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Sunday, October 31, 2010

FOXGLOVE PLANT BENEFITS: CARE, USES AND HISTORY OF FOXGLOVE

FOXGLOVE (DIGITALIS PURPUREA)
The foxglove is a common woodland plant in Britain, and it grows in many countries all over the world, although there are different varieties of the foxglove. It is known by many names, such as:-Dead Man’s Bells, Fairy Caps, Gloves of Our Lady, Bloody Fingers and Virgin’s Glove. Honey bees are very attracted to these flowers, and they are responsible for the development of life saving medication. However they are highly poisonous and have been mistaken for comfrey leaves. Foxglove leaves are distinguished by the veins which run down the leaf. The upper leaves on the plant are more poisonous than the lower ones, and if you have children, you should not grow foxgloves in the garden.
   No one really knows where the name foxglove comes from, but the name is similar in Norwegian, Revbielde meaning fox bell. One northern legend says that bad fairies gave the flowers to a fox to slip onto his paws so that he could be more silent and stealthy while prowling around roosts of birds and chicken coops. It is also said that the older name for foxglove was Folk’s Glove, meaning the little folk or fairies. The foxglove grows in woods and hollows where, it was supposed, fairies liked to frequent. It is a member of the Scrophulariaceae or figwort family of plants and so is related to mullein and toadflax among others.
   The spotted parts of the flower were thought to be where elves had placed their fingers, but in Ireland where the plant is known as Dead Man’s Thimbles, they are supposed to be a warning of the poisonous juices contained in the plant.
   The Latin name, Digitalis means “a finger’s breadth” and a digitabulum was Latin for thimble. Purpurea means purple, as you might have imagined. The plant was not given a Latin name until 1542 when it was named by the German herbalist, Leonard Fuchs who gave his name to the fuchsia.
   Shakespeare doesn’t mention the foxglove, but Gerard writes without much evidence one would think, that it was good for people “who have fallen from high places.” Dodoens writing in 1554 says that boiled in wine the leaves could be used as an expectorant, one of the uses that were employed in other times which would be considered highly dangerous today. It was used in Italy to heal wounds, done by bruising a leaf and placing it firmly over a fresh wound. It was used by physicians in Wales in the 13th century and later used in North Wales to darken engraved lines on stone floors to give a mosaic pattern, which was fashionable at one time.
  It was Doctor William Withering, an 18th Century English country doctor who was instrumental in discovering the effects of digitoxin and digiton on the heart. He was interested in the concoctions of a herbalist and went on to investigate the uses for the foxglove.
   Digitalis is used for heart treatments as it regulates irregular pulse rates, although it takes 12 hours to have benefits, so other medication is used to see the patient through those critical 12 hours. The cardiac glycosides it contains stimulate urine production and this lowers the volume of blood and lessens the load on the heart. It was used in ancient India to treat patients with swollen legs caused excess water, which are symptoms of a weak heart. It is a powerful diuretic. It is also used by injection as an antidote for aconite poisoning.
   Please treat foxgloves with care, they are poisonous and dangerous and probably don’t taste good.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

AVOCADO FACTS:THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF AVOCADO: TIPSY AVOCADOS RECIPE


AVOCADO PEARS OR ALLIGATOR PEARS
Avocados are the fruit of the Persea americana tree which is native to the subtropical regions of the American continent. They are in the same botanical family as bay leaves.The name, avocado comes from the Aztec for testicle, ahuacatl, so called because of its shape and the fact that the Aztecs believed it was an aphrodisiac. It is actually a fruit with a large seed, which can be grown at home, if you persevere. You probably won’t get any avocados if you grow it indoors but it has attractive foliage and it’s fun for kids to watch it grow. You have to pierce the seed and put it over a bottle filled with water and wait for it to grow roots before potting it.
  It has been cultivated in South America and Mexico for at least 8,000 years and from there it was taken to the West Indies and the Philippines by Spanish explorers of the 16th century. They also found that the seed produces a red fluid which could be used as ink, and some manuscripts written with avocado ink are still in existence.
   It later found its way to Mauritius, Singapore, the Indian subcontinent and Hawaii. Today it is cultivated in New Zealand, Australia, parts of the Mediterranean region, the Middle East and Africa. Now there are more than 500 varieties, but they all originate from the Mexican, Guatemalan and West Indian fruit.
   They are sometimes called Alligator pears because the skin of the fruit is knobbly like a crocodile’s skin, and these are either dark green or a brownish colour. If you buy an unripe pear they will ripen if kept in a paper bag with a banana. If you can, gently squeeze the top of the pear before buying to see if it is ripe. It should be a little soft.
  The avocado has the highest fibre content of any fruit and is packed full of Vitamin E which may encourage fertility in humans. The fruit juice has a higher potassium content than banana juice too. Avocado oil, obtained from the tree, the fruit and the seed, can reduce cholesterol levels and the avocado pear contains 30% of the good monounsaturated fats which may lower the risk of heart disease and cancer.
   Avocados contain lecithin which is necessary to combat cholesterol and can prevent arteriosclerosis. Avocado and soybean unsaponifiables are one of the current most promising arthritis remedies, although it is recommended that you take the oil in capsule form for this rather than just eat the fruit. In France these have been approved as a prescription drug and can be bought in health shops and online. However if you include avocados in your diet, you could be lowering the risk of getting arthritis in later years.
  Avocados in your diet can also help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and are thought to cure depression.
   If you pulp a fresh avocado and put it on your face for ½ hour before going to sleep, you will be helping to prevent wrinkles and smooth your skin, as the vitamins D and E stimulate the formation of collagen and saponins. If you have skin problems such as pimples or eczema you will find this a good treatment too.
  Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant, so an avocado is good for your heart.
  They are good to eat in salads with pomelo or grapefruit and other citrus fruit, although you should brush them with lemon juice as they turn brown when exposed to the air. The traditional use for them in Mexico is for guacamole sauce, which is really delicious, but below is an easy recipe, which makes a good starter.

TIPSY AVOCADOS
Ingredients   serves 4
2 avocado pears, sliced in half and seeds removed
Ruby port

Method
Pour the port into the cavities left from removing the seeds.
Serve immediately.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

MARSH MARIGOLD: KING CUPS: CALUTHA PALUSTRIS: HOW TO COOK MARSH MARIGOLD LEAVES

MARSH MARIGOLDS, KING CUPS, CALUTHA PALUSTRIS
Marsh marigolds or King Cups (Calutha palustris) have been growing in Britain possibly since the last Ice Age. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon, mersa mear-geallia meaning marsh horse gold, and they are, as the name suggests, native to wetlands in Europe and North America. They look like huge buttercups and are nothing like the cowslip which is of the Primula family, although they are often called this in North America. They are also called Sponsa solis the Latin name referring to the fact that the flowers open and close as the sun rises and sets. The name Calathus comes from the Greek meaning goblet or cup and palus the Latin for marsh.
   They have been used for decorations and garlands in May Day festivals and in Beltane celebrations. They are associated with the strength of the Mother Earth goddess as well as the sun. These flowers were associated with the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages (not the common garden marigold, calendula officinalis) and used to decorate churches; an example of the pagan rites being accommodated by the Church.
   The leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach although they need to be boiled in fresh water several times as they contain helleborin. The flower buds can be pickled and used as a substitute for capers. If you use the leaves as pot herbs you need to boil them as before. The leaves can cause skin irritation, so be careful if you have sensitive skin. They were named plant of the year in Germany in 1999.
   Another name for the marsh marigold is verrucaria as they were used traditionally to get rid of warts.
  The whole plant used to be made into a tincture and given in very small doses to epilepsy sufferers and for anaemia. To make the tincture the whole plant must be picked when it is flowering, and then chopped and pounded to a pulp. Then you carefully spread it out on a cotton cloth and press it. The expressed juice should then be added to an equal amount of alcohol and steeped for 8 to 10 days in an airtight jar or stoppered bottle in a cool dark place. After that it should be drained and transferred to another clean bottle and stored in a cool dark place and diluted well before each use.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

MARIGOLD: MARIGOLD FLOWER: MARIGOLD TISANE: MARIGOLD AND CHIVES EGG SANDWICHES RECIPE

MARIGOLDS, CALENDULA OFFICINALIS
Marigolds are fairly common in gardens all over the world, and the petals can be eaten. You can grow marigolds in window boxes and pots if you don’t have a garden, and dry the flower heads by spreading them on paper in the shade on sunny days, turning them several times a day. When they are dried store them in plastic bags and/or glass jars for use in the winter when you need cheering up. There is a superstition that you should only gather the leaves in fine weather after the dew has been dried on them by the sun.
    Even if you don’t use them as a medicine, they can make good additions to some dishes and can be added to pot pourris along with dried lavender flowers, rose petals and jasmine. The petals have long been added to soups for their heart-warming qualities as the marigold is said to heal the spirit and comfort the heart.
  You can make a tisane with 1 ounce of dried flowers to 1 pint of boiling water. Let the flowers steep for 5-10 minutes the strain and reheat if you like. Add some honey to taste. This tisane will help if you have a sore throat or gastric ulcers. This tisane taken three times a day will start the delayed menstrual flow too as it stimulates the uterus, so should not be taken if you are pregnant. This infusion will also help you perspire if you have a fever.
   You can also use this cold to soothe sprains and wounds and tired eyes or as eyewash if you have conjunctivitis (red-eye).
  The fresh juice squeezed from the flowers and leaves can be used to treat skin diseases such as eczema and there is a saying “Where marigold is, no pus will form.” This alludes to the its antiseptic healing qualities, as it is traditionally used to treat rough or chapped skin and lips, skin infections, cuts and grazes. If you are outside and have a bee sting, chew marigold leaves and put the pulp on the sting to take away the pain. If you are indoors you can blend the flowers with a little water. You can put this paste on a skin disorder or wound.
   Marigolds were mentioned by Shakespeare in his “Winter’s Tale”
     “The marigold that goes to bed wi’th’sun
       And with him rises weeping…”
In the 17th century marigolds were used for headaches, jaundice, conjunctivitis, toothache and fevers; a conserve of the flowers and sugar, taken every morning with breakfast was believed to stop palpitations of the heart. Because of their colour the flowers were also used as a food dye for cheese. You van make a yellow dye by boiling the flowers to Gerard the 17th century British herbalist writes of the marigold in this way: -  'The fruitful or much-bearing marigold, . . . is likewise called Jackanapes-on-horsebacke: it hath leaves stalkes and roots like the common sort of marigold, differing in the shape of his floures; for this plant doth bring forth at the top of the stalke one floure like the other marigolds, from which start forth sundry other small floures, yellow likewise and of the same fashion as the first; which if I be not deceived commeth to pass per accidens, or by chance, as Nature often times liketh to play with other flowers; or as children are borne with two thumbes on one hande or such like; which living to be men do get children like unto others: even so is the seed of this Marigold, which if it be sowen it brings forth not one floure in a thousand like the plant from whence it was taken.'
            Culpepper writes that it is a:
'herb of the Sun, and under Leo. They strengthen the heart exceedingly, and are very expulsive, and a little less effectual in the smallpox and measles than saffron. The juice of Marigold leaves mixed with vinegar, and any hot swelling bathed with it, instantly gives ease, and assuages it. The flowers, either green or dried, are much used in possets, broths, and drink, as a comforter of the heart and spirits, and to expel any malignant or pestilential quality which might annoy them. A plaister made with the dry flowers in powder, hog's-grease, turpentine, and rosin, applied to the breast, strengthens and succours the heart infinitely in fevers, whether pestilential or not.'

    The leaves can be used as a salad green and the juice from them is also said to be good for getting rid of warts.
    In Ayurvedic medicine marigolds are used for their antifungal properties to get rid of fungal infections such as ringworm, and to treat candida, conjunctivitis, eczema and minor burns, cleansing the system and stimulating circulation, as well as being used on cancer-type growths on the skin.
    In South East Asia it is believed to be lucky for attracting money so is well–liked by gamblers.
    If you are allergic to other members of the Asteraceae or Compositae family (daisies for example) then you might be allergic to marigolds, so before you use them test them on a small patch of skin before applying them to large tracts of skin.
    You can add dried marigold flowers to any other herbal tea or tisane for flavour and women going through the menopause can use the tisane as a uterotonic.
     It is wrongly believed that the marigold got its name because of associations with the Virgin Mary. Actually the name derives from the Old English, mersa-meargealla or marsh marigold.
    Add the petals to soups, as they are good with dried beans, lentils and meat based soups or chicken broth. Use the blanched leaves and fresh petals in salads and for garnishes and make tisanes with your sun-dried petals. Try the recipe below for a new twist on the ubiquitous egg sandwich.


MARIGOLD AND CHIVES EGG SANDWICHES
Ingredients
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and mashed
3-4 tbsps mayonnaise
2 tsps Dijon mustard (or green peppercorn or wholegrain mustard)
1 handful fresh chives, shipped into ¼ inch lengths
3-4 spring onions finely chopped
small bunch of watercress trimmed and shredded
1 handful of marigold petals
salt and freshly ground pepper
butter or spread
slices of bread or pitta bread


Method
Spread the butter on the bread if you are not using pitta bread. If you are then you won’t need butter.
Mix all the other ingredients together but leave some watercress to one side to scatter over the mixture when it’s in the pitta packets or on the bread slices.
Make sandwiches or pitta packets and you have a meal on the hoof.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WHAT IS ALSI? FLAX / LINUM USITATISSMUM: BENEFITS AND USE OF ALSI: HOW TO MAKE ALSI PINNI RECIPE


FLAX, LINUM USITATISSMUM, ALSI
Flax seeds were eaten by hunter-gatherers more than 8,500 years ago and grow all over the world. Because they have become naturalized almost everywhere it is very difficult, if not impossible to say where they originated. Flax seeds are known as linseed too, and flax was woven into cloth from early times. Cloth made of flax has been found in the tombs of the pharaohs, and the ‘fine linen’ mentioned so often in the Bible was woven from flax.
alsi wool
   The flax seed containers are called bolls (like cotton bolls) and when ripe the flax was pulled and tied into bundles then placed in water for a few weeks to separate the fibre from the stalks. It was then spread out to dry. In Teutonic mythology the plant was associated with the goddess Hulda, who first taught mortals how to grow, spin and weave flax into cloth.
 Its cloth made the “white sails” Homer describes in the Odyssey and Pliny wrote: - “What department is there to be found in active life in which flax is not employed?” He goes on (he is always a little verbose) “What audacity in man! What criminal perverseness! Thus to sow a thing in the ground for the purpose of catching the winds and tempests, it being not enough for him, forsooth, to be borne upon the waves alone.”
   In Mediaeval times flax was used for a multitude of purposes: - To make clothes, sails, fishing nets, thread, strong rope, strings for bows, sheets, sacks, bags and purses among other items. During these times it was believed that flax could protect people from witchcraft and sorcery. Bohemians believed that if seven-year-old children danced in flax fields, they would grow up to be beautiful.
   The ancient Greeks and Romans mixed the seeds with corn to make bread, but when people tried to make this in recent years the taste left much to be desired, and caused flatulence, and was not easy to digest.
    The oil-cake left after extracting the oil from the seeds used to be used for fattening up cattle and it also made good compost. If you grind this cake it is good for making poultices to be placed on the chest for respiratory problems. The crushed seeds or linseed meal as they are called can be mixed with mustard seeds too in hot poultices. These can be used to treat inflammation and ulceration and were commonly used for abscesses and other skin disorders.
   Linseed is a common ingredient in cough medicines and has been used to treat coughs in traditional medicine since ancient times in many parts of the world including Europe and Asia.
  To make linseed tisane, you need an ounce of ground or whole seeds to 1 pint of boiling water. Boil the seeds for best results and allow the tisane to stand for at least two hours then strain before drinking. In India they add lemon grass and licorice root powder to this when it is boiling. Then add a few drops of lemon juice and honey to make it tastier. Take it by the wineglass full. It’s good for coughs and colds and infections of the urinary tract such as cystitis.
   Linseed oil mixed with an equal amount of lime water is called Carron oil and in India it is called Chuna Pani You can also eat boiled seeds with honey for respiratory problems or use roasted seeds ground to a powder. These are traditional remedies for the subcontinent.
 The oil is a laxative and can disperse stones and gravel from the kidneys etc. As a cosmetic preparation, linseed oil mixed with honey can remove facial spots.
   Flax seeds’ powder is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and the alpha linolenic acid present in the seeds is beneficial for the general inflammation present in the morbidly obese, and can possibly improve atherosclerosis according to recent clinical trials. They also contain omega-6 fatty acids.
   There have been many claims for the efficacy of flax seed on a number of diseases, but they have not really been proved, because the body is not as efficient in converting ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) from flax, into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as it is in converting it from fish oils. So basically, although flax seed oil contains omega-3 and -6, the body may not be able to utilize it as well as it can those omega-3 and -6 fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel. Therefore it may not be as effective against chronic diseases such as heart disease and arthritis as has been claimed, in comparison with oily fish. However, the good news is that flax seed (but not the oil), contains lignons (a group of chemicals) which may play a role in preventing cancer.
   It is believed that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids including ALA may lower blood pressure. There is 6 % mucilage (a slimy substance) in the seeds and traces linamarin (a cyanogenic glycoside) which has a sedative effect on the respiratory system, so you can take 5 – 10 grams of seeds whole or crushed, and soaked in water 3 times a day for bronchial problems. Do this for 3 days maximum. Children under 6 should not take flax seeds. Alternatively you can put crushed seeds on your breakfast muesli, but drink a lot more water than usual.
   Linseed oil is good for skin problems such as eczema and for menstrual disorders; take 1-2 teaspoons of crushed seeds or 2 teaspoons of freshly pressed oil a day for rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis, also for disorders associated with the menopause, including hot flushes, and candida caused by vaginal dryness. An infusion of the whole plant, (bruised and boiled for at least half an hour) taken daily is good for constipation, liver congestion and rheumatic pain. It is also good for PMT symptoms.
   In traditional medicine on the Indian subcontinent the healers differentiate between oil from fresh seeds and that from roasted seeds. The oil from fresh seeds is used as a purgative and is said to be good for piles. Chuna Pani is made into a paste and applied to burns, and a few drops of the oil is put inside the penis for diseases such as gonorrhoea. To cure insomnia, alsi oil is mixed with an equal amount of castor oil and rubbed on the soles of the feet. The leaves and the bark are burnt and applied to all kinds of wounds, fresh or old. A sex tonic is made with 2 parts of alsi, 1 part safed musli, 1 part kali musli (Curculigo orchioidea) and 1 part semal musli (Bombax ceiba) taken in water and if you take it all through the winter its effects will last until the end of autumn. It is drunk in milk.
   The recipe below is given to pregnant women in Pakistan and to breast-feeding mothers, although medical trials and the evidence from these suggest pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers should not take flax at all. Be warned. However this is a nutritious, tasty sweet so here is the traditional recipe.

ALSI PINNI
Ingredients
250 gr flax seeds, dry fried then ground
250 gr wholemeal flour (atta) dry fried until brown
250 gr ghee (clarified butter)
200 gr jaggery or gur, pounded to a powder
100 gr mixed almonds, pistachios and cashew nuts, roughly pounded
40 gr raisins

Method
Heat the ghee in a frying pan and add the powdered gur; then when it is bubbling, add the flour and flax seeds. Stir over a low heat for 5 minutes.
Add the nuts and raisins and stir well to mix and fry for five minutes more. Then remove from the heat.
Allow to cool and then roll the mixture into small balls. Eat when you like.
This has Taste and is a Treat.
  


Monday, October 25, 2010

JASMINE: JASMINE FLOWERS: JASMINE AND LEMON BALM TISANE RECIPE

JASMINE
There are more than 150 types of jasmine, and they all smell wonderful. Jasmine is native to the Indian subcontinent and Iran. It has been cultivated in Grasse for centuries for perfume making and was introduced into Europe in the 16th century. Its name comes from the Farsi, yasemin which means a gift from god.
   In India and Pakistan there is a night flowering variety known as Queen of the Night and jati in Ayurvedic medicine. Legend has it that a princess was enamoured of the sun god, Surya-Deva, who spurned her. She committed suicide and her ashes were scattered on the ground from whence jasmine began to grow. Because she had been spurned by the sun god, the flower would not give him the pleasure of its perfume so it only blooms at night.
  The European variety flowers during the day and evening, perfuming the air with its heady scent. Jasmine is a women’s plant as it helps as an aphrodisiac it is claimed, along with patchouli. As you would imagine as a “women’s plant” jasmine has been used to treat PMT, tension headaches, and to heal the female reproductive system. It has anti- spasmodic properties so can help relax the uterus and so helps with the labour pains of childbirth.
yellow jasmine
   In China jasmine is a symbol of feminine sweetness and beauty and symbolizes deep affection, happiness and elegance. In the European Language of flowers different types of jasmine symbolize different things: yellow jasmine is for modesty, grace and elegance; white is for amiability and Pakistani Jasmine means attachment while Spanish jasmine as it is called stands for sensuality.
   Of course everyone has probably drunk jasmine tea and eaten jasmine rice, so you know what it tastes like. In China it is thought to have cooling properties and so is used to reduce fevers and cool the blood. It has antibacterial properties and can produce feelings of optimism, confidence and even euphoria.
   You can make a tisane of it with 2-3 ounces of flowers to 1 pint of boiling water and this is good to help sore throats and coughs. This is also good to heal wounds which the Greeks and Romans used jasmine for. It has antiseptic qualities.
red jasmine
   In Hinduism the flowers are sacred to Vishnu and Shiva and given to honored guest as garlands to be worn around the neck. The flowers are also used as votive offerings in religious ceremonies. Nycanthus arbortristis (Night flowering jasmine) is used in traditional Indian medicine to treat rheumatism, sciatica and bilious fevers. It is also believed to boost the immune system. In Ayurvedic medicine jasmine is used to treat gingivitis and other oral problems, as well as heatstroke. Compresses of the flowers are applied to the temples for headaches, heatstroke and to relieve anxiety and stress. The flower buds are used for eye problems like rose, boils and other skin disorders. The flowers are also given to cancer patients especially useful it is said for breast cancer.
  
    Recent medical trials have supported the use of jasmine oil in aromatherapy, as when mice smelled the fragrance both natural and a chemical substitute, they remained quietly in a corner of their cage. Brain scans showed that a chemical, GABA was acting as a sedative on the mice, relieving anxiety and promoting sleep. The British newspaper The Telegraph, hailed it as “calming as valium” (10th July, 2010).

JASMINE AND LEMON BALM TISANE
Ingredients
2 oz jasmine flowers
2 oz lemon balm leaves, slightly torn
honey to taste
2 pints water


Method
Boil jasmine flowers and lemon balm leaves in the water. When it has boiled, leave it to steep for 10 minutes and then strain. You can add honey at this stage or boil with honey.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

WHAT IS BHANG? WILD MARIJUANA: BENEFITS AND USE OF BHANG

BHANG, WILD MARIJUANA, CANNABIS SATIVA, HEMP
Cannabis sativa or marijuana is widely known and much has been written about it. It grows wild in Iran, Pakistan, Northern India and Southern Siberia, and probably in other countries too. In Pakistan and India a drink is made from it called Bhang; this is also the name of the weed that can be seen on any piece of waste ground, even in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. At the end of September through to the middle of October the air is pungent with the smell of the flowers of bhang and there’s a particularly good crop on some waste land that has not yet been developed in the Diplomatic Enclave close to the British High Commission and The Iranian Embassy (which are opposite each other).
   Hemp as it was known in Britain used to grow wild, and I remember a good story reported in the press in the early seventies of an elderly lady in Swansea, South Wales, who was worried about her hedge. The hedge was very old and well trimmed, but had begun to look a little threadbare in places, she informed the court. She said that she had no idea what it was, but unfortunately for her, the police knew what cannabis sativa was when they saw it. Luckily for her she was merely fined and the hedge ordered to be destroyed.
   Marijuana is used as a pain reliever for sufferers of arthritis among other ailments and it has been suggested that it should be legalized for people who smoke it for medicinal purposes. In traditional medicine in the subcontinent it is thought to be useful for people who suffer from gout, neuralgia, rheumatism, delirium tremens, insanity, infants’ convulsions and insomnia too. A traditional remedy for gonorrhea was to take equal parts of the male and female flowering tops, bruise them in a mortar to remove the juice and add equal amounts of alcohol. One to three drops were taken every 2 -3 hours. It can produce exhilaration, but also hallucinations and is known in the East as the ‘leaf of delusion’, ‘increaser of pleasure,’ ‘cementer of friendship’ and by many other epithets.
   In Ayurvedic treatments it is used to reduce pain, stop nausea and vomiting and weight loss caused by debilitating diseases. It is also used to help sufferers of neurologically induced motor problems, as it relaxes muscles and stops twitches and spasms. In appropriate quantities it is used to cure fever, dysentery and sunstroke, to clear phlegm, aid digestion and increase appetite. It is frequently combined with other herbs to treat different diseases. Application of a paste made from the leaves can help rough or chapped skin. It is believed to help cure deafness caused by noise pollution in cities and the juice extracted from the leaves and stems is used to destroy head lice and cure dandruff problems.
   Preparations of bhang are sacred to the Hindu gods in mythology and it is believed that Lord Shiva was particularly fond of this plant because he discovered its transcendental qualities. He is sometimes referred to as the Lord of Bhang. Of course the Beatles, famously, also discovered its transcendental qualities in the 1960s (listen to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album again! They were probably also influenced by other hallucogens).
   In 1,000 BC bhang was used in India as an intoxicant according to the Athar Veda where it is described as a herb that “releases anxiety.” Saddhus use it to achieve transcendental states and it is also said to aid Sufis in their bid to find spiritual ecstasy.
  You can soak the leaves in water and grind them to a fine paste and mix well with spices of your choice. Then blend this with milk and drink it. But beware. They say that if you are depressed you will become even more so and stay that way for some time. If you are happy though, you will be on a high for 24 hours.
  As you can see from the picture, bhang is perfectly legal in India and Pakistan, with street sellers dispensing the drink. It is also one of the ingredients on offer for paan, the tobacco variety. Unlike the nutmeg it is halal, although the nutmeg is only haram and banned in Saudi Arabia.
  In Pakistan there are tales of pakora sellers spiking their wares with bhang, especially to sell to women who have complained about the price or quality of pakoras being sold. Typically they are sold during the morning when only the women are at home, they eat a few and become more talkative then usual then sleep, which will annoy their husbands when they get home as food will not be cooked etc. You can put fresh pounded leaves or dried into pakoras too in the recipe we have given you.
   However, beware as this drink and bhang generally will increase your heart rate, and blood pressure, and you may suffer from psychosis and paranoia. It not only helps relieve anxiety but also lowers your inhibitions, so can be used as an aphrodisiac, as it heightens sexual pleasure.
    You can use it in our Serdai recipe and add leaves that have been pounded to a paste and blend them with fruit, water or milk; add ice and drink – but remember it’s very potent and can be dangerous to your health.



Saturday, October 23, 2010

COMFREY SYMPHYTUM OFFICINALIS


COMFREY SYMPHYTUM OFFICINALIS
Comfrey is a common wild flower in watery places in Britain and has been cultivated since 400 BC. It was used by the Greeks and Romans to heal wounds and staunch heavy bleeding; it was also used to treat bronchial problems. English immigrants took comfrey with them to America. It is native to Europe and temperate parts of Asia. The word comfrey comes from the Latin con firma meaning with firmness, a reference to the belief that it helped knit broken bones. Symphytum comes from the Greek, meaning to unite.
   Historically it was used as a treatment for gastrointestinal illnesses, but modern research has shown that comfrey so beloved of herbalists is potentially fatal. Despite its being used for centuries to heal sprains and reduce swelling, applied as a poultice, it is now viewed as being unsafe to use. It was banned in oral products in July 2001 by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USDFA) and Britain, Australia, Canada and Germany have also banned oral products containing comfrey.
    Ointments made with it are applied to heal bruises, pulled muscles, ligaments, fractures, sprains, and osteoarthritis. The roots and leaves contain allantoin, a substance which helps new cells grow and they also contain other substances which reduce inflammation and keep skin healthy. It has rosemarinic acid and tannins, along with allantoins and these regenerate skin tissue.
   Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine, alkaloids that are highly toxic to the liver and can be fatal, hence the ban on oral products. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids can be absorbed through the skin and harmful amounts can build up in the body. Don’t apply comfrey or any product containing it on broken skin! New leaves have more pyrrolizidine alkaloids in them than older ones, so if you gather leaves to make a poultice, pick the older ones.
   Never use comfrey ointments or creams on children and the elderly and women who are pregnant should also avoid this herb. If you use a cream containing comfrey only apply it for 10 days at a time. You should only use it for a total of 4-6 weeks in a year.
   It’s interesting that in the 1920s comfrey was grown in Britain for animal fodder, but no animals really liked it, which should tell us something. It’s related to the Forget-Me-Not and borage and is a pretty ornamental garden plant which gives a dense cover and grows quickly. It is now grown by some gardeners for its compost value.
    In less sophisticated times, chicory, comfrey and dandelion roots were sometimes used ground as a coffee substitute, and in some countries including parts of Britain the roots were boiled and used as a vegetable, and the leaves, after blanching were eaten as salad greens.
   In times gone by, comfrey was used to treat dysentery and diarrhoea in the Asian subcontinent and British herbalists recommended a tisane made by boiling ½ -1 ounce of the crushed root in 2 pints of milk or water, to be taken in wineglass full doses. The roots were used in this way to treat coughs, pulmonary complaints, and for internal haemorrhages. A tisane was made with 1 ounce of leaves to a pint of boiling water then left to steep for 10 minutes before straining and drinking.
   The whole plant can be picked and pulverized, then boiled in a little water and well wrapped up in cloth to be used as a poultice to reduce swellings, especially on the joints. Culpeper wrote, “The root boiled in water or wine and the decoction drank, heals inward hurts… ulcers of the lungs and causes phlegm that oppresses him to be easily spit out…”
   It’s a shame it is now considered a potential carcinogen.

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