Herbs & Plants

Antirrhinum majus

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Botanical Name : Antirrhinum majus
Family: Plantaginaceae /Veronicaceae
Genus: Antirrhinum
Species: A. majus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Lamiales

Common Names: Common snapdragon; often – especially in horticulture – simply Snapdragon

Habitat : Antirrhinum majus is native to Europe. Naturalized in Britain. It grows on old walls, rocks and dry places.

Antirrhinum majus is an herbaceous perennial plant, growing to 0.5–1 m tall, rarely up to 2 m at a medium rate. The leaves are spirally arranged, broadly lanceolate, 1–7 cm long and 2-2.5 cm broad. It is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October.

The flowers are produced on a tall spike, each flower is 3.5-4.5 cm long, zygomorphic, with two ‘lips’ closing the corolla tube; wild plants have pink to purple flowers, often with yellow lips. The fruit is an ovoid capsule 10–14 mm diameter, containing numerous small seeds. The plants are pollinated by bumblebees, and the flowers close over the insects when they enter and deposit pollen on their bodies.


The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, self.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.
Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Foundation, Massing, Specimen, Woodland garden. Prefers a light well drained loam and a sunny position. Plants are tolerant of clay and lime soils, and also grow well on old walls. Plants are often grown as an annual since they usually degenerate in their second year. They often self sow when well-sited. There are many named forms, selected for their ornamental value. Special Features:Not North American native, Naturalizing, Attracts butterflies, Suitable for cut flowers, Suitable for dried flowers, Fragrant flowers.
Seed – surface sow March in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 10 – 21 days at 18°c. Cool nights assist germination. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in July/August and will produce larger and more floriferous plants the following summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood in September in a cold frame.
Edible Uses: Oil.

An oil that is little inferior to olive oil is said to be obtained from the seeds. The report also says that the plant has been cultivated in Russia for this purpose. The seeds are very small and I wonder about the authenticity of this report.
Medicinal Uses:

Antiphlogistic; Bitter; Resolvent; Stimulant.

The leaves and flowers are antiphlogistic, bitter, resolvent and stimulant[7, 115]. They have been employed in poultices on tumours and ulcers[4]. It is effective in the treatment of all kinds of inflammation and is also used on haemorrhoids[7]. The plant is harvested in the summer when in flower and is dried for later use.
Other Uses:
Dye; Oil.

A green dye is obtained from the flowers, it does not require a mordant. Dark green and gold can also be obtained if a mordant is used.

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.

Herbs & Plants

Allium ampeloprasum babingtonii

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Botanical Name : Allium ampeloprasum babingtonii
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Allioideae
Genus: Allium
Species: A. ampeloprasum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales

Common Names: Babington’s Leek,Allium ampeloprasum babingtonii

Habitat : Allium ampeloprasum babingtonii is native to Britain in S.W. England and the Channel Islands It grows on the clefts of rocks and sandy places near the coast.
Allium ampeloprasum babingtonii is a bulb, growing to 1.8 m (6ft) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in).
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, insects. This species is a perennial herb with linear to strap-shaped medium green leaves. The flower heads can reach up to two metres in height. They are comprised of pink-purple bell-like flowers held in umbels with the occasional bulbil which are grow longer than the flowers and give the impression the flower head is exploding. When the flower dies down, these bulbils can root in the surrounding soil, so that colonies of these plants can ‘walk’ across the terrain…CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES : 
Prefers a sunny position in a light well-drained soil. Succeeds in clay soils. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.2 to 8.3. The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply. Closely allied to the wild leek, A. ampeloprasum, differing mainly in its having more bulbils and fewer flowers in the flowering head. Plants can spread freely by means of their bulbils and sometimes become a weed in the garden. Where the plant is found wild in Britain it might be as a relic of early cultivation in monasteries etc. Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, though it can also be sown in a cold frame in the spring.   Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Well-grown plants can be planted out into their final positions in late summer or the autumn, otherwise grow them on for a further year in pots and plant them out the following summer. This species produces few if any seeds. Division in late summer or early autumn. Dig up the bulbs when the plants are dormant and divide the small bulblets at the base of the larger bulb. Replant immediately, either in the open ground or in pots in a cold frame. Bulbils – plant out as soon as they are ripe in late summer. The bulbils can be planted direct into their permanent positions, though you get better results if you pot them up and plant them out the following spring
Edible Uses:
Bulb – raw or cooked. The small bulbs can vary considerably in size from 2 – 6cm, they have a pleasant mild garlic flavour. Leaves – raw or cooked. The young leaves are pleasant raw, older leaves quickly become fibrous and are best cooked. They have a nice leek flavour. The plants come into new growth in early winter and the leaves are often available from January. Flowers – raw. A pleasant mild garlic flavour, but with a rather dry texture. This species produces mainly bulbils and very few flowers. The bulbils have a mild garlic flavour and make a nice flavouring in salads and cooked foods. Although produced abundantly, they are quite fiddly to use because they are small. They can also be pickled.

Medicinal Uses::
This species has the same medicinal virtues as garlic, but in a much milder and less effective form. These virtues are as follows:- Garlic has a very long folk history of use in a wide range of ailments, particularly ailments such as ringworm, Candida and vaginitis where its fungicidal, antiseptic, tonic and parasiticidal properties have proved of benefit. It is also said to have anticancer activity. Daily use of garlic in the diet has been shown to have a very beneficial effect on the body, especially the blood system and the heart. For example, demographic studies suggest that garlic is responsible for the low incidence of arteriosclerosis in areas of Italy and Spain where consumption of the bulb is heavy. The bulb is said to be anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, stimulant, stomachic, tonic, vasodilator. The crushed bulb may be applied as a poultice to ease the pain of bites, stings etc

Known Hazards : Although no individual reports regarding this species have been seen, there have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of certain members of this genus. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible.
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.


Healthy Tips

Whey Protein Can Bring Down Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

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New research shows that consuming whey protein, made from materials leftover from the production of cheese, can help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The effect depends on the specific type of high blood pressure an individual has, and has no known side effects, potentially making whey protein an alternative treatment option for some patients.

Beverages supplemented by whey-based protein can significantly reduce elevated blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease, a Washington State University study has found.

Research led by nutritional biochemist Susan Fluegel and published in International Dairy Journal found that daily doses of commonly available whey brought a more than six-point reduction in the average blood pressure of men and women with elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressures. While the study was confined to 71 student subjects between the ages of 18 and 26, Fluegel says older people with blood pressure issues would likely get similar results.

“One of the things I like about this is it is low-cost,” says Fluegel, a nutritional biochemistry instructor interested in treating disease through changes in nutrition and exercise. “Not only that, whey protein has not been shown to be harmful in any way.”

Terry Shultz, co-author and an emeritus professor in the former Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, said the findings have practical implications for personal health as well as the dairy industry.

“These are very intriguing findings, very interesting,” he said. “To my knowledge, this hasn’t been shown before.”

The study, which Fluegel did for her doctorate in nutritional biochemistry, notes that researchers in a 2007 study found no blood-pressure changes in people who took a whey-supplemented drink. At first, she saw no consistent improvement either. But then she thought to break out her subjects into different groups and found significant improvements in those with different types of elevated blood pressure. Improvements began in the first week of the study and lasted through its six-week course.

The supplements, delivered in fruit-flavored drinks developed at the WSU Creamery, did not lower the blood pressure of subjects who did not have elevated pressure to begin with. That’s good, said Fluegel, as low blood pressure can also be a problem.

Other studies have found that blood-pressure reductions like those seen by Fluegel can reduce cardiovascular disease and bring a 35 to 40 percent reduction in fatal strokes.

Health benefits aside, researchers are excited about the prospect of improving the market for whey, a cheese byproduct that often has to be disposed of at some expense. Its potential economic impact is unclear, says Shannon Neibergs, a WSU extension economist, “but any positive use of that product is going to be beneficial.”

Source : Elements4Health

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Butter Or Margarine: Which is Better for baking?

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‘You have to pick the lesser of two evils,’ a dietitian says. ‘In butter, it’s the saturated fat content, and in margarine, it’s trans fat.’

……………..CLICK & SEE
The composition of the fats in butter and margarine is very different. Butter has much more cholesterol-raising saturated fat.

If there’s one indulgence that’s practically unavoidable this time of year, it may well be the tray of holiday cookies. Adorned with sprinkles, spread with jam and frosting or dusted with powdered sugar, such cookies are a far cry from a healthful snack. Still, many cooks may nonetheless stand in their kitchens and wonder: Is it better to make them with margarine or butter?

Butter and margarine have a similar overall fat content — and therefore a lot of calories, says Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietitian with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. But the composition of the fats in butter and margarine differs significantly.

“You have to pick the lesser of two evils,” Zeratsky says. “In butter, it’s the saturated fat content, and in margarine, it’s trans fat.”

A tablespoon of butter contains more than three times the amount of cholesterol-raising saturated fat than the same amount of margarine — 7 grams in butter compared with 2 grams in margarine.

In addition, butter and margarine contain mono- and polyunsaturated fats, but margarine contains them in far greater amounts: close to 9 grams per tablespoon compared with butter’s 3.5 grams. These fats don’t raise LDL cholesterol — and some can help lower it, says Penny Kris-Etherton, professor of nutrition at Penn State University in University Park, Penn.

Margarine’s drawback is its trans-fat content. Margarines are made from blends of vegetable oils, such as corn, soybean, safflower or canola. Hydrogenation, a chemical process, replaces double chemical bonds in those oils with single chemical bonds, making the liquid oils solid at room temperature. When that replacement process is incomplete, the result is a partially hydrogenated oil, also known as a trans fat. Trans fats are what make margarine solid instead of liquid — but they’ve also been shown to be even worse for heart health than saturated fats. Not only do trans fats raise LDL cholesterol levels, they also lower HDL, or good, cholesterol.

For the last two years, manufacturers have been forced to list trans fats on food labels; as a result, many have reformulated their margarines (and other products) to lower or eliminate their trans fat content.

But the letter of the law is such that a food can claim to have no trans fat as long as it contains less than 0.5 gram of trans fat per serving. “Even when the label says trans fat-free, it doesn’t really mean that,” says Barry Swanson, a food science professor at Washington State University in Pullman.

Food scientists, meanwhile, are still experimenting with alternatives to trans fats, which have been put into foods since the label law, says Richard Hartel, professor of food engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Many manufacturers are replacing trans fats with a blend of vegetable fats; one common substitute is palm oil, which was condemned decades ago for its large fraction — 50% — of saturated fat. Today, manufacturers often alter that fraction, but the final fraction of saturated fats in margarine containing palm oil may not be discernible from the label, Swanson says.

Butter, on the other hand, is and always has been churned milk, a fact that makes it preferable to certain consumers, Zeratsky says. But that very fact means that butter, as an animal product, is loaded not only with saturated fat but also contains cholesterol — something margarine doesn’t contain.

Of course, when it comes to baking cookies, there are other factors on which to base the butter or margarine decision: aesthetics and flavor.

Butter contains an abundance of small-chain fatty acids, which readily break down during the baking process into a variety of molecules with a range of flavors — lending baked goods a rich, buttery flavor, Swanson says. The flavor imparted by the long-chain molecules in vegetable oils, on the other hand, is far less complex.

Butter and margarine both tend to make thin, flat cookies. Though tub margarine often has more of a healthful profile than stick margarine — it has more polyunsaturated fat and is less likely to contain trans fat — cookies made with tub margarine will be very thin and oily due to tub margarine’s high liquid content, says Eric Decker, chairman of the department of food science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Of course, sticklers for a cookie with light texture and volume know that the secret is neither butter nor margarine — it’s often shortening or lard, fat content be damned.

Hartel, author of “Food Bites: The Science of the Foods We Eat,” says he uses a combination of butter and shortening when baking cookies. “Ultimately, that’s a personal choice. The key is not to eat too many cookies.”

Sources: Los Angles Times

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News on Health & Science

Teenagers need more sleep, say experts

A leading body clock expert has claimed that students really do need a lie-in of an hour or two in the morning… & see

Neuroscience research suggests that the typical morose and sulky   Kevin the teenager  is someone who deserves our understanding, sympathy and help more than an early morning alarm call.

Scientists are beginning to understand why teenagers can turn from sweet, adorable boys and girls into a spotty, unpredictable and combustible blend of truculence, arrogance and moodiness. It is, research has shown, not just to do with sleep deprivation but profound changes taking place in their brains.

The teenage brain is a  work in progress   and needs extra sleep, according to Professor Russell Foster, a   chronobiologist  at Oxford University.

Teenagers have long complained they are too tired to get up in the morning and that starting school early is cruel. Some adults blame the griping on the fact that many teenagers stay up late to do homework, take part in marathon telephone sessions or play computer games.

But work by Professor Till Roenneberg and colleagues at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich has shown that sleep timing changes markedly as we age, said Foster. By the time of puberty, bed times and wake times drift to later and later hours. The tendency to get up later continues until about the age of 19.5 years in women and 20.9 years in men.

“On the basis of this data, we know teens want to go to bed two hours later than 40 to 50-year-olds, and in 10 per cent there is a four-hour delay,   said Foster. In other words, they are biologically programmed to want to stay under the duvet.

Mary Carskadon, the director of sleep research at EP Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island, America, has shown that among US teenagers, on average 25 per cent get fewer than six-and-a-half hours sleep a night.

She estimates that to be optimally alert teenagers need about nine hours of sleep. Studies by Carskadon with colleagues at the University of Toronto have suggested that a later starting time for school would greatly improve alertness and the mental abilities of teenagers during their morning lessons.

Foster said teenagers would not need such long lie-ins if they could “improve sleep hygiene.

That would mean, for example, going to bed at the same time each day, keeping their bedrooms cool and banning computers, lights and televisions.

But that is not always easy, as Foster knows first hand from his own children: Charlotte, 17, Victoria, 13, and most of all from his 15-year-old, William.

“Do they listen to me? They laugh at me most of time,” he confessed.

The basic problem is that society takes no account of the maturation of the teenage brain.

MRI scans of adolescent brains conducted over the past decade have revealed that not only is there major reorganisation in the teenage brain but it continues to develop until the early twenties.

Among the most sleep deprived are teenagers and an increasing body of evidence from sleep researchers suggests that relatively minor changes in the way we time educational activities could have major benefits,   said Foster.

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)