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Herbs & Plants

Fraxinus ornus

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Botanical Name : Fraxinus ornus
Family: Oleaceae
Genus: Fraxinus
Species: F. ornus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Lamiales

Synonym: Flake Manna.

Common Names:Manna, Manna ash or South European flowering ash

Habitat :Fraxinus ornus is  native to southern Europe and southwestern Asia, from Spain and Italy north to Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic, and east through the Balkans, Turkey, and western Syria to Lebanon and Armenia. It grows in mixed woodland, thickets and rocky places, mainly on limestone

Description:
Fraxinus ornus is a medium-sized deciduous tree growing to 15–25 m tall with a trunk up to 1 m diameter. The bark is dark grey, remaining smooth even on old trees.
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The buds are pale pinkish-brown to grey-brown, with a dense covering of short grey hairs.

The leaves are in opposite pairs, pinnate, 20–30 cm long, with 5-9 leaflets; the leaflets are broad ovoid, 5–10 cm long and 2–4 cm broad, with a finely serrated and wavy margin, and short but distinct petiolules 5–15 mm long; the autumn colour is variable, yellow to purplish.

The flowers are produced in dense panicles 10–20 cm long after the new leaves appear in late spring, each flower with four slender creamy white petals 5–6 mm long; they are pollinated by insects.

The fruit is a slender samara 1.5-2.5 cm long, the seed 2 mm broad and the wing 4–5 mm broad, green ripening brown.

Edible Uses:
Manna – a sweetish exudate is obtained from the stems by incision. The quality is better from the upper stems. A mild sweet taste[114], its main use is as a mild and gentle laxative, though it is also used as a sweetener in sugar-free preparations and as an anti-caking agent. The tree trunk must be at least 8cm in diameter before the manna can be harvested. A vertical series of oblique incisions are made in the trunk in the summer once the tree is no longer producing many new leaves. One cut is made every day from July to the end of September. A whitish glutinous liquid exudes from this cut, hardens and is then harvested. Dry and warm weather is essential if a good harvest is to be realised. The tree is harvested for 9 consecutive years, which exhausts the tree. This is then cut down, leaving one shoot to grow back. It takes 4 – 5 years for this shoot to become productive. Average yields of 6 kilos per hectare of top quality manna, plus 80 kilos of assorted manna are achieved.

Medicinal Uses:
Manna has a peculiar odour and a sweetish taste.

It was formerly used in medicine as a gentle laxative, but is now chiefly used as a children’s laxative or to disguise other medicines.

It is a nutritive and a gentle tonic, usually operating mildly, but in some cases produces flatulence and pain.

It is still largely consumed in South America and is official in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

It is generally given dissolved in water or some aromatic infusion, but the best Flake Manna may be administered in substance, in doses of a teaspoonful up to 1 or 2 oz.

Usually it is prescribed with other purgatives, particularly senna, rhubarb, magnesia and the neutral salts, the taste of which it conceals while it adds to the purgative effect.

For infants, a piece about the size of a hazel-nut is dissolved in a little warm water and added to the food. To children, 30 to 60 grams may be given dissolved in warm milk or a mixture prepared with syrup, or syrup of senna and dill water.

Syrups of Manna are prepared with or without other purgatives.

Manna is sometimes used as a pill excipient, especially for calomel.

Other Uses:
Fraxinus ornus is frequently grown as an ornamental tree in Europe north of its native range, grown for its decorative flowers (the species is also sometimes called “Flowering Ash”). Some cultivated specimens are grafted on rootstocks of Fraxinus excelsior, with an often very conspicuous change in the bark at the graft line to the fissured bark of the rootstock species.

Known Hazards  : Contact with the sap has caused skin or systemic allergic reactions in some people.

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.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/ashmn075.html
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/ashmn075.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Fraxinus+Ornus

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Herbs & Plants

Crosswort

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Botanical Name : Galium cruciata
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Cruciata
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales

Synonyms – Cruciata laevipes  and Cruciata chersonensis (Willd.) Ehrend.(The term laevipes refers to the smooth stalk but not hairless).

Common Names:Crosswort or Luc na croise

Habitat :  Crosswort is mostly found in Europe, including Britain, from the Netherlands to Poland, south to S. Europe, W. Asia and Siberia.Europe, including Britain, from the Netherlands to Poland, south to S. Europe, W. Asia and Siberia.It grows in meadows, road verges, riverbanks, scrub and open woodland, generally on well-drained calcareous soils.

Description:
Crosswort is a perennial sprawling plant which can grow to a height of 15–70 cm, spreads by seeds and stolons and has, unusually amongst this group, yellow hermaphrodite flowers.The flowers are not so showy, being only in short clusters of about eight together, in the axils of the upper whorls of leaves and of a dull, pale yellow. The inner flowers are male and soon fall off, whilst the outer are bisexual and produce the fruit. The flowers smell of honey. It is arbuscular mycorrhizal in which the fungus penetrates the cortical cells of the roots.

Click to see the pictures…..>…(01)..….....(1).…...(2).……..(3)..…….(4)…..…(5)..

The stems are slender and scarcely branched, 1 to 2 feet long, and bear soft and downy leaves oblong in shape, arranged four in a whorl, hence the name Crosswort.

The whorls of four leaves, only two in each group are real leaves, the other two being stipules.

Cultivation: 
Prefers a loose moist leafy soil in some shade. Tolerates dry soils but the leaves quickly become scorched when growing in full sun. This species does not thrive in a hot climate. The flowers have a sweet powerful perfume.

Propagation: 
Seed – best sown in situ as soon as it is ripe in late summer. The seed can also be sown in spring though it may be very slow to germinate. Division in spring or throughout the growing season if the plants are kept well watered. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Edible Uses:Leaves are eaten raw or cooked

Medicinal Uses:
The herb is astringent, diuretic and vulnerary. It is not much used nowadays, but was considered a very good wound herb for both external and internal use. A decoction of the leaves has also been used to treat obstructions of the stomach and bowels, to stimulate the appetite and as a remedy for rheumatism, rupture and dropsy. A number of species in this genus contain asperuloside, a substance that produces coumarin and gives the scent of new-mown hay as the plant dries. Asperuloside can be converted into prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels), making the genus of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

This species though now practically unused, was considered a very good wound herb for both inward and outward wounds. A decoction of the leaves in wine was also used for obstructions in the stomach or bowels and to stimulate appetite. It was also recommended as a remedy for rupture, rheumatism and dropsy.

Bald’s Leechbook recommended crosswort as a cure for headaches.

 

Other Uses:
A red dye is obtained from the root.

In Romanian folklore, it is called sânziana and it is linked to the Sânziene fairies and their festival is on June 24th.

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/Cruciata_laevipes
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Cruciata+laevipes
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/cross117.html

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Herbs & Plants

Digitaria sanguinalis

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…Botanical Name : Digitaria sanguinalis
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Genus: Digitaria
Species: D. sanguinalis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Poales

Synonyms: Panicum sanguinale Linnaeus, Syntherisma sanguinale (Linnaeus) Dulac

Common Names: Crabgrass, hairy crabgrass or large crabgrass

Habitat :Grows throughout the world. It is found  on waste places.

Description & Uses;
It is an annual grass with an inflorescence of up to nine very long, very thin, radiating branches atop its stems. Each branch is lined with pairs of very tiny spikelets. The inflorescences may be reddish or purplish.

CLICK TO SEE…>….(01).....(1).…...(.2).…….…(3)..…….(4).…..…(5)…..
The seeds are edible and have been used as a grain in Germany and especially Poland, where it is sometimes cultivated.   This has earned it the name Polish Millet, and it was brought to the United States by some emigrants to serve as hand-foraged grain. The grass is also highly nutritious, especially before the plant exhausts itself producing seed. It is frequently sown in fields to provide graze for animals, or clipped and bundled as hay. Compared to other grasses, it has a relatively high protein percentage. Farmers will sometimes till patches in their pastures in the late spring, with the intent of encouraging crabgrass seed.

For human consumption, crabgrass necessarily must be harvested by hand, because it produces grain throughout summer, rather than simultaneously. Machine harvesting would require monthly passes, and even then much of the seed would go to waste. This said, crabgrass produces an exceptionally high amount of grain, it smothers other weeds, it acts as its own mulch, and it can survive both heat and drought. Its adaptability makes it a candidate for environmental small-farming.

Its usefulness to nineteenth-century homesteaders, however, has made its seed widespread, and today is considered an unattractive nuisance. Crabgrass takes advantage of low fertility and drought, since this tends to weaken other grasses. It is difficult to kill, as it will regenerate, and chemicals will likely harm surrounding grasses. The most efficient means of control is to pull patches, and keep the rest of the lawn watered and mowed at a height of two-three inches.

Cultivation:
Prefers a sandy soil. Requires a warm sheltered position. This species is occasionally cultivated, especially in Poland, for its edible seed. Special Features: Invasive.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown in situ in the spring. Only just cover the seed.

Medicinal Uses:
A decoction of the plant is used in the treatment of gonorrhea. A folk remedy for cataracts and debility, it is also said to be emetic.

Other Uses: A fibre obtained from the plant is used in making paper.

Known Hazards : There is a report that the leaves might be cyanogenic.

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/Digitaria_sanguinalis
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm
http://www.wnmu.edu/academic/nspages/gilaflora/digitaria_sanguinalis.html

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Herbs & Plants

Bilberry

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Botanical Name :Vaccinium myrtillus
Family: Vacciniaceae/Ericaceae
Genus: Vaccinium
Species: V. myrtillus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales
Synonyms:Whortleberry. Black Whortles. Whinberry. Trackleberry. Huckleberry. Hurts. Bleaberry. Hurtleberry. Airelle. Vaccinium Frondosum. Blueberries.
Common Names:  bilberry, European blueberry, whortleberry, huckleberry

Parts Used:The ripe fruit. The leaves.

Habitat: Vaccinium myrtillus  is native to   Europe, including Britain, from Iceland south and east to Spain, Macedonia, the Caucasus and N. Asia . It grows in heaths, moors and woods on acid soils to 1250 metres.

Description:

Vaccinium myrtillus is a deciduous Shrub. It  grows abundantly in the heathy and mountainous districts, a small branched shrub, with wiry angular branches, rarely over a foot high, bearing globular wax-like flowers and black berries, which are covered when quite ripe with a delicate grey bloom, hence its name in Scotland, ‘Blea-berry,’ from an old North Countryword, ‘blae,’ meaning livid or bluish. The name Bilberry (by some old writers ‘Bulberry’) is derived from the Danish ‘bollebar,’ meaning dark berry. There is a variety with white fruits.
The leathery leaves (in form somewhat like those of the myrtle, hence its specific name) are at first rosy, then yellowish-green, and in autumn turn red and are very ornamental. They have been utilized to adulterate tea.

click to see the pictures >…….(01)....(1)……..(2)....(3)..(4)..….…………………

Bilberries flourish best on high grounds, being therefore more abundant in the north and west than in the south and east of England: they are absent from the low-lying Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, but on the Surrey hills, where they are called ‘Hurts,’ cover the ground for miles.

The fruit is globular, with a flat top, about the size of a black currant. When eaten raw, they have a slightly acid flavour. When cooked, however, with sugar, they make an excellent preserve. Gerard tells us that ‘the people of Cheshire do eate the black whortles in creame and milke as in these southern parts we eate strawberries.’ On the Continent, they are often employed for colouring wine.

Stewed with a little sugar and lemon peel in an open tart, Bilberries make a very enjoyable dish. Before the War, immense quantities of them were imported annually from Holland, Germany and Scandinavia. They were used mainly by pastrycooks and restaurant-keepers.

Species:
Bilberries include several closely related species of the Vaccinium genus, including:

*Vaccinium myrtillus L. (bilberry)
*Vaccinium uliginosum L. (bog bilberry, bog blueberry, bog whortleberry, bog huckleberry, northern bilberry, ground hurts)
*Vaccinium caespitosum Michx. (dwarf bilberry)
*Vaccinium deliciosum Piper (cascade bilberry)
*Vaccinium membranaceum (mountain bilberry, black mountain huckleberry, black huckleberry, twin-leaved huckleberry)
*Vaccinium ovalifolium (oval-leafed blueberry, oval-leaved bilberry, mountain blueberry, high-bush blueberry).

Edible Uses:
Owing to its rich juice, the Bilberry can be used with the least quantity of sugar in making jam: half a pound of sugar to the pound of berries is sufficient if the preserve is to be eaten soon. The minuteness of the seeds makes them more suitable for jam than currants.

Recipe for Bilberry Jam—
Put 3 lb. of clean, fresh fruit in a preserving pan with 1 1/2 lb. of sugar and about 1 cupful of water and bring to the boil. Then boil rapidly for 40 minutes. Apple juice made from windfalls and peelings, instead of the water, improves this jam. To make apple juice, cover the apples with water, stew down, and strain the juice through thick muslin. Blackberries may also be added to this mixture.

If the jam is to be kept long it must be bottled hot in screw-top jars, or, if tied down in the ordinary way, more sugar must be added.

Bilberry juice yields a clear, dark-blue or purple dye that has been much used in the dyeing of wool and the picking of berries for this purpose, as well as for food, constitutes a summer industry in the ‘Hurts’ districts. Owing to the shortage of the aniline dyestuffs formerly imported from Germany, Bilberries were eagerly bought up at high prices by dye manufacturers during the War, so that in 1917 and 1918 a large proportion of the Bilberry crop was not available for jam-making, as the dyers were scouring the country for the little blue-black berries.

Wild and cultivated harvesting:-
Bilberries are found in very acidic, nutrient-poor soils throughout the temperate and subarctic regions of the world. They are closely related to North American wild and cultivated blueberries and huckleberries in the genus Vaccinium. One characteristic of bilberries is that they produce single or paired berries on the bush instead of clusters, as the blueberry does.

The fruit is smaller than that of the blueberry but with a fuller taste. Bilberries are darker in colour, and usually appear near black with a slight shade of purple. While the blueberry’s fruit pulp is light green, the bilberry’s is red or purple, heavily staining the fingers and lips of consumers eating the raw fruit. The red juice is used by European dentists to show children how to brush their teeth correctly, as any improperly brushed areas will be heavily stained.

Bilberries are extremely difficult to grow and are thus seldom cultivated. Fruits are mostly collected from wild plants growing on publicly accessible lands, notably Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, parts of England, Alpine countries, Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and northern parts of Turkey and Russia. Note that in Austria, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, it is an everyman’s right to collect bilberries, irrespective of land ownership, with the exception of private gardens. Bilberries can be picked by a berry-picking rake like lingonberries, but are more susceptible to damage. Bilberries are softer and juicier than blueberries, making them difficult to transport. Because of these factors, the bilberry is only available fresh in gourmet stores, where they can cost up to 25 Euro per pound. Frozen bilberries however are available all year round in most of Europe.

In Finland, bilberries are collected from forests. They are eaten fresh or can be made in different jams, and dishes. The famous one is Mustikkapiirakka, bilberry pie

In Ireland, the fruit is known as fraughan, from the Irish fraochán, and is traditionally gathered on the last Sunday in July, known as Fraughan Sunday.

Bilberries were also collected at Lughnassadh in August, the first traditional harvest festival of the year, as celebrated by Gaelic people. The crop of bilberries was said to indicate how well the rest of the crops would fare in their harvests later in the year.

The fruits can be eaten fresh or made into jams, fools, juices or pies. In France and in Italy, they are used as a base for liqueurs and are a popular flavoring for sorbets and other desserts. In Brittany, they are often used as a flavoring for crêpes, and in the Vosges and the Massif Central bilberry tart (tarte aux myrtilles) is a traditional dessert.

Constituents:
Quinic acid is found in the leaves, and a little tannin. Triturated with water they yield a liquid which, filtered and assayed with sulphate of iron, becomes a beautiful green, first of all transparent, then giving a green precipitate.

The fruits contain sugar, etc. Bilberries contains approximately 0.5% by volume of the anthocyanosides, they also contain the vitamins B1 and C, pro-vitamin A, at least 7% by volume is composed of tannins, and assorted plant acids are also seen. The tonic effect of the anthocyanosides on the blood vessels is the beneficial to the human body.

Medicinal Uses:
Often associated with improvement of night vision, bilberries are mentioned in a popular story of World War II RAF pilots consuming bilberry jam to sharpen vision for night missions. However, a recent study by the U.S. Navy found no such effect and origins of the RAF story cannot be found.

Although the effect of bilberry on night vision is controversial, laboratory studies have provided preliminary evidence that bilberry consumption may inhibit or reverse eye disorders such as macular degeneration. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial on 50 patients suffering from senile cataract showed that a combination of bilberry extract and vitamin E administered for 4 months was able to stop lens opacity progress in 97% of the cataracts.

As a deep purple fruit, bilberries contain high levels of anthocyanin pigments, which have been linked experimentally to lowered risk for several diseases, such as those of the heart and cardiovascular system, eyes, diabetes and cancer.

In folk medicine, bilberry leaves were used to treat gastrointestinal ailments, applied topically, or made into infusions. Bilberries are also used as a tonic to prevent some infections and skin diseases.

•Historically, bilberry fruit was used to treat diarrhea, scurvy, and other conditions.

•Today, the fruit is used to treat diarrhea, menstrual cramps, eye problems, varicose veins, venous insufficiency (a condition in which the veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs to the heart), and other circulatory problems.

•Bilberry leaf is used for entirely different conditions, including diabetes.

The leaves can be used in the same way as those of UvaUrsi. The fruits are astringent, and are especially valuable in diarrhoea and dysentery, in the form of syrup. The ancients used them largely, and Dioscorides spoke highly of them. They are also used for discharges, and as antigalactagogues. A decoction of the leaves or bark of the root may be used as a local application to ulcers, and in ulceration of the mouth and throat.

The fruit is helpful in scurvy and urinary complaints, and when bruised with the roots and steeped in gin has diuretic properties valuable in dropsy and gravel. A tea made of the leaves is also a remedy for diabetes if taken for a prolonged period.
You may click to learn more about medical benefit of bilberries :

Other Uses …..Dye; Ink…….A green dye is obtained from the leaves and the fruit and is used to colour fabrics. A blue or black dye is obtained from the fruit. This can be used as an ink.
Known Hazards: High tannin content may cause digestive disorders – avoid prolonged use or high doses. Avoid in pregnancy. Avoid if on anticoagulant therapy (e.g. warfarin)

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.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_bilberry.htm
http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/bilber37.html
http://www.elements4health.com/bilberry-health-benefits.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Vaccinium+myrtillus

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Featured Pediatric

Gurgling Tots Trained in Sign Language

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Babies who have mastered gurgling, but can’t quite handle words yet can learn a baby version of sign language to tell mom and dad whether they want to eat, play or be lulled into sweet sleep.

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“Przepraszam” (excuse me), “sprzatamy” (cleaning up) ou “kurczaczek” (chick), are practical words to know but impossible to pronounce for one-year-olds, even if they are Polish.

“Babies aren’t ready to speak. In order to utter words you need teeth,” Danuta Mikulska, 31, a linguist specializing in sign language said.

“Their muscles and vocal chords are insufficiently developed, but they are able to make hand gestures.”
At nine months, Mateusz has already mastered a few signs: suck, balloon and music, light. “He understands twenty-or-so more,” says his mum, Agnieszka Nec, 25.

When eight-month-old Adam wants something he spells it out with his hands. “It’s with gestures that he tells me he wants a song or to be rocked when he’s going to sleep,” says mom, Karolina Olszewska, a journalist.

Along with eight other babies and their mums, none of whom have hearing problems; Mateusz and Adam learn sign language at Warsaw‘s Klub Koko, created by three women, academics and artists: Danuta Mikulska, Magdalena Jakubowska and Joanna Kolodziejska. During a series of hour-long lessons, instructors create a world of play for babies and moms focused on songs, poems and exercises in which words are systematically reinforced by their equivalent hand signs.

According to Klub Koko, the method first created in the US in the 1980s reinforces contacts between mother and child, stimulates the intellectual and sensory-motor development of babies as well as their imagination, memory and concentration.

It reduces tears, tantrums and frustration in tots, who, try as they might, cannot get their message across verbally, instructors say. It also helps toddlers master the ability to speak, read, write and count more rapidly.

Sources: The Times Of India