Tag Archives: Flax

Apricot

Botanical Name :Prunus Armeniaca
Family:    Rosaceae
Genus:    Prunus
Subgenus:Prunus
Section:    Armeniaca
Species:    P. armeniaca
Kingdom:    Plantae
Order:    Rosales

Synonyms:Apricot,  Apricock. Armeniaca vulgaris.

Common Names: Ansu apricot, Siberian apricot, Tibetan apricot

Habitat:Prunus Armeniaca  is considered  native range is somewhat uncertain due to its extensive prehistoric cultivation. Although formerly supposed to come from Armenia, where it was long cultivated, hence the name Armeniaca, there is now little doubt that its original habitat is northern China, the Himalaya region and other parts of temperate Asia. It is cultivated generally throughout temperate regions. Introduced into England, from Italy, in Henry VIII’s reign.

Description:
Prunus armeniaca is a small tree, 8–12 m (26–39 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 40 cm (16 in) in diameter and a dense, spreading canopy. The leaves are ovate, 5–9 cm (2.0–3.5 in) long and 4–8 cm (1.6–3.1 in) wide, with a rounded base, a pointed tip and a finely serrated margin. The flowers are 2–4.5 cm (0.8–1.8 in) in diameter, with five white to pinkish petals; they are produced singly or in pairs in early spring before the leaves. The fruit is a drupe similar to a small peach, 1.5–2.5 cm (0.6–1.0 in) diameter (larger in some modern cultivars), from yellow to orange, often tinged red on the side most exposed to the sun; its surface can be smooth (botanically described as: glabrous) or velvety with very short hairs (botanically: pubescent). The flesh is usually firm and not very juicy. Its taste can range from sweet to tart. The single seed is enclosed in a hard, stony shell, often called a “stone”, with a grainy, smooth texture except for three ridges running down one side….....CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

Edible Uses:   Fruits     are eaten  raw  or  cooked or dried for later use. The best forms are soft and juicy with a delicious rich flavour. Wild trees in the Himalayas yield about 47.5kg of fruit per year.The fruit of the wild form contains about 6.3% sugars, 0.7% protein, 2.5% ash, 2.5% pectin. There is about 10mg vitamin C per 100g of pulp. The fruit is about 5cm in diameter and contains one large seed. Seed – raw or cooked. Bitter seeds should be eaten in strict moderation, but sweet ones can be eaten freely. The bitter seeds can be used as a substitute for bitter almonds in making marzipan etc. An edible gum is obtained from the trunk. The seed contains up to 50% of an edible semi-drying oil

The Italian liqueur amaretto and amaretti biscotti are flavoured with extract of apricot kernels rather than almonds. Oil pressed from these cultivar kernels, and known as oil of almond, has been used as cooking oil. Kernels contain between 2.05% and 2.40% hydrogen cyanide, but normal consumption is insufficient to produce serious effects.

Cultivation:        
Landscape Uses:Specimen. Requires a well-drained moisture retentive fertile soil in a warm sunny position. Succeeds in light shade but fruits better in a sunny position. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone. Prefers some chalk in the soil but is apt to become chlorotic if too much is present. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 to 7.5. Dislikes clay soils. Intolerant of saline soils. Trees drop their fruit buds if there is a summer drought. The apricot is widely cultivated for its edible fruit in temperate areas that have long hot summers, there are many named varieties. The tree is perfectly hardy in Britain but it usually flowers very early in the spring and the flowers are then liable to be destroyed by frosts. It really requires a more continental climate (with its clearly defined seasons) than it gets in Britain. However, if given the benefit of a south or west facing wall and some protection from frosts when it is in flower, reasonable crops can usually be produced in southern England. The plants are self-fertile, but hand pollination would be advisable since they are normally flowering before many pollinating insects are active. In Britain apricots are usually grown on plum rootstocks, ‘St. Julien A’ is the most widely used. The dwarfing rootstock ‘Pixie’ is also a possibility, but this must be double worked with ‘St. Julien A’ because it is incompatible with apricots. Any pruning should be carried out in the summer to allow rapid healing and therefore less risk of infection. Oats should not be grown near apricots because their roots have an antagonistic effect on the roots of the apricot. Tomatoes and potatoes are also bad companions for apricots. If nasturtiums (Tropaeoleum spp) are grown under apricots they will make the fruit less palatable to insects, though this is not detectable by the human palate. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus. Special Features: Edible, Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms.

Propagation :       
Seed – requires 2 – 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Difficult. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Difficult. Layering in spring.

Constituents:  Prunus Armeniaca  yield by expression 40 to 50 per cent. of a fixed oil, similar to that which occurs in the sweet almond and in the peach kernel, consisting chiefly of Olein, with a small proportion of the Glyceride of Linolic acid, and commonly sold as Peach Kernel oil (Ol. Amygdae Pers.). From the cake is distilled, by digestion with alcohol, an essential oil (0l. Amygdae Essent. Pers.) which contains a colourless, crystalline glucoside, Amygdalin, and is chemically identical with that of the bitter almond. The essential oil is used in confectionery and as a culinary flavouring.

 Medicinal  Uses:
Analgesic;  Anthelmintic;  Antiasthmatic;  Antidote;  Antipyretic;  Antiseptic;  Antispasmodic;  Antitussive;  Demulcent;  Emetic;  Emollient;
Expectorant;  Laxative;  Ophthalmic;  Pectoral;  Sedative;  Tonic;  Vulnerary.

Apricot fruits contain citric and tartaric acid, carotenoids and flavonoids. They are nutritious, cleansing and mildly laxative. They are a valuable addition to the diet working gently to improve overall health. The salted fruit is antiinflammatory and antiseptic. It is used medicinally in Vietnam in the treatment of respiratory and digestive diseases. Antipyretic, antiseptic, emetic, ophthalmic. The flowers are tonic, promoting fecundity in women. The bark is astringent. The inner bark and/or the root are used for treating poisoning caused by eating bitter almond and apricot seeds (which contain hydrogen cyanide). Another report says that a decoction of the outer bark is used to neutralize the effects of hydrogen cyanide. The decoction is also used to soothe inflamed and irritated skin conditions. The seed is analgesic, anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, antitussive, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, pectoral, sedative and vulnerary. It is used in the treatment of asthma, coughs, acute or chronic bronchitis and constipation. The seed contains ‘laetrile’, a substance that has also been called vitamin B17. This has been claimed to have a positive effect in the treatment of cancer, but there does not at present seem to be much evidence to support this. The pure substance is almost harmless, but on hydrolysis it yields hydrocyanic acid, a very rapidly acting poison – it should thus be treated with caution. In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being

Apricot oil is used as a substitute for Oil of Almonds, which it very closely resembles. It is far less expensive and finds considerable employment in cosmetics, for its softening action on the skin. It is often fraudulently added to genuine Almond oil and used in the manufacture of soaps, cold creams and other preparations of the perfumery trade.

Other Uses:
Adhesive;  Dye;  Gum;  Oil;  Oil;  Wood.

An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. Used for lighting. The oil has a softening effect on the skin and so it is used in perfumery and cosmetics, and also in pharmaceuticals. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. Wood – handsome, hard, durable. Agricultural implements etc

In Armenia, the wood of the apricot tree is used for making wood carvings such as the duduk, which is a popular wind instrument in Armenia and is also called the apricot pipe. Several hand-made souvenirs are also made from the apricot wood.

Known Hazards: This species produces hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. Usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm, any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death. Oral doses of 50g of hydrogen cyanide can be fatal (= 30g of kernels or 50-60 kernels at 2 mg HCN/g kernel)

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunus_armeniaca
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Prunus+armeniaca
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/apric050.html

Purging Flax

Botanical Name :Linum catharticum
Family: Linaceae
Genus:     Linum
Species: L. catharticum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Malpighiales

Synonyms: Purging Flax. Dwarf Flax. Fairy Flax. Mill Mountain.

Common Name:Mountain Flax

Habitat :Purging Flax is native to  Europe, including Britain, from Iceland south and east to Spain the Caucasus and Iran. It grows in grassland, dunes and moors, most commonly on calcareous grassland.

Description:
Purging Flax is an annual plant, with a small, thready root, which sends up several slender, smooth, straight stems, which rise to a height of 6 to 8 inches, and are sometimes branched towards the upper part. The leaves are small, linear-oblong and obtuse, the lower ones opposite, and the upper alternate. The flowers, 1/3 to 1/4 of an inch in diameter, are white. The plant at first glance much resembles chickweed, being glaucous and glabrous. It is in flower from Jun to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies, self.The plant is self-fertile. click  & see
click to see the pictures
Cultivation:   
Prefers a light well-drained moderately fertile humus-rich soil in a sunny sheltered position[.

Propagation:   
Seed – sow early spring in situ.

Medicinal Uses:

Part Used:The whole herb is used mediinally, both fresh and dried, collected in July, when in flower, in the wild state.

Constituents:  A green, bitter resin and a neutral, colourless, crystalline principle of a persistently bitter taste, called Linin, to which the herb owes its activity.

Anthelmintic;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Homeopathy;  Purgative.

Purging Flax was often used in the past as a gentle laxative, and also for the treatment of muscular rheumatism, liver complaints, jaundice and catarrhal problems, though it is seldom used in modern herbalism. The whole herb is anthelmintic, diuretic, emetic and purgative. It is harvested in the summer as it comes into flower and can be dried for later use. When used as a purgative it is generally taken with a carminative such as peppermint. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of bronchitis, piles and amenorrhoea.

Known Hazards :    Poisonous in large doses

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/f/flamou24.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Linum+catharticum
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linum_catharticum

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Botanical Name :Hydrastis canadensis
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Hydrastis
Species: H. canadensis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ranunculales

Common Names:Goldenseal , orangeroot or yellow puccoon

Habitat :Hydrastis canadensis is native to southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States.  Eastern N. America – Connecticut to Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas.It grows in rich shady woods and moist areas on woodland edges. Mesic, deciduous forests, often on clay soils at elevations of 50 – 1200 metres.

Description:

Hydrastis canadensis  is a perennial herb. It may be distinguished by its thick, yellow knotted rootstock. The stem is purplish and hairy above ground and yellow below ground where it connects to the yellow rhizome. The plant bears two palmate, hairy leaves with 5–7 double-toothed lobes and single, small, inconspicuous flowers with greenish white stamens in the late spring and the seeds ripen from July to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) It bears a single berry like a large raspberry with 10–30 seeds in the summer.

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It is hardy to zone 3.

Cultivation:
Goldenseal is somewhat difficult of cultivation, it prefers a good rich moist loamy leafy soil in shade or partial shade. Prefers a sandy, acid to neutral humus-rich soil. Grows best in a pH range from 6 to 7. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c. Goldenseal is grown commercially as a medicinal plant, but it is not easy to establish the plants[4, 200]. Another report says that all goldenseal root that is used medicinally comes from wild plants. Since the plant is becoming increasingly rare in many parts of its range, it is probably wise to try and find alternatives to this species for medicinal use unless you can be sure that your supply comes from cultivated plants.

Propagation:
Seed – sow autumn or early spring in a moist sandy loam in a shady part of the cold frame or greenhouse. The seed is slow to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for the first year or two. Plant out into their permanent positions when the plants are dormant. Division of the roots in autumn. The roots can be divided into quite small pieces and can also be transplanted at almost any time of the year. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Constituents:
Goldenseal contains the isoquinoline alkaloids: hydrastine, berberine, berberastine, hydrastinine, tetrahydroberberastine, canadine, and canalidine. A related compound, 8-oxotetrahydrothalifendine was identified in one study. One study analyzed the hydrastine and berberine contents of twenty commercial goldenseal and goldenseal-containing products and found they contained variously 0%-2.93% hydrastine and 0.82%-5.86% berberine. Berberine and hydrastine act as quaternary bases and are poorly soluble in water but freely soluble in alcohol. The herb seems to have synergistic antibacterial activity over berberine in vitro, possibly due to efflux pump inhibitory activity.

Multiple bacteria and fungi, along with selected protozoa and chlamydia are susceptible to berberine in vitro. Berberine alone has weak antibiotic activity in vitro since many microorganisms actively export it from the cell (although a whole herb is likely to work on the immune system as well as on attacking the microbes and hence have a stronger clinical effect than the antibiotic activity alone would suggest).[citation needed] Interestingly, there is some evidence for other berberine-containing species synthesizing an efflux pump inhibitor that tends to prevent antibiotic resistance, a case of solid scientific evidence that the herb is superior to the isolated active principle. However, it is not yet known whether goldenseal contains a drug resistance efflux pump inhibitor, although many antimicrobial herbs do

Medicinal Uses
Antibacterial; Antiperiodic; Antiseptic; Antispasmodic; Astringent; Cholagogue; Diuretic; Laxative; Sedative; Stomachic; Tonic.

Goldenseal is a traditional medicine of the North American Indians and is still widely used in Western herbal medicine. In the Nineteenth century it acquired a reputation as a heal-all and was grossly over-collected from the wild and has become rare in the east of its range. It is now being cultivated on a small scale. It is especially valued in treating disorders of the digestive system and mucous membranes and is also extremely useful in the treatment of habitual constipation.   The root is the active part of the plant, it is harvested in the autumn after the plant has died down and is dried for later use. It is said to be antiperiodic, antiseptic, astringent, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative, stomachic, tonic. It is used mainly in the treatment of disorders affecting the ears, eyes, throat, nose, stomach, intestines and vagina. The root contains the alkaloids hydrastine, berberine and canadine. Berberine is antibacterial (effective against broad-spectrum bacteria and protozoa), it increases bile secretions, acts as an anticonvulsant, a mild sedative and lowers blood pressure. Use of this plant destroys beneficial intestinal organisms as well as pathogens, so it should only be prescribed for limited periods (a maximum of three months). The plant should be used with caution, and not at all during pregnancy or by people with high blood pressure. An infusion of the root is used externally as a wash for skin diseases, vaginal infections, gum diseases etc.

Traditional Uses:
At the time of the European colonization of the Americas, goldenseal was in extensive use among certain Native American tribes of North America, both as a medicine and as a coloring material. Prof. Benjamin Smith Barton in his first edition of Collections for an Essay Toward a Materia Medica of the United States (1798), refers to the Cherokee use of goldenseal as a cancer treatment. Later, he calls attention to its properties as a bitter tonic, and as a local wash for ophthalmia. It became a favorite of the Eclectics from the time of Constantine Raffinesque in the 1830s.

The Eclectics used goldenseal extensively for cancers and swellings of the breasts, although they did not consider it sufficient for cancer alone.[citation needed] Hale recommended its use in hard swellings of the breast, while conium was used for smaller painless lumps. The two herbs alone or with phytoplankton Americana were used for cancers, along with alternatives like red clover.

Herbalists today consider goldenseal an alterative, anti-catarrhal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, bitter tonic, laxative, anti-diabetic and muscular stimulant. They discuss the astringent effect it has[citation needed] on mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, the bladder, and rectum (applied topically), and the skin. Goldenseal is very bitter, which stimulates the appetite and aids digestion, and often stimulates bile secretion

Efficacy:
There is currently insufficient evidence to determine whether goldenseal is effective for any conditions

Other Uses
Dye and Repellent.
A yellow dye is obtained from the whole plant. It is obtained from the root. The pounded root is smeared on the body to act as an insect repellent.

Known Hazards:The whole plant is poisonous

Cautions:
Goldenseal has an affinity for mucosa, and is cooling so should not be used if an infection is at an early stage or there are more chills than fever.   Goldenseal should be used with caution only while sick with illnesses that respond to hydrastine and berberine. It should generally not be taken for an early stage Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), but reserved for illnesses in which there is yellow or green phlegm.[citation needed] Generally a two-week maximum dosage is suggested.[citation needed] Taking goldenseal over a long period of time can reduce absorption of B vitamins. Avoid goldenseal during pregnancy and lactation, with gastrointestinal inflammation, and with proinflammatory disorders.A recent study (2011) found rats fed with Goldenseal constantly for two years had a greater tendency towards tumor formation.

Goldenseal has been found to have inhibited cytochrome P450 CYP2D6, CYP3A4, and CYP3A5 activity by approximately 40%, a statistically and clinically significant reduction.  CYP2D6 specifically is a known metabolizer of many commonly used pharmaceuticals, such as antidepressants (including all SSRIs except for fluvoxamine), neuroleptics, and codeine.  Combining Goldenseal with such medications should be done with caution and under the supervision of a doctor as it can lead to serious – perhaps fatal – toxicity. Those with a genetic deficiency in these enzymes are at particular risk.

Use for masking illicit drug use in urine drug tests:
Goldenseal became a part of American folklore associated with chemical testing errors, from pharmacist John Uri Lloyd’s 1900 novel Stringtown on the Pike. In the book, the victim’s habit of taking goldenseal in the form of digestive bitters, causes this herb to appear as the poison strychnine in a chemical test – thus suggesting murder. It has been used on occasions in this century to attempt to mask the use of morphine in race horses (without success).

Two studies have demonstrated no effect of oral goldenseal on urine drug assays over water alone. Subjects who drank large amounts of water had the same urine drug levels as subjects who took goldenseal capsules along with the water.

Endangered status:
Goldenseal is in serious danger due to overharvesting. Goldenseal became popular in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1905, the herb was much less plentiful, partially due to overharvesting and partially to habitat destruction. Wild goldenseal is now so rare that the herb is listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) goldenseal is one of the most overharvested herbs. More than 60 million goldenseal plants are picked each year without being replaced.[36] The process of mountain top removal mining has recently put the wild goldenseal population at major risk due to loss of habitat, illegality of removing goldenseal for transplant without registration while destruction in the process of removing the mountain top is permitted, and increased economic pressure on stands outside of the removal area.

Many herbalists urge caution in choosing products containing goldenseal, as they may have been harvested in an unsustainable manner as opposed to having been organically cultivated.

There are several berberine-containing plants that can serve as useful alternatives, including Chinese coptis, yellowroot, or Oregon grape root.

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://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrastis_canadensis
http://digedibles.com/database/plants.php?Hydrastis+canadensis

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Psyllium

Botanical NamePlantago psyllium/ Plantago ovata
Family : Plantaginaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Genus: Plantago
Common Names :  Psyllium,ispaghula, isabgol

Habitat : P. ovata is a 119- to 130-day crop that responds well to cool, dry weather. In India, P. ovata is cultivated mainly in North Gujarat as a “Rabi” or post–rainy season crop (October to March). During this season, which follows the monsoons, average temperatures are in the range of 15–30 °C (59–86 °F), and moisture is deficient. Isabgol (P. ovata), which has a moderate water requirement, is given 5 to 6 light irrigations. A very important environmental requirement of this crop is clear, sunny and dry weather preceding harvest. High night temperature and cloudy wet weather close to harvest have a large negative impact on yield. Rainfall on the mature crop may result in shattering and therefore major field losses.The state of Rajasthan in India provides 60% of the world’s production, while the Jalore district alone accounts for 90% of Isabgol production in Rajasthan. Bhinmal agriculture Mandi is declared Isabgol special Mandi. Bhinmal area gives about 2,500 tons per year of Isabgol.

It is cultivated in 50,000 hectares in Mehsana, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha districts of Gujarat and Jalore, Pali, Jodhpur, Barmer, Nagaur and Sirohi districts of Rajasthan.

Description:
Plantago ovata is an annual herb that grows to a height of 30–46 cm (12–18 in). Leaves are opposite, linear or linear lanceolate 1 × 19 cm (0.39 × 7.5 in). The root system has a well developed tap root with few fibrous secondary roots. A large number of flowering shoots arise from the base of the plant. Flowers are numerous, small, and white. Plants flower about 60 days after planting. The seeds are enclosed in capsules that open at maturity.

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Cultivation
:-
The fields are generally irrigated prior to seeding to achieve ideal soil moisture, to enhance seed soil contact, and to avoid burying the seed too deeply as a result of later irrigations or rainfall. Maximum germination occurs at a seeding depth of 6 mm (1/4 in). Emerging seedlings are frost sensitive, therefore planting should be delayed until conditions are expected to remain frost free. Seed is broadcast at 5.5 to 8.25 kg/hectare (5 to 7.5 lb/acre) in India. In Arizona trials, seeding rates of 22 to 27.5 kg/ha (20 to 25 lb/acre) resulted in stands of 1 plant/25mm (1 inch) in 15 cm (6 inch) rows produced excellent yields. Weed control is normally achieved by one or two hand weedings early in the growing season. Control of weeds by pre-plant irrigation that germinates weed seeds followed by shallow tillage may be effective on fields with minimal weed pressure. Psyllium is a poor competitor with most weed species.

Plantago wilt “Fusarium oxyspirum” and downy mildew are the major diseases of Isabgol. White grubs and aphids are the major insect pests.

The flower spikes turn reddish brown at ripening, the lower leaves dry and the upper leaves yellow. The crop is harvested in the morning after the dew is gone to minimize shattering and field losses. In India, mature plants are cut 15 cm above the ground and then bound, left for a few days to dry, thrashed, and winnowing.

Harvested seed must be dried below 12% moisture to allow for cleaning, milling, and storage. Seed stored for future crops has shown a significant loss in viability after 2 years in storage.

History:
The genus Plantago contains over 200 species. P. ovata and P. psyllium are produced commercially in several European countries, the former Soviet Union, Pakistan, and India. Plantago seed, known commercially as black, French, or Spanish psyllium, is obtained from P. psyllium L., also known as P. arenaria. Seed produced from P. ovata is known in trading circles as white or blonde psyllium, Indian plantago, or Isabgol. Isabgol, the common name in Pakistan and India for P. ovata, comes from the Persian words asb and ghol, meaning “horse flower,” which is descriptive of the shape of the seed. India dominates the world market in the production and export of psyllium. Psyllium research and field trials in the U.S. have been conducted mainly in Arizona and Washington state.

Recent interest in psyllium has arisen primarily due to its use as an ingredient in high-fiber breakfast cereals, which is claimed to be effective in reducing blood cholesterol levels in those who consume it. Several studies point to a cholesterol reduction attributed to a diet that includes dietary fiber such as psyllium. Research reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes that the use of soluble-fiber cereals is an effective and well-tolerated part of a prudent diet for the treatment of mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Research also indicates that psyllium incorporated into food products is more effective at reducing blood glucose response than use of a soluble-fiber supplement that is separate from the food. Although the cholesterol-reducing and glycemic-response properties of psyllium-containing foods are fairly well documented, the effect of long-term inclusion of psyllium in the diet has not been determined. Cases of allergic reaction to psyllium-containing cereal have been documented.


Constituents
: ascorbic acid, aucubin, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, calcium, chromium, cobalt, fiber, linoleic acid, magnesium, manganese, mucilage, niacin, oleic acid, oxalic acid, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, sodium, stigmasterol, thiamine, tin, zi

Medicinal Uses:
Common Uses: Cholesterol Control * Constipation * Weight Loss *
Properties: Astringent* Demulcent* Laxative* Antitussive*
Parts Used: Seeds and seed husks

The seeds of the Plantago ovata contain copious amounts of mucilage that are able to treat diarrhea, constipation and act as a safe and effective weight loss aid. Psyllium seed has been used since ancient times, with no ill effects. These seeds and their husks are a great source of natural fiber. The seed has less fiber than the husk but a wide range of nutrients the husks do not. Although it is traditionally used to treat constipation, research shows that psyllium seed reduces high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Exactly how it does isn’t known, but it appears to bind with dietary cholesterol and fat to prevent their absorption.

Credit mother nature for devising a substance that can treat both constipation and diarrhea. The seeds soak up fluids, adding bulk to the stool and inhibiting diarrhea. The same absorption of fluids softens the stool, and the larger volume helps pass it through the colon. This easier action makes this herb a good choice for those suffering from hemorrhoids,inflammatory bowel disease or diverticulitis. By bulking the stool, the seeds also relieve pain caused by ulcerative colitis. Unless you have a desire for sugar, artificial flavors and higher prices, try natural psyllium before turning to one of the name brand products such as Metamucil or Fiberall, or any number of commercial laxatives.

Psyllium is mainly used as a dietary fiber, which is not absorbed by the small intestine. The purely mechanical action of psyllium mucilage absorbs excess water while stimulating normal bowel elimination. Although its main use has been as a laxative, it is more appropriately termed a true dietary fiber and as such can help reduce the symptoms of both constipation and mild diarrhea.

Psyllium is produced mainly for its mucilage content, which is highest in P. ovata. The term mucilage describes a group of clear, colorless, gelling agents derived from plants. The mucilage obtained from psyllium comes from the seed coat. Mucilage is obtained by mechanical milling/grinding of the outer layer of the seed. Mucilage yield amounts to about 25% (by weight) of the total seed yield. Plantago-seed mucilage is often referred to as husk, or psyllium husk. The milled seed mucilage is a white fibrous material that is hydrophilic, meaning that its molecular structure causes it to attract and bind to water. Upon absorbing water, the clear, colorless, mucilaginous gel that forms increases in volume by tenfold or more.

The United States is the world’s largest importer of psyllium husk, with over 60% of total imports going to pharmaceutical firms for use in products such as “Metamucil”. In Australia, psyllium husk is used to make “Bonvit” psyllium products. In the UK, ispaghula husk is used in the popular constipation remedy “Fybogel”. In India, psyllium husk is used to make “Gulab Sat Isabgol” psyllium products. Psyllium mucilage is also used as a natural dietary fiber for animals. The dehusked seed that remains after the seed coat is milled off is rich in starch and fatty acids, and is used in India as chicken feed and as cattle feed.

Psyllium mucilage possesses several other desirable properties. As a thickener, it has been used in ice cream and frozen desserts. A 1.5% weight/volume ratio of psyllium mucilage exhibits binding properties that are superior to a 10% weight/volume ratio of starch mucilage. The viscosity of psyllium mucilage dispersions are relatively unaffected between temperatures of 20 and 50 °C (68 and 122 °F), by pH from 2 to 10 and by salt (sodium chloride) concentrations up to 0.15 M. These physical properties, along with its status as a natural dietary fiber, may lead to increased use of psyllium by the food-processing industry. Technical-grade psyllium has been used as a hydrocolloidal agent to improve water retention for newly-seeded grass areas, and to improve transplanting success with woody plants.

It is suggested that the isabgol husk is a suitable carrier for the sustained release of drugs and is also used as a gastroretentive carrier due to its swellable and floatable nature. The mucilage of isabgol is used as a super disintegrant in many formulations.

Adverse Reactions and Warnings:
Possible adverse reactions include allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, especially among those who have had regular exposure to psyllium dust. Gastrointestinal tract obstruction may occur, especially for those with prior bowel surgeries or anatomic abnormalities, or if taken with inadequate amounts of water.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published that psyllium, among other water soluble gums, have been linked to medical reports of esophageal obstruction (Esophageal_food_bolus_obstruction), choking, and asphyxiation.

Specifically, the FDA reports “Esophageal obstruction and asphyxiation due to orally-administered drug products containing water-soluble gums, hydrophilic gums, and hydrophilic mucilloids as active ingredients are significant health risks when these products are taken without adequate fluid or when they are used by individuals with esophageal narrowing or dysfunction, or with difficulty in swallowing.” and “when marketed in a dry or incompletely hydrated form” are required to have the following warning labels:

“`Choking’ [highlighted in bold type]: Taking this product without adequate fluid may cause it to swell and block your throat or esophagus and may cause choking. Do not take this product if you have difficulty in swallowing. If you experience chest pain, vomiting, or difficulty in swallowing or breathing after taking this product, seek immediate medical attention;” and

“`Directions’ [highlighted in bold type]:” (Select one of the following, as appropriate: “Take” or “Mix”) “this product (child or adult dose) with at least 8 ounces (a full glass) of water or other fluid. Taking this product without enough liquid may cause choking.”

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://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psyllium_seed_husks
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psyllium
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail157.php

Linseed Food to Keep Cancer at Bay

Illustration of flaxImage via Wikipedia

Linseed is believed to protect against cancer, but the taste is a real turn-off for most people.

Researchers have now isolated the valuable components of linseed (flax seeds), which when mixed with bread, cakes or dressings, don’t leave an unpleasant aftertaste

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Cakes that can ward off cancer or noodles that lower the cholesterol level could soon be a reality. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising (Germany) have isolated valuable components of linseed and lupin seeds.

They have experimentally incorporated them in various foodstuffs: the linseed in cakes, bread, dressings and sauces, the lupins in bread, rolls and pasta. The result is not only delicious, but healthy as well.

“Flax is not only high in soluble fibre, but also contains lignans. These substances are phytoestrogens, so they have a similar effect to that of the isoflavones that we know from soya beans,” said IVV project manager Katrin Hasenkopf.

“According to literature, they protect the organism against hormone-dependent forms of cancer – that is, breast and prostate cancer,” added Hasenkopf. “The lupins, on the other hand, contain substances that our studies have found to have a positive impact on the cholesterol level.”

But how do the researchers isolate the valuable components? “We make use of the differing solubility of the various constituents: If the pH value is acidic, the unwanted bitter substances are the first to dissolve.

pH value is a way of expressing the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. The neutral point is pH value 7.0, with acids having lower values and alkalis having higher values.

“If the pH value is then set back to neutral, you get the valuable proteins – without the bitter taste. We are also able to separate large components from small ones by a series of filtration steps,” explained Hasenkopf.

“The healthy effects of linseed and lupin seeds are already known from literature, but so far there is a lack of conclusive scientific investigations on the subject. These substances undoubtedly have very high potential,” she said.

In about three years, the new cholesterol-lowering foodstuffs are expected to be available on supermarket shelves – maybe even including cakes, bread rolls and sauces enriched with the valuable substances obtained from flax seeds.

The researchers will be presenting the linseed and lupin foods at the Biotechnica trade fair in Hanover on Oct 7-9.

Sources: The Times Of India

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