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Herbs & Plants

Rhamnus purshiana (Cascara Sagrada)

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Bnical Name :Rhamnus cathartica
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Rhamnaceae
Genus: Rhamnus
Subgenus: Frangula

Synonyms : Cervispina cathartica (L.) Moench,  Frangula purshiana, Rhamnus purshianus

Common Name: Cascara Buckthorn, Cascara, Bearberry, and in the Chinook Jargon, Chittam or Chitticum; Common Buckthorn

Habitat: Cascara sagrada is native to  Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to N. Africa and W. Asia.  It grows in fen peat, scrub, hedges, ash and oak woods, on calcareous often dry soils.
Parts Used:Dried aged bark

Description:

Cascara sagrada is a small deciduous tree that grows from 15-20 feet in height. It has pubescent stems covered with reddish-brown bark and often gray lichen. The tree bears dark green elliptic to oblong-ovate leaves with prominent veins and toothed margins. The leaves are rounded at the base and have somewhat hairy undersides. Short-stemmed clusters of small, greenish-white flowers grow from the upper leaf axils; they eventually produce black, pea-sized drupes that are poisonous.

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The bark is brownish to silver-grey with light splotching. The leaves are deciduous, alternate, clustered near the ends of twigs; they are oval, 5–15 cm long and 2–5 cm broad with a 0.6–2 cm petiole, dark shiny green on top, fuzzy and paler green below. The flowers are tiny, 4–5 mm diameter, with five greenish yellow petals; the flowering season is brief, disappearing by early summer. The fruit is a berry 6–10 mm diameter, bright red at first, quickly maturing deep purple or black, and containing three seeds.

It grows in moist, acidic soils in the shady side of clearings or in the marginal forest understory, near the edges of mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. It typically grows as a second-generation tree after alders have colonized a barren plot of land.

Cultivation:
Succeeds in any reasonably good soil. Prefers a dry or moist calcareous soil in sun or light dappled shade. This species is hardy to at least -15°c. Plants regenerate well after cutting or burning but young plants are rather prone to frost damage when grown in an exposed position. Plants are resistant to cattle grazing but young plants can be damaged by rabbits. Plants have a very shallow root system. This species often bears the aecidospore stage of ‘crown rust’ of oats so it should not be grown near cereals. The species in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. A good bee plant and a main food plant for the brimstone butterfly. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed will require 1 – 2 months stratification at 5°c and should be sown as early in the year as possible in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year’s growth, autumn in a frame. Layering in early spring.

Medicinal Uses:Constipation, Colon Disorders, Liver Problems, Poor Digestion, Colitis, Hemorrhoids, Skin Problems.
The dried, aged bark of this tree has been used continually for at least 1,000 years by both native and immigrant Americans as a laxative natural medicine, commercially called “Cascara Sagrada“, but old timers call it “chitticum bark”.

Cascara is a very effective laxative, containing hydroxymethyl anthraquinones that cause peristalsis of the large intestine, emodin and other rhamnoid glycosides. It has been used as such by many First Nations groups. For example, Cascara bark tea was drunk as a laxative by Nuxalk, Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-hulth, and Kwakwakawakw, and a decoction of the inner bark and water was used as a remedy for dysentery. The bark is often aged before use so it will be less likely to cause nausea. First introduced to Europe in 1877, about 3 million pounds of the bark is harvested annually for use in commercial laxatives.  Squaxin used a Cascara infusion to wash sores–sometimes people chewed the bark and then spit it on sores. The bark has also been used to treat heart strain, internal strains, and biliousness. Skagit people burn the bark and mix the charcoal with grease to rub on swellings, and also have employed the bark in a green dye for mountain goat wool. Makah eat the fresh berries in July and August. Internally used for chronic constipation, colitis, digestive complaints, hemorrhoids, liver problems, and jaundice.  It is a medium-strength laxative and somewhat weaker than Rhubarb root and Senna leaf.   Externally used to deter nail biting.

Cascara Sagrada means “sacred bark” in Spanish. The much more pertinent name chitticum means “shit come” in Chinook Jargon; chittam comes from the Chinook Jargon phrase chittam stick = “laxative tree” which is similarly from the English word “shit”.

The bark is harvested mostly from wild trees; over-harvesting in the middle 1900s eliminated mature trees near many settled areas. Once stripped from the tree, the bark is aged for about 1 year to make its effect milder. Fresh cut, dried bark causes vomiting and violent diarrhea.

Short term side effects of Cascara Sagrada herb:
A medline search did not reveal any significant short term cascara sagrada side effects as long as it is not used for more than a week or two at a time without a break. It is best to avoid cascara sagrada if you have a chronic intestinal condition such as ulcerative colitis, or diverticular disease.

Long term cascara sagrada side effects:
When cascara sagrada or other anthraquinone containing plants are used for prolonged periods, potentially serious side effects can occur. These cascara sagrada side effects may include cramping in the abdomen and loss of body fluids. Dark pigmentation in the colon can occur and this is called melanosis coli.

Cascara Sagrada Research Update:
Colon cleansing regimens. A clinical study in 1200 patients.
Gastrointest Radiol. 1982;7(4):383-9
The purgative effect of bisacodyl, anthraquinone glycosides ( Cascara sagrada ), and sodium picosulfate, alone or in combination with a saline purge and a tap water enema, was studied in 1200 patients. The cleansing effect was scored with regard to retained fecal residue evident on double-contrast studies of the colon. The combination of a contact laxative and a saline purge produced good cleansing effect in 52%-80% of the patients. With an additional tap water enema given 1 hour before the colon examination, however, 96% of the colons were clean. The taste and the effects of the cleansing systems were tolerated favorably by more than 90% of the patients. However, 17% reported restriction in work capacity on the day of bowel cleansing.

Other Uses:
Dye; Hedge; Hedge; Wood.

A green dye is obtained from the immature fruit. Mixed with gum arabic and limewater, it makes a green pigment used in watercolour painting. Yellow, orange and brownish dyes can also be obtained. The colours are rich but fugitive. A yellow dye is obtained from the bark. It has been used to colour paper and maps. Often grown as an informal hedge, it is also amenable to trimming. Wood – hard, handsome with a marble-like grain. Used for small turnery.

Known Hazards: The fruit is purgative but not seriously poisonous. Other parts of the plant may also be poisonous. Adverse effects: Diarrhoea, weakness. Urine may turn dark yellow or red which is harmless. Possible body potassium loss if used for more than 10 consecutive days

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/Rhamnus_purshiana
http://www.raysahelian.com/cascarasagrada.html
http://www.springboard4health.com/notebook/herbs_cascara_sagrada.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Rhamnus+cathartica

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News on Health & Science

How to shop for organic foods without breaking your budget.

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Most of us would love to have a fridge full of fresh organic produce and meats. But because pesticide and hormone-free products often have a premium price tag, going organic can seem like a luxury for anyone on a tight budget. So how do you make sure the green on your table doesn’t drain the green from your wallet?

Craig Minowa, environmental scientist with the Organic Consumers Association, has these tips: First, learn to buy big. Many health-food stores have bulk sections, and if you fill a bag with, say, organic cereal, you may end up paying less for it than you would for the nonorganic variety, since you’re not paying for packaging costs. Second, form a buying club. If a bunch of people pool their grocery lists, they can often special-order directly with the store, he said, and that, in turn, can lead to much lower costs.

Another path to frugal but healthy shopping is to choose your battles carefully. If you can’t afford to fill your entire shopping cart with organic food, you can still feel good about what you buy. Sarah Bratnober, communications director at the Organic Valley Family of Farms, advises following the 80/20 rule  80 percent of the benefits come from 20 percent of the purchases. Think about what your family eats the most of, then go from there. For example, if you have a choice between organic milk and organic mayonnaise, and your kids go through a gallon of milk in a week but only two tablespoons of mayo, go for the milk. Fruits and vegetables are also good choices, especially the ones your family eats lots of. And if you have the option, get into community-supported agriculture, where you own shares in a farm and get a share of whatever it produces.

Finally, buy fruits and vegetables in season and focus on what’s easily available, says Barbara Houmann, spokeswoman for the Organic Trade Association. That way, she said, you may find that the prices are just about comparable with nonorganic fruits and veggies.

If you do manage to get more organic into your diet, you won’t regret the extra effort. Organic produce isn’t just healthy and better for the environment, it tastes better, too, according to Charles Benbrook, chief scientist for The Organic Center. And that flavor boost might just make it easier to convince your children to eat their veggies, or to introduce them to new foods.

As for cooking, Bratnober says some people are afraid to go organic because they think those products need special preparation. But no worries—she said that the cooking process is exactly the same as it is for regular groceries. There is one caveat: While most organic items, like produce and milk, have a similar shelf-life to their nonorganic counterparts, bear in mind that organic breads and pastries tend to go bad faster than nonorganic baked goods because of the lack of preservatives.

Source: Newsweek

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News on Health & Science

Fish Oil Linked to Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

A substance found in fish oil may be associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias, researchers reported yesterday…….click & see

The scientists found that people with the highest blood levels of an omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, were about half as likely to develop dementia as those with lower levels.

The substance is one of several omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fatty fish and, in small amounts, in some meats. It is also sold in fish oil or DHA supplements. The researchers looked for a reduced risk associated with seven other omega-3 fatty acids, but only DHA had any effect.

The study, in the November’06 issue of The Archives of Neurology, used data from the Framingham Heart Study to follow 899 initially healthy participants, with a median age of 76, for an average of more than nine years.

The scientists assessed DHA and fish intake using a questionnaire and obtained complete dietary data on more than half the subjects. They took blood samples from all the participants to determine serum levels of fatty acids.

Ninety-nine people developed dementia over the course of the study, including 71 cases of Alzheimer’s disease. The average level of DHA among all the participants was 3.6 percent of all fatty acids, and the top 25 percent of the population had values above 4.2 percent. People in this top one-quarter in DHA levels had a 47 percent reduced risk of developing dementia, even after controlling for body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, smoking status and other known or suspected risks. Risk reduction was apparent only at that top level of DHA — those in the bottom three-quarters in DHA level showed no detectable difference in risk.

People who ate two or more servings of fish a week reduced their risk for dementia by 39 percent, but there was no effect on the risk for dementia among those who ate less than that.

The finding that DHA alone reduces risk, the authors write, is consistent with earlier data showing high levels of DHA in healthy brain tissue and low levels in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Ernst J. Schaefer, the lead author of the study, was cautious in interpreting the results.

“This study doesn’t prove that eating fish oil prevents dementia,” he said. “It’s an observational study that presents an identified risk factor, and the next step is a randomized placebo-controlled study in people who do not yet have dementia.” Dr. Schaefer is chief of the Lipid Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University.
The study was financed in part by Martek, a concern that manufactures DHA, and one author received a grant from Pfizer, France.

Eating fish is not a guarantee of having high levels of DHA. In fact, fish intake accounted for less than half of the variability in DHA levels. Other dietary intake and genetic propensities probably account for the rest. Dr. Schaefer pointed out that the kind of fish consumed is important. Fatty fish, he said, is best, and frying will cause DHA to deteriorate.

Supplements may be an additional source of DHA, but an editorial in the same issue, by Dr. Martha Clare Morris, an associate professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, points out that there are no published human studies of the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. The Food and Drug Administration does not endorse DHA or fish oil capsules, but recognizes doses of up to 3 grams a day of fish oil as generally safe. High intakes of fish oil can cause excessive bleeding in some people.

Dr. Morris writes that there are few human studies examining the effect of mercury intake from eating seafood, and it is not known if the risks of eating fish outweigh the benefits.

But, she adds, epidemiological studies consistently show positive health effects from fish consumption on mortality, cardiovascular risk factors and, now, dementia.

Source:The New York Times

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Healthy Tips

Try To Avoid Non Organic Fruits & Vegetables

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The ”Dirty Dozen” Fruits and Vegetables Containing the Most Pesticides

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has produced a new wallet-size Shoppers’ Guide listing the 12 fruits and vegetables that are the most contaminated with pesticides (the “Dirty Dozen”), as well as those that generally contain the lowest amount of pesticides (the “Cleanest 12”).

The information is based on nearly 43,000 tests conducted by the USDA and FDA.

The last EWG Guide was issued in 2003, and there have been several revisions to the list. Carrots have been removed from the most contaminated list, but lettuce has been added.

Likewise, cauliflower is no longer listed as one of the cleanest vegetables, but cabbage is now one of those “clean” 12.

An analysis by the EWG estimated that consumers could reduce their exposure to pesticides by almost 90 percent merely by avoiding foods on their “Dirty Dozen” list. A few members of that list include:

Peaches
Apples
Sweet bell peppers
Celery
Strawberries
Spinach
Conversely, the “Cleanest 12,” according to the EWG, only expose you to less than two pesticides per day, a huge difference from the 15 pesticides per day you’d be exposed to with the fruits and vegetables on the “Dirty Dozen” list. Among the cleanest fruits and vegetables you can buy at your grocery store:

Onions
Avocado
Pineapple
Asparagus
Broccoli

To stay away from pesticides that do great harm to your health, you are to download the EWG’s complete listings of the best and worst whole foods at their Web site : www.foodnews.org Remember that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic.

Pesticides can have many negative influences on health, including neurotoxicity, disruption of the endocrine system, carcinogenicity and immune system suppression. Pesticide exposure may also affect male reproductive function and has been linked to miscarriages in women.

That’s just part of the reason why you should always be on the lookout for organically grown fruits and vegetables. Where traditional farmers apply chemical fertilizers to the soil to grow their crops, organic farmers feed and build soil with natural fertilizer.

Traditional farmers use insecticides to get rid of insects and disease, while organic farmers use natural methods such as insect predators and barriers for this purpose. Traditional farmers control weed growth by applying synthetic herbicides, but organic farmers use crop rotation, tillage, hand weeding, cover crops and mulches to control weeds.

The result is that organically grown food is not tainted with chemical residues, which can be harmful to humans.

The major problem most people have with organic food is the expense.

However, if you plan wisely, eating organically is actually quite affordable. A diet based on whole organic foods does not have to be cost-prohibitive for the average family or single consumer.

However, if the choice is between fresh conventional vegetables and wilted organic ones, It is recommend you choose the conventional vegetables; old and wilted vegetables lose many of the vital micronutrients that make them so healthy.

If you do buy conventional vegetables, It is certainly recommend that you go with the ones on the “Cleanest 12” list.

Help Taken From:Dr.Mercola’s web page

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News on Health & Science

Too much white brade can increase kidney cancer risk

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Eating a lot of white bread may increase the risk of renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most common type of kidney cancer, while vegetarian food lowers it, a case-control study has revealed...CLICK & SEE

Previous studies on RCC had shown that diet plays an important role in monitoring the risk of the disease, but they did not tell which foods could be harmful or beneficial.

With a view to discern the relationship between specific foods and RCC risk, researchers led by Fancesca Bravi of the Institute of Pharmacological Research “Mario Negri” in Milan, conducted a large case-control study of 2,301 Italians.

They found that there is a significant association between high bread consumption and RCC risk.For their study, the researchers enrolled 767 adults diagnosed with RCC and 1,534 controlled subjects who did not have the disease between 1992 and 2004.

They matched two controlled subjects to each case by gender, age range, and location, and collected sociodemographic information, anthropomorphic measures, lifestyle habits, and personal and family medical history from each participant.

They also administered a 78-item food frequency questionnaire which comprised of questions about the average weekly consumption for each item over the previous two years, and analysed the information gathered. They found that those who consumed more bread had a higher RCC risk.

They also saw a modest non-significant risk increase amongst those who ate a lot of pasta and rice. By contrast, decreasing risk was associated with increasing intake of poultry, processed meat, and vegetables.
(as published in The Times Of India)