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Herbs & Plants

Kutuka or Kutki

Botanical Name: Picrorhiza kurroa
Family: Scrofulariaceae
Synonyms: Black hellebore, black kutki, kali, kali kutki, kali-kutki, karru, katki, katukurogani, kaur, kuru, kuruwa, kutaki, kutki, picroliv, Picrorhiza kurroa, Picrorhiza kurroa extract, Picrorhiza kurroa Royle, Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth., Picrorhiza lindleyana Steud., Picrorrhiza kurroa,
Common name: Katuka
English Name: Gentian
Genus: Picrorhiza

Parts Used: Root(exceptionally bitter)

Tradition: Used in Ayurvedic medicine

Habitat: E. Asia – Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim.  Found in the higher mountain elevations at 2700 – 3600 metres

Description:
Kutuka is a Perennial harb.
It is hardy to zone 0. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)  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) or no shade. It requires moist soil.
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English: Bamboo with rhizome Français : Pousse...
English: Bamboo with rhizome Français : Pousses de bambou avec rhizome apparent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cultivation details:
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain. However, judging by its native range, it is likely to succeed outdoors at least in the milder areas of the country.

Propagation:
Seed – we have no information on this species. It is likely that the best way of propagating from seed is to sow it as soon as it is ripe, preferably in a cold frame or greenhouse. If this is not possible, sow the seed in late winter or early spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out in the summer. Division of the rhizome in the autumn or spring.

Constituents:
*iridoid glycosides such as
*picrosides I, II, III
*kutkoside
*cucurbitacin glycosides (highly oxygenated triterpenes)
*apocycynin
*androsin

Medicinal Uses:
Antibacterial; Antiinflammatory; Antiperiodic; Bitter; Cathartic; Laxative; Stomachic; Tonic.

Kuru has a long history of medicinal use, especially in India but also in China where it is known as hu huang lian . The dried rhizome is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiperiodic, cathartic (in large doses), cholagogue, laxative (in smaller doses), stomachic and bitter tonic. The root contains a number of very bitter glucosides including kutkin and picrorhizin. It also contains apocynin, which is powerfully anti-inflammatory and reduces platelet aggregation. In trials, the rhizome was shown to boost the immune system and to have a specific action against the parasie Leishmania donovani, which causes the tropical parasitic disease called leishmaniasis. The rhizome has a very beneficial effect upon the liver and digestive system and is used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions including fevers, constipation, dyspepsia and jaundice. It is also often used in the treatment of scorpion stings and snake bites. There is also some evidence that the rhizome can be of help in the treatment of bronchial asthma and a number of auto-immune diseases such as psoriasis and vitiligo, whilst it has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduce coagulation time. The rhizome is gathered in the autumn and dried for later use.

Immune System Conditions
*acute and chronic infections
*treatment for allergies
*treatment for autoimmune disorders
*weakened immunity

Liver Conditions
*liver infections
*toxic liver damage

Respiratory Tract Conditions
asthma
Dosage: 500mg – 2g/day of the dried root    1-4mL/day of 1:2 extract

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.globalherbalsupplies.com/herb_information/picrorrhiza_kurroa.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Picrorhiza+kurroa
http://www.wellness.com/reference/herb/katuka-picrorhiza-kurroa/

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Herbs & Plants

Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)

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Botanical Name:Pulmonaria officinal
Family:  Boraginaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Genus: Pulmonaria
Species: P. officinalis

Synonyms :  P. maculosa.

Common Names: Lungwort,  Common lungwort,  Our Lady’s milk drops,  Jerusalem Sage, Jerusalem Cowslip (The plant is so called  lungwort  because the spotted leaves resemble lung tissue.)

Habitat:Pulmonaria officinal isis native to locations throughout Europe and the Caucasus.Habitats range from mountains and sub-alpine woodland to the banks of streams .

Description:
Pulmonaria officinalis is an evergreen perennial species of lungwort. It is a rhizomatous plant in the Borage family. In spring, it produces small bunches of pink flowers which turn to blue-purple. The plant has been cultivated for centuries as a medicinal herb, the ovate spotted leaves held to be representative of diseased lungs, following the Doctrine of Signatures.
This attractive plant is prized as a groundcover both for its striking, white-spotted green foliage and it’s pretty, tubular flowers that are pink when they first open, then fade to shades of blue and purple. It grows to a height of only 9 inches. This is a great choice for shady spots in zones 3-9 except in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

CLICK TO SEE THE PICTURES
This is a genus of about 18 species, from Europe and Asia, of deciduous or evergreen, low-growing perennials with spreading rhizomes.

Pulmonarias are grown for their early flowers and attractively spotted leaves. They are good ground cover for a shady area and can be grown in woodland, the front of a shrub border or in a wild garden.

The leaves are simple, basal, ovate to elliptic or oblong, hairy and often spotted with white or silver.

The few stem leaves are smaller and stalkless. The leaves that develop after flowering have the best markings.

Flowers are borne in terminal cymes and may be pink, red, violet, purple, blue or white. They are funnel-shaped, 5-10mm (0.25 – 0.5in) across with five petals.

The leaves are simple, basal, ovate to elliptic or oblong, hairy and often spotted with white or silver.

The few stem leaves are smaller and stalkless. The leaves that develop after flowering have the best markings.

Flowers are borne in terminal cymes and may be pink, red, violet, purple, blue or white. They are funnel-shaped, 5-10mm (0.25 – 0.5in) across with five petals.

Cultivation:
Lungwort is a perennial herb which is propagated by root division in autumn or seed sown directly in spring. When dividing clumps, keep them well watered to encourage good root development before winter sets in. Plants requires a shady and reasonably moist environment and the soil should be rich in organic matter. Give it a little extra water during hot spells. In winter, cut back the flowering stems and mulch well. Divide clumps three or four years after planting. The soil can be acid or alkaline.

Grow in humus-rich, fertile, moist but not waterlogged soil in full or partial shade.

Remove old leaves after flowering and divide every three to five years.

Powdery mildew may be a problem in dry conditions and slugs and snails may damage new growth.

Propagation:
Sow seed in containers outdoors as soon as ripe. However, plants raised from seed of garden specimens often do not come true.Divide plants in autumn or after flowering or take root cuttings in mid-winter.

Harvesting
Harvest the whole plant in the middle of summer during the flowering period.

Medicinal Uses
Pulmonaria comes from the Latin pulmo, the lung. According to the Doctrine of Signatures, the plant was considered to be an effective remedy for diseases of the lung because the spotted leaves were supposed to resemble diseased lungs. However, the common name in some East European languages is derived from the word for honey, probably as an indication of the attraction of the flowers to bees.

For medicinal purposes, make an infusion or tincture of leaves that have been gathered during the flowering period.

*Lungwort is traditionally used bronchial complaints. But  there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of this plant.

*It has astringent properties and can be used to cleanse the digestive system, for diarreha, and for cystitis.

*It’s often used to strengthen the utereus during pregnancy and to facilitate childbirth.

*It makes a soothing gargle for hoarseness or sore throat.

*It helps to stop bleeding after passing kidney stones.
Other Uses: A tolerant and slow growing ground cover plant for open woodland and border edges. Plants should be spaced about 50cm apart each way.

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.gardenguides.com/plants/info/herbs/lungwort.asp
http://www.piam.com/mms_garden/plants.html
http://www.rhs.org.uk/WhatsOn/Gardens/wisley/archive/wisleypom04apr.asp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulmonaria_officinalis

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Herbs & Plants

Baptisia australis,(Blue False Indigo)

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Botanical Name:Baptisia australis
Family: Papilionaceae (pa-pil-ee-uh-NAY-see-ee) (Info)/Fabaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Genus: Baptisia
Species: australis
Common Name: Blue false indigo, Blue Wild Indigo
Habitat:  Baptisia australis is native to much of the central and eastern North America and is particularly common in the Midwest, but it has also been introduced well beyond its natural range. It grows in rich woods, thickets.

Description: Herbaceous Perennials. The plant may attain a height of 1.5 meteres (5 ft) and a width of 1 metre (3.2 ft), but most often it is encountered at about 1 metre tall (3.2 ft) with a 0.6 metre spread (2 ft). It is well known in gardens due to its attractive pea-like, deep blue flowers that emerge on spikes in the late spring and early summer. It requires little maintenance and is quite hardy. The seed pods are popular in flower arrangements, which also contribute to its popularity in cultivation. Several American Indians tribes made use of the plant for a variety of purposes. The Cherokees used it as a source of blue dye, a practice later copied by European settlers. They also would use the roots in teas as a purgative or to treat tooth aches and nausea, while the Osage made an eyewash with the plant.
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The name of the genus is derived from the Ancient Greek word bapto, meaning “to dip” or “immerse”, while the specific name australis is Latin for “southern”. Additional common names of this plant exist, such as Indigo Weed, Rattleweed, Rattlebush and Horse Fly Weed. The common name “blue false indigo” is derived from it being used as a substitute for the superior dye producing plant, namely Indigofera tinctoria. B. australis grows best in lime free, well-drained stony soil in full sun to part shade. Naturally it can be found growing wild at the borders of woods, along streams or in open meadows. It often has difficulting seeding itself in its native areas due to parasitic weevils that enter the seed pods, making the number of viable seeds very low.
…..click to see the picture
B. australis is an herbaceous perennial that reproduces both sexually and asexually by means of its spreading rhizomes. The plants are erect and emerge from the rhizomatic network. The roots themselves are branched and deep, which helps the plant withstand periods of drought. When dug up they are woody and black in colour and show tubercles, wart-like projections found on the roots. The plants branch extensively about halfway up. The stems are stour and glabrous, or hairless. If they are broken, a sap will be secreted that turns a dark blue upon contact to the air.

The trifoliate leaves are a grey-green in colour and are arranged alternately. The leaves are further divided into clover-like leaflets that are obovate in shape, or wider towards the apex. Flower spikes appear in June. Emerging at the pinnacle ar short, upright terminal racemes that have pea-like flowers that vary in colour from light blue to deep violet. The flowers, which bloom from April through August depending on the region, are bisexual and are roughly 2.5 cm long (1 inch). The fruit is a bluish black inflated and hardenend pod that ranges from 2.5 to 7.5 cm in length (1 to 3 inches) by 1.25 to 2.5 cm (0.5 to 1 inch). They are oblong in shape and are sharply tipped at the apex. At maturity they will contain many loose seeds within. The seeds are yellowish brown, kidney shaped and about 2 mm (0.08 inches) in size.The leaves emerge about one month before flowering and are shed approximately one month after the pods form. Once the seeds are fully mature, the stems turn a silverish grey and break off from the roots. The pods stay attached and are blown with the stems to another location.

Similar Species: There are many Baptisia species in North America but this is the only one with blue flowers.

Cultivation
B. australis is the most commonly cultivated species in its genus in North America, and it is also cultivated beyond its native continent in other areas such as Great Britain. It is considered a desirable plant in the garden due to its deep blue to violet spring flowers, the attractive light green compound leaves, and also for the somewhat unusual oblong fruits that emerge in the late summer. They grow to about 90 to 120 cm tall (3 to 4 feet) in height with a similar spread. Like other members of the genus, they have very deep taproots, which makes them quite difficult to move once planted.The plants thrive in full sun and require water only in times of low rainfall. One slightly negative feature it that the leaves tend to drop early in the fall, but this is often avoiding by cutting the dead stems as they die back. It is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8. It is commonly employed as a border plant in gardens. While there are no commonly available cultivars, several hybrids involving B. australis have been created, such as Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’, which is a cross with Baptisia alba. The variety Baptisia australis var. minor in also used occasionally in gardens. It is much shorter at only 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 feet) in height, but the flowers are equal in size.

Medical Uses: Native Americans used this plant to treat toothache. The Cherokee woul hold hot tea, root tea or beaten root on the painfull tooth. They used a poultice to treat inflammation. It seems contridictory but a hot tea was used as a purgative and a cold tea to prevent vomiting. Baptisia species are being investigated as an immune system stimulant.

American Indians used root tea as an emetic (to produce vomiting) and as a laxative. Root poultices were used to reduce inflammation, and held in the mouth against an aching tooth.

Baptisia has been used as an antiseptic, anti-catarrhal, febrifuge,and stimulant purgative. This plant is said to stimulate immune responses to infection, and is used for ear, nose and throat problems, laryngitis, tonsillitis, as a wash for mouth ulcers, and a douche for leucorrhea. Baptisia is considered toxic. Do not use this plant unless under the supervision of a trained qualified practitioner. It is not for long term use and not to be used if pregnant. The bark of the root is harvested in autumn. The leaves may be harvested anytime.

Native Americans used root tea of False blue indigo as an emetic and purgative. A cold tea was given to stop vomiting, a root poultice used as an anti-inflammatory, and bits of the root were held in the mouth to treat toothaches. Baptisia species are being investigated for use as a potential stimulant of the immune system. A decoction of stems has been used for pneumonia, tuberculosis and influenza, tips of stems combined with twigs of the Utah juniper, Juniperus osteosperma, have been used as a kidney medicine. Baptisia has also been used as a tea (tisane) for smallpox and externally as a cleansing wash. Trials using the extract of Baptisia to treat typhoid fever were made in the early 19th century. Current uses for this plant include: infection of upper respiratory tract, common cold, tonsillitis, stomatitis, inflammation of mucous membrane, fever, ointment for painless ulcers, inflamed nipples. Over-medicating will produce vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal complaints, and spasms due toquinolizidine alkaloid content.

The pods are utilised in dried arrangements. Wild blue indigo is said to repel flies when kept near farm animals. Hang a bunch of Baptisia off the tack of a working animal. The plant is also used in Witchcraft in spells or rituals of protection. Keep a leaf in your pocket or add to an amulet for protection

WARNING: some sources consider this species toxic.

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://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/18/
http://www.piam.com/mms_garden/plants.html
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?code=B660
http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/24570/
http://2bnthewild.com/plants/H352.htm
http://www.ct-botanical-society.org/galleries/baptisiaaust.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptisia_australis

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Herbs & Plants

The Sweet Flag

Botanical Name: Acorus calamus L. (Araceae)

Family: Acoraceae

Syn : Acorus griffithii Schott., A. belangeii Schott, A. casia Bertol.

Other Names: It is known by a variety of names, including cinnamon sedge, flagroot, gladdon, myrtle flag, myrtle grass, myrtle sedge, sweet cane, sweet myrtle, sweet root, sweet rush, and sweet sedge

English name: The sweet flag.

Sanskrit name: Vacha.

Vernacular names: Asm, Ben and Hin : Boch; Gui : Godavaj, Vekhand; Kan : Baje, Baje gida; Kon: Waikhand; Mal: Vayambu; Mar: Vekhand; Ori : Bacha; Pun: Bari, Boj, Warch; Tam: Vasamboo; Tel: Vasa.

Trade name: Boch.
Habitat :Throughout India; ascending the Himalaya up to 2000 m; Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.Acorus calamus is now found across Europe, in southern Russia, northern Asia Minor, southern Siberia, China, Japan, Burma, Sri Lanka, and northern USA.

Description:
Perennial, erect, aromatic herb, common on river banks and marshes, ascending to 3000 m; rhizome cylindrical or slightly compressed, about 2.5 cm in diameter, much-branched, externally light brown or pinkish brown but white and spongy within; leaves distichous, large, 1-2 m in length, base equitant, margin waved; spadix sessile, cylindric, densely flowered, not completely enclosed by spathe, spathe 15-75 cm in length, narrow, leaf-like; flowers small, bisexual; berries few-seeded; seeds oblong, albuminous.

CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

The morphological distinction between the Acorus species is made by the number of prominent leaf veins. Acorus calamus has a single prominent midvein and then on both sides slightly raised secondary veins (with a diameter less than half the midvein) and many, fine tertiary veins. This makes it clearly distinct from Acorus americanus.

The leaves are between 0.7 and 1.7 cm wide, with average of 1 cm. The sympodial leaf of Acorus calamus is somewhat shorter than the vegetative leaves. The margin is curly-edged or undulate. The spadix, at the time of expansion, can reach a length between 4.9 and 8.9 cm (longer than A. americanus). The flowers are longer too, between 3 and 4 mm. Acorus calamus is infertile and shows an abortive ovary with a shriveled appearance.

This perennial’s natural habitat is shallow water and it’s best grown in a pond, pool, or other damp setting.Sweet flag is propagated by rhizome division. This is best done in the spring and fall. Rhizomes should be lifted in the second or third year. If left longer they may become hollow. Harvest the leaves and hang to dry in the fall. The fragrance intensifies during the drying process.

Phenology: Flowering and Fruiting: July-August; fruiting very rare.

Ecology and cultivation: Probably introduced; found from the coast to 1200 m; often near village wells and along watercourses; confined to marshy areas; gregarious herb from a stout horizontal rhizome; wild and cultivated.

Chemical contents: Dry rhizome :1.5-3.5% of a yellow aromatic volatile oil-calamus oil; the oil contains β-asarone, small quantities of sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpenes alcohols; Rhizome: also contains choline (0.26%), flavone, acoradin, 2,4,5-tri-MeO­benzaldehyde, 2,5-di-MeO-benzoquinone, galangin, calameone, acolamone, isoacolamone, epoxyisoacoragermacrone; Aerial parts: lutcolin-6,8-c-diglucoside; chemical constituents vary in ecotypes and polyploides.Both triploid and tetraploid calamus contain asarone, but diploid does not contain any.

Medicinal Uses:
Traditional use: SANTAL: use the plant in the following ways: (i) they mix and grind black pepper, cloves, root of Carissa carandus lo along with little of the rootstock of A. calamus lo, then stir the same in pure mustard oil-the emulsion, thus prepared is anointed daily over the whole body of the patient suffering form epilepsy with foaming and groaning, as soon as the fit comes on; a few drops of this emulsion should be poured into the nose of the patient; (ii) for the treatment of indigestion, they take pills made by grinding 100 black peppers, little amount of ginger and the root of A. calamus together; (iii) also use in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, cold and cough, dry cough, epilepsy, haemopty­sis, indigestion, phthisis; BIRHOR : Rhizome in alopecia, Root as massage, in fever, hysteria, pain in neck, teething trouble of children, malaria and cancer.

AGNI PURANA : this plant is of great medicinal value; it recommends the following uses: (i) for treatment of epilepsy, this plant should be boiled with Costus speciosus, shankhapushpi, along with the juice of Bacopa monnieri ; the substance thus obtained should be administered to the patient; (ii) drinking the decoction of this plant, Piper peepuloides, Staphyles emodi Wall., and Cyperus parviflorus Heyne and pippalimula is good for the patient of rheumatic arthritis; (iii) the powder or decoction of this plant helps curing chronic enlargement of spleen; (iv) decoction of the plant is beneficial for the patient of dropsy; A YURVEDA: Rhizome: bitter, healing, emetic, laxative, diuretic, carminative; improves voice and appetite; good for oral diseases, abdominal pain, epilepsy, bronchitis, hysteria, loss of memory, rat bite and worms in ear.

SIDDHA SYSTEM: fresh root for bronchial asthma.

UNANI: an ingredient of the medicine called ‘Waje-Turki’; useful in flatulent colic, chronic dyspepsia, catarrhal, in burn wounds, carminative, anthelmintic and as bitter tonic.

Modern use: Rhizome: aromatic, bitter, carminative, emetic, stimulant, stomachic, useful in dyspepsia, colic, remittent fevers, nerve tonic, in bronchitis, dysentery, epilepsy and other mental ailments, glandular and abdominal tumours and in snake bite.The rhizome is used to alleviate stomach acidity.


Remark: Rhizomes are valued for indigenous medicine.

Culinary Uses:
Leaves can be used as a substitute for vanilla pods. Try leaving a few leaves in a jar of sugar for a few days for vanilla-flavored sugar. They can also be cut up and stored in dry foods to prevent infestation by weevils. Leaves and rhizomes are a nice addition to potpourri.

Click to see :Acorus calamus at Plants for a Future And Your Online Guide To Herbs

Click to Buy Plants Online

Adulterants: The powdered drug has been adulterated with siliceous earth, ground marsh mallow root and cereal flowers.

Regulations:
Calamus and products derived from calamus (such as its oil) were banned in 1968 as food additives and medicines by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

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.bsienvis.org/medi.htm#Acorus%20calamus
http://www.gardenguides.com/plants/info/herbs/sweetfla.asp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Flag