Herbs & Plants

Argemone mexicana

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Botanical Name :Argemone mexicana
Family: Papaveraceae
Genus: Argemone
Species: A. mexicana
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales

Synonyms:   A. ochroleuca

Common Names : Mexican poppy, Mexican prickly poppy, cardo or cardosanto, Prickly Poppy.   In Bengali it is called sheyal kanta

Habitat :  Argemone mexicana  is native to   South-western N. America. Naturalized in C. and S. Europe. It grows on the dry soils along roadsides and in waste places and fields.  


Argemone mexicana is a perennial plant, growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)The plant is self-fertile.
Argemone species such as Mexican poppies have a continuous display of yellow, white or red poppy like flowers, which are very fragrant, from late summer to early autumn. They are best grown in the mid section of borders as they have a very spiky foliage.

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Easily grown in a light soil in a sunny position. Does best in a poor well-drained soil. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. Usually grown as a hardy annual in Britain. It resents being transplanted and should be sown in situ.

Seed – sow April in situ[200]. The seed usually germinates in 3 – 4 weeks at 15°c

Chemical constituents:
The seeds contain 22–36% of a pale yellow non-edible oil, called argemone oil or katkar oil, which contains the toxic alkaloids sanguinarine and dihydrosanguinarine. Four quaternary isoquinoline alkaloids, dehydrocorydalmine, jatrorrhizine, columbamine, and oxyberberine, have been isolated from the whole plant of Argemone mexicana

Medicinal Uses:
The fresh latex of Mexican poppy contains protein-dissolving constituents, and is used to treat warts, cold sores, and blemishes on the lips. The whole plant acts as a mild painkiller.  An infusion of the seeds—in small quantities—is used in Cuba as a sedative for children suffering from asthma.  In greater quantities, the oil in the seeds is purgative.  The flowers are expectorant, and are good for treating coughs and other chest conditions.
The juice of the plant has a rubifacient and slightly caustic effect; used straight for warts, diluted for skin ulcerations, externally.  The fresh juice, greatly diluted, has a long traditional history as a treatment for opacities of the cornea.  The preserved juice, with three or four parts water, can be used for heat rash, hives, and jock itch.  One-half teaspoon in water in the morning for a few days will lessen the irritability of urethra and prostate inflammations.  The whole plant can be boiled into a strong tea and used for bathing sunburned and abraded areas for relief of pain. The dried plant is a feeble opiate and helps to reduce pain and bring sleep, a rounded tablespoon in t4ea.  The seeds are a strong cathartic, a teaspoon or two crushed in water and drunk. They have somewhat of a sedative and narcotic effect when eaten and have traditionally been smoked alone or with tobacco.

The Seri of Sonora, Mexico use the entire plant both fresh and dried. An infusion is made to relieve kidney pain, to help expel a torn placenta, and in general to help cleanse the body after parturition.

When the Spanish arrived in Sonora they added this plant to their pharmacopia and called it cardosanto, which should not be mistranslated to blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus). Use in Hispanic cultures includes as a sedative and analgesiac tea, including for use to help alleviate migrane headaches. The seeds are taken as a laxative.

The seed-pods secrete a pale-yellow latex substance when cut open. This argemone resin contains berberine and protopine, and is used medicinally as a sedative.[citation needed]

Argemone mexicana is used by traditional healers in Mali to treat malaria.

Katkar oil poisoning causes epidemic dropsy, with symptoms including extreme swelling, particularly of the legs.

Other Uses :
Essential; Oil.

A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed, used for lighting, soap etc. A medicinal fixed oil is obtained from the seed.

Known Hazards :  All parts of the plant, including the seed, contain toxic alkaloids

Toxin rendering:
The seeds resemble the seeds of Brassica nigra (mustard). As a result, mustard can be adulterated by argemone seeds, rendering it poisonous. Several significant instances of katkar poisoning have been reported in India, Fiji, South Africa and other countries. The last major outbreak in India occurred in 1998. 1% adulteration of mustard oil by argemone oil has been shown to cause clinical disease

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

Elephant Tree

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Botanical Name: Bursera microphylla
Family: Burseraceae
Genus: Bursera
Species: B. microphylla
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales

Common Name : Elephant Tree

Habitat: This tree is native to Northern Mexico, in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Sonora and Zacatecas; and the Southwestern United States, in Southern California and Arizona); especially desert ecoregions.

Bursera microphylla is a shrub or small tree, to 16 feet, widespreading, with a very short, thick, trunk. and its bark is light gray to white, with younger branches having a reddish color. The light foliage is made up of long, straight, flat, legume-like leaves which are composed of paired leaflets. It flowers in rounded yellow buds which open into small, star-shaped white or cream flowers. The fruit is a drupe containing a yellow stone.

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Leaf: Alternate, pinnate, drought deciduous, 11-21 ovate to lanceolate, entire, 1/4 inch long leaflets per leaf, 1 to 1 1/2 inches overall, with a camphor-like odor.
Flower: Small, creamy white, borne on long stalks, usually clustered in 3’s, midsummer.
Fruit: Reddish brown, maturing late fall, 1/3 inch long, splitting into 3 pieces at maturity.
Twig: Resinous and stout, reddish brown.
Bark: Tight and smooth, very attractive, outer layer pale creamy white to gray-brown, peeling to reveal gray-green (photosynthetic), innermost bark reddish, spouting resin when cut.

This mysterious tree of the desert can readily attain a height of six meters in the southwestern USA, with its thick tortuous smooth trunks arrayed in a multifurcate branching habit; moreover, a mature specimen may reach six to seven meters in lateral spread with a characteristic open crown. In some parts of Mexico the height may reach as much as 15 meters with correspondingly greater spread. Young trees have a light reddish trunk, but mature trees have a characteristic white peeling bark. Glabrous leaves manifest an aroma of camphor, and are pinnately compound in a planar geometry with length of two to eight centimeters; the paired leaflets may number anywhere from seven to 33, with the odd terminal leaflet being lone

The drupe type leathery fruits are oval in shaped and tri-valved, with the stone being yellow. Stamens number from six to ten (Jepson) Flower buds are yellow, while the opened cream to white star shaped flower is five petalled with minute green five millimeter sepals and petals measuring four millimeters; blooming time is typically in June and July. Diagnostic features differentiating this plant from its genus member B. fagaroides include the notably longer (up to four cm) and more acute leaflets of the latter.

Medicinal Uses:
The Cahuilla Indian people of the Colorado Desert region of California, according to legend, used the red sap of the Elephant Tree as a panacea medicine.

The bark is flaky and papery like a birch tree and can carry a red hue with age. The leaves give off a camphor smell when crushed. Native Americans considered it a valuable tree with healing powers, probably due to the camphor oils it contains.

The Cahuilla Indians extracted the sap to be used as a generalized cure for a gamut of illnesses. (Bean) In present day the resin is dried and prepared as a substance similar to myrrh, mirroring the use of its Asian family member tree. In Sonora tannin has been historically extracted from the bark for export; (Kearney) in the same Mexican state the gum has been used to treat venereal disease. The copal form resin of intermediate polymerization has been harvested from several Mexican regions historically for manufacture of cement and varnish, and has also been used in medicinal treatment for scorpion stings; there is data to suggest B. fagaroides may have been more common for the latter uses, as well as incense burned in Aztec and Mayan temples in prehistorical times.

The resin was an Aztec remedy.  In the 16th century, Fray Bernardino de Sahagun wrote that a little ground copal, the size of a small fingernail, added to water and drunk only7 once a day on an empty stomach would cure diarrhea.  The resin, bark and leaves are steeped in tequila or grain alcohol to make a tincture that is applied to gum sores, cold sores, and abscessed teeth.  The dried stems and leaves are drunk in a tea to relieve painful urination, and as a stimulating expectorant for slowly healing bronchitis and chest colds.  A tea of the leaves or the leaves and bark is used as a tonic to fortify the immune system.

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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