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Herbs & Plants

Saponaria officinalis

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Botanical Name : Saponaria officinalis
Family:Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Saponaria
Species:S. officinalis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Soaproot. Bouncing Bet. Latherwort. Fuller’s Herb. Bruisewort. Crow Soap. Sweet Betty. Wild Sweet William.

Common Names: common soapwort, bouncing-bet, crow soap, wild sweet William, and soapweed,

Habitat: Saponaria officinalis is native to  Central and Southern Europe. Grows well in English gardens. It grows in cool places at low or moderate elevations under hedgerows and along the shoulders of roadways.

Description:
Saponaria officinalis is a stout herbaceous perennial plant with a stem growing in the writer’s garden to 4 or 5 feet high. Leaves lanceolate, slightly elliptical, acute, smooth, 2 or 3 inches long and 1/3 inch wide. Large pink flowers, often double in paniculate fascicles; calyx cylindrical, slightly downy; five petals, unguiculate; top of petals linear, ten stamens, two styles; capsule oblong, one-celled, flowering from July till September and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera.It is noted for attracting wildlife. . No odour, with a bitter and slightly sweet taste, followed by a persistent pungency and a numbing sensation in the mouth.

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Cultivation:
Succeeds in any moderately fertile well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Prefers a neutral to alkaline soil. Hardy to about -20°c. A very ornamental plant, soapwort is often grown in the herb garden and is sometimes cultivated for the soap that can be obtained from the roots. There are some named forms, usually with double flowers, that have been selected for their ornamental value. Plants can be very invasive when grown in good conditions. Soapwort should not be grown next to a pond with amphibians or fish in it since if the plant trails into the water it can cause poisoning. The flowers are slightly scented with a sweet aroma that has an undertone of clove. Hybridizes with other members of this genus. A good moth plant.

Propagation:
Seed – best if given a short cold stratification. Sow autumn or late winter in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates within 4 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, it can be successfully done at any time in the growing season if the plants are kept moist until they are re-established. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used: Dried root and leaves.

Constituents:  Constituents of the root, Saponin, also extractive, resin, gum, woody fibre, mucilage, etc.

Soapwort root dried in commerce is found in pieces 10 and 12 inches long, 1/12 inch thick, cylindrical, longitudinally wrinkled, outside light brown, inside whitish with a thick bark. Contains number of small white crystals and a pale yellow wood.

Alterative;  Antipruritic;  Antirheumatic;  Antiscrophulatic;  Cholagogue;  Cytotoxic;  Depurative;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Expectorant;  Purgative;
Skin;  Sternutatory;  Tonic.

Soapwort’s main medicinal use is as an expectorant. Its strongly irritant action within the gut is thought to stimulate the cough reflex and increase the production of a more fluid mucus within the respiratory passages. The whole plant, but especially the root, is alterative, antiscrophulatic, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, mildly diuretic, expectorant, purgative, sternutatory and tonic. A decoction of the whole plant can be applied externally to treat itchy skin. The plant has proved of use in the treatment of jaundice and other visceral obstructions. but is rarely used internally in modern herbalism due to its irritant effect on the digestive system. When taken in excess, it destroys red blood cells and causes paralysis of the vasomotor centre. See also the notes above on toxicity. The root is harvested in the spring and can be dried for later use. One of the saponins in this plant is proving of interest in the treatment of cancer, it is cytotoxic to the Walker Carcinoma in vitro[218]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Saponaria officinalis Soapwort. Bouncingbet for coughs/bronchitis.

Other Uses:  Soap.

A soap can be obtained by boiling the whole plant (but especially the root) in water. It is a gentle effective cleaner, used especially on delicate fabrics that can be harmed by modern synthetic soaps (it has been used to clean the Bayeaux tapestry). It effects a lustre in the fabric. The best soap is obtained by infusing the plant in warm water. The roots can be dried and stored for later use. The plant is sometimes recommended as a hair shampoo, though it can cause eye irritations. The plant spreads vigorously and can be used as a ground cover when planted about 1 metre apart each way.

Known Hazards:  The plant contains saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. 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. Do not use for more than 2 weeks. Avoid during pregnancy.

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=Saponaria+officinalis
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/soawor61.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Soapwort

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Herbs & Plants

Quillaja saponaria

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Botanical Name : Quillaja saponaria
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Fabales
Family: Quillajaceae
Genus:     Quillaja
Species: Q. saponaria

Synonyms: Soap Bark. Panama Bark. Cullay.

Common Names :Soap bark tree or Soapbark

Habitat: Quillaja saponaria IS native to Peru and Chile, and cultivated in Northern Hindustan.It has been introduced as an ornamental in California. Trees have been acclimatized in Spain but are rarely cultivated there. This tree occurs at altitudes to 2000 metres. The species is drought resistant, and tolerates about -12°C (10°F) in its natural habitat.

Description:
Quillaja saponaria is an evergreen tree  50 to 60 feet high. Leaves smooth, shiny, short-stalked, oval, and usually terminal white flowers, solitary, or three to five on a stalk. The tree has thick, dark bark, smooth, leathery, shiny, oval evergreen leaves 3–5 cm long, white flowers 15 mm diameter borne in dense corymbs, and a dry fruit with five follicles each containing 10-20 seeds. Bark thick, dark coloured, and very tough. In commerce it is found in large flat pieces 1/5 inch thick, outer surface brownish-white, with small patches of brownish cork attached, otherwise smooth; inner surface whitish and smooth, fracture splintery, chequered with pale-brown vast fibres, embedded with white tissue; it is inodorous, very acrid and astringent.
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Cultivation:  
Requires a well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position. Plants are hardy to about -12°c in their natural range in South America but they usually require greenhouse protection in Britain. They can succeed outdoors in the milder areas of this country, often as small shrubs but making a tree in the very mildest areas. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts, so it is best to site the plant in a position sheltered from the early morning sun. This species is cultivated for the saponins in its bark in some warm temperate areas of the world.

Propagation:    
Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant out in early summer and give some protection from the cold for at least their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of fully ripe wood of the current year’s growth, November in a frame

Medicinal Uses:

Part Used:  Dried inner bark.

Constituents: Its chief constituent is saponin, which is a mixture of two glucosides, guillaic acid and guillaia-sapotoxin. The latter is very poisonous and possesses marked foam-producing properties. Calcium oxalate is also present in the bark. The drug also contains cane-sugar and a non-toxic modification of guillaic acid. As the active principles of Soap Bark are the same as those of Senega, Quillaia has been suggested as a cheap substitute for Sarsaparilla.

Antiseborrheic;  Expectorant;  Skin;  Stimulant.

Soap bark tree has a long history of medicinal use with the Andean people who used it especially as a treatment for various chest problems. The saponin content of the bark helps to stimulate the production of a more fluid mucous in the airways, thus facilitating the removal of phlegm through coughing. The tree is useful for treating any condition featuring congested catarrh within the chest, but it should not be used for dry irritable coughs. The inner bark contains about 9% of complex saponins, known collectively as ‘quillajasaponin’. It also contains calcium oxalate and tannin. It has been used internally as a stimulating expectorant, though it can cause irritation and inflammation of the digestive tract and so is no longer considered safe. The internal use of this plant needs to be carefully overseen by a professional practitioner. Sap bark tree is used as a source of compounds for the pharmaceutical industry. It is still used externally as a cutaneous stimulant in the treatment of skin ulcers and eruptions, dandruff etc.

Other Uses:
The fresh or dried inner bark is a soap substitute. It contains about 9% saponins and is a very gentle and effective cleaner. It is used for cleaning textiles and the skin. It can also be used as a hair tonic. The saponins are also used in anti-dandruff shampoos and exfoliant cleansers. They are used as a foaming agent in fire extinguishers. The bark also contains considerable quantities of carbonate of lime.

Known Hazards:  The plant is toxic if taken internally, tending to dissolve the blood corpuscles. The bark, and possibly other parts of the plant, contains saponins. Although toxic, saponins are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm, they are also destroyed by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. 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.

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/Quillaja_saponaria
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Quillaja+saponaria
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/soaptr60.html

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Herbs & Plants

Sanicula Europaea

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Botanical Name : Sanicula Europaea
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Sanicula
Species: S. europaea
Kingdom: Plantae

Synonyms: Poolroot. Self-Heal.

Common Names :Sanicle, Wood sanicle

Habitat:  Wood Sanicle  is most abundant in the middle and north of Europe and is found on the mountains of tropical Africa. It is the only representative in this country of the genus Sanicula, to which very few species are assigned. It grows  in woods and thickets and damp moist places, and generally distributel over the British Isles.It is widespread in shady places woodland across Europe.

Description:
Wood Sanicle is an umbelliferous perennial plant.The root-stock (the short underground stem from which each year’s new stalks grow upward) is shortly creeping and fibrous, with a few thick, brownish scales at the top, the remains of decayed leafstalks. The stem, erect, 8 inches to 2 feet high, is simple, often leafless or with a single leaf. The radical leaves are on stalks 2 to 8 inches long, the leaves themselves palmately three to five partite and divided nearly to the base of the leaf, the lobes, or divisions, often three-cleft again. The leaves are heartshaped at the base near the stalk and toothed like a saw.

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The flowers are in umbels. Each little group, or umbellule, forms a hemispherical head. The little stalks, each bearing a head of flowers, join together at one spot again to form what is termed a compound or general umbel, as in most plants of this order. In the case of the Sanicle, the umbel is said to be irregular, as the converging stalks forming these rays are often divided into two or three prongs. The flowers are pinkish-white, 1/16 inch across, the outer flowers of the umbellules being without stamens; the inner, without pistils. They blossom in May and June and are succeeded in August by roundish seeds, which are covered with prickles, causing them to adhere to everything they touch.

The plant is glabrous and bright green, the leaves paler beneath and the stems often reddish.

The origin of the name of this genus is the Latin word sano (I heal or cure), in reference to the medicinal virtues.

 Cultivation:   
Succeeds in any moist moderately fertile well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Strongly dislikes poor thin soils. Prefers a loamy or calcareous soil. The seeds are covered with little prickles, enabling them to become attached to anything that brushes against them and thus distributing the seed.

Propagation           
Stratification improves the germination rate. If possible sow the seed in the autumn, sow stored seed as early in the year as possible. It is best to sow the seed in situ in a woodland soil under trees If seed is in short supply it is probably wise to sow it in pots of woodland soil in a shady place in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a shady position in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Edible Uses:  Leaves and young shoots – cooked. They contain saponins so should not be eaten in large quantities. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails.

Medicinal Uses:
Part Used:  The whole herb, collected in June and dried. Gather the herb only on a fine day, in the morning, when the sun has dried off the dew.

Constituents:  As yet no analysis has been made of this plant, but evidence of tannin in its several parts is afforded by the effects produced by the plant.

In taste it is at first very bitter and astringent, afterwards acrid, and probably partakes of the poisonous acridity which is so frequent in the Umbelliferae. In the fresh leaves, the taste is very slight, but considerable in the dry leaves, and in the extract made from them.

Astringent, alterative. Sanicle is usually given in combination with other herbs in the treatment ofblood disorders, for which it is in high esteem.

As an internal remedy, it is of great benefit in all chest and lung complaints, chronic coughs and catarrhal affections, inflammation of the bronchii, spitting of blood, and all affections of the pulmonary organs.

As an alterative, it has a good reputation, and it is useful in leucorrhoea, dysentery, diarrhoea, etc.

It effectually cleanses the system of morbid secretions and leaves the blood healthier and in better condition. The infusion of 1 OZ. to a pint of boiling water is taken in wineglassful doses.

Sanicle is used as a gargle in sore throat, quinsy, and whenever an astringent gargle is required. Culpepper mentions the use of Sanicle for disease of the lungs and throat, and recommends the gargle being made from a decoction of the leaves and root in water, a little honey being added.

In scald-head of children and all cases of rashes, the decoction or infusion forms an admirable external remedy.

Sanicle is popularly employed in France and Germany as a remedy for profuse bleeding from the lungs, bowels, and other internal organs and for checking dysentery, the fresh juice being given in tablespoonful doses.

Known Hazards:  The leaves contain saponins. Although toxic, saponins are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm, they are also destroyed by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. 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.

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/s/sanwoo14.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanicula_europaea
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Sanicula+europaea

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Herbs & Plants

Chenopodium vulvaria

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Botanical Name : Chenopodium vulvaria
Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus:  Chenopodium
Species: C. vulvaria
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Stinking Motherwort. Wild Arrach.  Netchweed. Goat’s Arrach. Stinking Arrach. Stinking Goosefoot.(as it is easily identified by its rotten-fish smell that is due to its trimethylamine content.)

Common Names :Wild arrach, Arrachs or Oraches,Wild arrach (Chenopodium vulvaria), or stinking goosefoot,

Habitat: Chenopodium vulvaria is  native distribution is practically pan-European and extends eastward to Pakistan. However, it has also naturalised in Australia, California and parts of South America.It is often found on roadsides and dry waste ground near houses, from Edinburgh southward.
Description:
Its stem is not erect, but partly Iying, branched from the base, the opposite branches spreading widely, a foot or more in length.
The stalked leaves are oval, wedge-shaped at the base, about 1/2 inch long, the margins entire.

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The small, insignificant green flowers are borne in spikes from the axils of the leaves and consist of five sepals, five stamens and a pistil with two styles. There are no petals and the flowers are wind-fertilized. They are in bloom from August to October.

The whole plant is covered with a white, greasy mealiness, giving it a grey-green appearance which when touched, gives out a very objectionable and enduring odour, like that of stale salt fish, and accounts for its common popular name: Stinking Goosefoot.

Edible Uses:
Leaves and flower buds – cooked and used like spinach. The raw leaves should only be eaten in small quantities, see the notes above on toxicity. Although edible, the smell of the leaves would discourage most people from using this plant. Seed – cooked. Ground into a powder, mixed with wheat or other cereals and used in making bread etc. 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.

 

Medicinal Uses:
Part Used: Herb.

Constituents: Chemical analysis has proved Trimethylamine to be a constituent, together with Osmazome and Nitrate of Potash.The plant gives off free Ammonia.

The name of ‘Stinking Motherwort’ refers to the use of its leaves in hysteria and nervous troubles connected with women’s ailments: it has emmenagogue and anti-spasmodic properties. In former days, it was supposed even to cure barrenness and in certain cases, the mere smelling of its foetid odour was held to afford relief.

An infusion of 1 OZ. of the dried herb in a pint of boiling water is taken three or four times daily in wineglassful doses as a remedy for menstrual obstructions. It is also sometimes used as a fomentation and injection, but is falling out of use, no doubt on account of its unpleasant odour and taste.

The infusion has been employed in nervous debility and also for colic.

Known Hazards:
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 plants will reduce their 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

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/arrac059.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chenopodium_vulvaria
http://www.wellness.com/reference/herb/wild-arrach-chenopodium-vulvaria
http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/c/chenopodium-vulvaria=stinking-goosefoot.php

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Herbs & Plants

Grape Hyacinth

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Botanical Name : Muscari racemosum
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Scilloideae
Genus: Muscari
Species: M. racemosum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales

Synonym: Starch Hyacinth.Muscari atlanticum – Boiss.&Reut.
Muscari racemosum – Lam.&DC.

Common Name :Grape Hyacinth

Habitat :Grape Hyacinth is native to   Mediterranean region, north to Britain, Belgium, Germany and S. Russia.It grows on Dry grassland in sandy soils

Description:
Grape Hyacinth  is a perennial bulbous and a robust plant, with large bulbs which have thick fleshy roots. Each bulb produces several greyish-green leaves. Flowers are borne in a spike or raceme. Individual flowers are 7–9 mm long, grey-white when fully open, sometimes with a bluish tone; they have a distinct scent of musk. This is the species from which the genus gets its name (Muscari is from the Greek muschos, meaning musk).
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It is hardy to zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife.

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. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

Cultivation:
Prefers a rich open well-drained soil and a sunny position. Easily grown in any well-drained soil. Grows very well in short grass, increasing freely and it can become invasive. A very variable plant. The flowers secrete lots of nectar and are a valuable bee plant in the spring. The flowers are said to have a smell like wet starch whilst another report says that they are deliciously plum-scented.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as ripe in a greenhouse. The seed can also be sown in early spring in a greenhouse. A good proportion of the seed usually germinates within 2 – 3 months. Sow the seed thinly so that the seedlings can be left undisturbed in the pot for their first year of growth. Give them an occasional liquid feed in the growing season to ensure they do not become nutrient deficient. When the plants become dormant in late summer, pot up the small bulbs placing 2 – 3 bulbs in each pot. Grow them on for another one or two years in the greenhouse before planting them out when they are dormant in late summer. Division of offsets in July/August after the leaves die down. It can be done every other year if a quick increase is required[1]. Larger bulbs can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, but it is best to pot up the smaller bulbs and grow them on in a cold frame for a year before planting them out when they are dormant in late summer.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers; Root.

Bulb are sometimes  cooked  and eaten.

Medicinal Uses:
The American species Muscari comosum (Mill.) (Feather Hyacinth), or Purse Tassel, has been used, as well as other species of Muscari, for its diuretic and stimulant properties. Comisic acid has been extracted from the bulb, and apparently acts like Saponin.

The innumerable varieties of Garden Hyacinth are derived from an Eastern plant, Hyacinthus orientalis.

Known Hazards:
The bulb is poisonous. It contains a substance called comisic acid, which is said to act like saponin. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. 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.

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?Muscari+neglectum
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/hyagra42.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscari_racemosum

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