Herbs & Plants

Anthoxanthum odoratum

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Botanical Name: Anthoxanthum odoratum
A. odoratum

Common Names: Sweet vernal grass, Holy grass, Vanilla grass or Buffalo grass

Habitat : Anthoxanthum odoratum grass found wild in acidic grasslands in Eurasia.  It is also grown as a lawn grass and a house plant, due to its sweet scent, and can also be found on unimproved pastures and meadows. Odoratum is Latin for “smell as well”. It does not grow well in very dry or waterlogged soil

Anthoxanthum odoratum  is a perennial  grass plant. It can grow up to 100 cm.  The stems are 25–40 centimetres (9.8–15.7 in) tall, with short but broad green leaves 3–5 millimetres (0.12–0.20 in) wide, which are slightly hairy. It flowers from April until June, i.e. quite early in the season, with flower spikes of 4–6 centimetres (1.6–2.4 in) long and crowded spikelets of 6–10 millimetres (0.24–0.39 in), oblong shaped, which can be quite dark when young. The lower lemmas have projecting awns.


The ligules are quite long, up to 5mm, blunt, with hairy fringes around the side.

The scent is particularly strong when dried, and is due to coumarin, a glycoside, and benzoic acid – it smells like fresh hay with a hint of vanilla. The seed head is bright yellow in colour.
The Sweet-scented Vernal Grass – with yellow anthers, not purple, as so many other grasses – gives its characteristic odour to newly-mown meadow hay, and has a pleasant aroma of Woodruff. It is, however, specially provocative of hay fever and hay asthma. The flowers contain Coumarin, the same substance that is present in the Melilot flowers, and the volatile pollen impregnates the atmosphere in early summer, causing much distress to hay-fever subjects. The sweet perfume is due chiefly to benzoic acid.

It is grown by scattering seed on tilled ground in the spring through fall, germinating in 4 to 5 days. It prefers sandy loam and acidic conditions (a low pH).
Succeeds in most soils. Dislikes shade. This is one of the earliest grasses to flower in the year, it produces a lot of pollen and is a major irritant to people who suffer from hay fever. The dried plant releases a strong and persistent fragrance with a refreshing pungent smell that is difficult to describe but is somewhat like newly-mown hay.

Seed – sow April in situ, only just covering the seed. The seed usually germinates in 2 – 3 weeks. Division in spring. Very easy, it can be done successfully at almost any time of the year, though it is best to pot up the divisions in a cold frame if you are doing it outside the growing season.

Edible Uses:
Seed. The seed is very small and its use would be fiddly. A tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. A sweet pleasant fragrance. Some caution is advised, see notes at top of the page.

Parts uses in medicine: The flower.
Medicinal Uses:

The whole plant, and especially the flowering stems, is anticoagulant, antispasmodic and stimulant.   It is normally only applied externally, where it is used in the treatment of rheumatic pain, chilblains, nervous insomnia etc. It is said that a tincture made from this grass with spirit of wine is an effective and immediate cure for hay fever.

A medicinal tincture is made from this grass with spirit of wine, and it said that if poured into the open hand and sniffed well into the nose, almost immediate relief is afforded during an attack of hay fever. It is recommended that 3 or 4 drops of the tincture be at the same time taken as a dose with water, repeated if required, at intervals of twenty to thirty minutes.
Other Uses:
Basketry; Pot-pourri; Strewing.

The aromatic leaves and dried flowers are used as a strewing herb, they are also woven into baskets and used in pot-pourri. The plant contains coumarin – this is used medicinally and also in rat poisons where it prevents the blood from co-aggulating and thus means that the slightest cut can kill the rat.
Known Hazards : The plant contains coumarins, this is what gives it the scent of newly mown hay. When used internally, especially from dried plants, it can act to prevent the blood from co-aggulating.
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

Hydrangea arborescens

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Botanical NameHydrangea arborescens
Family: Hydrangeaceae
Genus:     Hydrangea
Species: H. arborescens
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Cornales

Synonyms: Wild Hydrangea. Seven Barks. Hydrangea vulgaris. Common Hydrangea.

Common Names : Hydrangea, Smooth hydrangea, sevenbark

Habitat: Hydrangea arborescens is widely distributed across the eastern United States—from southern New York to the panhandle of Florida, west to eastern Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas. It is mainly found in moist soils under a hardwood forest canopy and is often common along woodland road banks and streams. It is common in the Delaware River Valley and in the Appalachian Mountains.

Hydrangea arborescens is a decidious Shrub growing to 3m by 2m.The inflorescence of the plant is a corymb. The showy, sterile flowers are usually absent or if present they are usually less than 1 cm in diameter. Flowering occurs May to July.  The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. It is noted for attracting wildlife. Fruit is a ribbed brown capsule about 2 mm long; many are produced.
The leaves of smooth hydrangea are large (8 to 18 cm long), opposite, serrated, ovate, and deciduous. The lower leaf surface is glabrous or with inconspicuous fine hairs, appearing green; trichomes of the lower surface are restricted to the midrib and major veins.

The stem bark has a peculiar tendency to peel off in several successive thin layers with different colors, hence the common name “sevenbark”.

Hydrangea arborescens can spread rapidly by stolons to form colonies.It is hardy to zone 3 and is frost tender.

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 and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Tolerates most soils, thriving in a well-drained loamy soil, but resenting dryness at the roots. Requires partial shade. Does well on very acid soils with a pH around 4.5. In frosty areas it is best to site the plant in a position shaded from the early morning sun. A good bee plant. The flowers are sweetly scented. Plants are best left unpruned. Another report says that the previous year’s flowering shoots should be cut back in early spring. This species is notably susceptible to honey fungus.

Seed – surface sow in a greenhouse in spring. Cover the pot with paper until the seed germinates. 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, 8cm long, July/August in a frame. Overwinter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring. Thick growths make the best cuttings, but these should be placed in individual pots. Good percentage. Cuttings of mature wood in late autumn in a frame. Mound layering in spring. Takes 12 months. Division of suckers in late winter. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. Leaf-bud cuttings of the current seasons growth in a frame.

Edible Uses:

Edible Parts: Stem.

The peeled branches and twigs have been used to make a tea. The new growth of young twigs has been peeled, boiled thoroughly then fried and eaten.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used:  Dried rhizome, roots.

Constituents:The root has been found to contain two resins, gum, sugar, starch, albumen, soda, lime potassa, magnesia, sulphuric and phosphoric acids, a protosalt of iron, and a glucoside, Hydrangin. No tannin has been found, but a fixed oil and a volatile oil have been obtained. From the alcoholic extract of the flowers of H. hortensia, two crystalline substances were isolated, Hydragenol and Hydrangeaic acid.

Anthelmintic; Cathartic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Sialagogue; Tonic

Hydrangea arborescens was used by the North American Indians as a remedy for kidney and bladder stones and is still used for these purposes in modern herbalism. It is considered to both encourage the expulsion of stones and to help dissolve those that remain. The roots are anthelmintic, cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic and tonic. They are used in the treatment of kidney stones, mucous irritations of the bladder, cystitis, nephritis, enlarged prostate and bronchial afflictions. Excessive doses can cause dizziness and bronchial congestion. The fresh roots are very succulent and can be easily cut, when dry they become very tough and resistant. They are harvested in the autumn and it is best to cut them into short sections before drying them. The scraped bark is used as a poultice on wounds, burns, sore muscles, sprains etc. The bark is chewed in the treatment of stomach and heart ailments. The leaves are cathartic, diuretic, sialagogue and tonic.

It also is excellent for chronic penile discharge in men and mucousal urinary irritation in the aged.  It is also used to decrease pain and inflammation in the urinary tract and when stones are passed.  The dried root is considered strongest, but the leaves are sometimes also used.  According to the Eclectic doctors, it does not actually dissolve the stones but helps them to pass and prevents their reoccurrence.  It’s used in combination with other herbs to treat inflamed and enlarged prostates.  The roots have a laxative effect.  Hydrangea contains a substance called rutin which is valuable in decreasing capillary fragility and reducing the incidence of recurrent hemorrhages

Other Uses:
This attractive native shrub is often cultivated for ornamental use. ‘Annabelle’ is the best known cultivar of this species; it is one of the most cold hardy of the hydrangeas. The cultivar ‘Grandiflora’ has flowers that resemble snowballs, similar to Viburnum plicatum.

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.


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Herbs & Plants

Chionanthus virginica

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Botanical Name :Chionanthus virginica
Family: Oleaceae
Genus:     Chionanthus
Species: C. virginicus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Lamiales

Synonyms:  Old Man’s Beard. Fringe Tree Bark. Chionathus. Snowdrop Tree. Poison Ash.

Common Name:  Grancy Gray Beard, ,Fringe Tree, White fringetree, Old Man’s Beard, Fringe Tree.

Habitat: Chionanthus virginica is a tree native to the eastern United States, from New Jersey south to Florida, and west to Oklahoma and Texas.
It grows on rich moist soils by the edges of streams and in damp woods and scrub.

Chionanthus virginica is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to as much as 10 to 11 metres (33 to 36 ft) tall, though ordinarily less. The bark is scaly, brown tinged with red. The shoots are light green, downy at first, later becoming light brown or orange. The buds are light brown, ovate, acute, 3 millimetres (0.12 in) long. The leaves are opposite, simple, ovate or oblong, 7.5 to 20 centimetres (3.0 to 7.9 in) long and 2.5 to 10 centimetres (0.98 to 3.94 in) broad, with a petiole 2 centimetres (0.79 in) long, and an entire margin; they are hairless above, and finely downy below, particularly along the veins, and turn yellow in fall. The richly-scented[4] flowers have a pure white, deeply four-lobed corolla, the lobes thread-like, 1.5 to 2.5 centimetres (0.59 to 0.98 in) long and 3 millimetres (0.12 in) broad; they are produced in drooping axillary panicles 10 to 25 centimetres (3.9 to 9.8 in) long when the leaves are half grown, in mid- to late May in New York City, earlier in the south.
click to see the pictures

It is usually dioecious, though occasional plants bear flowers of both sexes. The fruit is an ovoid dark blue to purple drupe 1.5 to 2 centimetres (0.59 to 0.79 in) long, containing a single seed (rarely two or three), mature in late summer to mid fall.

Although native in the southeastern United States, it is hardy in the north and is extensively planted in gardens, where specimens are often grown with multiple trunks. The white flowers are best seen from below. Fall color is a fine, clear yellow, a good contrast with viburnums and evergreens. It prefers a moist soil and a sheltered situation. It may be propagated by grafting on Ash (Fraxinus sp.).

Medicinal Uses:

Part Used:  The dried bark of the root.

Constituents: It is said that both saponin and a glucoside have been found, but neither appears to have been officially confirmed.

Aperient, diuretic. Some authorities regard it as tonic and slightly narcotic. It is used in typhoid, intermittent, or bilious fevers, and externally, as a poultice, for inflammations or wounds. Is useful in liver complaints.

The bark and dried roots have been used in poultices for skin inflammations.  Fringetree bark may be safely used in all liver problems, especially when they have developed into jaundice. Good for the treatment of gall-bladder inflammation and a valuable part of treating gall-stones. It is a remedy that will aid the liver in general and as such it is often used as part of a wider treatment for the whole body. It is also useful as a gentle and effective laxative.  The root bark also appears to strengthen function in the pancreas and spleen.  Anecdotal evidence indicates that it may substantially reduce sugar levels in the urine.  Fringe tree also stimulates the appetite and digestion, and is an excellent remedy for chronic illness, especially where the liver has been affected.  For external use, the crushed bark may be made into a poultice for treating sores and wounds.

Traditional uses:
The dried roots and bark were used by Native Americans to treat skin inflammations. The crushed bark was used in treatment of sores and wounds

Other Uses:
The wood is light brown, sapwood paler brown; heavy, hard, and close-grained.

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.


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Herbs & Plants

Lactuca virosa

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Botanical Name : Lactuca virosa
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cichorieae
Genus: Lactuca
Species: L. virosa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Common Names:Wild Lettuce, Bitter lettuce, Laitue vireuse, Opium Lettuce, Poisonous Lettuce, or Rakutu-Karyumu-So.

Habitat : Lactuca virosa is found in  Europe, including Britain, from Belgium south and west to N. Africa, Central Russia and W. Asia.It is also found in the Punjab Region of Pakistan India and Australia where it grows in the wild.

Lactuca virosa is an  annual  or biennial  plant and is   similar to prickly lettuce Lactuca serriola but taller – it can grow to 200 cm. It is also stouter, the stem and leaves are more purple flushed,[disputed – discuss] the leaves are less divided, but more spreading.

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It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
The achene is purple black, without bristles at the tip. The pappus is the same as Lactuca serriola.

Cultivation :   
Prefers a light sandy loam and a sunny position. The wild lettuce is cultivated as a medicinal plant in many areas of Europe.

Propagation :    
Seed – sow spring or autumn in situ and only just cover the seed. Germination is usually fairly quick.

Edible Uses:      
Leaves are eaten  raw or cooked. Very tender. A mild flavoured oil, used in cooking, is obtained from the seeds.

A latex which is called lactucarium can be derived from the extract of the stem secretions of Lactuca virosa. Oils and extracts can also be produced from L. virosa. These oils and extracts have sedative properties in rodents. They may be added to tea to help induce sleep. While its use as a galactagogue (a substance that increases breast milk) has been reported, the sedative effects on the baby would strongly argue against its use for this purpose. Many add the greens to salads, though the leaves of L. virosa are more bitter than other salad greens. Smoking involves either dried leaves or a sticky precipitate extracted from the leaves. Beverages can be prepared by soaking the leaves in alcohol.

The plant contains flavonoids, coumarins, and N-methyl-?-phenethylamine.[unreliable source?] A variety of other chemical compounds have been isolated from L. virosa. One of the compounds, lactucin, is an adenosine receptor agonist in vitro, while another, lactucopicrin, has been shown to act as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor in vitro

Medicinal Uses:.

Anodyne;  Antispasmodic;  Digestive;  Homeopathy;  Hypnotic;  Narcotic;  Sedative;  Tonic.

The whole plant is rich in a milky sap that flows freely from any wounds. This hardens and dries when in contact with the air. The sap contains ‘lactucarium’, which is used in medicine for its anodyne, antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, hypnotic, narcotic and sedative properties. Lactucarium has the effects of a feeble opium, but without its tendency to cause digestive upsets, nor is it addictive. It is taken internally in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, neuroses, hyperactivity in children, dry coughs, whooping cough, rheumatic pain etc. Concentrations of lactucarium are low in young plants and most concentrated when the plant comes into flower. It is collected commercially by cutting the heads of the plants and scraping the juice into china vessels several times a day until the plant is exhausted. This species is probably the richest supply of lactucarium. The plant also contains ‘hyoscyamine’, a powerful depressant of the parasympathetic nervous system. An infusion of the fresh or dried flowering plant can also be used. The plant should be used with caution, and never without the supervision of a skilled practitioner. Even normal doses can cause drowsiness whilst excess causes restlessness and overdoses can cause death through cardiac paralysis. Some physicians believe that any effects of this medicine are caused by the mind of the patient rather than by the medicine. The sap has also been applied externally in the treatment of warts. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of chronic catarrh, coughs, swollen liver, flatulence and ailments of the urinary tract.

Wild lettuce is a valuable remedy for insomnia and muscular arthritis. The common name “lettuce opium“, as it was known in the earlier official pharmacopoeias, refers to the potent milky latex produced by the stems and leaves. There has been a recent internet driven surge of popularity of wild lettuce as a recreational herb, however wild lettuce will disappoint those only looking for a legal high similar to opium. The powers that be have outlawed all the truly narcotic herbs, leaving only the less potent ones available to use without fear of running afoul of the law. That said, this relaxing and sedative herb can be a ally for those needing help to induce sleep, and calm restlessness.

Known Hazards:
Poisonous. Cases of poisoning caused by this plant have only been recorded very rarely.

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.


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Herbs & Plants

Rhododendron calendulaceum

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Botanical Name :  Rhododendron calendulaceum
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Rhododendron
Subgenus: Pentanthera
Section: Pentanthera
Species: R. calendulaceum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales

Common Name :Flame Azalea

Habitat :Flame Azalea is  native to the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States, ranging from southern New York to northern Georgia.

Flame Azalea is a deciduous shrub, 120-450 cm tall. The leaves are 3-7 cm long, slightly dull green above and villous below. The flowers are 4-5 cm long, usually bright orange, but can vary from pastel orange to dark reddish-orange.Flowering  period is April to July….

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Medicinal Uses:
An infusion of peeled and boiled twigs has been used as a medicinal tea by Cherokee Indians

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


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