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Herbs & Plants

Saponaria officinalis

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Botanical Name : Saponaria officinalis
Family:Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Saponaria
Species:S. officinalis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Soaproot. Bouncing Bet. Latherwort. Fuller’s Herb. Bruisewort. Crow Soap. Sweet Betty. Wild Sweet William.

Common Names: common soapwort, bouncing-bet, crow soap, wild sweet William, and soapweed,

Habitat: Saponaria officinalis is native to  Central and Southern Europe. Grows well in English gardens. It grows in cool places at low or moderate elevations under hedgerows and along the shoulders of roadways.

Description:
Saponaria officinalis is a stout herbaceous perennial plant with a stem growing in the writer’s garden to 4 or 5 feet high. Leaves lanceolate, slightly elliptical, acute, smooth, 2 or 3 inches long and 1/3 inch wide. Large pink flowers, often double in paniculate fascicles; calyx cylindrical, slightly downy; five petals, unguiculate; top of petals linear, ten stamens, two styles; capsule oblong, one-celled, flowering from July till September and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera.It is noted for attracting wildlife. . No odour, with a bitter and slightly sweet taste, followed by a persistent pungency and a numbing sensation in the mouth.

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Cultivation:
Succeeds in any moderately fertile well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Prefers a neutral to alkaline soil. Hardy to about -20°c. A very ornamental plant, soapwort is often grown in the herb garden and is sometimes cultivated for the soap that can be obtained from the roots. There are some named forms, usually with double flowers, that have been selected for their ornamental value. Plants can be very invasive when grown in good conditions. Soapwort should not be grown next to a pond with amphibians or fish in it since if the plant trails into the water it can cause poisoning. The flowers are slightly scented with a sweet aroma that has an undertone of clove. Hybridizes with other members of this genus. A good moth plant.

Propagation:
Seed – best if given a short cold stratification. Sow autumn or late winter in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates within 4 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, it can be successfully done at any time in the growing season if the plants are kept moist until they are re-established. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used: Dried root and leaves.

Constituents:  Constituents of the root, Saponin, also extractive, resin, gum, woody fibre, mucilage, etc.

Soapwort root dried in commerce is found in pieces 10 and 12 inches long, 1/12 inch thick, cylindrical, longitudinally wrinkled, outside light brown, inside whitish with a thick bark. Contains number of small white crystals and a pale yellow wood.

Alterative;  Antipruritic;  Antirheumatic;  Antiscrophulatic;  Cholagogue;  Cytotoxic;  Depurative;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Expectorant;  Purgative;
Skin;  Sternutatory;  Tonic.

Soapwort’s main medicinal use is as an expectorant. Its strongly irritant action within the gut is thought to stimulate the cough reflex and increase the production of a more fluid mucus within the respiratory passages. The whole plant, but especially the root, is alterative, antiscrophulatic, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, mildly diuretic, expectorant, purgative, sternutatory and tonic. A decoction of the whole plant can be applied externally to treat itchy skin. The plant has proved of use in the treatment of jaundice and other visceral obstructions. but is rarely used internally in modern herbalism due to its irritant effect on the digestive system. When taken in excess, it destroys red blood cells and causes paralysis of the vasomotor centre. See also the notes above on toxicity. The root is harvested in the spring and can be dried for later use. One of the saponins in this plant is proving of interest in the treatment of cancer, it is cytotoxic to the Walker Carcinoma in vitro[218]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Saponaria officinalis Soapwort. Bouncingbet for coughs/bronchitis.

Other Uses:  Soap.

A soap can be obtained by boiling the whole plant (but especially the root) in water. It is a gentle effective cleaner, used especially on delicate fabrics that can be harmed by modern synthetic soaps (it has been used to clean the Bayeaux tapestry). It effects a lustre in the fabric. The best soap is obtained by infusing the plant in warm water. The roots can be dried and stored for later use. The plant is sometimes recommended as a hair shampoo, though it can cause eye irritations. The plant spreads vigorously and can be used as a ground cover when planted about 1 metre apart each way.

Known Hazards:  The plant contains saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish. Do not use for more than 2 weeks. Avoid during pregnancy.

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=Saponaria+officinalis
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/soawor61.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Soapwort

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Categories
Herbs & Plants

Carolina Allspice

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Botanical Name : Carolina Allspice/Calycanthus floridus
Family: Calycanthaceae
Genus: Calycanthus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Laurales

Synonyms :  C. sterilis.

Common Names: Sweetshrub, Carolina allspice, Strawberry shrub, Pineapple shrub, Carolina Allspice, Eastern sweetshrub, Strawberry Bush, Sweetshrub, Carolina Allspice

Habitat : Calycanthus floridus is native to the moist woodlands of the southeastern United States. Its range extends from Virginia, south to Florida, and west to Mississippi. Sweetshrub is enjoyed as a landscape plant in Europe and deserves more attention from U.S. gardeners.

Description:
Calycanthus  is a genus of flowering plants in the family Calycanthaceae, endemic to North America. The genus includes two to four species depending on taxonomic interpretation; two are accepted by the Flora of North America.

They are beautiful deciduous shrubs slowly  growing to 2-4 m tall. The leaves are opposite, entire, 5-15 cm long and 2-6 cm broad. The flowers are produced in early summer after the leaves, 4-7 cm broad, with numerous spirally-arranged narrow dark red tepals (resembling a small magnolia flower); they are strongly scented. The fruit is an elliptic dry capsule 5-7 cm long, containing numerous seeds.

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As the sweetshrub suckers vigorously the mounds increase in width to eventually form a thicket if not constrained. Sweetshrub has many common names, all alluding to the aromatic properties of its leaves, bark, twigs and roots. Best of all is the wonderfully fruity scent produced by the unusual flowers. Rusty red to brown, the 1-2 inch blossoms appear in quantities during the spring and intermittently thereafter throughout the summer. The leaves are oblong, 4 in (10.2 cm) long by 2 in (5.1 cm) wide, and are arranged oppositely along the length of the stems. They are rich deep green with lighter green underneath. Soft and fuzzy to the touch, they turn bright golden yellow in autumn….…CLICK  &   SEE

The bark has a strong camphor smell that is released when stems are scraped. The smell remains strong on twigs that have been stored several years in a dry environment. The scent of the flower has been compared to bubblegum. Calycanthus oil, distilled from the flowers, is an essential oil used in some quality perfumes

Species:
*Calycanthus floridus (Carolina sweetshrub), Pennsylvania and Ohio south to Mississippi and northern Florida
*Calycanthus floridus var. floridus (syn. C. mohrii), twigs pubescent (hairy)
*Calycanthus floridus var. glaucus (syn. C. fertilis), twigs glabrous (smooth)
*Calycanthus occidentalis (California sweetshrub), California (widespread), Washington (local, Seattle area).

Cultivation:
Sweetshrub is easy to grow in average soil, is easy to care for and is essentially pest-free!
Light: Thrives in medium shade to bright sun.
Moisture: Likes moist soils. Water when dry. This shrub can survive periods of drought if necessary.

Propagation:
Propagate by seeds, layers, and divisions. This shrub produces suckers in profusion. These can be easily dug and planted in a new location – at just about any time of the year provided the transplants are kept moist.
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Edible Uses:  The aromatic bark is dried and used as a substitute for cinnamon. Some caution is advised, see reports above on toxicity.

Medicinal Uses:
Cherokee tribes brewed the roots and bark as teas to soothe a variety of ills, and European settlers later drank similar teas to soothe jangled nerves.  The plant contains an alkaloid that has a powerfully depressant action on the heart. A fluid extract has been used as an antiperiodic.  A tea made from the root or bark has been used as a strong emetic and diuretic for kidney and bladder ailments. A cold tea has been used as eye drops in the treatment of failing eyesight.  An ooze from the bark has been used to treat children’s sores, whilst an infusion has been used to treat hives.

Other Uses:
The only member of the genus that has found its way into gardens is the oldest known, C. florida, which Mark Catesby noted in the woodlands of Piedmont Carolina; he described it, with its bark “as odoriferous as cinnamon” but did not name it. The planters of Carolina gathered it into their gardens, and Peter Collinson imported it into England from Charleston, South Carolina about 1756; he described it to Linnaeus. As the leathery maroon flowers are not very showy, the shrub is thought to be “of minor garden value today”, where scent is less valued than color, though it is an old-fashioned sentimental favorite in the American Southeast, where it is native.

Sweetshrub in natural areas and woodland gardens where it can sucker freely and assume its natural habit. Sweetshrub is also nice in planters near entryways and patios where it’s delicate fragrance can be enjoyed.

Known Hazards: Ruminants are reported to have a toxic reaction from grazing this plant. Calycanthus contains calycanthine, an alkaloid similar to strychnine, and it is toxic to humans and livestock

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.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/plant.asp?code=B820
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calycanthus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calycanthus
http://www.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/cafl.html
http://www.floridata.com/ref/c/caly_flo.cfm#url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.floridata.com%2Fref%2Fc%2Fcaly_flo.cfm&size=small&count=false&id=I1_1310038771201&parent=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.floridata.com&rpctoken=179027074&_methods=onPlusOne%2C_ready%2C_close%2C_open%2C_resizeMe