Herbs & Plants

Kalopanax septemlobus

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Botanical Name : Kalopanax septemlobus
Family: Araliaceae
Genus: Kalopanax
Species:K. septemlobus
Order: Apiales

Synonyms: K. pictus. (Thunb.)Nakai. K. ricinifolium. Acanthopanax ricinifolium. Acer pictum. Acer septemlobus

Common Names:Tree Aralia, Castor aralia, Prickly castor oil tree

Habitat :Kalopanax septemlobus is native to E. Asia – China, Japan. It grows in cool deciduous forests from near sea level to elevations of 2500 metres.

Kalopanax septemlobus is a deciduous Tree growing to 25 m (82ft 0in) at a slow rate with a trunk up to 1–1.5 metres (3.3–4.9 ft) diameter. The stems are often spiny, with stout spines up to 1 centimetre (0.39 in) long. The leaves are alternate, in appearance similar to a large Fatsia or Liquidambar (sweetgum) leaf, 15–35 centimetres (5.9–13.8 in) across, palmately lobed with five or seven lobes, each lobe with a finely toothed margin.


The leaf lobes vary greatly in shape, from shallow lobes to cut nearly to the leaf base. Trees with deeply lobed leaves were formerly distinguished as K. septemlobus var. maximowiczii, but the variation is continuous and not correlated with geography, so it is no longer regarded as distinct.

The flowers are produced in late summer in large umbels 20–50 centimetres (7.9–19.7 in) across at the apex of a stem, each flower with 4-5 small white petals. The fruit is a small black drupe containing 2 seeds.

It is in flower from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.
Requires a deep fertile moisture-retentive soil in sun or part shade. Young shoots, especially on young plants, can die back over winter if they are not fully ripened. Young plants are slow-growing. The tree is widely cultivated for timber in China. A polymorphic species.

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed probably requires a period of cold stratification and should be sown as soon as possible. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots 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, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings in late winter

Edible Uses: Young leaves and young shoots – cooked.

Medicinal Uses:
Antifungal; Expectorant; Hepatic; Skin; Stomachic.

The bark contains a range of bio-active constituents, including saponins, flavonoids and lignans. It has antifungal and liver protecting properties. It is used in Korea in the treatment of contusions, beri-beri, lumbago, neuralgia and pleurisy. An infusion of the leaves is used to make a stomachic tea. The root is expectorant. A decoction of the wood is used for skin diseases.

Other Uses:  The tree is cultivated as an ornamental tree for the “tropical” appearance of its large palmate leaves in Europe and North America; despite its tropical looks, it is very hardy, tolerating temperatures down to at least ?40 °C (?40 °F) The bark and the leaves are used as an insecticide. Wood is very useful.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


Herbs & Plants

Hoja Santa

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Mexican Pepperleaf (Piper auritum Kunth)
Plant family: Piperaceae (pepper family)

Hoja santa (Piper auritum, synonymous with Piper sanctum) is an aromatic herb with a heart-shaped, velvety leaf which grows in tropic Mesoamerica. The name hoja santa means “sacred leaf” in Spanish.A Mexican legend says that Virgin Mary dried diapers of the infant Jesus on the bush of this plant, hence the name. It is also known as yerba santa, hierba santa, Mexican pepperleaf, root beer plant, and sacred pepper.

The hoja santa (sacred leaf), hoja de la estrella (leaf of the star), or Veracruz pepper (Piper auritum Kunth) has a native range from southern Mexico into northern South America. It is a successional plant found in moist forests where gaps in the canopy allow some sunlight to the forest floor. Although it is considered a shade-loving plant, hoja santa will not tolerate deep shade.

Tropic Mesoamerica (Southern México, Guatemala, Panamá, Northern Colombia).

Plant Description:
Hoja santa has a knobby herbaceous stem and grows up to six meters in height supporting itself with prop roots near the base of the stem. The large leaves arise alternately along the stem. Hoja santa blooms with a myriad of tiny reduced flowers arranged along a thin arching spike.The leaves can reach up to 30 centimeter (12 in) or more in size. The complex flavor of hoja santa is not so easily described; it has been compared to eucalyptus, licorice, sassafras, anise,nutmeg, mint, tarragon, and black pepper. The flavor is stronger in the young stems and veins The flowers consist of a pistil with a fringed stigma, two anthers, and a small peltate (umbrella-shaped) bract. The flowers are followed by a single-seeded fruit, a drupe. The seeds are dispersed by frugivorous (fruit-eating) bats.


Sensory quality:
Aromatic and pleasant, loosely reminiscent to anise, nutmeg and black pepper. The flavour is strongest in the young stems and veins, which have additionally a pleasant warming pungency.

Main constituents:
The essential oil from the leaves (0.2%) is rich in safrole (up to 80%), a substance with pleasant odour. Furthermore, a large number of mono- and sesquiterpenoids have been found

A heart-shaped, dinner plate-sized leaf is making its way onto restaurant tables in downtown Washington.

It is often used in Mexican cuisine for tamales, the fish or meat wrapped in fragrant leaves for cooking, and as an essential ingredient in Mole Verde, the green sauce originated in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. It is also chopped to flavor soups and eggs. In Central Mexico, it is used to flavor chocolate drinks. In southeastern Mexico, a green liquor called Verdín is made from hoja santa. American cheesemaker Paula Lambert created “Hoja santa cheese”, the goat’s milk cheese wrapped with the hoja santa leaves and impregnated with its flavor. While typically used fresh, it is also used in dried form, although drying removes much of the flavor and makes the leaf too brittle to be used as a wrapper.

Like its more famous Old World cousin, black pepper (Piper nigrum), hoja santa is used as a seasoning. In this case, it is the leaves and not the ‘peppercorns’ that flavor foods. The Maya and Aztec made tamales—fish or meat wrapped in fragrant leaves for cooking. And the ancients used many types of leaves, not just corn husks around corn meal dough and seasoned meat. Many of these ancient tamal entrees persist; pescado (fish) en hoja santa is still fine dining especially near the Gulf coast in Veracruz.

The essential oils in the leaf are rich in safrole, a substance also found in sassafras, which has been shown to be carcinogenic in animals. In 1960, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned sassafras bark along with sassafras oil and safrole as flavoring agents because of their carcinogenic properties and the Council of Europe imposed the same ban in 1974, so the safety of flavoring food with hoja santa remains questionable.


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