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Herbs & Plants

Urtica urens

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Botanical Name : Urtica urens
Family: Urticaceae
Genus:     Urtica
Species: U. urens
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Rosales

Synonyms: Common Nettle. Stinging Nettle.
Common Names :Annual nettle, Dwarf nettle, Small nettle, Dog nettle or Burning nettle

Habitat : Urtica urens is native to Eurasia and it can be found in North America and New Zealand as an introduced species. It is not only to be found in distant Japan, but also in South Africa and Australia and in the Andes.

Description:
Urtica urens is an annual herb, growing to a height of 4 to 20 inches.Stem is ascending–erect, often branching, 4-edged, with stinging hairs.

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Flower: Staminate and pistillate flowers separate, but on the same plant, flowers very small. Staminate flower: tepals 4, with sepals, hairy, translucent. Stamens 4, filaments curled inwards as buds. Pistillate flower: tepals 4, with sepals, in different-sized pairs, hairy, larger tepals usually with one stinging hair each. A single carpel, stigma brush-like. Inflorescence catkin-like, 1–2 cm (0.4–0.8 in.) long, shorter than leaf-stalks.

Leaves: Opposite, stalked, stipulate. Blade elliptic–quite round, with wedge-shaped–blunt base, short-tipped, deeply serrated, both sides with few stinging hairs, light green. Blade approx. 1.5 times as long as broad, stalk approx. 2/3 length of blade.

Fruit: Elliptic–drop-shaped, flat, yellowish brown, achene protected by tepals.
Cultivation:    
Prefers a nitrogen-rich soil. The best fibre is produced when plants are grown on deep fertile soils. Dislikes shade.

Propagation:   
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame.

Edible Uses:   
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Oil.
Edible Uses: Drink;  Oil.

Young leaves – cooked and used as a potherb. A very nutritious food, high in vitamins and minerals, it makes an excellent spinach substitute and can also be added to soups and stews. Only use the young leaves and wear stout gloves when harvesting them to prevent getting stung. Although the fresh leaves have stinging hairs, thoroughly drying or cooking them destroys these hairs. Nettle beer is brewed from the young shoots.

Medicinal Uses:.

Parts  Used: The whole herb, collected in Mayand June, just before coming into flower, and dried in the usual manner prescribed for ‘bunched’ herbs.
Constituents: The analysis of the fresh Nettle shows the presence of formic acid, mucilage, mineral salts, ammonia, carbonic acid and water.

It is the formic acid in the Nettle, with the phosphates and a trace of iron, which constitute it such a valuable food medicinally.

When the herb is collected for drying, it should be gathered only on a fine day, in the morning, when the sun has dried off the dew. Cut off just above the root, rejecting any stained or insect-eaten leaves, and tie in bunches, about six to ten in a bunch, spread out fanwise, so that the air can penetrate freely to all parts.

Hang the bunches over strings. If dried in the open, keep them in half-shade and bring indoors before there is any risk of damp from dew or rain. If dried indoors, hang up in a sunny room, and failing sun, in a well-ventilated room by artificial heat. Care must be taken that the window be left open by day so that there is a free current of air and the moisture-laden, warm air may escape. The bunches should be of uniform size and length, to facilitate packing when dry, and when quite dry and crisp must be packed away at once in airtight boxes or tins, otherwise moisture will be reabsorbed from the air.

The seeds and flowers are dried in the sun, or over a stove, on sheets of paper.

Nettles have a long history of use in the home as a herbal remedy. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used as a tonic and blood purifier. The whole plant is antiasthmatic, antidandruff, astringent, depurative, diuretic, galactogogue, haemostatic, hypoglycaemic and a stimulating tonic. An infusion of the plant is very valuable in stemming internal bleeding, it is also used to treat anaemia, excessive menstruation, haemorrhoids, arthritis, rheumatism and skin complaints, especially eczema. Externally, the plant is used to treat arthritic pain, gout, sciatica, neuralgia, haemorrhoids, hair problems etc. For medicinal purposes, the plant is best harvested in May or June as it is coming into flower and dried for later use. This species merits further study for possible uses against kidney and urinary system ailments. The juice of the nettle can be used as an antidote to stings from the leaves and an infusion of the fresh leaves is healing and soothing as a lotion for burns. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh plant, gathered when in flower. A useful first-aid remedy, it is used in the treatment of ailments such as bites and stings, burns, hives and breast feeding problems.

The Nettle is still in demand by wholesale herbalists, who stock the dried and powdered herb, also the seeds. Homoeopathic chemists, in addition, employ the green herb for the preparation of a tincture.

Other Uses:
A strong flax-like fibre is obtained from the stems. Used for string and cloth, it also makes a good quality paper. It is harvested as the plant begins to die down in early autumn. An essential ingredient of ‘QR’ herbal compost activator, the leaves are also an excellent addition to the compost heap and they can be soaked for 7 – 21 days in water to make a very nutritious liquid feed for plants. This liquid feed is both insect repellent and a good foliar feed. The growing plant increases the essential oil content of other nearby plants, thus making them more resistant to insect pests. A hair wash is made from the infused leaves and this is used as a tonic and antidandruff treatment. A green dye is obtained from the leaves and stems. A yellow dye is obtained from the root. An oil extracted from the seeds is used as an illuminant in lamps.

Known Hazards:  The leaves of the plants have stinging hairs, causing irritation to the skin. This action is neutralized by heat so the cooked leaves are perfectly safe and nutritious. However, only young leaves should be used because older leaves develop gritty particles called cystoliths which act as an irritant to the kidneys.

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=Urtica+urens
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nettle03.html#lesmed
http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/kukkakasvit/annual-nettle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urtica_urens

Categories
Herbs & Plants

Arnica

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Botanical Name: Arnica montana
Family:    Asteraceae
Genus:    Arnica
Species:    A. montana
Kingdom:    Plantae
Order:    Asterales

Synonyms: Mountain Tobacco. Leopard’s Bane.
Parts Used:
Root, flowers.
Habitat:
Arnica montana is widespread across most of Europe. It is absent from the British Isles and the Italian and Balkan Peninsulas. Arnica montana grows in nutrient-poor siliceous meadows up to nearly 3,000 metres (9,800 ft). It is rare overall, but may be locally abundant. It is becoming rarer, particularly in the north of its distribution, largely due to increasingly intensive agriculture. In more upland regions, it may also be found on nutrient-poor moors and heaths.

Description:   Arnica montana has tall stems, 20–60 cm (7.9–23.6 in) high, supporting usually a single flower head. Most of the leaves are in a basal rosette, but one or two pairs may be found on the stem and are, unusually for composites, opposite. The flower heads are yellow, approximately 5 cm (2.0 in) in diameter, and appear from May to August.

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Botanical Description :  Arnica is a genus with about 30 perennial, herbaceous species, belonging to the sunflower family (Asteraceae). The genus name Arnica may be derived from the Latin arna, “lamb”, in reference to the soft, hairy leaves.

This circumboreal and montane genus occurs mostly in the temperate regions of western North America, while two are native to Eurasia (A. angustifolia and A. montana).

Arnica used to be included in the tribe Senecioneae, because it has a pappus of fine bristles. This was soon questioned and Nordenstam (1977) placed it tentatively in tribe Heliantheae s.l. This arrangement also became uncertain because of the sesquiterpene lactone chemistry in certain species. Lately Arnica was placed in an unresolved clade together with Madiinae, Eupatorieae, Heliantheae s.s. and Pectidinae.

Several species, such as Arnica montana and Arnica chamissonis contain helenalin, a sesquiterpene lactone that is a major ingredient in anti-inflammatory preparations (mostly against bruises).

Arnica species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Bucculatrix arnicella.
Cultivation: Arnica thrives in a mixture of loam, peat, and sand. It may be propagated by root division or from seed. Divide in spring. Sow in early spring in a cold frame, and plant out in May.

The flowers are collected entire and dried, but the receptacles are sometimes removed as they are liable to be attacked by insects.

The root is collected in autumn after the leaves have died down.

Constituents: A bitter yellow crystalline principle, Arnicin, and a volatile oil. Tannin and phulin are also present. The flowers are said to contain more Arnicin than the rhizome, but no tannin.

Medicinal Action and Uses:

Arnica promotes the healing of wounds contracted through blows, punctures, falls and cuts. It is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, relieves pain from injuries and promotes tissue regeneration. One can clean wounds, abscesses, boils and ulcers with diluted Arnica tinctures and dress them with a compress soaked in the same solution. For contusions, sprains, bruises, bursitis, arthritis and inflammation of the lymphatic vessels, apply packs of diluted Arnica tincture. To relieve headaches and visual disturbances due to concussion, apply such compresses around the head and neck. To prepare packs and washes, dilute one tablespoon of Arnica tincture in a cup of boiled water (or where sensitivity is suspected, double the water). The tincture made from the flowers is only used externally, whereas the tincture made from the roots is used internally for cases of hematoma and inflammation of the veins. Arnica also improves the circulation. Arnica flowers are sometimes adulterated with other composite flowers, especially Calendula officinalis, Inula brittanica, Kragapogon pratensis, and Scorzonera humilis. For tender feet a foot-bath of hot water containing 1/2 oz. of the tincture has brought great relief. Arnica has been shown to be an immuno-stimulant, as both the sesquiterpene lactone helenalin and the polysaccharide fraction stimulate phagocytosis. Sesquiterpene lactones are known to have anti-inflammatory activity and their biological effects appear to be mediated through immunological processes. As helenalin is one of the most active, this might help account for the use of Arnica for pain and inflammation.

Arnica has been used for heart problems (as it contains a cardiotonic substance), to improve circulation, to reduce cholesterol and to stimulate the central nervous system. But the internal use should only be done under supervision. It displays astonishing stimulating, decongesting and relaxing properties. The heart is both stimulated in deficient conditions and relieved in excess ones, depending on the case presented.

For sprains and strains, arnica promotes healing and has an antibacterial action; causes reabsorption of internal bleeding in bruises and sprains. Apply as a cream to the affected area, or soak a pad in diluted tincture and use as a compress. Take homeopathic Arnica 6x every 1-2 hours. Do not use on broken skin; use only homeopathic Arnica internally.

Clearing heat in the sense of both deficiency heat and fire toxin is one of its strengths. In Yin deficiency syndromes with either low fever or hot flushes, it matches up well with the likes of hawthorn, rehmannia, mistletoe and valerian.

Arnica montana is sometimes grown in herb gardens and historically has been used as medicine. It has been used in herbal medicine for centuries.  A systematic review of homeopathic A. montana concluded that there are no rigorous clinical trials that support the claim that it is efficacious beyond a placebo effect.

The roots contain derivatives of thymol, which are used as fungicides and preservatives and may have some anti-inflammatory effect. When used topically in a gel at 50% concentration, A. montana was found to have the same effect when compared to a 5% ibuprofen gel for treating the symptoms of hand osteoarthritis.

A scientific study by FDA funded dermatologists found that the application of topical A. montana had no better effect than a placebo in the treatment of laser-induced bruising


Used externally this herb reduces inflammation and pain of bruises, aches, and sprains. While usage it must be kept in mind that internal application of this herb has a toxic effect on the heart and causes very high blood pressure.

In countries where Arnica is indigenous, it has long been a popular remedy. In the North American colonies the flowers are used in preference to the rhizome. They have a discutient property. The tincture is used for external application to sprains, bruises, and wounds, and as a paint for chilblains when the skin is unbroken. Repeated applications may produce severe inflammation. It is seldom used internally, because of its irritant effect on the stomach. Its action is stimulant and diuretic, and it is chiefly used in low fevers and paralytie affections.

Arnica flowers are sometimes adulterated with other composite flowers, especially Calendula officinalis, Inula brittanica, Kragapogon pratensis, and Scorzonera humilis.

A homoeopathic tincture, X6, has been used successfully in the treatment of epilepsy; also for seasickness, 3 X before sailing, and every hour on board till comfortable.

In homeopathic arnica in form of tincture or globules is very commonly used to releave the pain of any kind of wound.

For tender feet a foot-bath of hot water containing 1/2 oz. of the tineture has brought great relief. Applied to the scalp it will make the hair grow.

Known Hazards:  Arnica montana contains the toxin helenalin, which can be poisonous if large amounts of the plant are eaten. It produces severe gastroenteritis and internal bleeding of the digestive tract if enough material is ingested. Contact with the plant  may also cause skin irritation.

Great care must be exercised though, as some people are particularly sensitive to the plant and many severe cases of poisoning have resulted from its use, especially if taken internally.

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:

http://www.ayurveda-herbal-remedy.com/herbal-encyclopedia/index.html

en.wikipedia.org and botanical.com

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm

 

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