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Herbs & Plants

Ranunculus sceleratus

Botanical Name : Ranunculus sceleratus
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Ranunculus
Species: R. sceleratus
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales

Synonym: Marsh Crowfoot.

Common Name:Cursed buttercup and Celery-leaved buttercup

Habitat : A common plant native to Europe and naturalized in the United States. Can be found in fields, pastures and dry meadows of the northeastern United States and the Pacific northwest coastal areas

Description:
It is an annual herb growing up to half a meter tall. The leaves have small blades each deeply lobed or divided into usually three leaflets. They are borne on long petioles. The flower has three to five yellow petals a few millimeters long and reflexed sepals. The fruit is an achene borne in a cluster of several.

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General: hairless to sparsely stiff-hairy annual with
numerous slender, fleshy roots. Stems 1 to several, erect,
20-50 cm tall, usually freely branched, hollow.

Leaves: the basal with a stalk 2-4 times as long as the
blades, the blade kidney-shaped in outline, mostly 2.5-4
cm long and deeply 3 (or apparently 5)-parted into more or
less wedge-shaped, and again less deeply once- or twice-
lobed or toothed. Stem leaves numerous, alternate, more
deeply cleft or divided than the basal leaves.

Flowers: several on stalks rather stout, 1-3 cm long.
Sepals 5, spreading, yellowish, 2-4.5 mm long, soon
dropped. Petals 5, yellow, 2-5 mm long. Nectary scale 1
mm long, largely joined to the petal, the edges and base
forming a slight pocket bordering and partially covering the
exposed gland. Receptacle in fruit ellipsoid-cylindric, up to
14 mm long, usually slightly short-hairy. Stamens 15-20.
Flowering time: May-September.

Fruits: achenes, 100-250 in a cylindrical cluster,
obovate in outline, about 1 mm long, flattened, the central
portion of the face smooth and set off from the edges by a
distinct depression. Style pimple-like, about 0.1 mm long.

Cultivation :: In and by slow streams, ditches and shallow ponds of mineral rich water and muddy bottoms, avoiding acid soils.

Propagation :: Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. This plant is unlikely to need much assistance. Division in spring.

Edible Uses:
Edible parts of Celery-Leaved Buttercup: Young plant cooked. It is said to be not unwholesome if the plant is boiled and the water thrown away and then the plant cooked again. Caution is strongly advised, see the notes above on toxicity and below on medicinal uses.

Medicinal Uses:
Part used: Juice of leaves and flowers

Acrid, anodyne, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, rebefacient.
Has been used for abrasions, toothache, and rheumatism.
The Montagnais tribe of Native Americans relieved sinus headache by using the dried plant as snuff to promote sneezing. The Algonquins of Temiscaming used the flowers and seeds powdered for the same purpose.

The celery-leafed buttercup is one of the most virulent of  plants. When bruised and applied to the skin it raises a blister and creates a sore that is not easy to heal. If chewed it inflames the tongue and produces violent effects. The herb should be used fresh since it loses its effects when dried. The leaves and the root are used externally as an antirheumatic.  The seed is tonic and is used in the treatment of colds, general debility, rheumatism and spermatorrhea. When made into a tincture, given in small diluted doses, it proves curative of stitch in the side and neuralgic pains between the ribs.

Homeopathic :
Mostly used homeopathically.A homeopathic tincture is used for skin diseases, rheumatism, sciatica, arthritis, rhinitis.

Other Uses:
Dye:
*Sources state both red and yellow can be produced. The Ojibwe used burr oak to set the color which was probably red. The Forest Potawatomi used the entire plant to produce a yellow dye which they used on rushes or flags to make baskets and mats (color was set by placing a handful of clay in the pot).

*The Ojibwe smoked the seeds in their pipes along with other herbs to lure deer close enough for a shot with bow and arrow.

Known hazards: All parts of the plant are poisonous when fresh, the toxins are destroyed by heat or by drying. The plant also has a strongly acrid juice that can cause blistering to the skin.

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_AB.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranunculus_sceleratus
http://www.sdnhm.org/fieldguide/plants/ranu-sce.html
http://earthnotes.tripod.com/buttercup.htm

http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/r/ranunculus-sceleratus=celery-leaved-buttercup.php

http://montana.plant-life.org/species/ranun_scele.htm

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News on Health & Science

Brawn and Brains

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Children who exercise regularly have a bigger hippocampus and thus an improved memory.

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Click to see:>Physically Fit Kids Have Bigger Hippocampus

In the age of the intellect, it may not be surprising if people do not exercise regularly. What does it matter to an intellectual career if you are not in your peak physical fitness, as long as you are healthy and in reasonable shape? Recent scientific research, however, says there is a connection. Fit people tend to be better off intellectually, no matter what their age. And fitter children tend to have better brains, literally and figuratively.

Art Kramer, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, the US, has been studying the influence of exercise on brains for a long time now. Like everyone else, he has been noticing links between the mind and exercise.

Recently, he set out to measure something others have not done so far with children’s brains: how their size responds to exercise. Kramer found out something that should make all educators sit up and take notice: fit children have a bigger hippocampus in the brain and perform better on memory tests. Says Kramer, “Brain size and function improve significantly with physical fitness.”

Kramer’s was the first study that tried to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to correlate brain sizes and physical fitness. Other studies previously have shown a correlation between exercise and academic performance in children. Kramer himself had earlier shown a correlation between exercise and brain size in older people.

Exercise has been shown to be beneficial in recovery after brain radiation treatment. Exercise has been also seen to be good for treating schizophrenia, depression and other brain-related problems. The link between physical fitness and mental fitness seem to be quite strong, and also in an unexpected manner.

Recent research in neuroscience has shown a strong correlation between brain size and performance. Although it seems to contradict common sense, neuroscientists have seen a link between brain size and mental ability, on occasions even intelligence. While this may be true even for overall brain size, the link seems to be strong for parts of the brain that seem to increase volume with certain activity. Neuroscientists have been focusing on the hippocampus because it is critical to several functions like long-term memory and spatial ability.

The size of the hippocampus is seen to increase with certain activity. For example, certain areas of the region are large in experienced taxi drivers. This is not surprising because specific skills are seen to increase the size of specific areas of the brain. However, current research on exercise goes beyond skills. It is about overall fitness, and it is seen to increase the size as well as improve the function of parts of the brain.

Kramer’s studies mainly pertained to aerobic exercise, the most well-studied form of exercise. He used a tested and reliable method of determining fitness: a person’s ability to use oxygen while running on a treadmill. Those who used oxygen more efficiently are fitter. This is supposed to be the gold standard in determining physical fitness. Kramer and his team worked with 49 children, of whom the fitter ones had a 12 per cent larger hippocampus. He also made the children perform memory tests, and the fitter children also scored better on those. Those who had a bigger hippocampus also performed better.

 

In another recent study, Lesley Cottrell of the University of West Virginia analysed over two years the link between physical fitness and academic performance, from fifth grade to seventh grade. She separated the students into groups, those who maintained their fitness levels over the two-year period, those who gained and those who lost it. She then analysed their academic performance during the period. Those who maintained their fitness were the best. Those who improved on it came second, and those who lost it came third. Those who remained unfit were in the last group.

Although this study did not look at brain sizes, the study size was large enough — 725 students — to be taken seriously. It also sent home a message, one that Kramer’s study substantiated. “In these times of tight budgets, it is the budget for physical education that is cut first,” says Kramer. “We should reconsider this policy.” Fit children are seen to carry their fitness into adulthood. The American Heart Association recommends 60 minutes of physical activity for children and adults.

Neuroscientists had also looked at older people and found roughly the same correlation as in children. The brain function, as measured by its chemistry, also improved in several studies. In animals, the size of the cerebellum — a brain part that is important for maintaining balance — increased with exercise. Blood flow improved as well.

Human studies are not as thorough, but they suggest the same pattern. Neuroscientists are now trying to see how the ability to tackle physically challenging tasks can correlate with the ability to tackle mentally challenging tasks.

It is early days yet, but the message is clear: physical activity is essential for maintaining an active mental life.

Click to see : Physical Fitness Increases Brain Size in Elderly

Source :
The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Herbs & Plants

Black Spruce

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Botanical Name: Abies mariana – Mill.
Family :Pinaceae
Genus: Picea
Synonyms : Abies mariana – Mill.  Picea nigra – (Aiton.)Link.  Pinus nigra – Aiton
Common names:
•black spruce   (Source: World Econ Pl ) – English
•bog spruce   (Source: Trees US ) – English
•Schwarzfichte

Habitat :Northern  America – Alaska to Newfoundland and south to British Columbia and W. Virginia.   Cool slopes and bogs. Found on well-drained soils in the north of its range and swamps in the south.Found on a variety of soil types, it grows best in those that are moist and acidic.

Description : An evergreen Tree growing to 20m by 4m at a slow rate.

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It is hardy to zone 4. It is in leaf all year, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.

Cultivation:-
Likes abundant moisture at the roots, if grown in drier areas it must be given a deep moist soil. Tolerates poor peaty soils. Succeeds in wet cold and shallow soils but is not very wind-firm in shallow soils.   Prefers a pH between 4 to 6 and dislikes shallow chalky soils. Dislikes shade. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution. . Resists wind exposure.  This tree is one of the most widespread and abundant species in N. America where it is extensively utilized as a timber tree. A short lived and slow growing tree both in the wild and in cultivation. New growth takes place from early May to the end of June and rarely exceeds 60 cm even when young and is less as the tree grows old. Trees have been planted experimentally as a timber crop in N. Europe   (this appears to contradict the previous statement that the tree is slow growing. The reason is probably that it is either planted in areas too harsh for most trees to grow or it is only slow growing in milder areas such as Britain[K]). A prolific seed-producer, usually beginning to bear cones at around 10 years of age. In some upland areas, especially over granitic or other base-poor soils, growth rate and health have been seriously affected by aluminium poisoning induced by acid rain. Closely related to P. rubens. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance. Lower branches often self-layer and form a ring of stems around the parent plant. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value. The crushed foliage has a strong scent of balsam or lemon balm.

Propagation:-
Seed – stratification will probably improve germination so sow fresh seed in the autumn in a cold frame if possible. Sow stored seed as early in the year as possible in a cold frame. A position in light shade is probably best. Seed should not be allowed to dry out and should be stored in a cool place[80]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter. They can be planted out into their permanent positions in early summer of the following year, or be placed in an outdoor nursery bed for a year or so to increase in size. They might need protection from spring frosts. Cuttings of semi-ripe terminal shoots, 5 – 8cm long, August in a frame. Protect from frost. Forms roots in the spring. Cuttings of mature terminal shoots, 5 – 10cm long, September/October in a cold frame. Takes 12 months. Cuttings of soft to semi-ripe wood, early summer in a frame. Slow but sure. Layering. Lower branches often layer naturally in the wild.

Cultivars:-
There are some named forms for this species, but these have been developed for their ornamental value and not for their other uses. Unless you particularly require the special characteristics of any of these cultivars, we would generally recommend that you grow the natural species for its useful properties. We have, therefore, not listed the cultivars in this database

Edible Uses:-
Edible Parts: Flowers; Inner bark; Seed; Seedpod.

Edible Uses: Condiment; Drink; Gum; Tea.

Young male catkins – raw or cooked. Used as a flavouring. Immature female cones – cooked. The central portion, when roasted, is sweet and syrupy. The cones are 1 – 4cm in diameter. Inner bark – cooked. It is usually harvested in the spring and can be dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereals when making bread. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails. Seed – raw. The seed is about 2 – 4mm long and is too small and fiddly to be worthwhile unless you are desperate. A refreshing tea, rich in vitamin C, can be made from the young shoot tips. A tea is also made from the needles and the bark. A gum obtained from the bark is collected in considerable quantities and used for chewing. Hardened blobs make an excellent chewing gum. It should be aged for 3 days or more before using it. The best gum is obtained from the southern side of the tree. Another report says that the gum, called ‘spruce gum‘, is a resinous exudation collected from the branches[183]. A source of ‘spruce oil’, used commercially for flavouring. The young twigs are boiled with molasses, sugar etc and then fermented to produce ‘Spruce beer’. The beer is ready to drink in a week and is considered to be a good source of minerals and vitamins.

Medicinal  Actions & Uses:

Antiinflammatory; Disinfectant; Kidney; Odontalgic; Poultice; Salve; Skin; Stomachic; Vulnerary.

A poultice of the inner bark has been applied to inflammations. A tea made from the inner bark is a folk remedy for kidney stones, stomach problems and rheumatism. An infusion of the roots and bark has been used in the treatment of stomach pains, trembling and fits. A resin from the trunk is used as a poultice and salve on sores to promote healing. The resin can be mixed with oil and used as a dressing on purulent wounds, bad burns, skin rashes, scabies and persistent scabs. The resin can be chewed as an aid to digestion. A decoction of the gum or leaves has been used in treating respiratory infections and kidney problems. An infusion of the leaves has been used as a bath or a rub in treating dry skin or sores. A decoction of the young twigs has been used in the treatment of coughs. A decoction of the cones has been drunk in the treatment of diarrhoea. A decoction has been used externally as a gargle to treat sore throats. The cones have been chewed to treat a sore mouth and toothaches.

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.

Other Uses:-
Dye; Pitch; String; Waterproofing; Wood.

A yellow-orange dye is obtained from the cones[106]. Various native North American Indian tribes made a string from the long roots of this species and used it to stitch the bark of their canoes, to sew baskets etc. The pitch obtained from the trunk has been used as a sealing material on the hulls of canoes. Wood – light, soft, not strong. It weighs 28lb per cubic foot. Since it is a smaller tree than the other spruces, it is not an important lumber source for uses such as construction[. However, it is widely used for making boxes, crates etc, and is valued for its use in the pulp industry to make paper, plus it is also used as a fuel.

Scented Plants
Leaves: Crushed
The crushed foliage has a strong scent of balsam or lemon balm.

Economic importance:
•Environmental: ornamental
•Materials: essential oils; wood   (fide AH 519; HerbSpices 2:190. 1987)
•Social: religious/secular   (also as Christmas tree fide AH 519)

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/database/plants.php?Picea+mariana
http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?28305

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Herbs & Plants

Japanese Honeysuckle

Botanical Name: Lonicera japonica Thunb.
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Dipsacales
Genus: Lonicera
Species: L. japonica
Other names: Japanese honeysuckle, madreselva, Chin Yin Hua, Chin Yin T’Eng, Honeysuckle, Jen Tung, Jen Tung Chiu, Jen Tung Kao, Sui-Kazura, Yin Hua, Hall’s Honeysuckle, White honeysuckle, Chinese honeysuckle, Halliana

Habitat:-
The Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica; Suikazura in Japanese) is a species of honeysuckle native to eastern Asia including Japan, Korea, northern and eastern China, and Taiwan, which is a major invasive species in North America. In USA it is distributed from Pennsylvania and West Virginia west to Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Widespread in the eastern and southern United States. Japanese honeysuckle is an important white-tailed deer food and is often invasive.

Description: –

It is a twining vine able to climb up to 10 m high or more in trees, with opposite, simple oval leaves 3–8 cm long and 2–3 cm broad. The flowers are double-tongued, opening white and fading to yellow, and sweetly scented. The fruit is a globose dark blue berry 5–8 mm diameter containing numerous seeds. The extremely fragrant, two-lipped flowers are borne in pairs in the axils of young branches and are produced throughout the summer. Flowers range from 1 to 2 inches in length and are white with a slight purple or pink tinge when young, changing to white or yellow with age, they are edible. The fruit is a black, berrylike drupe with three to five one-seeded stones.

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Japanese honeysuckle is primarily a weed of fence rows, landscapes, nurseries, and container ornamentals. This weed is now distributed throughout the United States, but is primarily a problem in the southeastern states.

Similar Species:-
Japanese honeysuckle is separated easily from the native honeysuckle vines by its leaves. Leaves near tips of the vines of Japanese honeysuckle are opposite and not united, while leaves of native honeysuckles (3 species) are united at the base, forming a single leaf surrounding the stem. Japanese honeysuckle should be accurately identified before attempting any control measures. If identification of the species is in doubt, the plant‘s identity should be confirmed by a knowledgeable individual and/or by consulting appropriate books.

Cultivation and uses:-
Prefers partial shade to full sun and moist soil. Prune back hard in winter to prevent the build-up of woody growth, provide a trellis.This species is sold by American nurseries, often as the cultivar ‘Hall’s Prolific’ (Lonicera Japonica var. Halliana). It is an effective groundcover, and has pleasant, strong-smelling flowers. It can be cultivated by seed, cuttings, or layering. In addition, it will spread itself via shoots if given enough space to grow.

Japanese Honeysuckle has become naturalized in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand and much of the United States, including Hawaii, as well as a number of Pacific and Caribbean islands.

Japanese Honeysuckle is classified as a noxious weed in Illinois and Virginia. It can be controlled by cutting or burning the plant to root level and repeating at two-week intervals until nutrient reserves in the roots are depleted. It can also be controlled through annual applications of glyphosate, or through grubbing if high labor and soil destruction are not of concern. Cutting the Honeysuckle to within 5–10 cm of the ground and then applying glyphosate has proved to be doubly effective, provided that the mixture is rather concentrated (20–25%) and is applied immediately after making the cut

Medicinal Uses;-
Japanese honeysuckle is edible and medicinal. High in Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium, the leaves can be parboiled and eaten as a vegetable. The edible buds and flowers, made into a syrup or puddings. The entire plant has been used as an alternative medicine for thousands of years in Asia. The active constituents include calcium, elaidic-acid, hcn, inositol, linoleic-acid, lonicerin, luteolin, magnesium, myristic-acid, potassium, tannin, and zink. It is alterative, antibacterial, antiinflammatory, antispasmodic, depurative, diuretic, febrifuge, and is also used to reduce blood pressure. The stems are used internally in the treatment of acute rheumatoid arthritis, mumps and hepatitis. The stems are harvested in the autumn and winter, and are dried for later herb use. The stems and flowers are used together a medicinal infusion in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections (including pneumonia) and dysentery. An infusion of the flower buds is used in the treatment of a wide range of ailments including syphillitic skin diseases and tumors, bacterial dysentery, colds, and enteritis. Experimentally, the flower extracts have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels and are antibacterial, antiviral and tuberculostatic. Externally, the flowers are applied as a medicinal wash to skin inflammations, infectious rashes and sores. The flowers are harvested in early morning before they open and are dried for later herb use. This plant has become a serious weed in many areas of N. America, it might have the potential to be utilized for proven medicinal purposes. Other uses include; Ground cover, Insecticide, Basketry, vines used to make baskets. The white-flowers of cultivar ‘Halliana’ has a pronounced lemon-like perfume.

Chinese Medicine:-
The Japanese Honeysuckle flower is of high medicinal value in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is called r?n d?ng téng ( literally “winter enduring vine”) or j?n yín hu? ( literally “gold silver flower”). Alternate Chinese names include Er Hua and Shuang Hua. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is used (often in combination with Forsythia suspensa) to dispel heat and remove toxins, including carbuncles, fevers, influenza and ulcers. In Korean, it is called geumeunhwa. The dried leaves are also used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Jin Yin Hua (Japanese Honeysuckle, Flos Lonicerae Japonicae) is notable for its inclusion in the traditional Chinese medicine herbal formula Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder. In pinyin, this formula is called Yin Qiao San. Traditional indications for use of this formula include fever, headache, cough, thirst, and sore throat. For indications such as this, it is common to find Japanese Honeysuckle paired in Chinese medicine herbal formulations with Forsythia (Lian Qiao, Fructus Forsythiae Suspensae). According to Chinese medicine, these herbs, when combined, have a synergistic medicinal effect to address indications such as fever with headache and sore throat. This is why these two herbs are considered “paired herbs.”

In Chinese medicine, Jin Yin Hua is classfied with a temperature property of cold. The cold designation specifically refers to, in this case, to Jin Yin Hua’s anti-toxin, anti-bacterial, anti-pyretic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Also, according to traditional Chinese medicine, Jin Yin Hua is contraindicated for patients with medical conditions that are diagnosed as deficient and cold in nature unless combined with other herbs to balance the temperature nature of Jin Yin Hua. In layperson terms, Jin Yin Hua is used in Chinese medicine to address what are called excess heat conditions such as fevers, skin rashes, and sore throat. Excess heat conditions are essentially inflammatory processes involving heat, redness, pain, and swelling often due to external pathogenic factors such as bacteria and viruses. The cold nature of Jin Yin Hua is considered to cool the heat nature of the heat related conditions. For example, Jin Yin Hua’s antibacterial properties can help to cool a fever. In this case, the cold herb treats the heat condition. However, should a patient present with what is termed as a cold condition such as aversion to cold with cold limbs, cold and pain in the abdomen, and abdominal pain relieved by warmth,[4] then Jin Yin Hua’s cold nature is said to be contraindicated for treating the pre-existing cold condition. Should an herbalist choose to use Jin Yin Hua in an herbal formula for a patient with a cold condition, he/she would then choose to balance the temperature of Jin Yin Hua with another herb that is warming in nature.

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.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/plants/honeysuckle.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_Honeysuckle
http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/chf/outreach/VMG/jhnysckl.html
http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/lonja.htm

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