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Mahonia bealei

Botanical Name : Mahonia bealei
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Mahonia
Species: M. bealei
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ranunculales

Common Names: Beale’s barberry, Leatherleaf Mahonia, Leatherleaf Holly, Mahorina

Habitat : Mahonia beal is native to E. Asia – W. China in Hupeh, Hubei, Sichuan and Taiwan. It grows in damp woodlands in uplands around 2000 metres.

Description:
Leatherleaf mahonia is an evergreen shrub with large, pinnately compound leaves. It grows in an upright, open and loose, multi-stemmed clump 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) tall and 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) wide. It can get as large as 10 ft (3 m) tall and 8 ft (2.4 m) wide. The erect stems are stiff and unbranched, and the leaves come out in horizontal tiers. The leaves are about 18 in (46 cm) long with 9 to 13 stiff, sharply spiny, hollylike leaflets. The leaflets are dull grayish blue-green above and pale yellowish green below, and about 2-4 in (5-10 cm) long and 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide. The terminal leaflet is larger than the lateral leaflets. The fragrant lemon-yellow flowers, appearing in late winter, are borne in erect racemes 3-6 in (7.6-15 cm) long. The fruit is a berry, first green, then turning bluish black with a grayish bloom. They are about a half inch long and hang in grapelike clusters.

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Cultivation:
Landscape Uses:Border, Foundation, Pest tolerant, Massing, Rock garden, Specimen, Woodland garden. Thrives in any good garden soil[11]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Survives under quite heavy tree cover, thriving in dense shade. Prefers a semi-shaded woodland position in a damp, slightly acid to neutral humus-rich soil. The fully dormant plant is hardy to about -20°c, though the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. Scarcely distinct from M. japonica, differing mainly in its broader leaflets which are placed closer together on the stem and its erect flower raceme. It is often treated as a subspecies of M. japonica, despite the fact that this species is found in the wild whilst M. japonica is a cultigen and not a wild plant. Plants of the two species are often confused in cultivation. The flowers are sweetly scented. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Extended bloom season in Zones 9A and above, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. It usually germinates in the spring. ‘Green’ seed (harvested when the embryo has fully developed but before the seed case has dried) should be sown as soon as it is harvested and germinates within 6 weeks. Stored seed should be sown as soon as possible in late winter or spring. 3 weeks cold stratification will improve its germination, which should take place in 3 – 6 months at 10°c. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer. Division of suckers in spring. Whilst they can be placed direct into their permanent positions, better results are achieved if they are potted up and placed in a frame until established. Leaf cuttings in the autumn.

Edible Uses:.....Fruit raw or cooked. A pleasant acid flavour, it is nice when added to muesli or porridge. Unfortunately, there is relatively little flesh and a lot of seeds. The fruit is about 10mm long and 6mm wide, it ripens in April/May and if the plant is in a sheltered position the crops can be fairly heavy.

Medicinal Uses:
A decoction of the root and root bark is used in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, recurring fever and cough in rundown body systems, rheumatoid arthritis, backache, weak knees, dysentery and enteritis. Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Mahonia species, has marked antibacterial effects and is used as a bitter tonic. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine. Berberine has also shown antitumor activity. The taste is bitter.  The plant detoxifies, reduces inflammations and breaks fevers. Anti-influenza effect of alkaloids from roots of Mahonia bealei. was studied in vitro. The experiment in embryo indicated that the alkaloids at concentration of 0.25 mg/ml obviously inhibited the proliferation of influenza virus Al, and at concentration of 20 mg/ml showed no side-effect on embryo.

The leaf is febrifuge and tonic. A decoction of the root and stems is antiphlogistic, antirheumatic, depurative and febrifuge. A decoction is used in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, recurring fever and cough in rundown body systems, rheumatoid arthritis, backache, weak knees, dysentery and enteritis. The root and root bark are best harvested in the autumn. Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Mahonia species, has marked antibacterial effects  and is used as a bitter tonic. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine.  Berberine has also shown antitumour activity.

Other Uses:
The shade tolerant leatherleaf mahonia is a popular shrub in the southern US and similar climates, producing dense clusters of very fragrant, golden yellow flowers. These showy blossoms stand above its evergreen foliage in late winter or early spring when few other plants are blooming. Use this spiny, gangly shrub on the north side of a building, where shade excludes most flowering shrubs. You can plant a leatherleaf mahonia in front of a window, and still be able to see out between the vertical stems and horizontal layered foliage. It often is used as a border or foundation plant as well. The coarse texture and clumsy form may not suit well in a neat, formal garden, but leatherleaf mahonia can be pruned to a single-stemmed specimen. To keep a denser form, prune out a few of the tallest stems each spring to encourage new stem growth from the base. Prune out a few leaves to accentuate the layered effect. With creative pruning, leatherleaf mahonia has a dramatic silhouette.

The fruits are much relished by birds, and are usually devoured within days of ripening. Leatherleaf mahonia can be grown in containers and can be used as a large houseplant.

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.floridata.com/ref/m/maho_bea.cfm
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Mahonia+bealei

 

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Myrtus communis

Botanical Name : Myrtus communis
Family: Myrtaceae
Genus: Myrtus
Common Names: Myrtle
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Myrtales
Parts Used: Leaf and berries

Common Names:   Myrtle, Foxtail Myrtle

Habitat :Myrtus communis   is native to  S. Europe to W. Asia. Woodland Garden It grows on the  sunny Edge; Hedge;  Scrub, avoiding calcareous soils


Description:

Myrtus communis an evergreen  shrub growing to 4.5 m (14ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a medium rate.Myrtus (myrtle) is a genus of one or two species of flowering plants  The plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree, growing to 5 m tall. The leaf is entire, 3–5 cm long, with a fragrant essential oil. The star-like flower has five petals and sepals, and numerous stamens. Petals usually are white. The fruit is a round blue-black berry containing several seeds. The flower is pollinated by insects, and the seeds are dispersed by birds that eat the berries.

CLICK & SEE
Myrtle is cultivated as an ornamental garden shrub, particularly for its numerous flowers in later summer. It may be clipped to form a hedge.

It is hardy to zone 8 and is frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is self-fertile.

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..It cannot grow in the shade.It requires dry or moist soil.The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Cultivation :
Succeeds in any reasonably good soil so long as it is well-drained. Prefers a moderately fertile well-drained neutral to alkaline loam in a sunny position. Succeeds in dry soils. A very ornamental plant, when fully dormant it is hardy to between -10 and -15°c, so long as it is sheltered from cold drying winds, though it does withstand quite considerable maritime exposure. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. This species does not succeed outdoors in the colder parts of Britain. A moderately fast-growing plant when young but soon slowing with age. There are a number of named varieties. ‘Tarentina’ with narrow small leaves is hardier than the type and is especially wind-resistant, ‘Microphylla’ is a dwarf form and ‘Leucocarpa‘ has white berries. Myrtle is often cultivated in the Mediterranean, where the plant is regarded as a symbol of love and peace and is much prized for use in wedding bouquets. The foliage is strongly aromatic.  Any pruning is best carried out in the spring. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.


Propagation:

Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow it in late winter in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 – 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up in the autumn and overwinter in a cold frame. Plant out in late spring. High percentage. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, 7 – 12cm with a heel, November in a shaded and frost free frame. Plant out in late spring or early autumn. High percentage. Layering.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Fruit.

Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit has an aromatic flavour, it can be eaten fresh when ripe or can be dried and is then used as an aromatic food flavouring, especially in the Middle East. It can also be made into an acid drink. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter. The leaves are used as a flavouring in cooked savoury dishes. The dried fruits and flower buds are used to flavour sauces, syrups etc. An essential oil from the leaves and twigs is used as a condiment, especially when mixed with other spices. In Italy the flower buds are eaten. The flowers have a sweet flavour and are used in salads.

Medicinal Uses  :

Antibiotic;  Antiseptic;  Aromatic;  Astringent;  Balsamic;  Carminative;  Haemostatic;  Tonic.

Common Uses: Bladder Infection (UTI) Cystitis * Bronchitis *
Properties:  AntiViral* Astringent* Antibacterial* Astringent* Cardic tonic Cordial* Carminative* Antirheumatic* Rubefacient* Stimulant* Stomachic* Aromatic*

The leaves are aromatic, balsamic, haemostatic and tonic. Recent research has revealed a substance in the plant that has an antibiotic action. The active ingredients in myrtle are rapidly absorbed and give a violet-like scent to the urine within 15 minutes. The plant is taken internally in the treatment of urinary infections, digestive problems, vaginal discharge, bronchial congestion, sinusitis and dry coughs. In India it is considered to be useful in the treatment of cerebral affections, especially epilepsy. Externally, it is used in the treatment of acne (the essential oil is normally used here), wounds, gum infections and haemorrhoids. The leaves are picked as required and used fresh or dried. An essential oil obtained from the plant is antiseptic. It contains the substance myrtol – this is used as a remedy for gingivitis. The oil is used as a local application in the treatment of rheumatism. The fruit is carminative. It is used in the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, internal ulceration and rheumatism.

The plant is powerfully antiseptic owing to the myrtol it contains and it has good astringent properties.  In medicine the leaves were used for their stimulating effect on the mucous membranes, and for the chest pains and dry coughs of consumptive people.

Modern uses
:
It is used in the islands of Sardinia and Corsica to produce an aromatic liqueur called “Mirto” by macerating it in alcohol. Mirto is known as one of the most typical drinks of Sardinia and comes in two varieties: “Mirto Rosso” (red) produced by macerating the berries, and “Mirto Bianco” (white) produced from the leaves.

Ancient medicinal uses
Myrtle occupies a prominent place in the writings of Hippocrates, Pliny, Dioscorides, Galen, and the Arabian writers.

In numerous Mediterranean countries, the extract of the myrtle herb is used to make the hair grow longer in a short period of time.

Although this plant is mentioned regularly in European mythology, there are few traditional medicinal uses recorded. However, anyone who has ever used it to improve a respiratory condition will sing its praises and never overlook it again. The fresh, clear aroma of this oil is excellent at clearing the airways, and as it is considered safe for young and old alike has many uses for the working aromatherapist.

Uses in myth and ritual :
In Greek mythology and ritual the myrtle was sacred to the goddesses Aphrodite  and also Demeter: Artemidorus asserts that in interpreting dreams “a myrtle garland signifies the same as an olive garland, except that it is especially auspicious for farmers because of Demeter and for women because of Aphrodite. For the plant is sacred to both goddesses.” Pausanias explains that one of the Graces in the sanctuary at Elis holds a myrtle branch because “the rose and the myrtle are sacred to Aphrodite and connected with the story of Adonis, while the Graces are of all deities the nearest related to Aphrodite.” Myrtle is the garland of Iacchus, according to Aristophanes, and of the victors at the Theban Iolaea, held in honour of the Theban hero Iolaus.

In Rome, Virgil explains that “the poplar is most dear to Alcides, the vine to Bacchus, the myrtle to lovely Venus, and his own laurel to Phoebus.”  At the Veneralia, women bathed wearing crowns woven of myrtle branches, and myrtle was used in wedding rituals.

In the Mediterranean, myrtle was symbolic of love and immortality. In their culture the plant was used extensively and was considered an essential plant.

In pagan and wicca rituals, myrtle is commonly associated with and sacred to Beltane (May Day).

In Jewish liturgy, it is one of the four sacred plants of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles representing the different types of personality making up the community – the myrtle having fragrance but not pleasant taste, represents those who have good deeds to their credit despite not having knowledge from Torah study. Three branches are held by the worshippers along with a citron, a palm leaf, and two willow branches. In Jewish mysticism, the myrtle represents the phallic, masculine force at work in the universe. For this reason myrtle branches were sometimes given the bridegroom as he entered the nuptial chamber after a wedding (Tos. Sotah 15:8; Ketubot 17a). Myrtles are both the symbol and scent of Eden (BhM II: 52; Sefer ha-Hezyonot 17). The Hechalot text Merkavah Rabbah requires one to suck on a myrtle leaves as an element of a theurgic ritual. Kabbalists link myrtle to the sefirah of Tiferet and use sprigs in their Shabbat (especially Havdalah) rites to draw down its harmonizing power as the week is initiated (Shab. 33a; Zohar Chadash, SoS, 64d; Sha’ar ha-Kavvanot, 2, pp. 73–76)

Other Uses
Charcoal;  Essential;  Hedge;  Hedge.

The plant is very tolerant of regular clipping[200] and can be grown as a hedge in the milder parts of Britain. An essential oil from the bark, leaves and flowers is used in perfumery, soaps and skin-care products. An average yield of 10g of oil is obtained from 100 kilos of leaves. A perfumed water, known as “eau d’ange”, is obtained from the flowers. A high quality charcoal is made from the wood. Wood – hard, elastic, very fine grained. Used for walking sticks, tool handles, furniture etc.

Related plants

Many other related species native to South America, New Zealand and elsewhere, previously classified in a wider interpretation of the genus Myrtus, are now treated in other genera, Eugenia, Lophomyrtus, Luma, Rhodomyrtus, Syzygium, Ugni, and at least a dozen other genera. The name “myrtle” is also used to refer to unrelated plants in several other genera: “Crape myrtle” (Lagerstroemia, Lythraceae), “Wax myrtle” (Morella, Myricaceae), and “Myrtle” or “Creeping myrtle” (Vinca, Apocynaceae).

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=Myrtus+communis
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail39.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrtus

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

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Blueberry

Botanical Name:Vaccinium
Family:Ericaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales
Genus: Vaccinium
Section: Cyanococcus

Habitat:The genus Vaccinium has a circumpolar distribution with species in North America, Europe and Asia.

Many commercially sold species whose English common names include “blueberry” are currently classified in section Cyanococcus of the genus Vaccinium and come predominantly from North America. Several other plants of the genus Vaccinium also produce blue berries such as the predominantly European bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), which in many languages has a name that means “blueberry” in English.

Many North American native species of blueberries are now also commercially grown in the Southern Hemisphere in Australia, New Zealand and South American countries.

Description:
Blueberries are flowering plants of the genus Vaccinium with dark-blue, -purple or black berries. Species in the section Cyanococcus are the most common fruits sold as “blueberries” and are mainly native to North America.  They are usually erect but sometimes prostrate shrubs varying in size from 10 cm tall to 4 m tall. In commercial blueberry production, smaller species are known as “lowbush blueberries” (synonymous with “wild”), and the larger species as “highbush blueberries”. The leaves can be either deciduous or evergreen, ovate to lanceolate, and from 1–8 cm long and 0.5–3.5 cm broad. The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, sometimes tinged greenish.

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The fruit is a false berry 5–16 mm diameter with a flared crown at the end; they are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, and finally blue on ripening. They have a sweet taste when mature, with variable acidity. Blueberry bushes typically bear fruit from May through June though fruiting times are affected by local conditions such as altitude and latitude.

The Chippewa Indians used the flowers to treat psychosis. The fruit contains anthocyanosides. These chemical compounds are very powerful antioxidants that are very effective in the prevention of heart disease and cancer.

Species
Vaccinium angustifolium (Lowbush Blueberry)
Vaccinium boreale (Northern Blueberry)
Vaccinium caesariense (New Jersey Blueberry)
Vaccinium corymbosum (Northern Highbush Blueberry)
Vaccinium darrowii (Southern Highbush Blueberry)
Vaccinium elliottii (Elliott Blueberry)
Vaccinium formosum (southern blueberry)
Vaccinium fuscatum (Black Highbush Blueberry; syn. V. atrococcum)
Vaccinium hirsutum (Hairy-fruited Blueberry)
Vaccinium myrtilloides (Canadian Blueberry)
Vaccinium pallidum (Dryland Blueberry)
Vaccinium simulatum (Upland Highbush Blueberry)
Vaccinium tenellum (Southern Blueberry)
Vaccinium virgatum (Rabbiteye Blueberry; syn. V. ashei)

Some other blue-fruited species of Vaccinium:

Vaccinium koreanum
Vaccinium myrsinites (Evergreen Blueberry)
Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry)

Cultivation:
Blueberries may be cultivated, or they may be picked from semi-wild or wild bushes. In North America, the most common cultivated species is V. corymbosum, the Northern highbush blueberry. Hybrids of this with other Vaccinium species adapted to southern U.S. climates are known collectively as Southern highbush blueberries.

Blueberry flowersSo-called “wild” (lowbush) blueberries, smaller than cultivated highbush ones, are prized for their intense color. The lowbush blueberry, V. angustifolium, is found from the Atlantic provinces westward to Quebec and southward to Michigan and West Virginia. In some areas, it produces natural blueberry barrens, where it is the dominant species covering large areas. Several First Nations communities in Ontario are involved in harvesting wild blueberries. Lowbush species are fire-tolerant and blueberry production often increases following a forest fire as the plants regenerate rapidly and benefit from removal of competing vegetation. Wild has been adopted as a marketing term for harvests of managed native stands of low-bush blueberries. The bushes are not planted or genetically manipulated, but they are pruned or burned over every two years, and pests are “managed”.

There are numerous highbush cultivars of blueberries, each of which have a unique and diverse flavor. The most important blueberry breeding program has been the USDA-ARS breeding program based at Beltsville, Maryland, and Chatsworth, New Jersey. This program began when Frederick Coville of the USDA-ARS collaborated with Elizabeth Coleman White of New Jersey. In the early part of the 20th Century, White offered wild pickers cash for large-fruited blueberry plants. Rubel, one such wild blueberry cultivar, is the origin of many of the current hybrid cultivars.

Rabbiteye Blueberry (V. virgatum, syn. V. ashei) is a southern type of blueberry produced from the Carolinas to the Gulf Coast states.

Other important species in North America include V. pallidum, the Hillside or Dryland Blueberry. It is native to the eastern U.S., and common in the Appalachians and the Piedmont of the Southeast. Sparkleberry, V. arboreum, is a common wild species on sandy soils in the southeastern U.S. Its fruits are important to wildlife, and the flowers important to beekeepers.

Uses:
Blueberries are sold fresh or processed as individually quick frozen (IQF) fruit, purée, juice, or dried or infused berries which in turn may be used in a variety of consumer goods such as jellies, jams, pies, muffins, snack foods, and cereals.

Blueberry jam is made from blueberries, sugar, water, and fruit pectin. Premium blueberry jam, usually made from wild blueberries, is common in Maine, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.

Nutrients and phytochemicals:
Blueberries have a diverse range of micronutrients, with notably high levels (relative to respective Dietary Reference Intakes) of the essential dietary mineral manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber (table). One serving provides a relatively low glycemic load score of 4 out of 100 per day.

Especially in wild species, blueberries contain anthocyanins, other antioxidant pigments and various phytochemicals possibly having a role in reducing risks of some diseases, including inflammation and certain cancers.

Medicinal Uses:
Blueberries have become highly popularized by their new-found medicinal properties. However, this native American fruit has been in use for thousands of years as part of the native Indian diet. The blueberry is not only sweet and delicious, but is rich in Vitamin C, manganese, and dietary fiber. being in the same fruit family as cranberry, the blueberry is equally high in antioxidants. The high grocery store price of blueberries is a great reason to grow your own bushes. Blueberry plants are easy to grow and have a long productive life. Just a few bushes would provide adequate berries for a small family. There are many blueberry varieties, so Willis Orchard Company has made it easy for you by offering only the best varieties. Choose any of our varieties and you will be pleased with abundant crops of delicious, healthy blueberries.

Researchers have shown that blueberry anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, flavonols, and tannins inhibit mechanisms of cancer cell development and inflammation in vitro. Similar to red grape, some blueberry species contain in their skins significant levels of resveratrol, a phytochemical.

Although most studies below were conducted using the highbush cultivar of blueberries (V. corymbosum), content of polyphenol antioxidants and anthocyanins in lowbush (wild) blueberries (V. angustifolium) exceeds values found in highbush species.

At a 2007 symposium on berry health benefits were reports showing consumption of blueberries (and similar berry fruits including cranberries) may alleviate the cognitive decline occurring in Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of aging.

Feeding blueberries to animals lowers brain damage in experimental stroke. Research at Rutgers  has also shown that blueberries may help prevent urinary tract infections.

Other animal studies found that blueberry consumption lowered cholesterol and total blood lipid levels, possibly affecting symptoms of heart disease. Additional research showed that blueberry consumption in rats altered glycosaminoglycans which are vascular cell components affecting control of blood pressure.

Blueberry has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
Common cold/sore throat,  Diarrhea and Urinary tract infection

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/Blueberry
http://www.piam.com/mms_garden/plants.html
http://www.willisorchards.com/category/Rabbiteye+Blueberry+Plants?gclid=CIiy5KjI5JsCFRghDQodaR3zxw

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Miracle of grease (Veselene)

Chloe Rhodes examines the origins of petroleum jelly and reveals why it is so popular :

Last month, a reader of the Daily Telegraph wrote to the paper’s GP columnist to report the miraculous   healing properties of Vaseline. She had repeatedly applied a coat of the bathroom cabinet staple to two troublesome scars on her leg, which quickly disappeared, and then to a mole on her face that subsequently   dropped off.

A week after her letter was published, the newspaper’s mail bag was bulging with letters singing the praises of petroleum jelly for the treatment of everything from nappy rash and chapped lips to psoriasis and piles. One reader said it is the best face cream she had ever used   a beauty secret she shared with Hollywood stars Joan Collins, Meg Ryan and Scarlett Johansson.

But what is it that makes this pot of grease so great?

Vaseline was discovered in 1859 by an English-born American chemist, Robert Augustus Chesebrough. On a visit to the oilrigs in Pennsylvania, he noticed that the workers used a sticky petroleum by-product that accumulated around the drill rods to help heal cuts and burns. After almost a decade of research, he perfected a process for distilling from this residue a translucent, odourless gel he called petroleum jelly. In 1872, Vaseline was registered as a trademark.

There are two theories about how the name developed. One is that it is a blend of the German word for water   wasser  and the Greek word for oil  elaion, the other that Chesebrough named it after the vases in which he used to store his mysterious new product during his research.

Unable to generate interest from bulk buyers, he loaded up a horse-drawn wagon with one-ounce bottles of his new   wonder jelly  and touted it across New York state. He deliberately burned patches of his skin to demonstrate Vaseline’s healing powers   and within two years he was selling a jar a minute.

Chesebrough was convinced that his discovery contained some magical chemical, insisting that he be covered from head to toe in the stuff when he was diagnosed with pleurisy (from which, incidentally, he recovered). But in fact, there is no secret active ingredient. Vaseline promotes faster healing simply by creating the best conditions for the skin to heal itself.

Professor John Hawk, honorary  consultant dermatologist at St Thomas Hospital, London, explains,  Vaseline is an occlusive moisturizer, which means that it creates a barrier on the surface of the skin. This is beneficial because it helps the skin to retain moisture, which is crucial to the healing process, and also because it keeps wounds sterile by preventing harmful bacteria from getting in.

These two attributes are what give Vaseline its cure-all reputation. Ailments such as cold sores and the blisters caused by shingles are eased by Vaseline because it keeps the skin around them remain moist and supple, which stops the scabs from cracking and falling off too soon.

It is useful as a face cream for the same reason   the more moisture that can be retained in the skin, the plumper and less wrinkled it looks. Dry skin conditions, including eczema and even psoriasis, benefit from this added moisturisation too, but also from the fact that a Vaseline barrier reduces the penetration of irritants.   Eczema is probably caused by allergy-causing molecules getting into the skin,  says Prof. Hawk. Any occlusive moisturiser would help to prevent this, but Vaseline is more bland than most, there are no perfumes or colourants, so it is less likely to cause irritation.

Nappy rash, caused by the chafing of a wet nappy, can be prevented by the application of a thin layer of Vaseline to the baby’s bottom, and this sealant quality has also been suggested in the British Medical Journal as a means of staunching a nose bleed when applied just inside the nostrils, though more research is needed to test its effectiveness.

Even mouth ulcers, which are notoriously tricky to shift, can be successfully treated if dabbed dry with a tissue before being coated in a layer of gel   which protects ulcers from the acid in the mouth and allows them to heal. Fresh burns, however, should not be treated with Vaseline until the area has cooled.

Emilie Lien from Unilever, which now owns the brand, is delighted by the enthusiasm of consumers for her product.  None of these uses are   official, but it’s amazing how people have developed so many different uses for just one product. We now make 15 million jars of petroleum jelly each year so we know there’s a huge demand. In fact, over a ton of Vaseline has been used since 1981 just to help protect London Marathon runners from chafing and blistered toes.

And the miraculous mole removal? Prof. Hawk thinks he may have an explanation:   It seems unlikely that moisturising could remove a true mole from within the skin, but it could help to get rid of seborrhoeic keratoses   harmless, crusty growths that are often pigmented like moles but look as if they  are stuck to the surface of the skin. It’s not a clinically proven method, but the good thing about Vaseline is that it’s so bland you can use it as much as you like.

It certainly didn’t do Robert Chesebrough any harm   he lived to the age of 96 and attributed his longevity to the spoonful of Vaseline he ate every day.

Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)