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Herbs & Plants

Menispermum Canadense

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Botanical Name : Menispermum Canadense
Family: Menispermaceae
Genus: Menispermum
Species: M. canadense
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ranunculales

Synonyms: Canadian Moonseed. CoTexas Sarsaparilla. Moonseed Sarsaparilla. Vine Maple.

Common Names :Canadian Moonseed, Common Moonseed, or Yellow Parilla

Habitat:  Menispermum Canadense  is native to Eastern N. America – Quebec and New England to Georgia, west to Arkansas and Oklahoma.  It grows on moist woods and hedges near streams. Deciduous woods and thickets, along streams, bluffs and rocky hillsides, fencerows, shade tolerant from sea level to 700 metres.

Description:
It is a woody deciduous climbing vine growing to 6 m tall. The leaves palmately lobed, 5–20 cm diameter with 3-7 shallow lobes, occasionally rounded and unlobed.  It is in flower from Jun to July, and the seeds ripen from Oct to November The fruit are produced in 6–10 cm diameter clusters of purple-black berries, each berry is 1-1.5 cm in diameter. The seed inside the berry resembles a crescent moon, and is responsible for the common name. The fruit is ripe between September and October, the same general time frame in which wild grapes are ripe.The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile.

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Both the leaves and fruit resemble that of the Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca); confusion can be dangerous as Moonseed fruit is poisonous, unlike the edible Fox Grape fruit.

The root is a rhizome, with a very long root of a fine yellow colour, and a round, striate stem, bright yellowgreen when young; leaves, roundish, cordate, peltate, three to seven angled, lobed. Flowers small, yellow, borne in profusion in axillary clusters. Drupes, round, black, with a bloom on them, one-seeded. Seed, crescent-shaped, compressed, the name Moonseed being derived from this lunate shape of the seed. The rhizome is wrinkled longitudinally and has a number of thin, brittle roots; fracture, tough, woody; internally reddish; a thick bark encloses a circle of porous, short, nearly square wood wedges and a large central pith. The root is the official part; it has a persistent bitter, acrid taste and is almost inodorous.

Cultivation:
Succeeds in any moderately fertile soil that does not dry out excessively in summer, in sun or partial shade. Prefers a position in full sun[219]. This species is hardy to about -30°c, but, due to a lack of summer heat, the plants usually produce soft growth in mild maritime areas and this can be cut to the ground at temperatures around -5 to -10°c. The plants do not require pruning, but can benefit from being cut back to ground level every 2 – 3 years in order to keep them tidy. A vigorous and fast-growing climbing plant that twines around supports, it also spreads freely by underground suckers. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation :
Seed – sow late winter in a greenhouse. Two months cold stratification speeds up germination so it might be better to sow the seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Germination is usually good. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of mature wood, autumn in a frame. Division of suckers in early sprin. The suckers can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though we prefer to pot them up and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are established.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used: The rhizome and roots.
Constituents: Berberine and a white amorphous alkaloid termed Menispermum, which has been used as a substitute for Sarsaparilla, some starch and resin.

Canada moonseed has occasionally been used in the past for its medicinal virtues, though it is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The roots are a bitter tonic, diuretic, laxative, nervine, purgative (in large doses), stomachic and tonic. A tea made from the root has been used in the treatment of indigestion, arthritis, bowel disorders and as a blood cleanser. The root is applied externally as a salve on chronic sores.

In small doses it is a tonic, diuretic, laxative and alterative. In larger doses it increases the appetite and action of the bowels; in full doses, it purges and causes vomiting. It is a superior laxative bitter; considered very useful in scrofula, cutaneous, rheumatic, syphilitic, mercurial and arthritic diseases; also for dyspepsia, chronic inflammation of the viscera and in general debility. Externally, the decoction has been applied as an embrocation in cutaneous and gouty affections.

Use with caution, see notes above on toxicity.

 Other Uses:Cultivated in Britain as a hardy, deciduous, ornamental shrub. A closely allied species is indigenous to the temperate parts of Eastern Asia.

Known Hazards:  All parts of these plants are known to be poisonous. The principal toxin is the alkaloid dauricine. The fruit of Canada Moonseed are poisonous and can be fatal. While foraging for wild grapes one should examine the seeds of the fruit to make sure one is not eating moonseeds: moonseeds have a single crescent-shaped seed, while grapes have round seeds. Differences in taste should also be an indicator of whether or not a specimen is grape or Moonseed, moonseeds have a taste that is described as “rank”. Also, the moonseed vine lacks tendrils, whilst the vine of the wild grape has forked tendrils.

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/Menispermum_canadense
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/parill07.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Menispermum+canadense

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Herbs & Plants

Centaurea nigra

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Botanical Name :Centaurea nigra
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Centaurea
Species: C. nigra
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Common Names:Lesser Knapweed, Common Knapweed and Black Knapweed. A local vernacular name is Hardheads.

Habitat:Centaurea nigra  is native to western Europe, including Britain, from Spain to Norway, east to Germany and Switzerland. It grows in grassland, waysides, cliffs etc to 600 metres.

Description:
Centaurea nigra is a perennial herb growing up to about a metre in height.

The leaves are up to 25 centimetres long, usually deeply lobed, and hairy. The lower leaves are stalked, whilst the upper ones are stalkless.

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The inflorescence contains a few flower heads, each a hemisphere of black or brown bristly phyllaries. The head bears many small bright purple flowers. The fruit is a tan, hairy achene 2 or 3 millimetres long, sometimes with a tiny, dark pappus. Flowers July until September.

Flowers sometimes are yellow, or white.Important for Gatekeeper butterfly, Goldfinch, Honey bee, Large skipper, Lime-speck pug moth, Meadow Brown, Painted lady, Peacock, Red admiral, Small copper, Small skipper

Cultivation:
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil. Prefers a well-drained fertile soil and a sunny position. Tolerates dry, low fertility and alkaline soils. Established plants are tolerant of considerable neglect, thriving and even self-sowing in dense weed growth. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Propagation :
Seed – sow April in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. Division in autumn. 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 summer or following spring. This should be done at least once every three years in order to maintain the vigour of the plant. Basal cuttings in spring. Harvest the shoots when they are about 10 – 15cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.
Edible Uses: Flower petals are eaten raw. Added to salads

Medicinal Uses:

The roots and seeds are diaphoretic, diuretic, tonic and vulnerary. The plant once had a very high reputation as a healer of wounds. A medieval wound salve.  Used to soothe sore throats and bleeding gums.

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/Centaurea_nigra
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_IJK.htm
http://www.ct-botanical-society.org/galleries/centaureanigr.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Centaurea+nigra

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Herbs & Plants

Setaria viridis

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Botanical Name : Setaria viridis
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Setaria
Species: S. viridis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Poales

Common Name:Green foxtail and Green bristlegrass

Habitat :
Setaria viridis is native to Eurasia, but it is known on most continents as an introduced species and is closely related to Setaria faberi, a noxious weed. It is a hardy grass which grows in many types of urban, cultivated, and disturbed habitat, including vacant lots, sidewalks, railroads, lawns, and at the margins of fields. It is the wild antecedent of the crop foxtail millet.

Description;
This is an annual grass with decumbent or erect stems growing up to a meter long, and known to reach two meters or more at times. The leaf blades are up to 40 centimeters long and 2.5 wide and glabrous. The inflorescence is a dense, compact, spikelike panicle up to 20 centimeters long, growing erect or sometimes nodding at the tip only. Spikelets are 1.8 – 2.2 mm long. Each is subtended by up to three stiff bristles. Its fertile lemmas are finely cross-wrinkled.

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Seedling: Leaves are rolled in the bud, leaf sheaths and blades without hairs, but the leaf sheaths often have slightly hairy margins.  The ligule is a row of hairs approximately 1/2 mm long, therefore this is rarely seen by the casual observer.

Leaves: Leaf blades may reach 12 inches in length and 5-15 mm in width, and are most often without hairs or only very sparsely hairy.  The leaf sheath is closed and is without hairs, except along the margin near the mouth.  The ligule is short and fringed with hairs to 2 mm long.

Stems: Erect, without hairs, bent at the nodes, may be branched at the base, reaching 3 feet in height.

Flowers: The seedhead is a cylindrical bristly panicle, reaching 6 inches in length and 1/3-2/3 inch in width.  Spikelets are approximately 3 mm long, green, and each spikelet has 1-3 bristles that are 5-10 mm long.

Roots: Fibrous.
Cultivation: Succeeds in any well-drained soil in full sun.

Propagation:
Seed – sow early spring in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. Germination is usually quick and good. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on fast. Plant them out in late spring, after the last expected frosts. Whilst this is fine for small quantities, it would be an extremely labour intensive method if larger amounts were to be grown. The seed can be sown in situ in the middle of spring though it is then later in coming into flower and may not ripen its seed in a cool summer.

Edible Uses: Seed. Small. It is used in the same ways as rice or millet, either boiled, roasted or ground into a flour. The seed (roasted?) is said to be a coffee substitute.

Medicinal Uses:

The seed is diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, refrigerant and tonic. The plant is crushed and mixed with water then used as an external application in the treatment of bruises..

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.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_FGH.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setaria_viridis
http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/setvi.htm

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Setaria+viridis

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Herbs & Plants

Parnassia palustris

Botanical Name :Parnassia palustris
Family: Celastraceae
Genus: Parnassia
Species: P. palustris
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Celastrales

Common Names :Grass Of Parnassus, Marsh grass of Parnassus, Mountain grass of Parnassus, Alaska grass of Parnass, Northern Grass-of-Parnassus, and Bog-star

Habitat :Parnassia palustris is native to  Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to Spain, Greece and temperate Asia.  It grows in wet moorland, marshes and raised bogs to quite a high altitude.

Description:
An evergreen perennial herb with prominent white blossom. Leaves are all basal except for the single, ovate, sessile leaf (or bract) usually present near or below the middle of the stem. Basal leaves ovate, heart-shaped, tapering to the base, up to 1½” long, smooth, without teeth, on stalks up to 4″ long. Single stem leaf usually cordate and clasping. Stem is upright, slender, unbranched, to 1½’ tall, smooth, bearing a single leaf or bract about 1/3 the way up the stem. Roots to 8″ depth Flowers are white and showy, solitary on the stem, up to 1″ across. Sepals 5, green, lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, ¼”-½” long, with 5-7 veins. Petals are  5, white, free from each other, ovate to obovate, up to ½” long, not fringed, with 3-13 veins. Typically 1½-2 times as long as sepals. Stamens are 5 fertile, many sterile. Ovary is  more or less superior (within blossom)  Fruit is  an ovoid, 4-valved capsule, up to ½” long, subtended by persistent sepals.  Seed are numerous, tiny, oblong, and angular.

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Cultivation:
Succeeds in moist peaty soils or in spongy bogs. Requires an alkaline soil. Plants can be naturalized in marshy grass.

Propagation :
Seed – sow as soon as it is ripe in late autumn in a cold frame in pots of soil that are standing in shallow water. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on 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.

Medicinal Uses:

The whole plant is astringent, slightly diuretic, sedative, tonic and vulnerary. A decoction is occasionally used as a mouthwash in the treatment of stomatitis. The dried and powdered plant can be sprinkled onto wounds to aid the healing process. The plant is harvested in the summer or autumn and can be dried for later use. A distilled water made from the plant is an excellent astringent eye lotion.

A decoction of the plant is occasionally used as a mouthwash in the treatment of stomatitis. The dried and powdered plant can be sprinkled onto wounds to aid the healing process. A distilled water made from the plant is an excellent astringent eye lotion.

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.rook.org/earl/bwca/nature/aquatics/parnassia.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parnassia_palustris
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_FGH.htm

http://www.pinguicula.org/images/plantes/Parnassia_palustris(HR).jpg

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Parnassia+palustris

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News on Health & Science

Broccoli May Undo Diabetes Damage

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Eating broccoli could reverse the damage caused by diabetes to heart blood vessels, research suggests.

A University of Warwick team believe the key is a compound found in the vegetable, called sulforaphane.

It encourages production of enzymes which protect the blood vessels, and a reduction in high levels of molecules which cause significant cell damage.

Brassica vegetables such as broccoli have previously been linked to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.

It encourages production of enzymes which protect the blood vessels, and a reduction in high levels of molecules which cause significant cell damage.

Brassica vegetables such as broccoli have previously been linked to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.

” Our study suggests that compounds such as sulforaphane from broccoli may help counter processes linked to the development of vascular disease in diabetes “…..Says Professor Paul Thornalley of University of Warwick.

People with diabetes are up to five times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes; both are linked to damaged blood vessels.

The Warwick team, whose work is reported in the journal Diabetes, tested the effects of sulforaphane on blood vessel cells damaged by high glucose levels (hyperglycaemia), which are associated with diabetes.

They recorded a 73% reduction of molecules in the body called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).

Hyperglycaemia can cause levels of ROS to increase three-fold and such high levels can damage human cells.

The researchers also found that sulforaphane activated a protein in the body called nrf2, which protects cells and tissues from damage by activating protective antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes.

Countering vascular disease

Lead researcher Professor Paul Thornalley said: “Our study suggests that compounds such as sulforaphane from broccoli may help counter processes linked to the development of vascular disease in diabetes.

“In future, it will be important to test if eating a diet rich in brassica vegetables has health benefits for diabetic patients. We expect that it will.”

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at the charity Diabetes UK, stressed that research carried out on cells in the lab was a long way from the real life situation.

However, he said: “It is encouraging to see that Professor Thornalley and his team have identified a potentially important substance that may protect and repair blood vessels from the damaging effects of diabetes.

“It also may help add some scientific weight to the argument that eating broccoli is good for you.”

Sources: BBC NEWS:5th. Aug.’08

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