Browsing Category

Herbs

Herbs

Hawthorn Herb

The sweet-smelling Hawthorn herb comes from a thorny, hedge-like tree made famous in popular culture by the King Arthur legend.

The medieval hero, who presided over the Knights of the Round Table in 12th century Britain, is buried under a Hawthorn tree at his English grave in Glastonbury.

However, the Hawthorn tree, which can also be spelled with an “e” as “Hawthorne,” was popular among natural medicine users all the way back to the 1st century – way before King Arthur.

History of the Hawthorn Tree

The Hawthorn tree species, which is related to the rose family, was first grown during the 1st century in the Mediterranean basin which includes parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa. Its tangly, thorny branches were believed to have been used to create the crown of thorns that Christ wore on the cross.
Hawthorn Berry Benefits
Today, the Hawthorn tree is a staple all over the world, including in North America where it is used for hedgerows in order to create natural privacy fences. Fencing with this tree, however, is such a waste since it can be used with relative ease for cooking and curing ailments.

Hawthorn wood made it to America along with the first settlers from England. Because the tree first flowers in May, it is also known as the Mayflower. That nickname adorned the first boat that brought pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts to settle the U.S. That boat was built from wooden planks cut from the Hawthorn tree.

The Hawthorne tree is known for its quick growth, long life span of 400 years, and its ability to grow under most any circumstance. The soil can be acidic or alkaline. The sun exposure can be partial or full. There are 1,000 different species of the tree and on average the Hawthorn grows 20 to 30 feet high and spreads about 8 to 15 feet wide.

Processing the Hawthorn Herb

The tree is so rich in healing properties that nearly all of its parts have been used in alternative medicine for thousands of years. Herbalists routinely use the veiny leaves, the small white buds, the sweet red berries, and the tree’s pink and white flowers which bloom twice yearly.

Processing the herb is unnecessary, although it is almost always dried, crushed and turned into powder form. However, it is perfectly effective to simply chew the leaves and buds raw and straight from the tree, as many did in the ancient days. The plant’s berries, which grow during summertime in green, white, pink or red hues, can be eaten straight from the tree as well once they are ripe. The ripest berries are dark red and nearly black.

Those who wish to mix the herb in homemade tinctures, balms, or other concoctions for medicinal uses can process the plant by drying, roasting or boiling the leaves, flowers, or buds and adding alcohol, glycerin and other ingredients.

If you buy the Hawthorn herb from a store or pharmacy, it will most likely have been dried and turned into a powder.

Mythical Powers of the Herb

The May flowering of the Hawthorne tree used to be considered a sacred event among pagans who believed that the tree had special protective powers.

In order to benefit from the magic power, ancient peoples indulged in a range of superstitious practices with the Hawthorn tree. For example, ancient Greeks burned Hawthorn wood at weddings and gave the blossoms to the bride and groom for their safety. The Hawthorn also protected the womb of the bride and encouraged fertility.

The leaves of the Hawthorn tree were placed alongside any newborn in a cradle to ensure their survival. The Hawthorn could protect the children and the house from demonic spirits and witches.

One reason Hawthorn was linked to the protection of kids and nuptials was because it was the symbol of minor Roman goddess Cardea. Cardea presided over marriage and babies, using the branches and leaves of the Hawthorn tree as her tools. She was called “White Goddess” likely after the white buds of the Hawthorn.

Eventually, the power of the goddess became associated with the tree itself. Cardea is not credited for creating Hawthorn, however. That credit goes to the God Thor, who created the tree with a zap of lightning, according to legend. Because of that, Hawthorn was also thought to protect people during thunderstorms.

Today, Hawthorn is still believed to have protective energy, but not the superstitious kind. Many scientific studies have led to proof that Hawthorn can have a curative effect on the body.

10 Uses of the Herb

Hawthorn herb is in fact quite protective – although not in the mythic ways mentioned above. The leaves, berries, and flowers of the Hawthorn tree are filled with different types of bioflavonoids which bestow it with healing power.
Hawthorn Berry Benefits
Bioflavonoids, also known as simply flavonoids, are plant pigments that have the same heart-protecting effects as the dyes in red wine. There are more than five different flavonoids in the Hawthorn herb, but vitexin and hyperoside are believed to be the most coveted. Also coveted are oligomeric proyanidins. These are long chains of flavonoids and have a greater and more diverse power than single flavonoids.

These natural chemical dyes, which give a rich, vibrant hue to the flowers and berries of the Hawthorn tree, also give the herb the following health benefits:

Good for the Heart

The herb contains chemicals which block enzymes that destroy heart muscle and tissue. Research trials have shown that individuals with congestive heart failure can experience recovery and heart muscle repair while taking Hawthorn.

The Hawthorn herb strengthens cardiac muscles and fights heart disease by causing the heart to pump blood more easily and vigorously. The arteries in the heart are able to relax under the influence of the Hawthorn herb so there is better blood flow to the heart. This also relieves heart pain.

Studies show that people suffering from heart failure do so because their hearts do not pump enough blood. This can lead to shallow breathing, chest pain, and a continual state of exhaustion because there is not enough oxygen or nutrients in circulation. The Hawthorn herb can lessen or erase all these symptoms because it increases the forcefulness and the speed of the heart’s pumping action. This enables people with heart ailments to exercise and do other daily work without over-taxing their hearts.

Those who simply struggle to breathe or who have minor heart palpitations can also benefit from the Hawthorn herb. The herb has been used for heart palpitations and other heart problems since the 1700s.

Good for Blood Pressure and Circulatory Problems

The natural chemicals in the Hawthorn herb block enzymes in the body which cause constriction of the blood vessels. When blood vessels are too tight, the blood must force itself against the vessel walls to circulate throughout the body.

However, when the Hawthorn herb prevents constriction and instead allows the blood vessels to dilate or open wide, blood pressure is greatly reduced. A flavonoid in Hawthorn called rutin makes the blood vessel more elastic so that it can flex as the blood is circulating. Blood flow throughout the body becomes more efficient, reducing blood pressure. High blood pressure is known as hypertension. The use of Hawthorn for hypertension has been practiced since the 1600s.

The easing of blood pressure can help people diagnosed with a range of related ailments, such as angina and arrhythmia.

People who suffer from angina have frequent chest pain because there’s not enough blood flowing to their heart area. Research shows Hawthorn berry extracts can relieve angina after less than one month of use.

Circulatory problems such as having cold hands or feet due to lack of blood to extremities can also be solved by treating blood flow with Hawthorn.

Good for Lowering Bad Cholesterol

The Hawthorn herb was found in clinical trials to increase the body’s ability to break down and remove cholesterol, whether that cholesterol was created by the body itself or was acquired through unhealthy foods. Specifically, this herb has the power to cleanse the blood of LDL, otherwise known as the bad cholesterol. In addition to that, the Hawthorn herb can stop the body from producing excess cholesterol in the first place – a preventative measure.

Good for Atherosclerosis

When fat and plaque build up and harden on artery walls, the arteries can become blocked. This ailment is known as atherosclerosis. The Hawthorn herb has the ability to dissolve and remove plaque buildup in the arteries.

Good for Getting Antioxidants

Oxygen in free radicals causes the body to age. Antioxidants are chemicals that fight oxidation of body tissue by free radicals. The Hawthorn herb has been successful in fighting oxidation and aging because the pigments in the berries and flowers contain tons of vitamin C, a natural antioxidant.

Good for Arthritis or Gout

The joint pain caused by arthritis can be alleviated by Hawthorn extracts because the herb helps the body retain more protein and collagen to support joints and allow joints to move with ease. When someone gets arthritis or gout, the inflamed joints generally lose collagen and protein. Hawthorn has been used to treat gout since the 1300s.

Good for Insomnia

The Hawthorne Herb is a natural tranquilizer and can help one relax or fall asleep. To treat insomnia, infuse hot water with dried Hawthorn leaves.

Good for Ending Water Retention

The herb is a diuretic that can rid the body of excess water and even flush out kidney stones.

Good for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Many herbalists recommend boiling dried Hawthorne berries in hot water to make a tea that relieves irritable bowels and other digestive problems, like diarrhea.

Good for Sore Throats

A little known use of the Hawthorn herb is to drink a tea of Hawthorn leaves and berries to cure sore throats. The tea is an astringent which heals raw and sore areas and stops bleeding.

Dosage and Regimen

There’s a myth that one can never take too much Hawthorn herb, allegedly because the body will simply excrete what it does not need. This is incorrect. Herbalists advise users to take the lowest dosage recommended because Hawthorn works best when it slowly accumulates in the body over time.
Most sources and product labels recommend a dosage of Hawthorn herb that equals 200 milligrams daily for medicinal uses. It can be taken for an indefinite period of time. It is not recommended to consume more than 1800 milligrams of Hawthorn herb in one day.

Some advocates of Hawthorn recommend that consumers focus not on the amount of the overall extract or herb, but on the amount of flavonoids in the dosage. Seek to get between four and 20 milligrams of flavonoids per dose, if possible.

If your product lists percentages of flavonoids instead of milligrams, go for the one that offers at least 2 percent of flavonoids.

Because vitexin is the most popular flavonoid found in Hawthorne, you might see a percentage listed specifically for vitexin on your product. A 1.5 percent dose is good for this pigment.

For best results, take the recommended amount thrice a day for at least a month and a half.

Which Herb is Best?

Dried berries of the Hawthorn tree originally were more popular than flowers and leaves. Today, the opposite is true. Flowers have been scientifically found to contain more of the flavonoids which fight aging and strengthen the heart. In that respect, flowers or preparations using dried flowers are best.

All parts of the tree have some flavonoids, however. Berries are often preferred for Hawthorn tea, which is known for its bitterness. This tea was a popular substitute for coffee during the World War I era.

All parts of the Hawthorn are available in capsules, dried solids or liquid form.

Side Effects

Because the Hawthorn herb can act as a sedative, falling asleep after taking large doses is a possibility. Therefore, do not operate heavy equipment or drive after taking it.

Also, because the herb lowers blood pressure, it is possible in rare cases for a person’s blood pressure to drop so low that fainting is possible. This is rare, however, since the Hawthorn herb also makes the heart pump blood faster and would therefore create a balance that would yield normal blood pressure. An extremely large dosage would be necessary to lower blood pressure to a dangerous level.

Some people experience heart palpitations while taking Hawthorn. Others endure slight nausea or headaches.
There are no toxic effects of this herb. It is not known to counteract most prescription drugs. However, tell your doctor if you are taking Beta-blockers, Digoxin, Phenylephrine and Calcium channel blockers, all of which might be mildly affected by Hawthorn herb.

Legality

The Hawthorn herb is not classified as a controlled substance in any state. The all-natural herb is legal to privately cultivate and use everywhere. Consumers can purchase forms of the herb from vitamin stores or through online pharmacies without prescriptions.

Costs & Where to Buy

If you’d like to buy a small Hawthorn bush and grow the herb yourself, consider a brick-and-mortar nursery or even the online Clifton’s Nursery and Garden Center (cliftonsnursery.net) which sells small 5 gallon Hawthorn plants for $50.

For convenience, consider visiting a natural health foods store or vitamin shop for dried Hawthorn herb. Dried herb costs between $7 and $26 for a three-month supply. Some popular online vendors for Hawthorn include Amazon.com, HealthSuperstore.com, and GNC.com.

Sources

University of Maryland, Medical Center
Science Daily Magazine
Herbs, Hands, Healing

Herbs

Fenugreek

Fenugreek Seed

A part of the family Fabaceae, Fenugreek is a plant that is used as a spice or as an herb; the seeds are used as spices while the leaves are used as herbs. One of its most well known uses is in curry. Although it is more commonly used as a spice, Fenugreek is also used as a method of treating various health problems in countries such as Egypt, South Asia, Italy and Greece.

Benefits of Fenugreek

Fenugreek became popular largely due to the nourishment the plant offers; it has been known to contain Vitamin C, Potassium, Niacin, Diosgenin (similar to estrogen) and Protein. One of its benefits is the effects it has on women who are experiencing problems with PMS or menopause. Due to its estrogen like nutrients, Fenugreek can also increase libido and decrease the effects of hot flashes and mood swings that many women suffer from.

History

Fenugreek is believed to have originated in the North Africa area that is closest to the Mediterranean Sea. As the knowledge of it spread, various uses were discovered depending on the region it was used in; Egyptians used the spice in embalming while the Romans and Greeks used it for cattle fodder. Fenugreek has been known in various parts of the world since the early years, dating back to as early as the fifth century. Currently, Fenugreek is most widely found in Rajasthan, India, which produces over 80% of the country’s supply.

Uses

Fenugreek has been found to have many uses in addition to what it was originally used for. Those in the Arab nations cooked with Fenugreek with the belief that it would soften the throat, chest and abdomen. In addition, those living in the Middle East, India and North Africa use Fenugreek as a form of medication. The seed’s nourishing effects can be given to those suffering from anorexia to encourage weight gain. It is also used as a spice to prepare meals and can also be used for personal beauty purposes.

Cooking

One of the most common uses of Fenugreek is as a spice in many dishes throughout the world. In Indian nations, Fenugreek is one of the most common ingredients of curry, adding to the intensity of the flavor. While it is most commonly known for being a component of curry, it is also used in African cuisine and is included in an Ethiopian pepper blend referred to as berbere.

While its bitter taste can make it a turn off at first bite, once it is included in recipes, the almost caramel leave behind adds an extra supplement that leaves diners wanting more. And in the United States, Fenugreek can be used as a maple substitute in maple syrups to offer a lower cost alternative to using pure maple. In addition, its somewhat bitter flavor prompts an individual’s body to begin to secrete bile, aiding in digestion.

Health Benefits

One of the most common uses of Fenugreek is in conditions where it can improve ones health. Fenugreek has been known to treat injuries to the skin such as burns, ulcers, boils or abscesses; it can also be used by women as a method of douching when one has excessive discharge in the vaginal area.

In addition, Fenugreek can be used to stimulate contractions in order to induce labor, as well as increase milk production in lactating women after childbirth.

It is believed that the oil Fenugreek contains can increase the milk production by up to 500 percent over a 24 to 72 hour time period. The Chinese also use Fenugreek as a pessary used to treat cervical cancer.
Fenugreek Health Benefits
In addition to the benefits Fenugreek provides women, it can also play a role in increasing one’s health. The seed can be used as a home remedy for lowering cholesterol, as well as lowering one’s risk for heart attack.

Another positive effect of Fenugreek is the role it can play for those who are Type 2 Diabetic. Studies have shown that consuming an average of 500mg of Fenugreek twice daily can decrease a patient’s blood sugar levels.

Another use of Fenugreek is to lower fever during an illness. When taken with lemon and honey in an herbal tea, the seeds can lower one’s temperature. Also, Fenugreek has been found to be a natural cure for acid reflux and heartburn.

If one is looking for a natural treatment for either of these conditions, they would have two options: to sprinkle a teaspoon of Fenugreek seeds on your food, or to take a teaspoon of the seeds and swallow them with a glass of juice or water before consuming a meal. This works due to the fact that the seeds contain a supply of mucilage, which coats the lining of the stomach and intestine, soothing the gastrointestinal inflammation that causes the uncomfortable conditions.

Beauty

While not as common as health benefits and cooking ingredients, Fenugreek can also be used to aid in one’s personal beauty regimen. In India, the seeds are mixed with yogurt and used as a hair conditioner. For those women who are unhappy with their breast size but are looking for a natural alternative instead of surgery, a dose of 3 grams of Fenugreek can be added to one’s diet to aid in balancing hormones and possible enlarging the breasts, although it has not been proven effective. The oils have also been known to be used as a lotion to increase the softness of one’s skin.

How Does Fenugreek Work?

The ingredients in Fenugreek assist in reducing blood sugar levels. The active components of 4-hydroxyisoleucine, sotolon and trigonelline work by simulating the secretion of insulin, thus theoretically lowering a diabetes patient’s blood levels. Fenugreek also contains coumarins, a blood thinning component, giving those who would prefer natural treatments in place of prescription blood thinners an option. It is believed that taking Fenugreek in a tea or herbal version will give you faster results, but capsule forms provide a stronger and more concentrated dose.

Usage Recommendations

The reason behind one’s usage of Fenugreek will determine how high the dose and frequency of its use will be. For nursing mothers looking to increase the flow of their breast milk, it is recommended to consume one capsule of Fenugreek seed of at least 500mg three times per day. However if one is using Fenugreek in order to prevent heartburn, one teaspoon before meals will suffice. Or if you are using Fenugreek to try and naturally enlarge your breast size, it is recommended to consume 3g of the herb per day.

Side Effects

When used correctly and in moderation, Fenugreek is widely considered to be relatively safe. However there is still a chance that one could experience side effects that are common when taking any new medication, whether it is natural or prescription. One may experience nausea, diarrhea and/or gas. For those who are found to be allergic to Fenugreek, side effects could include swelling, wheezing and numbness, while those who use Fenugreek as a topical agent may experience skin rashes and irritation. Also, while not a medical issue with Fenugreek, those who use it continuously or in large doses can notice a strong odor similar to the smell of maple syrup.
Using Fenugreek
One should also consider the effects of taking Fenugreek while on other medications. The reactions of the medications could be delayed or impaired while using Fenugreek. It is recommended that Fenugreek should be taken at least 2 hours before or after any additional medications. With the moist and sticky texture of Fenugreek due to the mucilaginous fiber it contains, it is possible that interference with the absorption of oral medications may alter the effectiveness of one’s prescription and/or over the counter medications such as Advil or Tylenol.

Legal Status

Currently, Fenugreek is legal in the United States and across the world and is available for purchase either in stores or online.

Where to Purchase

Since it is considered a natural remedy and does not require a prescription from your doctor, Fenugreek can be purchased at a wide variety of places. Depending on the availability of locations in one’s area, Fenugreek can be purchased at GNC, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and any health food stores. When looking for Fenugreek, it is most often found in the vitamin or herbal section.

If you are looking to purchase large amounts of Fenugreek or maybe looking for a better deal than you could get in store, Fenugreek can also be purchased online and delivered right to your home. It can be found at many websites, including Amazon.com; Healthsuperstore.com; MotherNature.com and SupplementWarehouse.com, among many others. Prices range from under $2.00 to over $40.00 so regardless of your budget, there will most likely be a Fenugreek option for you.

With the increase in individuals looking for an all natural solution to their health needs, the use of Fenugreek is only going to increase in popularity, which will increase the amount of studies and information available for those who are interested. While Fenugreek has been proven safe thus far, as with any change to your medication or diet, please consult your doctor and research possible side effects and drug interactions before committing to a Fenugreek heavy lifestyle.

Herbs

Cannabis

Cannabis Basics

Although often misunderstood, Cannabis has been used by humans for thousands of years. Cannabis was first grown in the regions of Central Asia and South Asia. There are three types of cannabis: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Much of the commercially available cannabis is harvested from plants that are hybrids of these three strains.

Marijuana grows well in tropical and temperate climates throughout the world. Commercial growers of cannabis often use greenhouses to extend the growing season. The chemical properties contained in cannabis that allow users to experience psychotropic effects are called cannabinoids. The most powerful cannabinoid in marijuana is delta nine tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. Only mature female flowers contain THC.

Once the female buds of the cannabis plant are fully grown, they are harvested, dried, and then distributed. In addition to commercial produced cannabis, cannabis can be found growing in the wild in many regions of the world. However, wild cannabis usually contains very low levels of THC. Cannabis that is grown for industrial uses is known as hemp. Hemp contains little THC, and it is used to make fabric, paper, and rope.
Cannibus Plan
Industrial hemp production dates back thousands of years in Asia and the Middle East. In the western hemisphere, industrial hemp production began in the sixteenth century and reached its zenith in the eighteenth century. George Washington grew hemp on his estate. A common urban legend claims that the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are all printed on hemp paper. Although paper made from hemp was commonly used at this time, these documents were actually printed on parchment, not hemp paper.

History of Cannabis

Use of cannabis for recreational and religious purposes dates back millennia. Charred cannabis seeds have been discovered at an ancient burial site in Romania. Cannabis was also used in ancient India and Nepal. The Scythians and the Thracians used marijuana smoke in their religious rites. Herodotus’ account of the Scythians mentions their use of cannabis to induce a trance-like state.

Despite the fact that cannabis has been used by humans for thousands of years, in the twentieth century countries began criminalizing the use and possession of cannabis. Both the United Kingdom and New Zealand criminalized cannabis in the 1920s. Canada’s anti-cannabis regulations went into effect in 1923. The United States effectively criminalized marijuana in 1937.

It is commonly argued that marijuana laws in the United States were the result of pressure from pulp paper manufacturers, who would have been in competition with manufacturers of hemp paper. Others argue that the criminalization of cannabis was racially motivated. Regardless of the motivation for its criminalization, it is true that marijuana was grossly misrepresented to the public at this time.

Posters and pamphlets often claimed that marijuana caused insanity and death. These claims have been largely refuted by modern scientific research. In fact, there has never been a single known case of marijuana due to an overdose.

Typical and Notable Users

The United Nations estimates that four percent of the world’s population uses cannabis at least once per year. When many individuals think of cannabis users, they picture the stereotypical stoner. In popular culture, stoners are often portrayed as young individuals without life goals who only want to sit around and get high.

However, many different types of individuals use marijuana for medicinal and recreational uses. Business people smoke to unwind after a long day at the office, and mild-mannered senior citizens smoke to alleviate unpleasant physical symptoms. There is a good chance that you know someone who uses marijuana frequently.

The frequency of marijuana use drops off with age, although many older individuals continue to use cannabis occasionally.

Many celebrities have been known to use cannabis. Willie Nelson is a well-known pot smoker. Louis Armstrong was once arrested for marijuana use. Musicians John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Bob Marley, David Bowie and Justin Timberlake are all confirmed marijuana users.

Olympic athlete Michael Phelps was caught on camera smoking marijuana from a bong. There is some speculation that William Shakespeare used cannabis. Pipes with marijuana residue were discovered in the garden of his home in Stratford upon Avon. Respected scientist Carl Sagan has published several essays on his positive experiences while taking cannabis. Many successful and intelligent people have used and continue to use marijuana.

How Marijuana Is Used

The most common way to use marijuana is to smoke it. The dried buds are broken up and placed in a smoking bong, pipe, or bowl. Cannabis can also be rolled in a piece of paper and smoked. This is called a joint. Once the herb has been lit on fire, the user sucks on the smoking device so that the smoke from the marijuana enters the lungs. The effects of marijuana smoking can usually be felt within ten to fifteen minutes.
Cannibus Usage
Individuals who smoke marijuana for the first time might not notice any effects at all. There is some debate as to the cause of this. Some believe the body must learn to recognize and process the cannabinoids. Others simply state that the novice smokers are not inhaling properly. The number of hits or tokes required to achieve the full effect of cannabis depends on the potency of the weed. Marijuana with a higher amount of THC will require the user to smoke less and still achieve the same effect.

Some individuals who do not wish to smoke the marijuana choose to cook with it instead, usually choosing to add marijuana to baked goods. The marijuana is generally added to the oil or butter and then added to the recipe. For a better cannabis experience, some individuals cook the marijuana along with the butter or oil, strain out the herb, and then add the marijuana infused butter to the rest of the ingredients.

They then cook the recipe as usual. The process of making the cannabis infused butter or oil helps fully activate the cannabinoids. When cannabis is eaten, it takes longer for the user to notice the effects, and the effects last longer as well. On-set times of up to two hours are not uncommon.

Marijuana can also be made into tea or an alcoholic tincture, although these methods of use are much less common.

The Effects Of Marijuana

Cannabis is used for both recreational and medicinal purposes. After smoking marijuana, most individuals feel relaxed. Other positive effects include a feeling of euphoria, talkativeness, an uncontrollable urge to laugh, a capacity for deep thought, and closed-eye visuals. Some individuals report a mild enhancement in the senses which allows them to find food, music, and art more enjoyable.

Negative effects can include reddening of eyes, irritation of throat if smoked, dry mouth, confusion, tiredness, and feelings of paranoia. Many users also report feelings of hunger after smoking this herb. Studies that have looked at the long term effects of cannabis use have been largely inconclusive. No medical studies have proven that cannabis increases an individual’s chance of developing cancer or other serious physical ailments. Rarely allergic reactions to cannabis have been reported. Individuals who are allergic to cannabis will often suffer respiratory problems during and immediately after use.

Individuals with a family history of mental illness problems should exercise caution when deciding whether or not to try marijuana. Although the results of the medical studies are inconclusive, some research has indicated that individuals who have used cannabis are more likely to suffer from schizophrenia. Some scientists believe that the marijuana may trigger a previously latent mental illness.

Others believe that individuals who suffer from mental problems are more likely to self-medicate, and seek out cannabis to alleviate undiagnosed but still present mental illness symptoms.

Medical Conditions

Many believe that marijuana can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions. Because of its hunger causing properties, many chemotherapy patients seek out marijuana. Chemotherapy often causes nausea. Marijuana alleviates this nausea and motivates the cancer patient to eat. AIDS sufferers often experience nausea as well, so marijuana can be beneficial in their case.

Marijuana lowers intraocular eye pressure, so it can be useful in treating glaucoma. Medical marijuana is also prescribed for anorexia and anxiety. Small studies have found marijuana to be useful in the treatment of depression and multiple sclerosis. However, the federal government will not currently fund studies that look at the medical uses of cannabis. This has slowed scientific research and medical discovery.

Currently, synthesized cannabinoids are sold as prescription drugs in several countries, including the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Mexico.

The Legality of Cannabis

Recreational cannabis use is illegal in all fifty of the United States. It is also illegal in most countries worldwide. Recreational cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but this law is not enforced. In Amsterdam in particular, many coffeehouses openly sell cannabis to locals and tourists alike.

Austria, Canada, Spain, and The Netherlands have all legalized marijuana use. Medicinal cannabis use is legal in fourteen states in America: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

However, federal law trumps state law and individuals with a valid prescription could find themselves in legal trouble if they are caught with marijuana in their possession by a federal agent. The legal ramifications of cannabis possession vary widely from region to region. Individuals caught in the United States face a fine, probation, or a prison sentence for even a small amount.

In some Asian countries such as Dubai and Singapore, being caught with cannabis can mean a life sentence in prison.

Where To Find Cannabis and Cost of Cannabis

Medical cannabis can be purchased from medical marijuana dispensaries in areas where medical marijuana is legal. In areas where cannabis is illegal, it is still available from the black market drug trade. The price of marijuana varies significantly from region to region. The average price for one ounce of cannabis in the United States is between $150 and $250.

Many dealers and dispensaries sell marijuana in small increments, from an eighth to a forth of an ounce. Very little cannabis is needed in order to achieve the effects of a high. An eighth of an ounce can be smoked by approximately twenty different people with all of them achieving the full effect.

Herbs

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is native to eastern China. It was eventually brought to Japan and from there moved to the western world. Ginkgo trees can sometimes live for as long as 2,000 years and can reach heights of over 100 feet. They are extremely hardy; in fact, there are several ginkgo trees in Hiroshima, Japan that survived the atomic bomb. The trees are sometimes called fossil trees, maidenhair trees, or kew trees. The ginkgo tree is the national tree of China.

The trees have medium sized fan-shaped leaves that can be made into a medicinal ginkgo extract. In autumn, the leaves turn bright yellow and fall to the ground. Ginkgo trees also produce cherry-sized seeds that drop to the ground during autumn, thereby starting a new generation of trees. These edible seeds were a typical food in ancient China. Although ginkgo trees are native to Asia, they can grow in nearly every sparsely populated area that has good irrigation and drainage.

Historical Usage

Ginkgo biloba has been used medicinally for almost 3,000 years. In the ancient world, its leaves were used to aid blood circulation and to treat skin problems such as sores and freckles. The seeds, which were used medicinally as well as for culinary purposes, were thought to cure indigestion, bladder problems, and even cancer. Ginkgo was also traditionally used to treat lung problems such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.
Ginkgo Bilboa Herbal Benefits

Modern Usage

For the most part, only ginkgo leaves are now used for medical purposes. It is very rare, in the western world, that the seeds are used either medicinally or as a food product. Ginkgo is still considered a good treatment for poor circulation. However, it does not appear to provide any relief from skin problems and it has not yet been proven to fight cancer.

Two of the main components of ginkgo leaves are flavonoids and terpenoids. Flavonoids, which are plant based antioxidants, help protect blood vessels and the central nervous system. Terpenoids dilate blood vessels and help keep blood platelets from sticking together.

Although ginkgo is now mostly used by adults, it does not generally harm children above the age of two. It has been found particularly useful for adults with cognition and/or concentration problems such as attention deficit disorder. Since its discovery 3,000 years ago, ginkgo biloba has never been out of use. In the 20th and 21st centuries, ginkgo has been used to treat the following problems:

Attention deficit disorder (ADD)

Ginkgo biloba is one of the most common natural remedies used for treating the symptoms of ADD. Ginkgo brings more oxygen to the brain and aids concentration, thereby helping the person calm down and focus on one activity at a time. It has been proven particularly helpful for adults with the disorder.

Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia

Because ginkgo has been proven to help aid concentration and enhance cognitive abilities, it was long thought that it could help alleviate, if not reverse, the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. However, it has recently been proven that, although ginkgo does not harm people with these illnesses, it does not, by any means, offer relief. Although ginkgo aids concentration, it does not keep the long term memory from deteriorating.

Tinnitus

At times, ginkgo is prescribed for tinnitus. It has been proven mildly effective because it can help the damaged blood vessels of the ear. However, the success rate is not very high. Tinnitus is not, by any means, considered the number one malady that ginkgo biloba treats.

Eye problems

If taken properly, ginkgo can slow down eye deterioration. It particularly helps the part of the retina that is affected by macular degeneration. Also, ginkgo, taken in large doses, can help improve the vision of those with glaucoma.

Depression and anxiety disorders

Ginkgo can act as an antidepressant. It has also been proven to help calm the mood swings of those with anxiety disorders. However, in order for ginkgo to effectively treat anxiety disorders, it should be combined with another natural remedy, particularly ginger or GABA complex.

Impotence

Ginkgo can strengthen the arteries that supply blood to the penis, thereby helping an erection to take place.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause

Ginkgo can be helpful for women with unpleasant symptoms from PMS or menopause. It can calm mood swings and will also help control the muscles of the uterus.

Asthma

Ginkgo can be an effective natural remedy for asthma. Its ability to dilate blood vessels can greatly reduce airway constriction. However, particularly when treating children with asthma, ginkgo should only be administered under the guidance of a medical professional.

Available forms of Ginkgo Biloba

Tablets

Ginkgo is most often taken in tablet form. The extract from the leaves is combined with silica and other inactive ingredients and made into tablets of different milligram strengths.

Capsules

Ginkgo in capsule form is rarely combined with other ingredients. This can be useful if a larger dose is desired. Also, ginkgo leaf extract is available in a bulk powder form that can be used for making homemade capsules.

Liquid/Tincture

Ginkgo biloba leaf extract is also available in an oral liquid form. Ginkgo purchased in this form is usually already divided into proper dosages. Also, ginkgo is available in a traditional tincture form. These two options can be useful for those who have difficulty taking tablets and capsules.

Tea

Ginkgo leaves can also be made into tea. Pre-made teabags usually include green tea. Also, bulk ginkgo leaves can be purchased and used in tea balls and homemade teabags. However, ginkgo in tea form does not provide are very large dose. If ginkgo is being used to treat a serious malady, it is highly recommended that it is taken in a form other than tea.

Side Effects

In general, ginkgo biloba has very few side effects. If an overdose occurs, the person could experience heart palpitations or faintness. However, these symptoms will only be temporary and will cease once consumption is brought under control.
Uses of Ginkgo Bilboa
Normal use of ginkgo can cause mild intestinal problems such as vomiting or diarrhea; however, these symptoms will not generally occur unless ginkgo is taken on an empty stomach.

Caution should be used because ginkgo biloba is a blood thinner. It can interfere with anticoagulants and antidepressants. Pregnant and nursing women should, of course, consult a medical professional before use.

Adverse effects of ginkgo seeds

Although ginkgo seeds are edible, caution should be used: long term consumption can lead to poisoning, particularly in children.

Typical Dosage

When using ginkgo to enhance concentration or to treat other minor problems, it is generally recommended to take 60-200 mg per day. However, larger doses can be taken when treating a more serious problem. Ginkgo is usually taken 2-3 times a day, generally with a meal.

Legal Status

Ginkgo biloba is one hundred percent legal in all fifty states and is available without a prescription. So far, the only country it is illegal in is Ireland.

Availability

Ginkgo biloba is one of the most commonly used natural remedies in North America and Europe. Therefore, it is available in nearly every health and wellness store as well as online.

Ginkgo tablets and capsules are the easiest to find. They are usually available in 30, 60, and 120 mg strengths. The higher the milligram dosage, the more expensive the tablets or capsules will be. In general, tablets are cheaper than capsules. 120 60-mg tablets usually cost around $8, whereas 120 60-mg capsules usually cost $18. Puritan’s Pride.com, which sells ginkgo in tablet, capsule, and liquid form, typically has special deals, such as “buy 1 get 2 free”, that can be very economical.

Ginkgo tinctures are usually about the same price as any other natural remedy in tincture form. A one ounce bottle of ginkgo biloba tincture can cost anywhere from $6-$12. One ounce of the non-alcoholic tincture usually costs $10 or more.

Oral Liquid Form

Ginkgo in oral liquid form can be very reasonably priced. Usually, 20 30-mg doses cost about $10.

It is generally very difficult to find liquid and tincture forms of ginkgo in traditional heath stores. However, it is available through most online suppliers.

Other Sources

Pre-made ginkgo teabags can be purchased online as well as at nearly every health store. However, they are generally not very reasonably priced: 20 teabags usually cost about $22. If ginkgo is desired in tea form, it is much more cost effective to buy bulk leaves and use them in tea balls.

Ginkgo leaves can be purchased, at a reasonable price, through most online bulk herb suppliers. HerbalCom.com, for example, sells ginkgo leaves at about $5 a pound. The same site also offers ginkgo powder at about the same price. It is very rare that reasonably priced bulk ginkgo leaves and powder can be found at traditional health stores.

Ginkgo seeds are still sold, although mostly for the purpose of growing trees. The seeds, which can be purchased from nearly every seed supplier, usually cost about $4 for a package of 10. Although the seeds can be eaten, caution should be used to avoid the aforesaid possibility of poisoning. Also, the seed have not been proven to have any medicinal value.

Herbs

Kaffir Lime

The kaffir lime is a citrus fruit which hails from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. The kaffir lime is popularly used in Southeast Asian cooking, such as Thai, Indonesian and Cambodian cuisine. However, it can also be grown throughout the world as a backyard shrub.

Names by Which the Kaffir Lime is Known

The kaffir lime is known by many names, including “kieffer lime” and “limau purut”. It is also sometimes referred to as “Thai limes” or “wild limes”. The leaves, zest and juice of the kaffir lime are all used in Southeast Asian cooking.

“Kaffir” comes from the German word “Kafer”, which means “bug”. This fruit is so named due to the fact that it slightly resembles an insect. Some controversy surrounds the use of the “kaffir” name for this fruit because this word is used by white Afrikaners as a pejorative for black people, meaning “infidel”. This usage derives from the Arabic word “kafir”, which was used by Portugese explorers to describe native Africans. This word is considered a derogatory term that remains in use today, and as such, alternative names such as Thai, Makrut, Asian, or Wild lime are preferred to ensure no one is offended.

The Kaffir Lime’s Appearance and How it Grows

Kaffir Lime Leaves
The kaffir lime does not resemble most of the limes that we are used to seeing. This Southeast Asian lime has a rough, warty green exterior. It grows on a thorny bush and its leaves are very aromatic. The kaffir lime leaves are also quite distinctive in that its leaves are “doubled”. The kaffir lime is easily identifiable with its small size and bumpy exterior. It is dark green in color. The kaffir lime is comparable in size to a Western lime. This fruit is very suitable for growing in containers. As mentioned above, although this fruit is native to many Southeast Asian countries, it can be grown anywhere as a shrub.

Traditional and Current Uses of the Kaffir Lime

Southeast Asian Cuisine

There are many different ways that the kaffir lime is used in Southeast Asian cooking. The rind, or zest, is often used as a curry paste in Lao and Thai cooking. This usage provides an aromatic and astringent flavor.

In fact, this fruit is so commonly used to impart flavor in Thai cooking that if a dish calls for the use of citrus leaves, it can be assumed that it means kaffir lime leaves. Kaffir leaves are the only citrus fruit leaves that are used on a regular basis in a large number of Thai dishes.

The leaves exude an aromatic perfume and provide a striking and distinguishable flavor that is virtually impossible to substitute. The zest of this fruit also adds a piquant flavor to such mouth-watering favorites as fried fish cakes and “jungle soup”, or “gkaeng bpah”. The zest of the kaffir lime can also be found in creole cuisine. Additionally, the zest of this fruit is often used to add flavor to “arranged” rums that are made in Madagascar and the Reunion Island.

Flavor

The zest or rind of the kaffir lime has such a strong flavor that it can overpower a dish’s other, more subtly flavored ingredients. As such, the rind is to be used sparingly. The rind should be grated or chopped very finely and then further reduced in a mortar along with the other paste ingredients until it become indistinguishable. This promises a recipe containing a proper balance of ingredients and flavors.

The whole kaffir lime leaves themselves, which have a somewhat hourglass shape creating the appearance of a double leaf and have a glossy sheen, are commonly used in Lao, Thai and Cambodian cuisine. The kaffir lime leaf contains two parts. There is a top leaflet which has a slight point at the tip. Attached to that is another leaflet at the bottom which is broader on the upper portion. The size of kaffir leaves can vary in size, from several inches long to less than an inch. The bigger the leaf, typically the darker its color. Because of the variations in size, it is often best to specify in recipes the number of leaves based upon size so that one does not use too much or too little.

Thai Cooking

The leaves of the kaffir lime are used in a wide variety of dishes, especially in Thai cooking. They are often used in soups, salads, curries, and stir-fried dishes. These leaves are also used in other cuisines, such as the cuisines of Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia. An example of Laotian cuisine in which these leaves are used include the Lao dish known as Tom Yum. They are also used in Cambodian cuisine as the paste base in Krueng. In Indonesian cooking, especially the cuisines in Bali and Java, the kaffir lime leaves are used in such dishes as Sayur Asam. The kaffir leaf is also commonly used in addition to the Indonesian bay leaf to cook chicken and fish dishes. The cuisines of Malaysia and Burma also make use of the kaffir lime leaf.

Preparation

The kaffir lime leaf can be used whole or finely chopped. The best way to finely slice this leaf for use in cooking is to stack three or four that are similar in size and then slice them into very thin pieces using a sharp knife. Cutting diagonally is faster and easier. This task becomes easier with practice and you will enjoy the amazing aroma that rises from the leaves as you continue to cut them. The leaves can also be cut using scissors, but this practice is much slower and may not result in the fine slivers you get through chopping with a sharp knife.

It is important that the leaves be cut into fine slivers, as mincing or chopping can impact the flavor of the leaf, thus causing them to overwhelm the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish. Cutting large slivers can have the same result. As such, using fine slivers that are approximately one inch long are the preferred method for creating a balance of flavors. The kaffir lime leaf is very versatile and can be used either fresh or dried. It can also be frozen and stored for future use. The juice of the kaffir lime itself is regarded as generally far too acidic to use in cooking.

Medicinal Uses

The juice and rind of the kaffir lime is also used in traditional Indonesian medicine. As such, in Indonesia the kaffir lime is referred to as “asjeruk obat”, which translates to “medicine citrus”. The juice of the kaffir lime is also used in Southeast Asian folk medicine, where it is touted as promoting gum health.

As such, this culture recommends using the lime juice to brush the teeth and gums. The fruit has essential oils which are incorporated into various ointments as well. The rind itself serves as an ingredient in many medicinal tonics which are believed to be beneficial for the blood. Just like galangal and lemon grass, the rind of the lime is also said to be beneficial for digestion.
Using Kaffir Lime Leaves
The oil from the lime’s rind also contains strong insecticide properties.

Household Uses

The juice of the fruit can also be used as a detergent for clothing. In fact, it is known as being a very effective cleanser. Some use it as a natural bleach for the removal of tough stains. It is also used as a shampoo to clean hair.

Not only does it leave the hair nice and squeaky clean, but it also invigorates the scalp. Many believe that use of the kaffir lime in this manner will refresh a person’s mental outlook and also keep away evil spirits. Moreover, this lime is a natural deodorizer with a wonderful scent of citrus blossoms.

Every time the zest is scratched, it emits a refreshing and inviting perfume. These uses are mainly found in Thailand, where almost every countryside home has a kaffir lime tree in the yard. For those living in rural villages, just one kaffir tree will supply enough limes to keep the entire house and the family clean, thus making the kaffir lime also an inexpensive household cleanser and detergent.

Where to Find Kaffir Limes

Kaffir limes are not very easy to find, especially if you do not live in Southeast Asia. As such, if you are truly interested in using this as an ingredient in dishes or for its many other uses, it may be best to grown your own kaffir lime bush. You can visit a local nursery and request they order one for you. You can also find many vendors online who can ship the kaffir lime bush directly to you.

When growing and maintaining a kaffir lime bush, you will want to give the bush plenty of water during the warm summer months. Also make sure it gets citrus fertilizer and plenty of sunshine. Prune it to maintain its bushy shape. If you live in a frost-free area, you can keep your lime bush outdoors year round. However, if your area drops to freezing temperatures, you will need to bring your bush indoors during the cold winter months. Harvest the leaves during the summer. Seal the limes and their leaves in a plastic bag and freeze them, as they will keep this way for at least a year, and thus, can be used over time.

Kaffir lime trees can be found online for around $40 to $50. In addition, you can purchase Thai kaffir lime leaf powder online for about $7.00 for half an ounce.

Herbs

Konjac

Konjac is a perennial plant of the genus Amorphophallus that grows in tropical and subtropical regions of eastern Asia, from Indonesia to India, Japan and China. It is known primarily for its starchy corm, a tuber-like structure that is actually part of the plants stem, but which grows underground and acts as a storage organ for the plant.

Konjac is also known as elephant yam, presumably for the resemblance of its corm to that of the true yam, but the plants are not closely related. Other colloquial names for Konjac are konjaku, devils tongue, snake palm and voodoo lily.

Konjac is primarily used as a source of glucomannan, a dietary fiber that makes up about 40% of the plants corm. Glucomannan is used as a food additive for its thickening and emulsifying properties, and as a nutritional supplement for the treatment of obesity, constipation, high cholesterol, diabetes and acne. It provides a rich source of soluble fiber, considered to be of general benefit to the digestive system, while containing almost no calories.
Konjac Benefits

Where it Come From

Konjac is cultivated in China, India, Japan and Korea. In nature, the plant grows best in tropical or subtropical conditions that provide moderate rainfall and a soil structure that combines a somewhat sandy top layer with a lower layer of mud that can retain water. In Japan and China, it is often cultivated in hilly terrain that is not conducive to traditional agriculture, and each plant requires very little room to get started.

Plants are typically transplanted and more widely spaced in their second and third years, at which time they reach maximum levels of glucomannan content. They are then dug out of the ground for cleaning and processing.

Processing

Traditional processing after the harvest is a very labor intensive operation. The corms are separated from the rest of the plant and washed and peeled by hand before being sliced and dried in the sun. Modern processing incorporates machinery and accelerates the drying process with air heated by burning coal. Regardless of the process used, the goal is to produce a product that is dry enough to be stored and to achieve greater concentrations of glucomannan.

The extent to which konjac is processed depends on whether its intended use is as a food, food additive or nutritional supplement.

Konjac flour is made by grinding the dry corms and separating the lighter components from the heavier flour. What is left contains approximately 70% glucomannan, and is suitable for use in noodles and other dishes. The flour can be further processed to achieve 80% glucomannan content, yielding konjac jelly or gum for use as a thickener or gelling agent, or purified as part of a final stage that produces the soluble fiber used as a nutritional supplement.

History and Origin

Konjac is regularly mentioned in historical Chinese treatises and histories, both as a medicine and, particularly in times of famine, as a food. The earliest known use of konjac as a medicinal herb dates back to the Han Dynasty in China, some two thousand years ago, where it was recommended as a treatment for asthma, infection, cough and skin disorders. Its use continued through subsequent dynasties and has been essentially uninterrupted through the present day.

Konjac, in both flour and jelly form, has a long culinary history in China and Japan. In Chinas Sichuan province, the jelly is used as a tofu substitute and called konjac tofu.In Japan, where it is called konyaku konjac flour is mixed with water and limewater and boiled. Once it solidifies, it can be cut into various shapes. Cut into thin wafers, it can take the place of tofu or thinly sliced raw fish. It is perhaps best known, however, when cut into strips and takes the place of noodles in several stew-like dishes, where it is appreciated for its unique texture. Konjac itself has little or no taste.

Western interest in konjac and glucomannan has grown over the past two decades as the health benefits of dietary fiber have become better understood. Research has focused on its potential for controlling cholesterol and blood glucose, as an aid to losing weight and as a general benefit to digestive health. Results of those studies have been promising. The broader therapeutic claims of traditional Chinese medicine have not been subjected to the same scrutiny and remain unproven.

Uses and Benefits of Konjac

Today, konjac is used for two distinct but related purposes: losing weight and supplementing dietary fiber. Both uses find support in the medical literature, but konjac has also been the subject of unproven claims that have resulted in government intervention.

Weight Loss

The efficacy of konjac for weight loss relies on its ability to absorb up to twenty times its own weight in water. The glucomannan expands after ingestion, and this tends to promote a feeling of fullness as it travels through the digestive tract. To achieve this result, konjac is generally taken with water before meals. An alternative, if less popular, approach is to sprinkle granules of glucomannan directly on food.

Recommended doses for weight loss purposes range from one to four grams of glucomannan taken with eight ounces of water one hour before each meal.

Fiber Supplementation

The American Dietary Association recommends that adults should consume at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. The typical American diet provides between 12 and 18 grams. While oat bran, at 14% soluble fiber content, offers the most concentrated sources of soluble fiber among those catalogued by the ADA, glucomannan comprises at least 40% of konjac by dry weight, making konjac the richest source of soluble fiber in nature.

Clinical studies specific to glucomannan supplementation have shown positive results in the treatment of a number of conditions, including:

Constipation

Soluble fiber absorbs water, softens digestive contents and increases stool volume.

Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia

Glucomannan attracts water in the digestive system and becomes a gel, slowing digestive processes and trapping carbohydrates so that blood sugar levels are stabilized.

Diabetes

One benefit of the ability to regulate blood sugar levels is seen in Type 2 Diabetes, where glucomannan has shown potential to reduce blood glucose, insulin and serum lipid levels after meals, an effect that seems to be enhanced by glucomannans relatively high viscosity compared to other soluble fibers.

High Cholesterol

By attaching itself to bile acids in the digestive system and moving them out of the body, glucomannan supplements can help lower cholesterol and reduce the amount of fat present in the blood.

High Blood Pressure

As a corollary to glucomannans beneficial effect on cholesterol levels, one study has demonstrated a decrease in systolic blood pressure in healthy men after a four week course of glucomannan supplements.
Using Konjac
While all of the above benefits are supported by medical research on human test subjects, the clinical studies themselves have uniformly involved relatively small groups of people and short periods of time. It is unclear, then, if the beneficial effects of konjac supplements can be counted on to persist over the long term.

In addition, some studies, even those not looking specifically at glucomannan as a weight loss product, have limited their subjects to people who are obese, making it unclear if konjacs benefits extend to people who are not overweight.

However, soluble fiber in general has been studied extensively, with a great deal of attention to the fact that it produces short-chain fatty acids as it is digested. These acids, in turn, provide a number of health benefits, including:

  • Decreasing synthesis of cholesterol by the liver
  • Regulation of insulin release by the pancreas
  • Regulation of glucose absorption by affecting glucose transporters in the intestinal mucosa
  • Discouraging the formation of polyps by raising the acidity level of the colon
  • Enhancing the absorption of minerals, especially calcium, in the digestive system
  • Increasing the production of a variety of cells and antibodies involved in the immune system
  • Decreasing the ability of irritants to adhere to the mucosal layer of the colon

Konjac has itself been claimed to be something of an antidote to food poisoning. This claim originates from a single laboratory study in which 18 different food products were subjected to exposure to bacteria, including E. Coli and Salmonella, which were allowed to bind themselves to the products.

When the levels of bound bacteria were measured, the largest quantity were bound by sesame seed extract and konjac gum, leading to the tentative conclusion that konjac may help to prevent bacteria from entering host cells. This claim awaits further confirmation, as the effect has not been studied in a clinical setting to date.

Unproven Claims

A number of companies have been sanctioned for making false or misleading claims about the benefits of konjac and glucomannan. The sanctions have generally resulted from the companies exaggeration of the benefits conferred by konjac, from false claims of research support for those exaggerated benefits and from the use of expert endorsers whose expertise and qualifications are similarly exaggerated.

A typical example involves two products called FiberThin and Propolene, which were advertised via infomercials that claimed they would cause rapid and substantial weight loss without any need to exercise and regardless of what the consumer ate. The Federal Trade Commission required the companies involved to pay $1.5 million in settlement of the claims. They were also barred from making unsubstantiated claims for dietary supplements and from misrepresenting scientific studies in their marketing.

A different unproven claim may have its origin in the recommendations found in ancient Chinese herbal texts that list konjac as a treatment for acne and other skin conditions. Today, konjac can be found in several cosmetics and beauty treatments, which typically characterize it as a component that increases the effectiveness of other ingredients. There does not appear to be any research, pro or con, involving these claims.

Side Effects and Cautions

Konjac is not known to have undesirable side effects when used in food preparation or when taken as directed as a nutritional supplement, and its negligible calorie content make it particularly suitable as an aid to weight loss.

This is not to say that it is absolutely safe. Dangers associated with glucomannan stem from its ability to increase in volume by absorbing large quantities of water. These dangers have led to government intervention of two varieties:

Warnings

Products containing glucomannan have been required to include information warning consumers of dangers if the product is not consumed as instructed. For example, Health Canada issued a warning in 2010 that glucomannan in tablet, capsule or powder form should always be taken with at least eight ounces of water and that it should be entirely avoided immediately before bed. Products containing glucomannan are required to carry those instructions and to note the risk of choking and/or blockage of the throat, esophagus or intestine if the product is taken without sufficient liquid.

Bans

In 2001, several deaths and near-deaths of children and the elderly from suffocation while eating a certain type of konjac fruit jelly candy were reported in California. Unlike jellies that melt on contact with saliva, konjac jellies require chewing and, if unchewed, can be inadvertently sucked into the throat. As the jelly expands, breathing can be cut off. The Food and Drug Administration banned sale of the candies in the United States in 2001, a ban followed soon thereafter by the European Union, Canada and Australia. The candies are still available in parts of Asia, but are sold with warning labels and manufactured in larger sizes and in formulations that dissolve more easily.

Dosage, Administration and Cost

As a nutritional supplement, konjac is available in tablet, capsule and powder form. Dosage consists of the equivalent of 500 to 1500 milligrams taken before meals with at plenty of water. If using the powder, it should be stirred briskly in water and it is important to drink the solution before it has a chance to gel.

Konjac can be readily found online or at retail drugstores and nutrition stores like GNC. It is most commonly sold in capsules containing approximately 700 milligrams of glucomannan. Prices are extremely variable, ranging from under $3.00 to almost $20.00 for 100 capsules. Konjac powder can be a cost-effective alternative, but with similar pricing variability. At the extremes, a 500 gram bag of powder can be purchased for $18.00, while buying 500 grams in 100 gram bottles can cost at least five times as much.

Konjac is also found in multi-ingredient supplements, where it is frequently combined with other fiber sources or with ingredients claimed to be effective in losing weight.

Additional Availability

Konjac is also available as a food product, most often as noodles in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some brands have added flavoring, as konjac imparts little or no flavor on its own. Prepared noodles can be found online or at Asian grocery stores and are typically sold packed in water in plastic bags. They can be stored at room temperature and have a shelf life of approximately one year.

For the truly determined, konjac powder can be mixed with water and pickling lime in order to make konjac noodles from scratch. The mixture is boiled for three minutes and allowed to cool. Once cooled, it forms a stable, non-reversible gel which can then be cut into whatever shape is desired.

Herbs

Wormwood

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

The benefits of the Wormwood have long been documented and has several benefits and remedies known to man. The following is an in depth look at the constitution and value of the herb and the most beneficial ways to make use of it.

History & Origin

The herb known as Wormwood comes from the plant family of Compositae, genus Artemisia and the specific species absinthium. The genus Artemisia contains over 180 species, making Wormwood quite the herb to be reckoned with out of all other species classification.

It is naturally grows in the more temperate clime zones such as Europe, North Africa and Asia, however more recently it is being grown in North America due to a higher demand (mainly due to the growing interest of holistic medicine).
How to Use Wormwood
The name Wormwood has several origins and is mostly referred to for its bitter taste. The Romans referred to it as “Absinthium” that is derived from the Latin word “absinthial” roughly translated to “bitter”. It’s not exactly sure where the word Wormwood was directly derived, however it has been speculated that it may come from the Anglo-saxon word “wermode” that comes to be translated as “waremode” or also “mind preserver”.

Greek Influence

The Greeks, thinking the bitter quality of Wormwood to be undrinkable, called it “absinthion” and yet they honored the goddess Artemisia (Goddess of the Hunt) with a form of the concentrated substance. It was most typically used over 3500 years ago to help in the expulsion of intestinal worms–hence the name WORMwood.

The highly noted Greek physician Hippocrates would prescribe it to women for the menstrual pains and to combat common occurrence of anemia, jaundice and rheumatism.

As far back as the 16th century, Wormwood has been used for many classic remedies, including the ailments it remedies today. However, the remedies it was meant to help with back in the 16th century may be something scoffed at or frowned upon in today’s modern medicine world.

Wormwood was thought to counteract most of the poisonous effects of hemlock and toadstools. If ever bitten by a sea dragon, Wormwood was a source of comfort to the victim. However, it is still used as a common remedy to help heal open wounds.

Mexican Influence

In Mexican culture, it was customary during their festival to honor the Goddess of Salt to have the women wear head garlands entwined with Wormwood while they ceremoniously danced together.

An old folklore that is sometimes still practiced, is to mix Wormwood with marjoram, thyme, virgin honey and vinegar before you go to bed on St. Luke’s Day and anoint yourself with it to dream of your true partner “that is to be”. It will only work, however if you repeat the following chant three times:

“St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me,
In dreams let me my true-love see.”

Wormwood was also intentionally used in large scale brewery’s instead of hops, before the FDA deemed it “unsafe” for consumption, because it resisted putrefaction.

Potential Early Health Issues

Pregnant women should not take wormwood as it is a uterine stimulant & could cause complications including abortion. Children should not be given wormwood, which also means nursing mothers should not take it.

During the prohibition, about the same time that Wormwood was being used in brewery, it has been said that the key ingredient, absinthin, was known to cause brain damage and even death, which resulted in it being banned in the 20th century–this was later found to be a myth (although large amounts of distilled absinthe can cause severe side effects) and wild conspiracy thought of by the Prohibitionists and the wine industry.

Popular Variations & Common Uses:

Besides being a common ingredient for brewing beer and distilling alcohol, Wormwood has most famously lent it’s uses to the French spirit Absinthe, but because of the extremely dangerous oil absinthol that the it contains it has been banned in most countries (including the U.S.). The oil absinthol and the active ingredient thujone has been proven to contribute to nerve depression, severe mental impairment and even the loss of all reproductive function if used over a long period of time.

Wormwood flavoring can also be found in the German drink Vermouth and is also commonly used in the flavoring of food today, however it is used in much smaller quantities and is ever hardly concentrated.
An alternative use for Wormwood comes in the form of commercial and residential landscaping. The towering three to four foot herb is a favored filling technique for professional landscapers and the yellow blooms that the herb produces in the summer time is a bonus when looking for that extra pop of color.

General Benefits

In terms of general benefits of the herb Wormwood, it has been proven to help with many things, however it is mainly used in the holistic aspect of medicinal use. It is most commonly consumed either as a hot tea or a tincture to be taken before meals and is favorably used for:

  • Stimulating the digestive tract and gallbladder function
  • Effective trigger of producing excessive amounts of bile which aids in the function of the gallbladder
  • Typically mixed with peppermint and/or caraway (in a tea) to aid in the calming of heartburn and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Expelling of intestinal worms
  • Stimulate feminine menstruation.
  • Stimulates cerebral hemispheres and directly stimulates the cortex cerebri which may aid in nervous diseases like neurasthenia
  • Common muscle relaxant
  • May help to quicken the process of childbirth and help with the expulsion of the afterbirth (it is not recommended however due to the toxicity of the herb)
  • Known to treat anxieties by being used a mild sedative
  • Stimulates poor circulation and aids in the relief of painful rheumatic joints by using the leaves a compress
  • Stimulates/remedies a poor appetite

Wormwood has become a highly popularized herb that is commonly used in the prominent and ever growing field of holistic medicine. Like mainly organic herbs, Wormwood has been known to help in the overall general function and cleanliness of many internal organs.

Legal status & potential side effects:

While Wormwood is openly bought and sold at markets both online and off, it is the active ingredients and natural oils that the herb contains that make it a potential dangerous product.

The key ingredient Thujone, which is a chemical similar to that of tetratetrahydocannibinol or THC that is active ingredient in the illegal substance marijuana, has been found to be unsafe by the FDA because of Section 801A in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1972 that bans the specific additive of thujone in any food product (alcohol being included).

This is mainly the reason the illegal status of the alcohol Absinthe that is still banned in the United States as well as many European countries (excluding the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Sweden, Denmark and the Austro-Hungarian Empire).

Is it All Hype?

However, the overall hype of Absinthe is characterized as being overplayed and over exaggerated. The psychoactive abilities of the alcohol are not as bad as previously thought and the addictive allegations (mainly due to the presence of the active ingredient Thujone that is present in the controlled substance marijuana) are far fetched and false.
Benefits of Wormwood
As long as the consumer who purchases the herb is only intending to use it for personal use and not for whole sale profit of the concentrated, distilled substance that is Absinthe, then the issues of legality are moot.

The complete list of ingredients found in the herb Wormwood are as follows:

(absinthol, azulene,s glycosides, flavonoids, thujyl, thujone, sesquiterpene lactones)

Because Wormwood contains such active and controversial ingredients, the potential side effects are subject to the individual. These side effects include:

  • Diarrhea (from the excessive production of bile and the secretion of the intestines, meaning to empty the bowels quickly)
    moderate to heavy sedation
  • It should not be taken over a longer period of time than four weeks or larger amounts in a single period because it can cause nausea, vomiting, insomnia, restlessness, vertigo, tremors and seizures.
  • It may be habit forming due to the active ingredients found in it and should not be taken over long periods of time
  • Those with pre-existing ulcers or gastritis conditions should not consume wormwood due to the irritable properties it contains which may exacerbate these conditions excessive use of the herb may result in nerve damage

As with any new health regiment, you should always consult a health care physician before proceeding with any introduction of a new or medicinal substance; it is best to consult a professional who has extensive knowledge or experience with medicinal herbs. If any adverse effects due occur after consuming Wormwood, the consumer should stop consumption immediately and consult a health care professional.

Typical Dosage/Usage & Preparation:

As stated above, Wormwood should not be taken for more than four weeks at a time and only the recommended dosage should be taken to avoid adverse side effects.

Wormwood can be consumed many different ways, but the most typical and effective way to get results is by drinking it in a tea or consuming it by tincture.

To Compose an Herbal Infusion of Wormwood Tea:

  • Take a 1/2 a full teaspoon (also 2.5 to 5 grams) worth of crushed herb
  • Add to 1 cup (also 250 ml) of boiling water
  • Let steep in boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes
  • (optional) Steep with peppermint or caraway or any other masking herb to the mix to help conceal the bitter flavor of the boiled Wormwood and also to achieve a more poignant form of health benefits (i.e. IBS, heartburn, etc.)
  • A total of three cups (750ml) of Wormwood tea may be consumed daily and should not exceed use longer than four weeks.

To effectively add a tincture:

  • Form a concentrated/distilled extract of the herb Wormwood
  • Add 10-20 drops of extract (1/8 teaspoon) to a 250 ml glass of water
  • Take at least ten to fifteen minutes before each meal (this is meant to help with stimulating a poor appetite)

Important: Do not exceed use of extract longer than four weeks and take no more than three times a day and take no more than one 250ml glass of diluted tincture before each meal.

The consumption of Wormwood by smoking has no effect what so ever and should not be used regularly as a sedative.

Product Cost & Market

Wormwood can be found both offline and online and is mostly commonly sold by noted herbalists or natural food shops in bulk. By buying in bulk, you have a better chance for saving per bundle. Also, concentrated tinctures can be purchased online or in food stores as well.

The going cost for bulk Wormwood, whether they be organic, dried, or mixed ranges from about $4 to $10 dollars and is most commonly sold in concentrated tinctures. Most are infused with pleasing flavors such as walnut or peppermint to mask the bitterness.

It may also be found in capsulated forms at any store that contains a generic vitamin aisle.
Wormwood is fairly inexpensive and can even be grown in a simple herb garden for an enthusiast and it is the best way to access fresh Wormwood during its optimal growing season which is mid-summer, specifically June to August when the herb is picked and dried.

To Grow Wormwood:

As with almost any herb, a shady area is idyllic. All seeds, roots should be sown by mid autumn (to achieve optimal ripeness of the seeds) and placed at least two feet apart to allow natural expansion of growth. Nothing else is required in caring for this herb, as it naturally grows wild in most parts of the U.S anyway and is meant to be a withstanding plant, most commonly used in professional landscaping.

Keep free of weeds and expect an explosion of growth to come mid May or early June.

Each plant should be gathered, and separated in July or August and dried in the traditional form of drying flowers by hanging from a clothesline or any suspended wire that has access to fresh air and sun.

To Process:

Before drying effectively, the upper green portion of the flower should be separated from the lower parts of the stems which will be discarded and eliminate any insect eaten or discolored leaves. Loosely bundle in groups of six that match in both size and length (this is important when packing the groups of stalks together) and fan out to allow the air to get to each individual stalk.

Hang on any wire or line with access to air on a day with plenty of sun and warmth, however hang in half shade so as not to tinder the leaves. If dried in direct sunlight, the aromatic properties of the Wormwood (which is the most prized part of collecting Wormwood) will be lost.

Proper Temperature

It is a general rule that all aromatic herbs should be dried in a temperate setting that does not exceed 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

If there is no available sun to dry the herb, use a covered shed or greenhouse that is properly ventilated to expel the moist, warm air. To substitute the warmth of the sun, a anthracite or coke stove may be used to heat the room, but take caution to keep all windows open for proper ventilation.

Finishing the Process

If the leaves are still crisp the stalks are not fully dried, hang over a stove, with enough distance between stove and herb to avoid it catching on fire, and they will quickly dry.

After the drying process is complete, it is crucial to store the dried herbs, (equal in length and size) in air tight boxes to avoid the absorption of moisture from the air (typically the herb is capable of absorbing back 12% of the moisture, ruining the batch).

From then you may enjoy you’re fresh Wormwood and either crush it down to make for tea or process further to use the extract in a tincture.

Overview

While the Greeks and Romans believed it a bitter substance that would aid only if one was bitten by a sea dragon, consumed a poisonous mushroom or seeking for your one true love, Wormwood is a fantastic herb that can be used to aid in several areas of health related issues. Mostly drunk in the form of a peppermint or caraway tea, it can help aid in digestion, clear the intestinal tract, aid in the relief of IBS, help prevent liver dysfunction, gallbladder function and as a mild sedative.

The herb contains the ingredients thujone and absinthol and should be taken with precaution. The use of Wormwood should not extend longer than the duration of four weeks and and no more than three cups of Wormwood tea should be consumed at one time.

Find an Expert

As always, it’s best to consult a health care professional or someone who has expert knowledge in the consumption of herbs as a means of holistic medicine. As with several herbs, Wormwood may have adverse side effects, such as diarrhea, nerve damage (with excessive use) and moderate to heavy sedation. If any of these side effects persist, you should stop consumption of the herb immediately.

Though most commonly associated with the French spirit, Absinthe (due to its active ingredient of absinthol) , Wormwood was most traditionally used in brewery’s instead of hops until the FDA deemed the presence of such ingredients like thujone to be ‘unsafe’ for public consumption.

It is available for whole sale purchase at most health food stores in the form of capsules and concentrated tinctures. It is also simple to grow Wormwood and is best harvested in May or June; early summer.

Herbs

Pokeweed

Pokeweed’s Humble Beginnings

Pokeweed is a plant that has played an important part in traditional herbal treatments. A plant that is considered to be a native of North and Central America, Pokeweed is one among the several species of Phytolaccas (Phyton in Greek standing for plant and lacca in Latin meaning lacquer). It is also found in East Asia and New Zealand.

Historically, the Pokeweed plant was used by Native Americans as a purgative as well as emetic. It was also used for its anti-rheumatic properties. The US Pharmacopoeia listed this plant as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory for close to a century beginning in 1820. The English name Pokeweed is derived from ‘Pocan’ (plants giving out red dye) and ‘Pak’ meaning blood. Both these words come from the Native American tongue.
pokeweed plant
The Pokeweed plant goes by a range of names that include offshoots like poke, pokebush, pokeberry and pokeroot. Names given to the popular dish made with the tender leaves are polk salad, polk salat and polk sallet.

Thanks to the crimson liquid it is filled with, the weed is also known as inkberry or ombú. This last name is specific to the pampas in South America. This particular version of the plant grows to the great heights of large trees. They provide a lot of shade as well. It is a symbolic plant in the cultures of Argentina and Uruguay.

Type of Herb

Pokeweed is a perennial herb. It grows to a maximum of 12 feet and has a thick purple shaded stem. Its leaves are pointed in shape and it blooms greenish-white flowers in clusters. These clusters of five or more flowers grow into berries, which are filled with a dark red juice. You will see this plant in full bloom between July and September.

Pokeweed is a sturdy plant and grows out in the open. Almost any kind of soil is suitable for its growth. All it needs is soil that is well-drained and regular exposure to sunlight. Pokeweed is not cultivated simply because it grows in ample abundance in the wild.

Propagation of Pokeweed

In terms of propagation, birds tend to eat the berries and then scatter the seeds around. That is why these plants are found in the strangest of places. In rare cases, these seeds are found mixed in with regular garden seeds and are looked upon as impurities. The Pokeweed has a substance called saponin. This substance is extremely poisonous. Birds however, seem to have developed an immunity to it.

Almost every part of the Pokeweed plant is poisonous and this includes the berries. The toxicity is the highest when the plant is young and all of it is concentrated in the roots. Pokeweed shoots need to be collected in the Spring in order to harvest the edible, non-toxic portions.

Similarly, the roots have to be picked during the fall. Once you have thoroughly dried them, they can be stored and used at a later stage. The berries too can be eaten only when they have just turned ripe. As for the berries, it is only the juice, which can be consumed, the seeds of the Pokeweed berry remain poisonous.

Using Pokeweed Leaves

Traditionally, Pokeweed leaves were taken out before they acquired their signature red color. These were then boiled in water, rinsed off thoroughly and then boiled once again. This was done at least three times with the water being thrown out after each session.

These boiled leaves were used in Pokeweed salad, though there were several who still did not agree with this application of Pokeweed. The leaves are also processed in a similar manner for use as tea. In addition, the young shoots are also eaten as a substitute for asparagus.

The red juice of the berries was extracted and then cooked. This juice was then used in the making of pies. It is also added to other juices that are used for making jelly. No part of the Pokeweed plant can be eaten underdone, uncooked or unprocessed.

A History of Uses

Pokeweed gained prominence as a traditional means of healing. Herbalists of yore used it in the preparation of a number of topical ointments as well as medication that could be ingested. As a topical treatment, it was used to ease acne. In terms of ingestion, it was used to soothe infections, treat tonsillitis and inflammation of the glands.

Breast related ailments such as swelling and rashes are treated with a grated Pokeweed root. It also helps soothe mastitis. Herbalists also used Pokeweed in the treatment of cancers of the uterus, throat as well as breasts. It has been used both topically as well as internally. A very famous result of this use has been the controversial Hoxsey Formula used in cancer care.

Mainstream medical practitioners have not accepted this form of treatment. Pokeweed has also been found to be effective in the treatment of scrofula, eczema, psoriasis and other skin related ailments.

Strength of Pokeweed

Even long ago, Pokeweed was considered to be extremely potent and herbalists often used watered down formulas in the form of tinctures and decoctions. These herbal formulas were used as blood cleansers and as a means to treat aching joints, which today we call rheumatism.

Pokeweed treatments were administered in an on-off style where a particular form of the medication was to be taken for a fixed period. A gap was prescribed in between and then the course resumed. Some of the dosages prescribed were one berry once a week or three berries three times a week.

Traditional Appalachian herbalists created a whiskey tincture out of the roots or a wine out of the berries in order to preserve these portions of the plant for internal use. Kerosene was used in the traditional methods of extractions. Experienced herbalists today prefer olive oil instead.

Treating Cancer

Pokeweed has an old reputation of being used to treat cancer. It even goes by the name cancer root. There are however, two variations in terms of application. Traditionally, one set of herbalists believed that the plant would be effective in its fresh form. Several others however propagated the use of the dried plant.

There is a great deal of investigation going on in terms of the use of Pokeweed for the treatment of AIDS and cancer. However, the studies are yet to be conclusive. Herbalists of today believe that the plant can help stimulate a weak thyroid gland. There have been references to Pokeweed being used for goiter as well as obesity. However, so far it is unclear whether the plant works on the gland directly or via the metabolism process thanks to its alternative properties.

Modern Day Usage

Today Pokeweed is used as an alternative therapy. It is believed to have alternative properties. This means that it gradually changes the way an illness runs its course. It works on the internal functioning of the body in terms of extracting nutrition and subsequent expulsion. This means that it acts as a cleanser for the digestive system as well as the blood. The liver is also believed to benefit from its cleansing properties. The direct result of blood cleansing is relief from a number of skin ailments. Pokeweed has proven useful in the treatment of scrofula, eczema as well as psoriasis.

Pokeweed is also used as an anti-viral. The Pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP) in several experiments conducted shows a tremendous capacity for fighting against several known viruses, of which HIV is also included. This last, however has been seen only in the in-vitro stage.

Chemical Makeup

Pokeweed’s chemical makeup consists of triterpene saponins and tannins. It also has resins, and an active glycoprotein known as Pokeweed mitogens. These affect the division of cells. Therefore, they perform well against many illness causing organisms. Pokeweed’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a good remedy for throat-based illnesses like laryngitis, tonsillitis, as well as pharyngitis.

It is also used in the treatment of gland-based ailments and prevents or soothes ailments like lymphatic and glandular stasis. Examples of these would be goiter, mumps, and inflamed glands including the thyroid gland. Pokeweed is considered an immune enhancer, cathartic as well as emetic. Its purgative actions ensure that the bowels are emptied rapidly and if necessary, it induces vomiting.

Externally Pokeweed has been used to treat an eye infection known as conjunctivitis. A poultice of its roots is used in ointments to soothe ulcers, sores as well as infections and rashes. It has been used effectively on skin illnesses like ringworm, acne as well as the occasional scabies. As an insect repellent Pokeweed works well.

Pokeweed for Women & Arthritis

Pokeweed has also been used to alleviate several illnesses specific to women. Endometriosis can be eased with the prescribed use of Pokeweed. Premenstrual breast pain as well as aches can be dealt with as well. Oil infused with small amounts of Pokeweed root can be used as a stomach rub. Alternately low dose tinctures can be used. Interstitial cystitis is another inflammatory ailment that can be healed with this same tincture. Hemorrhoid pain too can be relieved with an extract from the roots.

From the olden days, Pokeweed has been used to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatic arthritis. The tincture is useful here. Alternately, you could have a berry or two that have been dried, swallow this whole. Very small quantities of the tincture can also alleviate headaches. Berry infused spirits too have been used under prescription for treatment of chronic rheumatism.

Choosing an Herbalist

No matter what the case, the use of Pokeweed must be undertaken with caution. Only trust highly qualified herbalists in the administering of Pokeweed remedies. They have to be administered in very small quantities and these have to be correctly measured.

Dr. Richard Shulze is a very famous modern day herbalist and healer. He promotes the use of Pokeweed and uses it even in his detox program. For a more glamorous reference, Poke Salad Annie was a song penned by Tony Joe White in 1969. The song was later on covered by the legend that was Elvis Presley.

Pokeweed Modern Day

Pokeweed can be used in a number of different ways. Modern science and technology has made it possible for Pokeroot to be processed and made available in the form of lotions, creams and poultices for topical use. You can buy it in the form of powders, Pokeweed root oil, root oil tincture as well as a variety of decoctions. E

ach one of these products is used in a different way to treat a range of illnesses. Pokeroot poultices are used for the treatment of swollen joints or even ulcers and hemorrhoids. In all its forms, Pokeweed needs to be diluted before use. Pokeweed oil can be diluted to make a tincture. This is then extensively used to treat lymphatic diseases.

Pokeweed root powder is for ingestion. This has to be taken in very small doses. This is what you use to treat mastitis, rheumatism as well as other lymphatic disorders. Its extracts have been found to be very effective in treating skin based ailments like eczema, rashes and infection.

Pokeweed Oil

Pokeweed oil can be processed with olive oil and similar oils for topical use to heal swellings as well as growths on the body. Abnormal skin growths have been treated this way. Pokeweed root can also be made into a soothing salve by melting some beeswax into it. This can then be used on skin growths.

Pokeweed is not a medically recommended form of treatment. Rather it is an alternative method. Therefore, there is no hard and fast formula in terms of dosage. For adults, who are above the age of 18 years, a gram of dried Pokeweed root can be had as a purgative. If you are trying to boost your immune system or treat chronic rheumatism you can up the dosage to around 60 to 100 mg a day. However, this has to be done under strict supervision of an experienced herbalist.
using pokeweend
Pokeweed in any of its forms is not recommended for children below 18 years of age. In addition, pregnant women and lactating mothers should refrain from using this. Simply because there is not enough evidence that Pokeweed is harmless to these two categories of people.

Buying Pokeweed

You can easily buy Pokeweed under prescription or over the counter. It is available in all quality natural living or herb stores. Some of the popular brands that can be found are:

  • Nature’s Apothecary Fresh Plant Single-Herb Extracts
  • Herb Lore
  • Pokeroot tincture
  • Wiseways
  • Herbal Remedies USA
  • Alternative Health and Herbs Remedies
  • EcoTrend

If shopping online is something you are more comfortable with then you can visit some of the following sites to ensure that you get a good deal as well as quality. It goes without saying that you need to check on the credibility of the store that you plan to buy from. Online reviews as well as personal recommendations should be your basis. Some websites you can visit are:

  • Dherbs.com
  • Thefind.com
  • Feelgoodnatural.com
  • Gardenofledeniving.com
  • Ravensflight.com.

On sale, two fl oz of tincture or oil is in the range of $9.95. Regularly, you can expect to pay between $15 and $18 for the same amount.

Potential Side Effects

Before one decides to use Pokeweed as a form of treatment, it is a good idea to understand the possible side effects that this herb can have. For starters, if you are using the dried version of Pokeweed root you should consume it in very small doses of just a few grams. Anything more and you will suffer from nausea, vomiting, as well as diarrhea. These symptoms can become aggravated when traces of it begin to show in the blood. Prolonged ingestion despite these symptoms could possibly be fatal. Fatalities have occurred, but these have been very few and very far apart.

Some symptoms you can look out for are a burning throat and mouth, fast heartbeat, giddiness as well as fainting. This is in cases of ingestion. Topical ointments can result in rashes or irritability of the skin. Pregnant women and those breastfeeding should refrain from having anything to do with Pokeweed since the berry can stimulate the uterus negatively and induce an abortion.

Drug Interactions

If you are already on prescribed medication for any ailment, then you should be careful about the use of Pokeweed roots. These could react with your existing medication and induce a completely new set of problems. Pokeweed root can reduce blood pressure.

If you are planning to use this herb then do so only after consulting your doctor on the effect it can have. Since Pokeweed is also an anti-inflammatory and could react negatively with drugs that work towards the same thing. The same is also possible with diuretics. Since it is anti-viral, it may not go well with other antiviral medicines. It may also cause a heart block in some cases.

Handling Pokeweed

There are also some precautions that need to be kept in mind when you are handling Pokeweed root. It is always best to wear a set of protective gloves if you are going to be handling the plant. This precaution is to prevent the leaves or any other parts of the plant from coming in contact with cut or broken skin. If Pokeweed root were to mix with your blood, it could have some harmful effects.

Only use the young leaves that have been plucked during the spring. Boil these at least two times and then discard the water. There is a debate on when the berries of this plant are at their most toxic level. While some believe the ripe berries are less toxic, others feel that a certain level of toxicity will prevail. Also important to keep in mind is that Pokeweed is said to have certain narcotic features and therefore should be taken only under a prescription.

Pokeweed in Your Yard

Since pokeweed grows in the wild, there is every chance of you finding it in your backyard one day. This poses a huge chance of poisoning especially if you have children and pets around. They are basically weeds and you should remove them especially if they are growing around the hedges. If you have only a few of them, you can pull them up by the root and destroy them. If you have a huge infestation, dig up the whole patch and plant corn there instead. These clean plants will prevent a re-growth.

If you have these weeds growing in the wastelands around your home, you will need to use specially formulated ester diluted in water to treat it. This keeps the growth of the plants under control.

Herbs

Liquorice

History and Origin

Natural liquorice/licorice is derived from the root of the plant glycyrrhiza glabra, a legume that is native to Asia and southern Europe. The plant grows to about three feet in height with leaves that are about three to six inches. It also contains tiny pale purple or blue flowers that are about 1/2 inch in size. The specific part of the liquorice plant used for sweet flavoring of products, herbal remedies and ailment cures is the root.

Liquorice grows most efficiently in deep, fertile, and well drained soil. It is harvested in the autumn after absorbing the sun throughout most of the summer, and is ready to be picked about 2-3 years after it is first planted.

Uses

Liquorice extract is most commonly produced by boiling the root and evaporating most of the water to create the desired substance. Sometimes liquorice will be boiled until it turns into a thick syrupy consistency, while other times it will still be processed and sold as a solid in the more natural state. The syrup is commonly used in Europe to create liquorice flavored candies, although most candies are produced with artificial flavoring and contain a very small amount of real liquorice.
liquorice uses
Liquorice is popularly known as a sweet candy in many countries, but the strong flavor of the root is typically mixed with heavy sugar in order to create a sweeter, more confectionery taste.

In the Netherlands, liquorice candy is one of the most popular sweets. There are many forms of it that are sold and created, as it can be mixed with mint, menthol, laurel or even ammonium chloride in order to give it a unique flavor.

The natural form of liquorice is popular in Spain and Italy. It is commonly used in these countries as a mouth freshener or way to calm the pain of a sore throat.

The root will be dug up, washed and chewed in order to create fresh breath or a pleasant taste after a meal. When the root is chewed it may cause numbing in the mouth, which is an effective and natural way to ease a sore throat.

Liquorice root is also commonly used in soft drinks, herbal teas or medicines as a natural sweetener that provides a pleasant aftertaste. Dutch children add drops of liquorice sweetener, which is primarily made up of natural liquorice root, to water and shake it up to make a sweet frothy beverage similar to a soft drink.

Variations

Liquorice is derived from the genus glycyrrhiza, which has over 20 species spread throughout North and South America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

European liquorice is the plant with the most significant historical tradition. It grows in fertile, dry and open habitats in the eastern and southern regions. It was discovered in European regions as it grew naturally, and liquorice stick grown in these regions is what many people would chew in order to extract the sweet flavor. Liquorice stick grown in these regions is suggested to be what turned Napoleon’s teeth black.

Over time, European countries began growing the liquorice themselves and discovered it was effective in treating dry cough, asthma, and other lung diseases and disorders.

Chinese liquorice is grown in dry, grassy plains in northern China and and western Asian steppes. It is one of the most popular herbal drugs in these regions. It is typically used in a combination with 3 or 4 other herbs in order to create prescription medication for various ailments.

Liquorice is rarely used as the main drug in a prescription, but instead acts as a guide or “minister” drug to aid the other main ingredients and increase their absorption within the body. In some cases, liquorice is added to drugs simply to improve the flavor, particularly to add a natural sweetener to children’s medication.

Liquorice grown in North and South America is less prominent within crops. There are scattered plains throughout the west that grow liquorice, particularly throughout Washington, Oregon, Texas, Missouri and Mexico. It is most commonly found in prairies and meadows. Chewing the root of liquorice grown in these regions is commonly used to cure toothaches or calm the pain. Old Texas traditions used liquorice as a tea to be given to women after childbirth in order to help lower their body temperature and smoothly expel the placenta.

Remedies

Liquorice is used for more than just it’s sweet flavor. It is also used as an herbal remedy to cure several types of ailments. The rich juices have a significant effect on cell production, inflamed or irritated body parts and several ailments. When taken in moderation, liquorice can provide several health benefits and cure painful illnesses or injuries that cause serious displeasure.

The acid compound found in liquorice is used in Japan as a treatment for chronic viral hepatitis, as it is well known to have a transaminase (enzyme contributing to hepatitis) lowering effect. There has not been an official study in the United States to determine whether or not liquorice is an effective treatment for hepatitis, but it is used by people containing the virus to help calm their body and prevent flare ups that cause pain or discomfort.

One of the most common uses today is as an anti inflammatory for sore throats or swollen joints. Rubbing the liquorice root on a swollen ankle or chewing a piece for a sore throat will help significantly calm pain and reduce swelling. Many parents have their children chew liquorice root as a natural, sweet tasting remedy for a sore throat.

Liquorice root is also popular today as a cure or treatment for peptic and gastric ulcers. Dropping the root into water will cause it to fizz and foam, which works as an antacid to help calm acid production and increase the production of cells that produce stomach lining. The main ingredient in liquorice, glycyrrhiza glabra, is responsible for increased cell production and the calming of acid that causes ulcers.

This active ingredient is also responsible for the treatment of other auto-immune illnesses including asthma and various chronic diseases. It may also help with fatigue and allergies if taken in small doses.

Liquorice Products

Liquorice is most commonly used in raw form by chewing on the root or dehydrating it and adding it to tea as a powder. Various supplements and pills are also available on the market for those who wish to add liquorice to their daily vitamin and mineral routine.

Liquorice tea is one of the most popular ways to consume liquorice as an herbal remedy. Liquorice tea is naturally sweet and a preferred way to drink tea since it adds flavor without the use of excessive sugar. Liquorice tea will help speed the healing of stomach ulcers, soothe liver inflammation that appeared as a result of viral infections, calm headaches, soothe sore throats, and prevent diarrhea as a result of dehydration. Liquorice tea is also an excellent remedy for dehydration, as most of these ailments come about as a result of dehydration.
receipes for licquorice
Liquorice supplements and pills are frequently taken by people who suffer from ulcers or excessive production of gastric and peptic acid. Taking supplements as part of a daily vitamin routine helps regulate cell regeneration to efficiently line the stomach and calm irritation caused by excessive acid.

Dosage and Usage Requirements

For adults, the recommended daily dosage of liquorice is no more than 5 ounces daily. This is about 3 pieces of raw liquorice root or 2-3 cups of liquorice herbal tea. Children who chew liquorice root as a treatment for sore throats may chew 1-3 ounces of liquorice up to 3 times per day.

Excessive amounts of liquorice can pose serious and potentially dangerous side effects if it is not recommended by a doctor. Anyone adding liquorice to part of their daily regimen is encouraged to consult their doctor to make sure they are staying within a suggested amount of liquorice intake.

Potential Side Effects

Excessive liquorice intake can have potentially dangerous side effects. The main ingredient in liquorice, glycyrrhizin, may cause an increase in blood pressure or hypertension if consumed in large quantities. Most hypertension resulted from liquorice was due to patients consuming excessively large amounts of liquorice sweetened candy.

Excessive amounts of glycyrrhizin may also cause headaches, fatigue, swelling of the joints and even lower testosterone levels in men. There have been cases in European countries where women have been hospitalized due to muscle failure caused by liquorice overdose. Liquorice intake should be monitored and kept to no more than 5 ounces a day.

Where to Buy

Liquorice supplements and herbal tea can be found in most vitamin, health and drug stores. A bottle of pure liquorice root supplements is relatively inexpensive, costing approximately $6-$11 per bottle. Liquorice tea is also an inexpensive product, running about $5-12 for a box of tea bags.

Popular vitamin companies such as General Nutrition Center (http://www.gnc.com) sell a variety of supplements and tea variations that focus on specific ailments or illnesses. Many consumers find the best variety of liquorice products on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com) , which sells products that local nutrition stores may not carry. Amazon is also known to have the cheapest prices on products that would cost significantly more in a chain store.

Many liquorice teas and supplements are available without glycyrrhizin. These products are called deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). They have been developed by manufacturers and are just as effective as natural liquorice in calming or treating ailments without the risk of increasing blood pressure or causing uncomfortable muscle problems. DGL liquorice products can also be found at most health and nutrition stores as well as through Internet manufacturers and wholesalers.

In conclusion, it is clear that liquorice can be very effective when taken as an herbal supplement or remedy for an illness. It is also a natural and tasteful way to add sweetener to food or beverages without adding excessive amounts of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. However, liquorice consumption should also be moderated or monitored by a health care professional to make sure it does not cause other more harmful effects. Talking to a physician will help guide patients in knowing what amount and variation of liquorice root is best for their lifestyle.

Herbs

Garlic

Garlic, today’s super food, has enjoyed a long and colorful history grounded in myth and folklore. Ancient Egyptians use of garlic has been found etched into walls of temples, and written on papyrus, as well as clay sculptures of the herb dating back to 3200 B.C. Although the Egyptians believed strongly in it’s healing powers , they considered garlic, sometimes referred to as “The Stinking Rose”, too pungent too eat. However, they so revered garlic for its mystical healing powers that they often tried to take it with them to the after life.

Dried garlic was found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb along with other treasured herbs and spices. Indeed, Garlic did not become popular in America until the 19th century, when immigrants flooded in from other countries. However, it is the very powerful smell of Garlic that inspired the myth and superstitions that have surrounded it for centuries.
garlic health benefits
Throughout the ages, and in all parts of the world, Garlic has been revered for it’s healing abilities, and used as a talisman against evil spirits. Everyone is familiar with the old legend of garlic as a vampire repellent, but the folklore concerning this versatile herb does not stop there. You may be surprised to to find what other Old Wives tales there are referring to garlic.

Myths, Truisms, and Fun facts About Garlic

  • In the Middle Ages garlic was thought to ward off vampires, evil eye, and witches. Families would string it together and hang it in the archways of their doors to prevent evil spirits from entering their house.
  • During The Black Plague, people ate raw garlic daily to ward off the disease.
  • In Balkan countries, Garlic juice was rubbed on to doorknobs and window frames in an effort to keep vampires out as well.
  • In Korea, Six Clove Black Garlic was given to women in the hopes of endowing them with supernatural powers and immortality.
  • In colonial times, garlic was tied to the feet of Small Pox victims in an effort to ward off death.
  • In 17th century England, it was considered unfit for a Lady, or any gentleman courting her, to eat garlic.
  • There is a proverb that says “Garlic makes men wink, and drink, and stink”
  • Greek Battalions were given garlic to give them courage and promise of victory.
  • In ancient Greece and Rome, garlic was used to repel scorpions, and to treat dog bites, leprosy and asthma. Garlic has been proven to have anti fungal, antiviral, anti bacterial and anti parasitic properties.
  • In World War 2 Garlic solutions were used by the British to heal wounds when they ran out of sulfur.
  • Garlic was often used to cure the common cold. Recipes can still be found explaining how to make garlic and onion soup, as well as garlic cough syrup.
  • There are still Old Wives Tales circulating about garlic’s ability to ward off evil spirits and ailments, such as tie a clove of garlic around your neck to ward off a cold.
  • Garlic is still used today for wart removal. It is recommended that a raw clove of garlic should be sliced and applied to the wart. After being bandaged for 24 hours, the wart will supposedly dry out and fall off in a few days.
  • Garlic has also been said to cure ear infections. Actually, the home remedy calls for 100% pure garlic oil dropped into the affected ear. After lying still for 15-30 minutes, it said that you will feel your ear start to itch, which is the garlic drying up the infection. Within 24 hours, the infection will have gone away.

The folklore surrounding garlic is endless, as are the types of ailments it is said to cure, both proven and UN proven. The uses of garlic not only span thousands of years, but they also span thousands of miles around the world. From Ancient Arab herbalists who said that garlic gives strength, and beatifies the complexion, to Louis Pasteur, who documented that one millimeter of garlic juice is equivalent to 60 milligrams of Penicillin in 1885, to recent studies that have shown garlic as a remedy for hypertension, the uses of its “super food” are endless.

While some people still find this herb pungent and repulsive, hence the name “The stinking Rose”, you may be surprised to hear some of the other names that garlic is referred to around the world.

Other Names For Garlic

  • Alho
  • Knoblauch
  • Bawang
  • Ail
  • Aglio
  • Katiem
  • Chesnok
  • Gartenlauch
  • Bronx vanilla
  • Italian Perfume
  • Camphor of The Poor
  • Nectar of The Gods
  • Poor Mans Treacle

So, what it is about garlic that has made it such a subject of myth and fantasy? It is the compound Allicin, contained in garlic, which gives it such a strong smell, and provides this herb with all of its healing qualities. It contains enzymes, flavenoids, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and selenium.

It is the selenium that really gives this herb it’s punch as this antioxidant alone has the power to boost the other vitamins containing Garlic, which include Vitamin A (Thiamin). Vitamin B2( Riboflavin), along with Vitamin and B6. With all of these essential vitamins and minerals packed into one small clove of garlic, it is no wonder that the benefits of this herb are known far and wide around the world.

So what has been proven to be true about the healing properties of garlic and what belongs restricted to the ream of myth and folklore? While many people will continue to believe in Grandma’s garlic and onion soup for a cold, or the old wives tale of stringing a clove of Garlic around you neck to ward off a cold, studies have actually been done to prove whether garlic is efficient as a medicine in this area, and exactly how much you should take.

The Truth About Garlic

  • Garlic has been proven to reduce high blood pressure, and reduce heart attacks by actually lowering the levels of blood fats including tryglicerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, while raising the levels of HDL (“good”) cholesteral. In Germany, garlic supplements are licensed a prescription drugs for the treatment of arteriosclerosis.
  • Several studies have also indicated that garlic can boost immunity levels, and that it is the second only to Echinacea as the most common herbal supplent bought on the market today
  • Garlic has also been shown to be a helpful supplement to those who suffer from Diabetes as it balances the blood sugar. The main compound Allicin combines with Vitamin B to stimulate the pancreas to release insulin.
  • Because of garlic’s anti- fungal properties, scientists have proven that garlic functions as an anti parasitic to get rid of intestinal worms, as well as other fungal infections, such as thrush.
  • Studies dating back to the 1960’s have shown garlic’s benefits in treating cancer patients. New research, such as a study put out in 2002 by The Journal of the national Cancer Institute suggests that men who eat plenty of garlic and onions could have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Inter
  • Stutudies have shown that garlic, because of its value as a natural blood thinner, to be very useful in the treatment of varicose veins, and blood clots. However, people should also be advised that eating large amounts of Garlic prior to surgery or dental procedures could cause heavy or spontaneous bleeding. Also people taking Warfarin, Coumadin, or any drugs meant to treat HIV/AIDS virus should consult with their doctors before taking any type of garlic supplement, as it can be contraindicated with these drugs. .
  • People suffering from Intermittent claudication (poor circulation of the legs) have also found this her b useful.
  • Studies published in the American Journal of Hypertension have shown that when volunteers took garlic supplements on a regular basis, their blood pressure was reduced by 1-5%.
  • Because of the antioxidant properties of garlic, it has also been shown garlic is also useful for slowing down the aging of the liver, and combating the harmful effects of smoking.
  • It has been proven that garlic, indeed, is suitable for treatment of the common cold. Because of the potency of this herb, the body is stimulated to perspire when garlic is consumed, which means that eating garlic during a cold will speed up recovery by making you sweat the toxins and bacteria out of your body.
  • Ayervedic herbalists suggest rubbing a slice of raw garlic on pimples as a cure for acne. They say that removing pimples this way will not result in scars.

With the benefits of garlic so far and widespread throughout the body, it is no wonder that the sale of garlic supplements is one of the top 5 in America. Many questions remain, however, as to what dosage of garlic is required to benefit from this herbs healing effects. Also, as much as this herb has crossed cultural lines in Cuisine for Italian to meditterean to Chinese, many people benefit from the herb my simply using it as a spice in cooking. The question remains, however, is taking supplements the same as eating cooked garlic? And to take it a step further, is eating cooked garlic as beneficial as eating it raw? Many health excerpts have confirmed that eating raw garlic is more beneficial to eating cooked garlic or supplements.
using garlic for health

Allicin Released

The crushing and chewing of garlic release the compound Allicin, which gives garlic its healing properties. However, many people are unable to eat garlic raw at first because when not used it, consuming large amounts of raw garlic can be very irritating to the stomach.

It is suggested to start off slow, and chew one clove of garlic a day. For people who cannot stomach the taste of garlic raw or cooked, there is the option so supplements, some of which include the compound Allicin.

A ratio of powdered supplement to raw garlic equates to an average dose of 1500mg of powdered garlic to ½ clove of fresh garlic.

In order to fight infection 3-4 chopped, crushed, or chewed cloves should be consumed per day, or in supplement form 600-900miligarams a day 2-3 times a day. Read labels of specific supplement for more precise dosing.

Another aspect of the benefits of garlic is its helpfulness to the home gardener. Garlic oil has been shown to repel slugs and snails when a barrier of it is put up around favorite plants and vegetables. Also garlic’s benefit as a companion plant has been utilized for hundreds of years as well. It is a well-known fact that planted in between roses; garlic will provide you with beautiful healthy roses for years to come.

Companion planting comes from the notion that if the proper plants and herbs are grown together, natural pest control will occur. Garlic, when planted alongside cabbage and lettuce repels and kills Aphids, Spider mites, and white flies, all dangerous pests to your plants. Growing garlic is not difficult, and is actually a good way to get kids involved in gardening.

How To Grow and Harvest Garlic

  • Plant a clove, not a bulb, in the dirt, about an inc below the surface in an upright position. Garlic can be sown in rows of 18 cloves, or simply pushed in the dirt of plants you would like to protect.
  • Keep it watered well, but not over watered.
  • One clove of garlic will produce one plant, which will produce one whole bulb of garlic.
  • It is time to harvest your garlic when the plants foliage starts to turn brown and looks dead.
  • When taking garlic from the ground, do not yank it out by the stem. Gently loosen the dirt around the bulb, and then remove it from the ground.
  • Garlic must be dried properly if it is going to be of any good use. Hang the bulbs upside down by the stems in a cool dry place such as a gardening shed or barn. The curing process takes about two weeks. Large bundles of garlic can be braided together and hung upside down as a bunch. It is suggested to wait until the garlic is completely dry until trimming the stems off. Once they have dried, they can also be strung together with flowers, dried grasses and ribbon and used as a decorative piece for your kitchen.
  • Garlic should be stored at room temperature. It can either be hung in the kitchen pantry, or kept in a brown paper bag on your pantry shelf.

As you can see, garlic is one versatile herb! Straight from the garden to tour belly, this herb will benefit you for years to come. Whether eaten raw, cooked, or taken in supplement form garlic is rated high on the list of foods to eat for longetivity and well being. The possibilities are endless as to what you can do with this herb. Whether using it for hypertension or as a slug repellant in the garden, the uses of garlic still abound. Remember, however, that as good as garlic is for the body to always check with your physician before starting to take large amounts of garlic, especially if you take medication for blood thinners on a regular basis.