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Herbs & Plants

Epazote

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Botanical Name: Dysphania ambrosioides
Family: Amaranthaceae
Subfamily: Chenopodioideae
Tribe:     Dysphanieae
Genus:     Dysphania
Species: D. ambrosioides
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Chenopodium ambrosioides

Common Names: Epazote, wormseed, Jesuit’s tea, Mexican tea, Paico or Herba Sancti Mariæ, Herba Sancti Mariæ

Indian Names: Hindi: Sugandha-vastooka • Kannada: guddada voma, huli voma, kaadu voma, • Manipuri: Monshaobi-manbi • Marathi: Chandanbatva • Mizo: Buarchhimtir

Habitat:Dysphania ambrosioides is native to Central America, South America, and southern Mexico.It grows  in warm temperate to subtropical areas of Europe and the United States (Missouri, New England, Eastern United States), sometimes becoming an invasive weed.It is mainly found on dry wasteland and cultivated ground.

Description:
Epazote is an annual or short-lived perennial plant (herb), growing to 1.2 m (3.9 ft) tall, irregularly branched, with oblong-lanceolate leaves up to 12 cm (4.7 in) long. The flowers are small and green, produced in a branched panicle at the apex of the stem.
CLICK TO SEE THE PICTURE OF EPAZOTE

Edible Uses:
Epazote is eaten  as a leaf vegetable, an herb and an herbal tea for its pungent flavor. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to anise, fennel, or even tarragon, but stronger. Epazote’s fragrance is strong but difficult to describe. A common analogy is to turpentine or creosote. It has also been compared to citrus, savory, or mint.

Although it is traditionally used with black beans for flavor and its carminative properties (less gas), it is also sometimes used to flavor other traditional Mexican dishes as well: it can be used to season quesadillas and sopes (especially those containing huitlacoche), soups, mole de olla, tamales with cheese and chile, chilaquiles, eggs and potatoes and enchiladas.

Seed – cooked. The seed is small and fiddly, it should be soaked in water overnight and thoroughly rinsed before it is used in order to remove any saponins. An infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute.

Medicinal Uses:
Epazote is commonly believed to prevent flatulence. It has also been used in the treatment of amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, malaria, chorea, the now discredited diagnosis of hysteria, catarrh, and asthma.

Some of its chemical constituents have been shown in the laboratory to affect certain cancer cell lines, and it has also been reported to be highly carcinogenic in rats. A Nigerian group, however, concluded in 2007 that it is neither mutagenic nor cytotoxic.

Oil of chenopodium is derived from this plant. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a colorless or pale yellow toxic essential oil of unpleasant odor and taste, … formerly used as an anthelmintic”.

In the early 1900s it was one of the major anthelmintics used to treat ascarids and hookworms in humans, cats, dogs, horses, and pigs. Usually, oil of chenopodium was used. It was sometimes referred to as Baltimore Oil, because of the large production facility in Baltimore, Maryland   that specialized in extracting the oil from the plant. Chenopodium was replaced with other, more effective and less toxic anthelmintics in the 1940s.

Chenopodium is still used to treat worm infections in humans in many countries. In Honduras, as well as other Latin American countries, the whole plant or the leaves are ground and added to water. This mixture is then consumed. In a few areas in Latin America, the plant also is used to treat worm infections in livestock.

Epazote essential oil contains ascaridole (up to 70%), limonene, p-cymene, and smaller amounts of numerous other monoterpenes and monoterpene derivatives (?-pinene, myrcene, terpinene, thymol, camphor and trans-isocarveol). Ascaridole (1,4-peroxido-p-menth-2-ene) is rather an uncommon constituent of spices; another plant owing much of its character to this monoterpene peroxide is boldo. Ascaridole is toxic and has a pungent, not very pleasant flavor; in pure form, it is an explosive sensitive to shock. Allegedly, ascaridole content is lower in epazote from Mexico than in epazote grown in Europe or Asia.

Other Uses:  The essential oils of epazote contain terpene compounds, some of which have natural pesticide capabilities. A study from the University of California found that the compound ascaridole in epazote inhibits the growth of nearby plants, so it would be best to relegate this plant at a distance from other inhabitants of the herb garden. Even though this plant has an established place in recipes and in folklore, it is wise to use only the leaves, and those very sparingly, in cooking.

Companion plant:  Epazote not only contains terpene compounds, it also delivers partial protection to nearby plants simply by masking their scent to some insects, making it a useful companion plant. Its small flowers may also attract some predatory wasps and flies.

Known Hazards:   The essential oil in the seed and flowering plant is highly toxic. In excess it can cause dizziness, vomiting, convulsions and even death. The plant can also cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions. The leaves and seeds of all members of this genus are more or less edible. However, many of the species in this genus contain saponins, though usually in quantities too small to do any harm. Although toxic, saponins are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down to a large extent in the cooking process. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish. The plants also contain some oxalic acid, which in large quantities can lock up some of the nutrients in the food. However, even considering this, they are very nutritious vegetables in reasonable quantities. Cooking the plant will reduce its content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.

.Overdoses of the essential oil have caused human deaths (attributed to the ascaridole content),the symptoms including severe gastroenteritis with pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.
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.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysphania_ambrosioides
http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Mexican%20Tea.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Chenopodium+ambrosioides

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Herbs & Plants

Gnaphalium Obtusifolium

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Botanical NameGnaphalium polycephalum/ Gamochaeta purpurea/Gnaphalium uliginosum /Pseudognaphalium macounii
Family: Asteraceae
Subfamily: Asteroideae
Tribe:     Gnaphalieae
Genus:     Gnaphalium
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Synonyms: Indian Posy. Sweet-scented Life Everlasting. Old Field Balsam. Gnaphalium Obtusifolium or Blunt-leaved Everlasting. Gnaphalium Connoideum. Fragrant Everlasting. None-so-Pretty. Catsfoot. Silver Leaf.

Common Names : White Balsam

Habitat:White Balsam is native to  Virginia, Pennsylvania and New England. This plant is common in old fields and pastures throughout the United States and Canada.

Description:
Natural Order, Compositae. This belongs to a genus of woolly herbs, which are peculiar for their downy and tomentose appearance. Their flowers are borne in many compact heads, closely arranged in a large terminal corymb, and all tubular. The species here spoken of is an annual, one to two feet high, the whole plant (stem, leaves, and peduncles) gray with a short and silky wool. Stem erect, branched above. Leaves alternate, three inches long by one-fourth of an inch broad, tapering at the base, sessile, margins a little wavy, smoothish above. Flowers tubular, white, in obovate heads; heads in a terminal and close panicled corymb, of a pretty appearance. Whole plant slightly fragrant. July and August.

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click & see the pictures

The leaves and yellow flower-heads are used medicinally, though the whole plant is gathered. Its aroma is rather pleasant, its taste slightly bitter and aromatic, and its properties are extracted by water and alcohol. Several other species of the same genus are used indiscriminately with this one, among which may be named G. decurrens, with yellowish-white flowers and decurrent leaves; G. uliginosum, about five inches high, and with the clusters of flower-heads sitting down below the upper leaves; and G. purpureum, branching from the base, with the leaves green above, and the flowers in a wand-like terminal spike.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used: Herb, leaves, flowers.
This plant combines relaxing and stimulating properties with a moderate portion of demulcent quality. In cold preparations, its action is mainly expended upon mucous membranes; and as it soothes and strengthens these tissues, it has been pronounced astringent, though it is faintly tonic and not drying. It has been used in sore-mouth, sub-acute coughs, feebleness of the lungs, leucorrhea, catarrh of the bladder, and the latter stages of dysentery. It is really an excellent article in such cases; and though it is too mild to be of use in degenerate conditions, it is useful for its gentle influence. In warm infusion, it promotes mild diaphoresis, and is a popular remedy in recent colds and light fever; and a strong preparation is said to relieve mumps, quinsy, the tenesmus of dysentery, and excessive menstruation. In some respects it acts on the assimilative organs much as avens root does–toning them and abating a tendency to curdy diarrhea. From being at one time over-rated, it has fallen into undeserved neglect. An ounce may be digested in a pint and a half of water till a pint remains, and two fluid ounces of this used once every two hours or oftener. It is sometimes combined with other agents in pulmonary sirups.

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/Gnaphalium
http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/cook/GNAPHALIUM_POLYCEPHALUM.htm
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/balwhi08.html

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Herbs & Plants

Dioscorea villosa

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Botanical Name :Dioscorea villosa
Family: Dioscoreaceae
Genus: Dioscorea
Species: D. villosa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Dioscoreales

Common Names: Wild Yam Root , Colic root, rheumatism root

Habitat : Dioscorea villosa  is native to  Eastern N. America – New England to Minnesota and Ontario, south to Virginia and Texas. It grows in  borders of bogs, swamps, marshes, river and lake margins, creek bottoms, sandy or rocky soils, moist or dry woods, hammocks, thickets, limestone or talus slopes, roadsides, sea level to 1500 m.

Description:
Dioscorea villosa is a perennial climber growing to 3 m (9ft 10in). It is a species of a twining tuberous vine.

Click to see the pictures..>...(01)...(1)...….(2)..…...(3)..…...(4)..
It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from Sep to October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile.

Cultivation:   
An easily grown plant, succeeding in a fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position or light shade[200]. Prefers a rich light soil . Plants are hardy to at least -15°c. Plants produce tubercles (small tubers that are formed in the leaf axils of the stems), and can be propagated by this means. A climbing plant that supports itself by twining around the branches of other plants. . This is a highly polymorphic species, some botanists dividing it up into several species.  Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation :   
Seed – sow March to April in a sunny position in a warm greenhouse and only just cover. It germinates in 1 – 3 weeks at 20°c. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow on in a greenhouse for their first year. Plant out in late spring as the plant comes into new growth. Basal stem cuttings in the summer. Division in the dormant season, never when in growth. The plant will often produce a number of shoots, the top 5 – 10 cm of the root below each shoot can be potted up to form a new plant whilst the lower part of the root can possibly be eaten. Tubercles (baby tubers) are formed in the leaf axils. These are harvested in late summer and early autumn when about the size of a pea and coming away easily from the plant. They should be potted up immediately in individual pots in a greenhouse or cold frame. Plant out in early summer when in active growth.

Edible Uses  : Tuber is cooked and eaten. Some caution should be exercised with this plant.

Constituents:  steroidal saponins (including dioscin and trillin which yield diosgenin), phytosterols, alkaloids including dioscorine, tannins, starch

Medicinal Uses:
The plant is also known as colic root and rheumatism root in North America, indicating its use by European settlers for these conditions. Diosgenin, a breakdown product of dioscin, was first identified by Japanese scientists in 1936. This discovery paved the way for the synthesis of progesterone and of corticosteroid hormones such as cortisone. For this reason it is sometimes expensive, because pharmaceutical firms buy up large crops on the global market. This use of the root, coupled with its traditional use as an antispasmodic and antirheumatic gave rise to the saying that wild yam is a natural steroid. Indeed, it contains compounds that are similar in chemical structure to steroids, but these compounds must be digested, absorbed and processed by one’s body before becoming steroids or hormones. Eating foods such as wild yam thus provides the building blocks for many complex glandular manufacturing processes. The herb’s combination of anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions makes it extremely useful in treatments for arthritis and rheumatism. It reduces inflammation and pain, and relaxes stiff muscles in the affected area. It stimulated the removal of accumulated wastes in the system. Wild yam helps to relieve cramps, muscle tension, and colic. It can be an effective treatment for digestive problems, including gallbladder inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, and diverticulitis. In large doses it is regarded as a diuretic and acts as an expectorant.

In North and Central America, wild yam is a traditional relaxing remedy for painful menstruation, ovarian pain, and labor. It is classically given for uterine pain, such as severe menstrual pain, or shooting pain beyond cramps. It’s also used for ovarian spasm and inflammation such as occurs with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). To relieve the nauseous symptoms of pregnancy, Dioscorein is the very best and is prompt in action given in small, frequent doses. It is useful as part of a natural approach to any endocrine imbalance. For extremely heavy periods wild yam root tincture, 20-30 drops taken daily for the two weeks preceding the expected onset of menses, can supply enough progesterone precursors to remedy flooding. Ointment made from wild yam roots may be the able to restore youthful moistness and elasticity to post-menopausal vaginal tissues. However, this is where a lot of misinformation and controversy occurs.

Today most USP progesterone is, in fact, extracted from soy. Neither USP nor human progesterone is present in either of the major plant sources (soybean or wild yam). Yams contain the sterol diosgenin, whereas soybeans contain the sterol stigmasterol  both of which have progesterone-like effects. The substances sold as USP progesterone is produced in the lab by hydrolyzing extracts of soy or yam and converting saponins into sapogenins, two of which, sarsasapogenin (soy) and diosgenin (yam) provide the majority of derivation of natural progesterone produced for medical purposes. While diosgenin may have some progestogenic or even phytoestrogenic action, the effect varies from one person to another. Some doctors say that the human body cannot convert wild yam or diosgenin to hormones and that conversion to progesterone must take place in a laboratory. It is possible, however, that some women’s bodies are better able to utilize plant-derived compounds than others. It is also important to remember that while the mechanism of phytogenic activity may not be clearly understood at this time, botanical supplementation continues to gain support among everywhere because it works for them. There has been a great deal of confusion pertaining to the progesterone content of various manufacturers transdermal creams. The bioavailability of the progesterone in such products is of paramount importance. The quality of a formulation and its delivery system determines the absorption and effectiveness. It’s essential that you know your product and your supplier and above all observe your body’s response to the product of your choice. Wild yam, given in combination with black cohosh, is not only common in menopause formulas but is also an effective pain-relieving remedy for rheumatoid arthritis, especially in the inflamed stages of flare-up. Solvent in water. As a primary liver tonic herb, wild yam activates and stimulates liver activity. High concentrations of steroidal saponins provide the building blocks required by the liver to synthesize sex hormones. Whenever both the liver and reproductive system are implicated as the cause of hormone imbalance, wild yam is the herb of choice to use in the formula.

Wild yam also contains beta carotene, the antioxidant that is so important to maintaining a healthy cholesterol level. Other colorful folk names include Devil’s bones, Yuma, Colic root and Rheumatism root, referring to Native Americans use of the boiled root to treat morning sickness and in childbirth, also arthritis and digestive problems.

Its fame is based on its steroid-like saponins which can be chemically converted to progesterone contraceptives; and cortisone.

Known Hazards:
Edible species of Dioscorea have opposite leaves whilst poisonous species have alternate leaves. Use of the fresh plant can cause vomiting and other side effects. Known to cause headaches, menstrual irregularities & acne. May cause hair loss & oily skin. Avoid during pregnancy. Avoid in patients with cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate & uterus.

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=Dioscorea+villosa
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioscorea_villosa
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail119.php

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

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Herbs & Plants

Cryptotaenia canadensis

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Botanical Name : Cryptotaenia canadensis
Family: Apiaceae
Genus:Cryptotaenia
Species: Cryptotaenia canadensis (L.) DC.
Kingdom :Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
Division: Magnoliophyta
Superdivision: Spermatophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Rosidae
Order:Apiales

Synonyms: Deringa canadensis – (L.)Kuntze.

Common Names: Honewort

Habitat :Cryptotaenia canadensis is native to Eastern N. America – Western New Brunswick to Manitoba and south to Alabama. Arkansas and Texas. Grows in rich woods and thickets. Woodland Garden; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;

Description:
Cryptotaenia canadensis is a herbaceous perennial plant  growing to 1m by 0.6m.
It is hardy to zone 5. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.

Flowers are in irregular flat clusters (umbels) 2 to 3 inches across, made up of 3 to 8 groups (umbellets) of 3 to 10 flowers each. Individual flowers are about 1/8 inch across with 5 white petals that are usually curled up, and 5 stamens with creamy yellow tips. The flower stalks in an umbellet are varying lengths and there is no bract at the base of an umbellet. A plant may have a few clusters at the top of the plant, and at the end of branching stems in the upper part of the plant.

You may click to see different pictures of Cryptotaenia canadensis 

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Leaves are compound in groups of 3. Leaflets near the base of the plant are largest, to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide on long stems that are sheathed where they join the main stem. Leaves and their stems become smaller as they ascend the plant, with those near the flowers having little or no leaf stem. Leaflets are double toothed, with small teeth on the edges of larger teeth, have pointed tips, and taper abruptly at the base. The larger leaflets are often cleft or lobed in 2 or 3 parts. The main stem is light green and hairless.

Fruit is a 2-sectioned ribbed seed, about ¼ inch long, pointed at the tip. It ripens from green to dark brown.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It requires moist soil.

Cultivation:
Succeeds in a rich moist soil, preferring to grow in dappled shade. Closely related to C. japonica, a species that is cultivated as a vegetable in Japan. This species is being cultivated in America to supply the Japanese market with a chervil-like herb. Slugs are extremely fond of this plant, especially when the new growth emerges in spring.

Propagation:
Seed – sow April in a greenhouse. Germination is usually rapid, prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. The ideal temperature for sowing is about 25°c, though seed does germinate at higher and lower temperatures. Seed can also be sown in early autumn. Division in spring or autumn.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Root; Stem.

Young leaves, stems and flowers – raw or cooked. Used as a potherb or added to salads. A flavour that is somewhat like celery, if you use your imagination. Root – cooked. The seeds are used as a flavouring for cakes, breads and biscuits.

Medicinal Uses:
Traditional herbalists in New England use an infusion as a diuretic and urinary tract tonic, to strengthen and cleanse the kidneys and to relieve frequent urination.  In the Orient it is held in especially high esteem to treat menstrual and puerperal diseases of women.  Honewort root has been prescribed for Chinese women who wish to conceive.

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://digedibles.com/database/plants.php?Cryptotaenia+canadensis
http://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/canadian-honewort
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CRCA9

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Aster novae-angliae

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Botanical Name :Aster novae-angliae
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Astereae
Genus: Symphyotrichum
Subgenus: Virgulus
Species: S. novae-angliae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Common Names:New England Aster

Habitat :Aster novae-angliae is native to almost every area in North America east of the Rocky Mountains, but excluding the far north of Canada as well as some of the southern United States.

Description:
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae is an herbaceous perennial stiffly erect plant. It grows up to 120 cm with a stout, hairy stem and lance-shaped leaves with entire margins. The flower heads are showy with yellow disc florets at the center and ray florets that range from a deep purple or rose to rarely white. The New England aster inhabits a wide variety of habitats and soil types, though it does not tolerate strong shade.

CLICK  &  SEE  THE  PICTURES

Flower/fruit: 1 to 2 inch bright lavender to purplish blue flower heads clustered at end of stems, with 40 to 50 narrow petals; yellow center; bracts are narrow, hairy and sticky; flower stalk has sticky hairs

Flower:  head 3/4″-1 1/2″ wide with 45-100 purple to rose rays, disk orange; inflorescence of a few to many heads in leafy, short clusters; blooms Aug.-Oct., our latest flowering aster

Fruit: dry seed with dense, fluffy pappus

Foliage: 1.5 to 5 inch lanceolate, crowded, toothless, heart-shaped leaves; basal lobes clasp the hairy stout stems

Flowering Season: Late summer into fall

Cultivation: Due to the attractive flowers, numerous cultivars have been developed. Furthermore, as a result of its increased usage in the garden, it has been introduced to many areas beyond its natural range, including Europe and several western US states.

Medicinal Uses:
A poultice of the root has been used in the treatment of pain, fevers and diarrhea. The ooze of the roots has been sniffed in the treatment of catarrh. A decoction of the whole plant has been used in the treatment of all kinds of fevers and in the treatment of weak skin. Aster novae-angliae is deployed in decoction internally, with a strong decoction externally, in many eruptive diseases of the skin; it removes also the poisonous state of the skin caused by Rhus or Shumach.

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/Symphyotrichum_novae-angliae
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/wildflowers/aster_novae-angliae.html
http://wisplants.uwsp.edu/scripts/detail.asp?SpCode=ASTNOV
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm

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