

Medicinal Uses:
Parts Used :The whole herb is used, dried, for medicinal purposes, the flowering shoots, gathered in May, separated from the main stem and dried in the same manner as Broom tops.

The dried herb has an intensely fragrant odour, but a somewhat pungent and bitterish taste.

Melilot, used either externally or internally, can help treat varicose veins and haemorrhoids though it requires a long-term treatment for the effect to be realised. Use of the plant also helps to reduce the risk of phlebitis and thrombosis. Melilot contains coumarins and, as the plant dries or spoils, these become converted to dicoumarol, a powerful anticoagulant. Thus the plant should be used with some caution, it should not be prescribed to patients with a history of poor blood clotting or who are taking warfarin medication. See also the notes above on toxicity. The flowering plant is antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diuretic, emollient, mildly expectorant, mildly sedative and vulnerary. An infusion is used in the treatment of sleeplessness, nervous tension, neuralgia, palpitations, varicose veins, painful congestive menstruation, in the prevention of thrombosis, flatulence and intestinal disorders. Externally, it is used to treat eye inflammations, rheumatic pains, swollen joints, severe bruising, boils and erysipelas, whilst a decoction is added to the bath-water. The flowering plant is harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use. A distilled water obtained from the flowering tops is an effective treatment for conjunctivitis.

Melilotus officinalis has been used as a phytoremediation—phytodegradation plant for treatment of soils contaminated with dioxins.

Other Uses: In the chemical industry, dicoumarol is extracted from the plant to produce rodenticides.

Horticulture:
This plant is mainly used for agricultural purposes. It is grown as hay despite its toxic properties when moldy. It is considered an excellent green manure.

Melilotus officinalis or Sweet clover is a major source of nectar for domestic honey bees.

Flowers and seeds can be used as flavoring.

Green manure;  Repellent.

The leaves contain coumarin and they release the pleasant smell of newly mown hay when they are drying. The leaves are dried and used as an insect repellent, especially in order to repel moths from clothing. They can be put in pillows, mattresses etc. Poorly dried or fermented leaves produce a substance called dicoumarol. This is a potent anti-coagulant which is extremely poisonous in excess, it prevents the blood from coagulating and so it is possible to bleed to death from very small wounds. Dicoumarol is used in rat poisons. The plant can be used as a green manure, enriching the soil with nitrogen as well a providing organic matter.

Known Hazards :Melilotus officinalis contains coumarin that converts to dicoumarol (a powerful anticoagulant toxin) when the plant becomes moldy. This can lead to bleeding diseases (internal hemorrhaging) and death in cattle. Consequently, hay containing the plant must be properly dried and cured, especially in wet environments.

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/m/melilo29.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melilotus_officinalis
http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Melilotus+officinalis