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Asarum forbesii

Botanical Name: Asarum forbesii
Family: Aristolochiaceae
Genus: Asarum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Piperales

Common Name: Du Heng

Habitat :Asarum forbesii is native to E. Asia – C. China.It hails from moist woodland valleys below 2,500′ in the Chinese provinces of Anhui, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Sichuan, and Zhejiang. It grows on moist shady places in forests in valleys at elevations under under 800 metres.
Description:
Asarum forbesii is a perennial herb growing to 0.2 m (0ft 6in).
In the garden, Asarum forbesii ‘Mercury’ resembles a smaller Asarum arifolium, making a slowly expanding clump composed of 3″ wide, heart-shaped leaves of green, highlighted by attractive silver blotches. From April through June (NC), the foliage covers the basal clusters of small liver-colored flowers.

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Rhizomes vertical, 1-2 mm in diam., internodes 0.5-1 cm. Leaves solitary; petiole 3-15 cm, glabrous; leaf blade adaxially dark green with white blotches along midvein, broadly cordate to reniform-cordate, 3-8 × 3-8 cm, abaxial surface glabrous, adaxial surface with short hairs along midvein, base cordate, lateral lobes 1-3 × 1.5-3.5 cm, apex obtuse to rounded; cataphylls reniform-cordate or obovate, ca. 1 × 1 cm. Peduncle ascending, 1-2 cm. Calyx dark purple, cylindric to campanulate, 1.5-2.5 × ca. 1 cm; sepals connate beyond attachment to ovary, abaxially glabrous; tube subcylindric, 1-1.5 × 0.8-1 cm, not constricted at throat, adaxially tessellate, orifice ring less than 1 mm wide; lobes broadly ovate, 0.5-0.7 × 0.5-0.7 cm, base smooth. Stamens 12; filaments much shorter than anthers; connectives slightly extended beyond anthers, rounded. Ovary half-inferior. Styles free, apex 2-lobed; stigmas lateral. Fl. Apr-May.

The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland).

Cultivation:
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it should succeed outdoors in many parts of this country. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Prefers a rich moist neutral to acid soil in woodland or a shady position in the rock garden. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c. The flowers are malodorous and are pollinated by flies.   Plants often self-sow when growing in a suitable position.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the summer. Stored seed will require 3 weeks cold stratification and should be sown in late winter. The seed usually germinates in the spring in 1 – 4 or more weeks at 18°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out when large enough in late spring. Division in spring or autumn. Plants are slow to increase. It is best to pot the divisions up and keep them in light shade in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly.
Medicinal Uses: The root is used in the treatment of goitre, cough, fever and worms. Continued use of this plant gives the body a fragrant odour

Known Hazards: Although no reports of toxicity have been found for this plant, at least 3 other members of this genus have reports that the leaves are toxic. Some caution is therefore advised in the use of this plant.

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.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asarum
http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=200006649
Asarum forbesii Mercury
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Asarum+forbesii

Guarana

Botanical Name: Paullinia cupana
Family: Sapindaceae
Genus: Paullinia
Species: P. cupana
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales

Synonyms: Paullinia. Guarana Bread. Brazilian Cocoa. Uabano. Uaranzeiro. Paullinia Sorbilis.

Part Used: Prepared seeds, crushed.

Habitat: Guarana is native to the Amazon basin and especially common in Brazil.

Description:
Guarana is a climbing shrub took the name of its genus from C. F. Paullini, a German medical botanist who died 1712. It has divided compound leaves, flowers yellow panicles, fruit pear shaped, three sided, three-celled capsules, with thin partitions, in each a seed like a small horse-chestnut half enclosed in an aril, flesh coloured and easily separated when dried. The seeds of Guarana are often used or mixed with those of P. Cupana. Guarana is only made by the Guaranis, a tribe of South American Indians..……….click  &  see the pictures

(Note: Marcos Garcia, Embrapa-CPAA, Manaus Amazonas, Brazil, also points out “The origin habitat of Guarana is the Amazon Region. But actually it is cultivated in others locations at Southest of Brazil.” – editor HTML version – A MODERN HERBAL)

After the seeds are shelled and washed they are roasted for six hours, then put into sacks and shaken till their outside shell comes off, they are then pounded into a fine powder and made into a dough with water, and rolled into cylindrical pieces 8 inches long; these are then dried in the sun or over a slow fire, till they became very hard and are then a rough and reddish-brown colour, marbled with the seeds and testa in the mass. They break with an irregular fracture, have little smell, taste astringent, and bitter like chocolate without its oiliness, and in colour like chocolate powder; it swells up and partially dissolves in water.

Guarana features large leaves and clusters of flowers, and is best known for the seeds from its fruit, which are about the size of a coffee bean.

Edible Uses:
As a dietary supplement, guarana is an effective stimulant: its seeds contain about twice the concentration of caffeine found in coffee seeds (about 2–4.5% caffeine in guarana seeds compared to 1–2% for coffee seeds).As with other plants producing caffeine, the high concentration of caffeine is a defensive toxin that repels herbivores from the berry and its seeds.

Guarana is used in sweetened or carbonated soft drinks and energy shots, an ingredient of herbal teas or contained in capsules. Generally, South America obtains most of its caffeine from guarana.

Constituents: A crystallizable principle, called guaranine, identical with caffeine, which exists in the seeds, united with tannic acid, catechutannic acid starch, and a greenish fixed oil.

Medicinal Uses:
Nervine, tonic, slightly narcotic stimulant, aphrodisiac febrifuge. A beverage is made from the guaran sticks, by grating half a tablespoonful into sugar and water and drinking it like tea. The Brazilian miners drink this constantly and believe it to be a preventive of many diseases, as well as a most refreshing beverage. Their habit in travelling is to carry the stick or a lump of it in their pockets, with a palate bone or scale of a large fish with which to grate it. P. Cupana is also a favourite national diet drink, the seeds are mixed with Cassava and water, and left to ferment until almost putrid, and in this state it is the favourite drink of the Orinoco Indians. From the tannin it contains it is useful for mild forms of leucorrhoea, diarrhoea, etc., but its chief use in Europe and America is for headache, especially if of a rheumatic nature. It is a gentle excitant and serviceable where the brain is irritated or depressed by mental exertion, or where there is fatigue or exhaustion from hot weather. It has the same chemical composition as caffeine, theine and cocaine, and the same physiological action. Its benefit is for nervous headache or the distress that accompanies menstruation, or exhaustion following dissipation. It is not recommended for chronic headache or in cases where it is not desirable to increase the temperature, or excite the heart or increase arterial tension. Dysuria often follows its administration. It is used by the Indians for bowel complaints, but is not indicated in cases of constipation or blood pressure.
In the United States, guarana has received the designation of “generally recognized as safe” by the American Food and Drug Administration.

Preliminary research has shown guarana may affect how quickly the body perceives itself to be full. One study showed an average 5 kg (11 lb) weight loss in a group taking a mixture of yerba mate, guarana, and damiana, compared to an average one-pound loss in a placebo group after 45 days. Although inconclusive about specific effects due only to guarana, this study differs from another showing no effect on body weight of a formula containing guarana.

Guarana extract reduced aggregation of rabbit platelets by up to 37 percent below control values and decreased platelet thromboxane formation from arachidonic acid by 78 percent below control values. It is not known if such platelet action has any effect on the risk of heart attack or ischemic stroke.
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.
Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guarana
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/g/guaran43.html

Senecio vulgaris

Botanical Name: Senecio vulgaris
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Senecioneae
Genus: Senecio
Species: S. vulgaris
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Synonyms: (Scotch) Grundy Swallow, Ground Glutton.
(Norfolk) Simson, Sention

Common Names: Vernacular names for Senecio vulgaris in English include old-man-in-the-spring, common groundsel, groundsel, ragwort, grimsel, grinsel, grundsel, simson, birdseed, chickenweed, old-man-of-the-spring, squaw weed, grundy swallow, ground glutton and common butterweed.
Habitat : Senecio vulgaris is considered to be native to Europe, northern Asia, and parts of North Africa. Its further distribution is less clear. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Profile Database considers it to be native to all 50 of the United States of America, Canada, Greenland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the same USDA through the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) considers it to be native only to parts of Afro-Eurasia. The Integrated Taxonomic Information System Organization (ITIS), a partnership between many United States federal government departments and agenciesstates that the species has been introduced to the 50 United States, and the online journal Flora of North America calls it “probably introduced” to areas north of Mexico. Individual research groups claim it is not native to areas they oversee: Florida, Washington, Wisconsin, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Missouri. The United States Geological Survey reports that Common Groundsel is exotic to all 50 states and all Canadian provinces with the exception of Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Labrador. It is found along roadsides and waste places, it is also a common weed of cultivated land, succeeding on most soils but avoiding shade.

Description:
Senecio vulgaris is an annual plant, the root consisting of numerous white fibres and the round or slightly angular stem, erect, 6 inches to nearly 1 foot in height, often branching at the top, is frequently purple in colour. It is juicy, not woody, and generally smooth, though sometimes bears a little loose, cottony wool. The leaves are oblong, wider and clasping at the base, a dull, deep green colour, much cut into (pinnatifid), with irregular, blunt-toothed or jagged lobes, not unlike the shape of oak leaves. The cylindrical flower-heads, each about 1/4 inch long and 1/8 inch across, are in close terminal clusters or corymbs, the florets yellow and all tubular; the scales surrounding the head and forming the involucre are narrow and black-tipped, with a few small scales at their base. The flowers are succeeded by downy heads of seeds, each seed being crowned by little tufts of hairs, by means of which they are freely dispersed by the winds. Groundsel is in flower all the year round and scatters an enormous amount of seed in its one season of growth, one plant if allowed to seed producing one million others in one year.

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A variety of Senecio vulgaris, named S. radiata (Koch), with minute rays to the outer florets, is found in the Channel Islands.

Cultivation: A common weed of cultivated land, it does not require cultivation. Groundsel is a good food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species, and is one of only two species that provide food for cinnabar moth caterpillars. One report states that this plant was formerly cultivated as a food crop for livestock[54]! Since the plant is a cumulative toxin this use is most questionable.

Propagation: Seed – it doesn’t need any encouragement from us.

Edible Uses: Leaves – cooked or raw. The young leaves have been used in many areas as a salad, though this is very inadvisable, see the notes on toxicity at the top of the pag.

Medicinal Uses:
Anthelmintic; Anticonvulsant; Antiscorbutic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Homeopathy; Poultice; Purgative.

Senecio vulgaris has a long history of herbal use and, although not an officinal plant, it is still often used by herbalists. The whole herb is anthelmintic, antiscorbutic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue and purgative. It is often used as a poultice and is said to be useful in treating sickness of the stomach, whilst a weak infusion is used as a simple and easy purgative. The plant can be harvested in May and dried for later use, or the fresh juice can be extracted and used as required. Use with caution. This plant should not be used by pregnant women, see also the notes above on toxicity. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of menstrual disorders and nose bleeds.
Known Hazards: All parts of the plant are poisonous to many mammals, including humans. The toxin affects the liver and has a cumulative affect. Some mammals, such as rabbits, do not seem to be harmed by the plant, and will often seek it out. Various birds also eat the leaves and seeds.

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.
Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senecio_vulgaris
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/g/grocom41.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Senecio+vulgaris

The Genes Battle

Can genes, which are present in nature, be patented? A US court recently ruled that they cannot. The outcome may be cheaper diagnostic kits, says Hari Pulakkat
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It’s a debate that will continue for a few years, and the dust is unlikely to settle down even after that. Are human genes patentable? While the world slowly seemed to move towards a grudging acceptance of human gene patents, an American judge suddenly springs a surprise, ruling they aren’t valid, providing new hope for those campaigning against them. If the higher courts uphold this judgment, patients around the world could expect cheaper diagnostic tests soon.

To summarise, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, two non-profit organisations, filed a lawsuit against Myriad Genetics, a biotech company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Myriad, along with the University of Utah Research Foundation, is the holder of several patents on two breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. Myriad has developed tests for breast cancer susceptibility, and no one else can do those tests. Now Judge Robert Sweet of the New York District Court has ruled that some claims of the patents are invalid, thus opening the door for competitors.

The US and Europe have been allowing human gene patents for over two decades, and this is the first time a judge has questioned their validity. In the last two decades, the US Patent Office granted patents to over 4,300 genes, which is about 20 per cent of active human genes.

Diagnostic tests based on these patented genes are expensive, and not within the reach of many. In the US, for example, testing for breast cancer susceptibility can cost as much as $3,000 for a full analysis of both genes. “Many patients will benefit from this judgment,” says Mark Stoler, president of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. The judge himself noted that the tests cost less than $1,000 in Canada, where the genes are not patented.

On the other hand, several biotech companies have built business models around those, and raise money based on their gene patents. “Some biotech companies will now find it more difficult to raise money,” says Lisa Haile, partner of life sciences practice at DLA Piper, a large law firm. In fact, as a way of buttressing this fact, the shares of Myriad fell 9.2 per cent immediately after the judgment. Myriad’s revenues had increased almost 50 per cent last year, mostly owing to BRCA gene testing.

So a fierce battle is on between two factions. On one side are the life sciences industry, venture capitalalists and other investors in life sciences companies. On the other side are a large number of doctors, scientists, patients and non-profit organisations. Each has its arguments and supporting evidence. Although the second faction is unlikely to win in a superior court, its victory will have far-reaching impact on the life sciences industry and the future of medicine. “This is very likely to go to the Supreme Court,” says Haile. That would take at least two to four years, and what happens in the US is also a good pointer to what will happen later in other countries.

Opponents of gene patents have more than one argument against them. One of the first is, of course, the principle itself: genes are present in nature and thus cannot be patented. Myriad and others have argued what is patented is a unique DNA sequence isolated in a lab. Judge Sweet in his judgment says genes are genes, whether inside or outside the body. However, there are even stronger arguments against gene patenting. They push up medical costs, stifle innovation and prevent patients from taking a second opinion. It is not just the patients who have to pay Myriad; even scientists who work on the BRCA gene have to pay the company.

“Myriad is just one example,” says Stoler. “Around 5,000 new tests are likely to be developed in the next 10 years.” These tests will be based on genes, and indiscriminate patenting can make them unaffordable except to a small fraction of the world population. Some of these products will be built by a research foundation funded by the public, and hence won’t be the exclusive property of private companies. For example, the BRCA gene was discovered in the University of California Berkeley by Marie-Claire King, now at the University of Washington. King herself is known to be averse to gene patents.

On the other hand, the life sciences industry argues gene patents are no different from drug patents, and a 20-year exclusivity is a small price to pay for treatments and diagnostics that would not exist otherwise.

Even an unfavourable ruling by the Supreme Court is unlikely to stop innovation or patents, as the industry is trying to tell the world. Many diagnostic tests are on multiple genes, and products based on unique combinations of genes may be patentable, even if single genes themselves are not. In any case, the next four years will see some interesting battles.


Source:
The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)

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