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Herbs & Plants

Fennel

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Botanical Name :Foeniculum vulgare
Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
Genus: Foeniculum
Species: F. vulgare
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Apiales

Synonyms: Fenkel. Sweet Fennel. Wild Fennel.

Common Name :Fennel

Vernacular names:Fennel is known as(Saunf) in Hindi and  (Mouree) in Bengali. It is called (perunjeeragam) in Tamil and (perumjeeragam) in Malayalam. In Kannada (Dodda jeerige) or (Bade saunf) or(Badaa saunf).

Habitat :Fennel  grows wild in most parts of temperate Europe, but is generally considered indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, whence it spreads eastwards to India. It has followed civilization, especially where Italians have colonized, and may be found growing wild in many parts of the world upon dry soils near the sea-coast and upon river-banks. It flourishes particularly on limestone soils and is now naturalized in some parts of this country, being found from North Wales southward and eastward to Kent, being most frequent in Devon and Cornwall and on chalk cliffs near the sea. It is often found in chalky districts inland in a semi-wild state.

Description:
Fennel is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves.It is erect, glaucous green, and grows to heights of up to 2.5 m, with hollow stems. The leaves grow up to 40 cm long; they are finely dissected, with the ultimate segments filiform (threadlike), about 0.5 mm wide. (Its leaves are similar to those of dill, but thinner.) The flowers are produced in terminal compound umbels 5–15 cm wide, each umbel section having 20–50 tiny yellow flowers on short pedicels. The fruit is a dry seed from 4–10 mm long, half as wide or less, and grooved.

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Edible Uses:
The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the fennel plant are widely used in many of the culinary traditions of the world. The small flowers of wild fennel (mistakenly known in America as fennel “pollen”  are the most potent form of fennel, but also the most expensive. Dried fennel seed is an aromatic, anise-flavoured spice, brown or green in colour when fresh, slowly turning a dull grey as the seed ages. For cooking, green seeds are optimal. The leaves are delicately flavoured and similar in shape to those of dill. The bulb is a crisp vegetable that can be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw. They are used for garnishes and to add flavor to salads. They are also added to sauces and served with pudding. The leaves used in soups and fish sauce and sometimes eaten raw as salad.

Fennel seeds are sometimes confused with those of anise, which are similar in taste and appearance, though smaller. Fennel is also used as a flavouring in some natural toothpastes. The seeds are used in cookery and sweet desserts.

Many cultures in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East use fennel seed in their cookery. It is one of the most important spices in Kashmiri Pandit and Gujarati cooking. It is an essential ingredient of the Assamese/Bengali/Oriya spice mixture panch phoron[16] and in Chinese five-spice powders. In many parts of India and Pakistan, roasted fennel seeds are consumed as mukhwas, an after-meal digestive and breath freshener. Fennel leaves are used as leafy green vegetables either by themselves or mixed with other vegetables, cooked to be served and consumed as part of a meal, in some parts of India. In Syria and Lebanon, it is used to make a special kind of egg omelette (along with onions, and flour) called ijjeh.

Many egg, fish, and other dishes employ fresh or dried fennel leaves. Florence fennel is a key ingredient in some Italian and German salads, often tossed with chicory and avocado, or it can be braised and served as a warm side dish. It may be blanched or marinated, or cooked in risotto.

Fennel seeds are the primary flavor component in Italian sausage.

In Spain the stems of the fennel plant are used in the preparation of pickled eggplants, “berenjenas de Almagro”.

Cultivation: Fennel will thrive anywhere, and a plantation will last for years. It is easily propagated by seeds, sown early in April in ordinary soil. It likes plenty of sun and is adapted to dry and sunny situations, not needing heavily manured ground, though it will yield more on rich stiff soil. From 4 1/2 to 5 lb. of seed are sown per acre, either in drills, 15 inches apart, lightly, just covered with soil and the plants afterwards thinned to a similar distance, or sewn thinly in a bed and transplanted when large enough. The fruit is heavy and a crop of 15 cwt. per acre is an average yield.

Medicinal Uses:
Parts Used:  Seeds, leaves, roots.
Constituents:Fennel contains anethole, which can explain some of its medical effects: It, or its polymers, act as phytoestrogens.

The essence of fennel can be used as a safe and effective herbal drug for primary dysmenorrhea, but could have lower potency than mefenamic acid at the current study level.

Intestinal tract:  Fennel is widely employed as a carminative, both in humans and in veterinary medicine (e.g., dogs), to treat flatulence by encouraging the expulsion of intestinal gas. Anethole is responsible for the carminative action.

Mrs. Grieve‘s Herbal (1931) states:

On account of its aromatic and carminative properties, fennel fruit is chiefly used medicinally with purgatives to allay their tendency to griping and for this purpose forms one of the ingredients of the well-known compound Liquorice Powder. Fennel water has properties similar to those of anise and dill water: mixed with sodium bicarbonate and syrup, these waters constitute the domestic ‘gripe water’, used to correct the flatulence of infants. Volatile oil of Fennel has these properties in concentration. Fennel tea, formerly also employed as a carminative, is made by pouring half a pint of boiling water on a teaspoonful of bruised fennel seeds.

Fennel can be made into a syrup to treat babies with colic (formerly thought to be due to digestive upset), but long-term ingestion of fennel preparations by babies is a known cause of thelarche.

Eyes:  In the Indian subcontinent, fennel seeds are also eaten raw, sometimes with some sweetener, as they are said to improve eyesight. Ancient Romans regarded fennel as the herb of sight. Root extracts were often used in tonics to clear cloudy eyes. Extracts of fennel seed have been shown in animal studies to have a potential use in the treatment of glaucoma.

Blood and urine Fennel may be an effective diuretic and a potential drug for treatment of hypertension.

Breastmilk:  There are historical anecdotes that fennel is a galactagogue,[25] improving the milk supply of a breastfeeding mother. This use, although not supported by direct evidence, is sometimes justified by the fact that fennel is a source of phytoestrogens, which promote growth of breast tissue.[26] However, normal lactation does not involve growth of breast tissue. Two case reports resulted in illness for the newborn child: “Both mothers had both been drinking more than 2 liters daily of an herbal tea mixture reportedly containing licorice, fennel, anise, and goat’s rue ” “The authors attributed the maternal and infant symptoms to anethole, which is found in both fennel and anise; however, the anethole levels were not measured in breastmilk, nor were the teas tested for their content.”

Other uses:
Syrup prepared from fennel juice was formerly given for chronic coughs. It is one of the plants which is said to be disliked by fleas, and powdered fennel has the effect of driving away fleas from kennels and stables.

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/fennel01.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fennel
http://health-from-nature.net/Fennel.html

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Herbs & Plants

Dittany Of Crete (Origanum dictamnus )

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Botanical Name : Origanum dictamnus
Family: Lamiaceae
Synonyms : Amaracus dictamnus – (L.)Benth.
Other Names :Origanum dictamnus , Dittany of Crete or Cretan  Dittany
Kingdom:
Plantae
Order: Lamiales
Genus: Origanum
Species:
O. dictamnus

Habitat : S. Europe – Crete.  Shady rocks in dry places in high mountains. It grows wild on the mountainsides and gorges of the Greek island of Crete, Greece.

Description:
It  is a tender perennial plant that grows 20–30 cm high. It is a healing, therapeutic and aromatic plant
It is hardy to zone 7. It is in flower from June to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.

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Origanum dictamnus is a many branched plant with discoid to ovate grey-green leaves that are sited in pairs opposite each other. The slender arching stems and lanate leaves are covered in a velvety white down and are 13–25 mm in size.

The flowers are pale pink to purple and have a deep lilac corolla with many deep pink coloured overlapping bracts. The colourful flowers forming a cascade of elongated clusters are in bloom in the summer months. The flowers are hermaphrodite meaning they have both male and female organs and are pollinated by bees attracted to their scent and bright colour.

Said to symbolize love and to be an aphrodisiac, only the most ardent young lovers scrambled on mountainsides and the deep gorges of Crete gathering bunches of the pink blooms to present as love tokens. There are numerous deaths reported throughout the centuries by collectors of this magical herb.

Even in recent times the collection of Dittany of Crete was a very dangerous occupation for the men who risked life and limb to climb precarious rock faces where the plant grows wild in the mountains of Crete. They were named Erondades (love seekers) and were considered very passionate men to go to such dangerous lengths to collect the herb.

Dittany of Crete has always been highly prized and is gathered while in bloom in the summer months and is exported for use in pharmaceuticals, perfumery and to flavour drinks such as vermouth and absinthe.

In Ancient Greece it is believed, that Hippocrates prescribed plant cures to aid all manner of ailments and considered Dittany of Crete useful for stomach aches and complaints of the digestive system and as a poultice for healing wounds.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle in his work The History of Animals (612a4) wrote:

“Wild goats in Crete are said, when wounded by arrow, to go in search of dittany, which is supposed to have the property of ejecting arrows in the body.”

The Greek scholar and philosopher Theophrastus agreed with Aristotle about the healing properties of Dittany of Crete. In his work Enquiry into Plants he notes that Dittany was peculiar to Crete, and that it was:

“Said to be true, that, if goats eat it when they have been shot, it rids them of the arrow” (9.16.1).

Other scholars of Ancient Greece and later have made reference to Dittany but probably referred to Dictamnus albus known as False Dittany or White Dittany.

Today the wild naturally grown Dittany of Crete is classed as “rare” and is protected by European law so that it does not become extinct. The cultivation now centres on Embaros and the surrounding villages, south of Heraklion, Crete and is used to make herbal tea and for use in natural beauty products.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

Cultivation :
Requires a rather dry, warm, well-drained soil, but is not fussy as to soil type, thriving on chalk . Prefers slightly alkaline conditions. This species is not fully hardy in Britain according to one report  whilst another says that it is hardy to zone 7, which means that it can succeed outdoors in most parts of the country. It is, however, very susceptible to winter wet and so is more commonly grown under cover in this country. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Propagation:
Seed – sow early spring in a greenhouse at 10 – 13°c and only just cover the seed. Germination usually takes place within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in late spring. Division in March or October. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer. Basal cuttings of young barren shoots in June. Very easy. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 – 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Edible Uses:-
Edible Parts: Leaves.

Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.

The leaves are used for flavouring salads and vermouth. A pleasant aromatic flavour, especially when mixed with parsley, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. The flowering tops are dried and brewed into a herb tea.

Medicinal Actions & Uses:-
Antirheumatic; Oxytoxic; Stomachic; Vulnerary.

The flowering plant has been used as an antirheumatic, oxytocic, stomachic and vulnerary, though these uses appear to be obsolete in modern herbalism.

As a medicinal plant, the herb has been utilized to heal wounds, soothe pain, and ease childbirth. The root has been used in a salve to treat sciatica, and the juice was consumed in wine to cure snake bite.  In addition, it has been used as a remedy against gastric or stomach ailments and rheumatism.

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/database/plants.php?Origanum+dictamnus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origanum_dictamnus
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/Plants/Lamiaceae/Origanum_dictamnus.html
http://www.arkive.org/dittany-of-crete/origanum-dictamnus/image-G18858.html

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_DE.htm

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