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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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Categories
Herbs & Plants

Mayapple (American mandrake)

Botanical Name: Podophyllum peltatum
Family: Berberidaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Genus: Podophyllum
Species: P. peltatum

Other names: American mandrake, umbrella plant, Devil’s apple, hog apple, Indian apple, wild lemon, may flower. in various regions it is also known as Devil’s apple, hog apple, Indian apple, umbrella plant, wild lemon, and American mandrake (though it should not be confused with true mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, an unrelated Old World plant whose roots have been used throughout history for medicines and potions).


Habitat :
Podophyllum peltatum (the mayapple) is a herbaceous perennial plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to the eastern part of North America. In woodlands in Canada and the Eastern U.S. (Eastern being East of Oklahoma).

Description:
The mayapple is a perennial plant.  These plants reach 6-18 inches in height and grow in patches. Each plant has a single stalk topped with one or two broad, deeply divided leaves that vaguely resemble umbrellas. The two-leaved plants normally produce a single, small white flower (usually in May, thus the name) from the fork in the stem. The flower develops into a pulpy, lemon-yellow berry which ripens in late summer and is the only part of the plant that isn’t poisonous (however, the berries should only be eaten in moderation, if at all).

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MAY APPLE FRUIT

The stems grow to 30-40 cm tall, with palmately lobed leaves up to 20-30 cm diameter with 5-9 deeply cut lobes. The plant produces two growth forms. The ones with a single umbrella-like leaf do not produce any flower or fruit. The plants having a twin leaf (rarely three-leaf) structure, however, bear a single white flower 3-5 cm diameter with six (rarely up to nine) petals, between the two leaves; this matures into a yellow-greenish fruit 2-5 cm long. The plant appears in colonies in open woodlands. Individual shoots are often connected by systems of thick tubers and rhizomes.

Despite the common name mayapple , it is the flower that appears in early May, not the “apple”, which appears later during the summer. The Mayapple is also called the Devil’s apple, Hogapple, Indian apple, Umbrella plant (shape of the leaves), Wild lemon (flavor of the fruit), Wild mandrake, and American mandrake (shape of rhizomes).

According to Brian Fondren, the rhizome of the mayapple has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, originally by Native Americans and later by other settlers.

 Cultivation: May apple is easy using to grow using seedling transplants or seed sown in fall. Prefers rich well drained soil and partial to deep shade.

Propagation:
Mayapple spreads from underground rhizomes to quickly form a colony that shades out smaller plants. It makes an excellent groundcover for unused areas and grows well in dappled shade. It likes light, loamy soil, shade, but not deep shade and plenty of space to spread out. You can gather seeds or rhizomes to plant or you might find a transplant in a native plant nursery. (I got mine from the local plant conservancy- they gather wild plants from construction sites and then sell them to the public.)

It’s good to keep them moist, not wet, and free of weeds until established. Once they are established, they will spread like crazy and crowd out weaker plants. Remember that it will take a few years before they starti producing fruits.


Toxicity:

All the parts of the plant, excepting the fruit, are poisonous. This plant can kill humans within 24 hours. Even the fruit, though not dangerously poisonous, can cause unpleasant red/yellow diarrhea. The plant contains podophyllotoxin , which is used as a cytostatic and topically in the treatment of genital warts.

Medicinal Uses:
The rhizomes have a long history as a medicine among Native North American tribes. They used to gather the rhizomes in the autumn, dry them and grind them to a powder. They would eat or drink a brew of the powder as a laxative or to get rid of intestinal worms. The powder was also used as a poultice to treat warts and tumorous growths on the skin.

Currently, extracts of the plant are used in topical medications for genital warts and some skin cancers. In China and Japan, the rhizomes of P. pleianthum are used to make a compound called Hakkakuren, which is used to treat snakebites and tumors of the genitals.

American Mandrake, or May Apple, is medicinal and edible (fruit), used extensively by Native Americans. The fully ripe fruit is eaten raw, cooked or made into jams, jellies, marmalades, and pies. It is very aromatic, and has a sweet peculiar but agreeable flavor. May Apple seeds and rind are not edible, said to be poisonous. The root and plant contain valuable constituents Quercetin, Kaempferol, Podophyllin, Isorhamnetin, Gallic-acid, Berberine, Alpha-peltatin, that are being studied for their healing, anticancer and other properties. The root is used as a medicinal herb, it is antibilious, cathartic, cytostatic, hydrogogue and purgative, it should only be used by professional Herbalists. It is a most powerful and useful alternative medicine. A possible treatment for cancer is being tested as it contains podophyllin, which has an antimiotic effect (it interferes with cell division and can thus prevent the growth of cells). More Info.

The purgative action of mayapple rhizome powder is very strong, and the compounds in it are much too toxic to attempt self-medication with this plant. The FDA rates the use of this plant as “unsafe.”

The resin of May Apple, which is obtained from the root, is used in the treatment of warts. The whole plant, apart from the ripe fruit, is highly poisonous in large doses. American Mandrake herb produces nausea and vomiting, and even inflammation of the stomach and intestines, which has been known to prove fatal. In moderate doses, it is a drastic purgative with some cholagogue action. Do not use wile pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive.

May Apple Folklore
May Apple was once called the witches umbrella and thought to be employed by them as a poison, which may not be untrue! The English version of this plant has much lore told of it, being called Manroot (mandrake) believed to be alive and its screams when pulled from the ground would render a man permanently insane.
Magical Attributes:
The powdered root is used in powerful protective magic. Mayapple is extremely irritating to the eyes and Mayapple root is used in spells to keep things (like diaries, books of shadows, etc.) hidden from prying eyes. The powder can be sprinkled around the storage area or on the object itself, or around the perimeter of an area where you do not wish to be disturbed. (Remember that Mayapple is a topical poison while doing this. Take care not to let the powder sit on your skin or come in contact with your eyes.)

The dried fruit can also be added to sachets and mojo bags to similar purpose, that is to allow the bearer to work in secret, or to allow his or her actions to not be revealed too soon.

The whole root can be tucked under the mattress to ensure the fertility and verility of the couple who sleep upon it.

Kept in a high place in the home, Mayapple root is said to draw prosperity to the home and protect it from bad luck.

This herb is commonly used as a substitution in spells calling for Mandrake (Atropa mandragora)

Healing Attributes:

Mayapple is listed as “unsafe” by the FDA and most experts agree that its action is too strong for self-medication even by experienced herbalists. Every part, excepting the ripe fruit, is deadly poison and can kill an adult human within 24 hours.

It was used by Native American tribes, who dried and powdered the root, as a laxitive and to remove worms and as a topical treatment for warts and skin cancer.

Modern medicine has found compounds in the rhizome that are useful against cancer and it is used in the treatment of genital warts and skin cancers in Asia. It is also under study for use against dropsy, dispepsia, biliousness, and various liver conditions.

Symptoms of mayapple poisoning are salviation, vomiting, diarrhea, excitement, fever, headache, coma, and death.

Household Use:

The poisonous rhizome can be boiled and used to kill insects on crop plants, especially potatoes. Make sure that the resulting potion is only sprinkled on the inedible (to humans) parts of the plants, such as tomato leaves and the aerial parts of potato plants.

Culinary Use:

Only the ripe fruit or “apple” of the mayapple is edible. The fruit is ripe when it is yellow and slightly soft. Dispite its name, the flavor is more like lemon than apple. Mayapples may be eaten raw, but they are best cooked or made into jelly. They may also be juiced and mixed with sugar and water to make a beverage similar to lemonade(remove all seeds before juicing). These fruits should be eaten only in moderation and only when perfectly ripe. It has been known to cause technicolor diarrhea.

Here’s an article from Mother Earth News about cooking with Mayapples. An excellent idea for your Beltane celebrations (assuming you’ve got some ripe, if not, hold off till Midsummer)

Practical Kitchen Witchery:

If you’re using an old European spell that calls for Mandrake, you can use this plant instead. But remember, both plants are very poisonous and substitutions of dangerous plants should never be made with other dangerous plants when you are making things that are to be administerd topically or ingested. It is suggested to use the fruit instead of the root as a much safer alternative. It is slower to action and not as intense, but it is still effective.

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.sacredhearth.com/taxonomy/term/300
http://biotech.icmb.utexas.edu/botany/mayhist.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Mayapple

http://www.twofrog.com/mayap.html

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Categories
Herbs & Plants

Indian Podophyllum

Botanical Name: Podophyllum hexandrum
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Podophyllum
Species: P. hexandrum
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales

Synonyms : Podophyllum   emodi.

Common Name : Himalayan mayapple or Indian may apple

Indian Name: Papri or Banbaigan

Habitat :  Indian Podophyllum  is native to E. Asia – Afghanistan to China. It grows on   the scrub forests and alpine meadows, usually in humus rich soils, 2000 – 3500 metres in the Himalayas. Very abundant in fir forests in Kashmir.

Description and Composition
Indian Podophyllum is an erect, succulent herb with a creeping root stalk. It has flower-bearing erect branches leafy at top. The plant has toothed, purple spotted leaves, deeply divided in 3 to 5 lobes. The flowers are white or pinkish, cup-shaped and solitary. Its fruit is egg-shaped and scarlet in colour. The dried rhizomes of the plant constitute the drug.

The perennial herb Podophyllum hexandrum (syn. P. emodi), bearing the common names Himalayan mayapple or Indian may apple, is native to the lower elevations in and surrounding the Himalaya. It is low to the ground with glossy green, drooping, lobed leaves on its few stiff branches, and it bears a pale pink flower and bright red-orange bulbous fruit. The ornamental appearance of the plant make it a desirable addition to woodland-type gardens. It can be propagated by seed or by dividing the rhizome. It is very tolerant of cold temperatures, as would be expected of a Himalayan plant, but it is not tolerant of dry conditions.

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The plant is poisonous but when processed has medicinal properties. The rhizome of the plant contains a resin, known generally and commercially as Indian Podophyllum Resin, which can be processed to extract podophyllotoxin, or podophyllin, a neurotoxin. It has been historically used as an intestinal purgative and emetic, salve for infected and necrotic wounds, and inhibitor of tumor growth. The North American variant of this Asian plant contains a lower concentration of the toxin but has been more extensively studied.

The active principle of Podophyllum is contained in the resinous mixture known as podophyllin. The other constituent of the root is podophyllotoxin. The rhizomes yield podophyllol, a sticky resin, quercetin and podophyllotoxin.

According to Viehoever and Mack (1938), the only active crystallisable substance isolated from either podophyllum or podophyllin is podophyllotoxin. Probably, it is not the chief cathartic principle, which is still to be isolated.

Podophyllum Emodi (Indian Podophyllum), a native of Northern India. The roots are much stouter, more knotty, and about twice as strong as the American. It is not identical with, nor should it be substituted for, the American rhizome. It contains twice as much podophyllotoxin, and in other respects exhibits differences. Indian podophyllum is official in India and the Eastern Colonies, where it is used in place of ordinary podophyllum.

Cultivation :    

Prefers a moist peaty soil and filtered light or shade. Grows well in a moist open woodland. Hardy to about -20°c, it takes some years to become established but is very long lived in a suitable habitat. Young leaves may be damaged by late frosts but otherwise the plants are quite hardy. Over collection of the plant from the wild is becomimg a cause for concern as local populations are being endangered. Young plants only produce one leaf each year, older plants have 2 or 3 leaves each year. Plants in this genus have excited quite a lot of interest for the compounds found in their roots which have been shown to have anti-cancer activity. There are various research projects under way (as of 1990). The sub-species P. hexandrum chinense. Wall. has larger flowers and more deeply divided leaves.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Sow stored seed in a cold frame in early spring. The seed germinates in 1 – 4 months at 15°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shady part of the greenhouse for at least 2 growing seasons. Plant them out into their permanent positions in the winter when the plants are dormant. Division in March/April

Edible Uses:     Fruit  is eaten raw. It must only be eaten when it is fully ripe. Juicy but insipid. The fruit is about 5cm long. The leaves are edible according to one report but this must be treated with some caution, see notes on toxicity above

Constituents.  ”The chief constituents of Indian podophyllum are podophyllotoxin (2 to 5 per cent.) and podophylloresin (compare Podophylli Rhizoma). The drug yields from 6 to 12 per cent. of podophyllin when treated in the same way as the American rhizome, but the podophyllin so obtained is not identical with, nor should it be substituted for, that from the American drug, since it contains approximately twice as much podophyllotoxin, and in other respects exhibits differences (compare Podophylli Rhizoma).

Action and Uses. Indian podophyllum rhizome is official in India and the Eastern Colonies, where it is used in place of ordinary podophyllum; it is stated to be twice as active as the latter.

Healing Power and Curative Properties
The herb Podophyllum is used as a hepatic stimulant and as an agent to promote the flow of bile. It is also useful as a purgative and as a drug to correct disordered processes of nutrition and to restore the normal function of the system. It is a bitter tonic which helps induce vomiting.

Chronic Constipation
The drug is highly beneficial for treating chronic constipation and is used as a purgative. The safe single dose is 0.01 gm. Its action is slow but strong. In large doses, it can cause acute irritation and griping. It should therefore be administered either in combination with belladonna or Indian aloe.

Skin Disorders
Podophyllum is reported to be useful in many skin diseases and tumorous growths. It has acquired importance in recent years for its possible use in controlling skin cancer.

Other Uses:  A medicinal resin is obtained from the plant. It is extracted with alcohol

Precautions:
Podophyllin greatly irritates the eyes and the mucous membranes. The resin does not affect normal skin but may be absorbed by irritated or abrased skin and helps purging. It is an effective purgative, but in toxic or over doses it produces intense enteritis or inflammation of the small intestines which may sometimes result in death.

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.

References:

Miracles Of Herbs

http://indiangyan.com/books/therapybooks/Herbs_That_Heal/indian_podophyllum.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podophyllum_hexandrum
http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/bpc1911/podophyllum-emod.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Podophyllum+hexandrum

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