Wednesday, July 12, 2017

EVENING PRIMROSE


EVENING PRIMROSE –Oenothera Biennis, Oenothera Caespitosa, Oenothera Glazioviana, Oenothera Parviflora, oenothera Lamarckiana, Oenothera Tanacetifolia, Oenothera Subacaulis, etc.

Also known as: Sundrops, fever plant, scurvish, night willow-herb, suncups, scabish, kings-cure-all, tee primrose, evening star, etc.

Parts used: root, leaves, flowers, seeds

Systems/organs affected: liver, kidney, skin, reproductive, cardiovascular, structural

Properties: yin tonic, anti-inflammatory, pro-inflammatory, emollient, antioxidant, antithrombotic, vasodilator, antiproliferative (stops bad cells from reproducing)
         
EVENING PRIMROSE is a member of the Onagraceae family. It is a tall plant-getting as high as six feet or more and is native to North America although it has been naturalized in Europe, South America and other places.  Evening primrose is a biennial which means it takes 2 years to come full circle. The stem has a circle of leaves at its base the first year that continue up the stem in an alternate fashion the second year.  The leaves are between 3-6 inches long (depending on the variety) and have a somewhat lemony scent.  The flowers tend to be yellow for the most part but can also be white or pink in color.  There are 4 petals, 4 sepals and 8 stamens and are 2-4 inches around.  They also give off a strong, sweet aroma.  The ‘fruit’ is an inch long, pod shaped vessel that contains a host of red looking seeds.  The flowers bloom from June to September (depending on the region) and are thought to bloom only at night but have been found blooming during daylight hours as well.  It can be found growing in dry, sandy soil, rocky outcroppings and ridges, plains, etc.  There are approximately 200 species of primrose growing today.  The root should be dug in its first year for use, after that use the above ground portions only. 

Evening primrose is a plant of much controversy.  Modern medicine would tell you it has little value while alternative medicine tells entirely another story.  Apparently this is a plant that one needs to experience for themselves in order to make an informed choice.  However, there have been SOME studies conducted on the plant which are included herein for your benefit.

Evening primrose (EP) contains gamma linolenic acid as well as linoleic acid, two very important essential fatty acids in the omega family.  (Omega 6)  Both are items that compose the myelin sheath which is the protective coating around the nerve cells and fibers.  While many believe that our diets are heavy in omega 6 fatty acids, some illnesses that have come to the forefront lately may dispute that.

There have been more than 120 studies done on primrose’s use for PMS, with conflicting results.  A double blind study done in Australia found that there was no difference between a placebo and evening primrose in those who supplemented with it for 3 months.  A different double blind study found that EPO (evening primrose oil) it reduced breast pain and tenderness, irritability and mood swings.  Other clinical trials found that it worked to relieve breast tenderness better than conventional drugs.  Anecdotal evidence suggests it is useful for fluid retention and depression associated with PMS and menopause as well. 




In a Canadian study on cholesterol it was found that those supplementing with EPO for 3 months had a 31.5% drop in their cholesterol as compared to those in a placebo group.

The Lancet published a study in 1982 in regards to EPO and eczema.  In a double blind study, 99 people were given various amounts of EPO.  Forty three percent of patients given the highest dosage saw improvement in their condition.  At least 9 trials have found it to be effective for itching associated with skin conditions.  Studies published by the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that EPO was beneficial for many age-related skin issues such as roughness, redness, lack of tone, etc.  A study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology found that 96% of those suffering from atopic dermatitis improved after 5 months of EPO supplementation.

One study done in Britain on 49 people with rheumatoid arthritis found that 94% of them had significant improvement in their conditions while taking EPO.

EPO may help with labor and fertility as well.  Omega fatty acids are important for proper hormone function, mainly the production of prostaglandins which are hormone-like substances that appear where injuries or problems in the body occur.  When the body is damaged or impaired, prostaglandins respond by producing reactions that spark the healing process to occur.  In women these hormone like substances also help to regulate the reproductive system.  For instance, gamma linolenic acid has been found to increase cervical mucus which helps the sperm to move more freely through the cervix.  This helps to increase fertility and the chances of becoming pregnant.  Likewise, a pregnant woman getting ready to give birth can supplement with EPO in the final weeks of pregnancy to prepare the cervix for delivery.  The Department of Animal Nutrition and Management did a study on blue foxes given EPO during mating season to gauge its effects on reproduction.  What they found was an increase in litter size which they attributed to the male foxes having better sperm quality and motility via the supplementation.  (It appears that EPO works on both sexes).

There have been many more studies on EPO regarding auto-immune disorders, osteoporosis, alcoholism, ADHD, MS, baldness, high blood pressure, acne, scleroderma, raynaud’s, diabetic neuropathey and more.  All of these studies have been considered ineffective or too small or don’t have enough data to confirm their results, etc. by the AMA.  So when in doubt-go back to its roots.  The Native Americans used the plant for food.  The root was boiled twice and then consumed and the rest of the plant was eaten too.  The leaves were cooked much like we use our greens and the flowers and seeds were added to salads and breads (seeds).  They also used the plant medicinally.  The plant was applied topically for hemorrhoids, boils, bruises and small wounds.  The seeds were cold pressed and the oil used for gastrointestinal complaints.  The roots and shoot tips were made into syrups and teas and used for asthma, pain, sore throats, coughing and as a sedative for spasms.  Some tribes even used it to combat obesity and laziness (didn’t know there was an herb for THAT..LOL)  Mrs. Grieve (A Modern Herbal-1931) talks of using it in tea form to helps with whooping cough, asthma and gastrointestinal complaints.


         While its uses are varied and somewhat controversial, this herb deserves a look.  I have seen it work well for some people and not as well for others so you really need to try it for yourself to see whether or not it works for you.   A word of caution however, according to big Pharma and WebMD this plant should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women, those on blood thinners or clotters, those on blood pressure meds, antidepressants, seizure meds, immune-suppressants, phenothizines (for schizophrenia), ceftazidime (antibiotic), those on chemotherapy drugs or NSAIDS.  EP can cause headaches, nausea and stomach pain and if taking too much (over 5000 mg for some people) it may cause loose stools and/or seizures but those are rare.  It should also not be given to someone with a high fever.  As always, consult a qualified physician before beginning any kind of herbal regimen or program.

         As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Stay strong and healthy!

https://www.amazon.com/NOW-Evening-Primrose-Oil-4-Ounce/dp/B000X9WXSU/ref=sr_1_18_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1499915151&sr=8-18&keywords=evening+primrose

https://www.amazon.com/Pure-Evening-Primrose-Face-Skin/dp/B012GPMKD6/ref=sr_1_18_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1499915675&sr=8-18&keywords=evening+primrose

https://www.amazon.com/Source-Naturals-Evening-Primrose-Softgels/dp/B00020I5B4/ref=sr_1_22_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1499915692&sr=8-22&keywords=evening%2Bprimrose&th=1

https://www.amazon.com/LATHER-Hand-Cr%C3%A8me-Evening-Primrose/dp/B000K7J3LK/ref=sr_1_34?ie=UTF8&qid=1499915692&sr=8-34-spons&keywords=evening+primrose&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/Weleda-Evening-Primrose-Revitalizing-Fluid/dp/B00LYEQE2Y/ref=sr_1_36?ie=UTF8&qid=1499915692&sr=8-36-spons&keywords=evening%2Bprimrose&th=1

https://www.amazon.com/Pure-Encapsulations-Hypoallergenic-Supplement-Containing/dp/B0016LBH22/ref=sr_1_37_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1499915921&sr=8-37&keywords=evening%2Bprimrose&th=1

https://www.amazon.com/Everwilde-Farms-Evening-Primrose-Wildflower/dp/B00HMEBB0K/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1499916070&sr=8-4&keywords=evening+primrose+seeds

https://www.amazon.com/EVENING-PRIMROSE-Buttercup-Sundrops-Oenothera/dp/B004Z263N2/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1499916110&sr=8-9&keywords=evening+primrose+seeds


ASHWAGANDHA


ASHWAGANDHA –Withania Somnifera, Withania Obtusifolia, Withania Coagulans, etc.

Also known as:  Indian Ginseng, Winter Cherry, Poison Gooseberry, etc.

Parts used: roots, berries, leaves, flowers, seeds, bark

Systems/organs affected: brain, muscular, eyes, blood, skin, nervous, cardiac, reproductive, structural, glandular, liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal, immune, lungs

 Properties:  adaptogen, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, heart tonic, anti-stress, sedative, cognitive, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-tumor, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, analgesic, emmenogogue, immune enhancing, vulnerary, detoxifying, antispasmodic, antivenomous, aphrodisiac, narcotic, diuretic, astringent, stimulant, etc.
        
Ashwagandha is a member of the Solanaceae family more commonly known as the Nightshades.  There are around 3000 species in this family found throughout the globe, some of which are: potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, belladonna, mandrake, petunia, henbane and tobacco.  People who suffer from arthritis are commonly advised to avoid this family as it is believed they aggravate the condition.  Ashwagandha  is a bush-like plant with five petaled yellow flowers and alternating leaves.  The flowers are followed by small, cherry-like fruit that are encased in a paper lantern type cocoon.  It is native to India, the Middle East and North Africa.  It prefers well drained soil but seems to be tolerant of other soil conditions as well. 

In India this plant is referred to as the ‘Queen of Ayurveda’ and aptly so.  It is also commonly called Indian Ginseng and is similarly to how the Chinese use ginseng for any number of conditions.  In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means the ‘smell of the horse’ because the root does have a sweaty horse aroma.  In Ayurvedic terms it is called Rasayana (to lengthen or rejuvenate) and is believed to increase longevity and health.  Ashwagandha is also an adaptogen which means that it can help to normalize functions in the body that may be brought on by stress.

This plant has a history dating back thousands of years-beginning in India and Asia although it is used throughout Africa and the Mediterranean as well.  There have been close to 400 studies done on this plant and it still has yet to become popular in the western world.  The root has been used here in the usa but in other countries they use the entire plant more often than not.  These studies have covered everything from neurological issues to immune problems to adrenal fatigue and cancer.  The outcome of these studies are nothing short of amazing and makes me realize how much of a threat this plant could be to big pharma.  (Perhaps that is why it isn’t actually used more in this country..)

To touch on some of the things it has been used for I have included a few of the studies below as an overview of its potential.
1)    In 2000, a study was published on its effects for anxiety and depression.  Patients were given an oral supplement for 5 days of ashwagandha.  The results found that this herb worked just as well as Lorazepam (anti-anxiety) and Imipramine (antidepressant). (Phytomedicine, 2000 Dec; 7(6):463-9)
2)   In the case of chronic stress, brains of sacrificed animals were found to show significant signs of degeneration due to stress (up to 85% of brain cells were damaged).  When chronically stressed animals had been given ashwagandha before being sacrificed, their brain degeneration was reduced by eighty percent! (Phytotherapy Research, 2001 Sept; 15(6):544-8)
3)   The Institute of Natural Medicine at the Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical                            University in Japan has been studying its effects on nerve pathways for years.  Scientists found that ashwagandha assisted in the regeneration of axons and dendrites as well as the reconstruction of synapses.  This study concluded that ashwagandha helps the body to reconstruct nervous system networks making it a potential for neurodegenerative diseases. (British Journal of Pharmacology, 2005 Apr; 144(7):961-71)
4)   Scientists in India found that ashwagandha can inhibit cancers reproduction.  It was found to be effective against colon, breast, stomach, skin, brain, ovarian and lung cancer cells.  A recent analysis found it worked as well as doxorubicin (a drug commonly used for chemotherapy). In fact, it was MORE effective at inhibiting breast and colon cancer than doxorubicin. (Alternative Medicine Review, 2004 June; 9(2):211-14) (Life Science, 2003 Nov. 21; 74(1):125-32)

5)   Some studies found ashwagandha to be a powerful antibacterial agent working against such things as Salmonella, Stapholococcus Aureus (MRSA), E. Coli, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa and Bacillus Subtilis. (Phytomedicine, 2005 Mar; 12(3):229-35)
6)   A study done on menopausal women found that those who supplemented with ashwagandha had significantly less symptoms associated with the change of life than those not using the herb. (Ayu Journal, 2012 Oct; 33(4):511-6)
7)   The Kama Sutra, an ancient text regarding human sexuality, speaks of ashwagandha being a powerful aphrodisiac.  Research has found it works for both sexes.  In a study conducted on 75 infertile men, those taking ashwagandha had an increase in sperm count, testosterone and motility.  (Fertility and Sterility, 2010 Aug; 94(3):989-96) Researchers also found that men with high stress experienced less fertility.  When supplemented with ashwagandha for 3 months, 14% of their partners became pregnant. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19789214) Ashwagandha was one of a combination of herbs used in a study for women with PCOS that was found to give substantial relief from the disorder.  Long term treatment was also found to help control the growth of uterine fibroids.  It was also found to be effective for amenorrhea (the lack of menstruation).  In some women it can increase the hirsutism however, so that is something to consider when supplementing.
8)   In many studies this amazing plant was found to lower blood sugar levels.  Human studies have found it can lower blood sugar in both healthy AND diabetic individuals.  (Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 2000 June; 38(6):607-9) (Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine 2012 July; 3(3):111-4) A test tube study found it to increase the secretion of insulin as well as improve insulin sensitivity in muscle cells. (Phytochemistry 2015 Aug; 116:283-9)
9)   Ashwagandha was also found to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat.  (Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition 2015 Nov; 12:43)
10)  Studies conducted on rats found it to be effective at lowering cholesterol and triglycerides by as much as fifty percent.  (Phytomedicine 2007 Feb; 14(2-3):136-42)
        
So many things that it has been proven beneficial for-it’s a wonder it isn’t used as a first response in any malady.  Some other items it has been beneficial for are inflammation, infections (viral, fungal and bacterial), parasites, schizophrenia, ADHD, fevers, pain, autoimmune disorders, bone health, thyroid issues, liver problems, gastrointestinal complaints, bronchitis, kidney damage, adrenal fatigue, seizures, debilitating illnesses, cataracts, heavy metal poisoning, venomous snake and/or scorpion stings and bites and the list goes on.
         


Ashwagandha contains several beneficial components, some of which are called withanolides.  There are a few (35) different kinds of withanolides, two of which are found to be especially effective within ashwagandha.  These are withanolide A and withanolide D.  A lot of this plants efficacy is believed to be attributed to these two components.  Each part of the plant has specific value although it is the root that is used the most.  The root is used as a tonic, diuretic, stimulant, narcotic, astringent, aphrodisiac, antiparasitic and more.  The leaves are used for pain, inflammation and fevers.  The seeds are antiparasitic and the flowers are aphrodisiac, astringent, diuretic and depurative.  The berries are used topically for ulcers, tumors, glandular growths and carbuncles.  However, the whole plant seems to be utilized for every malady known to man.
        
Ashwagandha is also used to balance kapha and vata doshas.  It is contraindicative to a pitta.  There are others who should avoid ashwagandha as well.  According to WebMD, it should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, diabetics, those with stomach ulcers, blood pressure issues, thyroid problems or auto-immune disorders.  It should also not be used by those scheduled for surgical procedures.  Consult a qualified physician before starting any herbal regimen.

As is common with my posts I am including some links herein for your benefit.  Stay strong and healthy!







Sunday, May 7, 2017

IRISH MOSS






IRISH MOSS –Chondrous Crispus

Also known as: Sea Moss, Carrageen

Parts used: the whole plant

Systems/organs affected: stomach, lungs, gastrointestinal

Properties: yin tonic, alterative, demulcent, emollient, mild laxative, antiviral, antibacterial, nutritive, anti-tussive, anticoagulant

          IRISH MOSS is a member of the Gigartinales family. It is a red algae that lives on intertidal or subtidal rocks.  The fronds are fan shaped, cartilaginous and vary in color from green, red, yellow and dark purple or brownish.  The branches are around half and inch broad and the fronds can get up to a foot long.  It grows mostly along the Atlantic Coast although it can also be found along the Pacific.  It grows off the coast of European countries as well as the United States.  The most prized is that which grows near Ireland-hence the name.  Irish moss is actually a nutritious seaweed with an amazing history.

Irish moss is perhaps most well known because of the potato famine in Ireland during the early 19th century.  It was gathered by them and sustained them through the great famine and became a staple in the culture.  It was also used as mattress stuffing, to cure leather, in paper marbling, soap making, as a thickening agent for inks used in printing, to help in the manufacture of paper and linens and to give a softer feel to material.  Occasionally it was also used to brew beer.  It was used in cattle feed and cosmetics as well as medicinals.  Irish folklore tells us that it was often carried by those traveling as they believed it would offer protection and safety.  It was also put under rugs to bring prosperity and wealth to the home.

The first mention of irish moss was in 1810 in regards to it being used for respiratory issues such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.  It is also referred to as carrageen, which is an irish word meaning ‘little rock’, no doubt given to the fact that it grows atop rocks.  It is harvested in the spring when the tides are furthest from shore.  The harvesters would go out into the shallow water and rake the seaweed off the rocks.  It was then laid out in the sun and dried for about two weeks time.


It should be mentioned that carrageen is something that has been added to a great many products over the years and come under heavy fire for being toxic.  This is because the carrageen being used by companies is a synthetic copy of the original.  Irish moss does NOT have the same toxic effects in its natural form.  Chemically processed carrageen has little nutrition and is an isolated compound extracted using harsh alkalis that can degrade in the stomach.  When that takes place the composition changes to a substance called poligeenan which is a potential carcinogen.  This chemical is known to cause inflammation and other diseases and yet it has FDA backing as ‘safe for consumption’.  GRRRR.  Natural carrageen found in irish moss has been used for centuries with little to no ill effects.

Irish moss is used by many countries.  In Jamaica, Tobago and Trinidad it is used as an aphrodisiac beverage made with milk and cinnamon believed to increase sperm count.  The Scots and Venezuelans boil it with milk and honey for sore throats and chest congestion.  It has been used for diarrhea, dysentery, scrofula, bronchitis, gastritis, rickets, tumors, goiter, kidney and bladder irritation, ulcers, joint complaints, enlarged mesenteric glands (folds of tissue that attach organs to the body wall-usually referring to the small bowel in the intestines), urinary system issues and as a nourishing food for invalids and those recovering from serious illnesses.

Irish moss is rich in nutrients.  It contains 15 of the 18 elements that are necessary for human survival.  Some of these are sulfur, iodine, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, iron, zinc, manganese and the vitamins A, C, B, K, D and E.  WOWZA!  It also contains beta-carotene, pectin and bromine.  Perhaps its high nutritive content is what makes it so effective against things like radiation poisoning.  It has been found to help prevent cholesterol buildup, help anemic conditions, improve cognitive functions, enhance one’s immune defenses, boost energy levels, increase recovery time from illnesses, surgeries and injuries, promote beautiful skin, helps with weight loss, increases the elimination of toxins from the system, found to be very useful against the mumps virus and influenza B strains. (Just to name a few..)  It is an important edible that can be used as a thickening agent for soups, desserts, dressings, dips, jellies, ice creams and more.  It is also used as an emulsifier and moisturizing agent in lotions, creams, toothpastes and a host of other cosmetics.

Irish moss comes in many forms-flakes, powders and as a whole plant.  Each have a number of different applications.  For instance, the flakes have a bit of a fishy flavor to them so aren’t typically used for food recipes even though they are higher in nutrition than the other forms.  There are two companies that supply the flakes that are dried properly without excess heat so as to maintain nutritional value.  (Main Coast Sea Vegetables and Mountain Rose Herbs).  The whole seaweed is best used to make gels and can be used for cooking or cosmetics.  It is mildly scented and more neutral in flavor.  There are only a few companies that sell it in its naturally dried state instead of being heat treated.  (Some of those are Traditional Nutritional Divine Organics and Natural Zing).  The powdered form is also commonly used to thicken foods but use much less of it as it does absorb more moisture than other varieties.  It should be a fine grey color (U.S. versions are often bleached so make sure it is from Ireland).  It also has a strong fish flavor so don’t use it for sweets or beverages. 

Some precautions to make note of-it has been known to irritate the eyes if you happen to get any in them.  As it does have blood thinning ability it is best not taken by those on blood thinning medications.  Those on thyroid medication should avoid it as well as it contains a high amount of iodine. (Interestingly enough, this plant is the only known source of the naturally occurring thyroid substances making it effective for thyroid conditions but if you are already on medication….perhaps best avoided).  Pregnant and/or nursing women are encouraged to consult a physician before using as is anyone starting a new herb or dietary regimen.


As is customary with my posts I am including some links here for your perusal.  Stay strong and healthy!








MISTLETOE

         
MISTLETOE –Viscum Album, Viscum Articulatum, Viscum Coloratum, Taxillus Parasiticus, Loranthus Amplexifolius, Viscum Capense, Phoradendron Leucarpum, etc.

Also known as:  Bian Zhi Hu Ji Sheng, Mulberry Mistletoe, Birdlime Mistletoe, Golden Bough, All Heal, Devil’s Fugue, American Mistletoe, European Mistletoe, etc.

Parts used: bark, leaves, twigs

Systems/organs affected: immune, female reproductive, nervous, cardiac

Properties:  antiviral, anticarcingogenic, nervine, antispasmodic, diuretic, emmenogogue, tonic, emetic, narcotic, sedative, anodyne, emollient
         
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that derives all of its nutrients from the live trees it is found growing upon.  It has symmetrically branched stems with narrow yellowish green leaves that grow in pairs.  In the spring small yellow flowers appear followed by globe shaped, sticky, white berries that can get up to ½ inch across.  Mistletoe hails from a few different families-Loranthaceae and Viscaceae.  There are about 900-1000 species of mistletoe found all over the world but the European variety (viscum album) is the most used and preferred for medicine.  Mistletoe is most commonly found on maple, ash, apple, hawthorn, oak and other fruit bearing trees.

This plant has quite an interesting history steeped in several cultures.  The first mention of it would be with the Druids actually.  Records of Posidonius the Apamean, a Greek mathematician, speak of them interacting with the Romans.  Pliny the Elder describes some Druid rituals in ‘Natural History’- a work he penned in 77 AD.  In it he tells of how the Druids would gather mistletoe from oak trees (they considered oak to be the most sacred tree).  They believed that mistletoe was given to them by God because it grew upon their most holy tree.  White robed priests would climb the oak trees and harvest the mistletoe with golden sickles and catch it in white cloth so that it would never touch the earth.  It was thought that if it touched the soil that all of its magical healing properties would be lost.  Two white bulls were also sacrificed during the ‘sixth day of the moon ’ or the time of fertility.  The mistletoe was then given to animals that had problems conceiving to increase their fertility.  The Druids were not the only people to use it for reproductive issues.  The Chinese used it to stop uterine bleeding as a topical agent , to ease fetal restlessness and to treat threatened abortions.  It was also used in South Africa to ease painful menstruation, irregular and excessive menses and endometriosis.  The Cherokee Indians used it as an abortifacient.  A paper was published in ‘Fertility and Sterility ‘ in 2002 that spoke of using injections of mistletoe extract to decrease the pain associated with endometriosis with measurable success.  (With so many women suffering with this condition today this should be looked into as an alternative option by the medical establishment..)

Mistletoes was also used by the Druids to ward off evil spirits and to celebrate winter solstice.  The idea of kissing under mistletoes actually came from the Scandanavians who believed that the Norse God of Peace known as Balder, was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe.  The arrow was given to the Goddess of Love who restored his life and decreed that mistletoe should henceforth be known as a plant of love and that those who passed under it should receive a kiss.  The tradition has carried through the centuries.

Mistletoe has a number of applications that few know about.  There have been a number of studies conducted on this plant due to its past use by the Druids and also by the Greek and Roman cultures as well as the Asians.  Mistletoe contains lectins-at least three kinds that they know of at this time.  It is believed that these lectins are partially responsible for its success in herbal remedies.  The University Hospital of Hamburg found that mistletoe had a strong effect on the immune system.  They were able to obtain the DNA sequence of one of the lectins and create a recombinant lectin that would mimic the effects of natural mistletoe.  They thought this would make it easier to produce vaccines for injection but the synthetic lectins proved to be too toxic and were never used.  (You all know how I feel about the medical industry stealing components from plants to make synthesized versions that don’t work near as well as the natural plant form.)  The natural lectins in mistletoe were found to increase the natural killer cells in the blood (T cells).  One case study on a patient with adenocarcinoma of the pancreas was given injections of a commercial mistletoe extract over 5 weeks.  It was made from mistletoe that had been grown on oak.  After the third injection the patient had an increase in phagocytic cells around the carcinoma.  (Meaning the cancer killing cells increased around the cancer itself).  A few other similar studies had the same results and it was concluded that mistletoe has the ability to stimulate the body’s natural immune responses.  This let the German E Commission to declare it as a non-specific immune system stimulator.  This has led to its used by AIDS and HIV patients around the globe.  Studies conducted on some of its lectins found that it does indeed have the ability to inhibit HIV replication. One study in particular found that it could inhibit HIV replication by as much as 68%.


In Korea, mistletoe is used to alleviate colds.  In India it has been used for consumption and in Taiwan it is used for tuberculosis.  In Indo-China it is used to treat fevers in children.  In Bulgaria it is mixed with other herbs for bronchitis and the flu.  Perhaps the most interesting use of mistletoe though has been with cancer.  One in vitro study was found to kill three different kinds of colon cancer cell lines, one of which was known to be resistant to a multitude of pharmaceutical drugs.  These lectins within mistletoe were found to have an even higher activity against the resistant cancer than against the regular one which makes one think that perhaps mistletoe can tell which cancers are more aggressive and target them.  Hmmmm. (‘Toxicology ‘ 2002; 171(2-3):187-199)

The Roman naturalist, Celsus, wrote ‘De Medicina ‘ and spoke of using mistletoe for growths and suppurations (pus producing tumors).  Celsus described its use as an emollient and applied topically to soothe wounds and produce heat. (Cancer was referred to as an inflammation of black bile and considered a ‘cold-humor’ so it makes sense they would use heat producing agents to treat it).  One such emollient was called the Composition of Apollophanes.  It was actually a combination of ingredients that included mistletoe juice, frankincense soot, iris root, turpentine resin and more.  It was used to soften hard areas.  Similarly the emollient of Andreas was used to draw out the pus and soften the chest when hard and swollen.  Celsus also mentioned that another emollient using mistletoes juice was found to be quite successful for scrofulous tumors (lymphatic).  Dioscorides said that mistletoe could soften and draw out tumors and other lesions.

Modern studies confirm its use for cancer.  In 1920, Rudolf Steiner, a well known German philosopher, made an extract of mistletoe called Iscador, for cancer.  Today that extract is still sold under the same name and is used as a complementary therapy to be used with conventional treatments.  In fact, mistletoe therapy is used by 60% of all cancer patients in Germany. (Obviously a nod to how well it works).  There are several extracts of mistletoe now available in European countries (Eurixor, Vysorel, Helixor, etc).  These extracts differ in how they are made, the trees they are grown on and the time of year in which they are harvested so each have their strengths.  (This is another reason why it is important to pay attention to harvesting details).  Mistletoe extract was also found to be effective for cancer of the larynx and lungs.  More studies should be conducted to see just how far its benefits go in regards to cancer in particular.



Mistletoe has also long been used for nervous system disorders.  The Greek and Roman cultures used it for epilepsy.  Pliny was one of the first to mention its use for that condition.  In 1720, Sir John Colbatch actually used it for epilepsy but also for St. Vitus’ Dance (uncontrollable movements believed to be similar to Parkinson’s).  Colbatch penned a paper entitled ‘A Dissertation Concerning Mistletoe: A Most Wonderful Specifick Remedy for the Cure of Convulsive Distempers ‘ in which he recounts using mistletoe for his patients suffering from those conditions.  He experimented with several forms of the plant all with varied success, including healing a young boy of convulsive asthma and another of epileptic fits

Dr. Edward Sieveking also spoke of using it successfully for epilepsy and convulsions.  A. Dawes, author of ‘Ellingwood’s Therapeutist, stated that mistletoe was the best therapy for epilepsy as it could tone the nervous system at the same time it was easing the seizures.  The South Africans still use it for asthma and epilepsy.  It is also used to treat asthma in India.  In Asia they use it for neuralgia, low back pain and weakness.  Part of its ability to calm epilepsy is believed to be due to its ability to block GABA receptors.  GABA is a neurotransmitter that can over-excite the nerves and has been implicated in some forms of epilepsy. (GABA is also a very good thing for people but in this case it isn’t).
        
       Other uses of mistletoe have been for menopause, hypertension, diabetes, respiratory issues, arthritis, snoring, leucorrhea, gout, sciatica, dizziness, headaches, irritability, anxiety, loss of energy, as a sleep aid, a heart tonic and for typhoid fever. 
        
        The European variety is used most as American mistletoe is considered toxic and unsafe.  Mistletoe berries should never be consumed as they are poisonous, nor should they be used in preparations of any kind.  There is no doubt that mistletoe is an amazing plant with a lot of possibilities but it should be used with extreme caution by those that are familiar with its effects.  DO NOT USE if pregnant or nursing (obviously because of it ability to contract the pelvic muscles), are scheduled for surgery or are on blood pressure, blood sugar, immune or epileptic medications as it may interfere with their use.  Unfortunately the United States currently does not offer mistletoe therapy injections like other countries do so it is perhaps best utilized here in tincture and/or tea form.  Always consult with a qualified physician before starting any herbal regimen or program.
As is customary for my posts I am including some links herein for your benefit.  Enjoy and use wisely!  Stay strong and healthy!








PEONY




PEONY –Paeonia Brownii, Paeonia Lactiflora, Paeonia Veitchii, Paeonia Suffruticosa, Paeonia Officinalis, etc.

Also known as:  White Peony, Red Peony, Bai Shao, Coral Peony, Mou-tan

Parts used: root, flowers

Systems/organs affected: liver, spleen, lungs, nervous system, female reproductive, blood, cardiovascular, kidneys

Properties:  antispasmodic, astringent, emmenogogue, blood tonic, yin tonic, analgesic, anodyne, sedative, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, febrifuge, depurative
          
          Peony is a member of the Rununculaceae family.  It is a perennial with dark green leaves that are divided into lobed leaflets.  It has red stems and several different color variations of flowers.  The roots are fleshy and either red or white (referring to white or red peony-unlike most assumptions it refers to the root color here rather than the flower color).  While the root is most commonly used for medicine, the flowers also have found a home in herbal kits with European cultures.  The tree peony is also included in this class and rather than be a tree flower, it is in fact a bush with very woody stems.  The peony can get up to 28 inches tall and grows wild throughout China, Tibet, Mongolia and eastern Siberia.  As it is a very popular flower it can now be found throughout the globe. 

Peony is perhaps one of the oldest flowering herbs to be used as medicine dating back some 4000 plus years in ancient Chinese texts.  Peony was actually named for the Greek physician Paion, who was reputedly the physician or caretaker to the Gods.  He used peony quite often for maladies of all kinds.  The healing properties were later recorded by the Roman scientist Pliny who used it for at least 20 different illnesses.  Buddhist monks took it to Japan where they developed a smaller, more delicate version in the 8th century.  In China it is known as the ‘king of flowers’ and has been grown there since 900 BC.   The tree peony was believed to bring riches and honor and was symbolic of spring’s arrival.  The Chinese used both the tree peony and the common peony for medicinal purposes.  They found within their studies that  peonies (Paeonia Lactiflora) yielded two separate kinds of medicine which is commonly known today as Bai Shao (white peony) and Chi Shao (red peony).  The white peony was used for circulation issues, menopause, as a liver tonic, for abdominal pain, menstrual cramping and more while the red peony was used to relieve hot conditions (fevers, sores, inflammation, etc.), to control bleeding and for eczema.  In fact, it was used to treat eczema by the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, England.  Tree peonies (Paeonia Suffruticosa) were commonly used for gastro-intestinal issues, bleeding, as an antibacterial and for pain management.

The early Europeans used the common peony to ward off epilepsy (often used as a charm in that respect) although it isn’t used much in that regard today.  Herbalists do recognize a difference between male and female peonies according to the plants appearance though.  Female peonies have smaller, darker flowers that are more divided and contain black seeds.  The female peony is also far more fragrant than its male counterparts.  There are around 30 different species of peony and it is widely prized for weddings and as an ornamental plant aside from its medicinal uses.
Peony has been used by Asian cultures for centuries as a medicinal.  They have used it extensively for childhood convulsions, epilepsy, whopping cough, chorea (abnormal involuntary body movements) and as a blood tonic.  Peony contains a glycoside called paeoniflorin that has been found to act as an antispasmodic and a calming agent.  One study conducted on a combination of licorice root and peony was found to relieve muscle cramping due to diabetes, cirrhosis and dialysis.  Another one conducted on a formula containing peony root, dong quai and a few other herbs, was found to reduce painful menstruation and cramping.  Paeoniflorin was also found to improve mental function in animals-possibly making it a promising aid for mental illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Red peony root has been found in Asian studies to have antioxidant activity.  It was also found to contain proanthocyanidins, flavonoids and of course, paeoniflorin.  The root and bark also contain polysaccharides that have been found to stimulate immune cells in lab tests.  Red peony root was found to prevent liver damage from chemical toxins-whether by itself OR in combination with other herbs.  An extract of the root was used in a small study to reduce fibrosis in some patients with chronic viral hepatitis.  The Chinese use a combination of peony extracts to help with thrombosis and excessive clotting.  In one study done on rabbits it was found to lower cholesterol.  A small human study confirmed this but more testing is required.  One study done on Mou-tan bark found it had a remarkable effect on lowering one’s blood pressure.  Peony may also hold some promise for women with PCOS as it was found to improve fertility in women suffering with this condition.  Peony was found to also contain paeonol, a compound found to have anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory capabilities and used for skin complaints and wound care.  As a tonic it has been used for gastrointestinal issues and as an antidote for poisoning.  An extract of the flowers is said to be a skin regenerative and hair conditioner.
          
          White peony has a number of studies under its belt as well.  In June of 2010 a study was published on the antioxidant effects of peony on the liver.  The study published in the ‘Archives of Pharmacol Research’ found that peony extract protects the liver from oxidative stress.  A study published in ‘Die Pharmazie’ in August of the same year found that peony inhibits blood coagulation.  They found 18 different constituents that are active in the blood protecting the cardiovascular system from excessive clotting.  In March of 2010 the results of a study done on rats was published in ‘Phytomedicine’.  The study found that an extract of peony root reduced the urinary albumin in diabetics thus reducing the stress on the kidneys.  (This could help many a diabetic escape dialysis-using other nutrient based options as well of course).
         


          Peony has also been used for fevers, gout, respiratory issues, upset stomach, neuralgia, migraines, whopping cough, chronic fatigue, osteoarthritis and as an abortifacient to name a few.
          
          Of special note:  peony should NOT be used by pregnant or nursing for the aforementioned reasons (uterine contractions, etc).  It should not be used by those taking blood thinners or blood pressure medications.  Do not use if scheduled for surgery as it may increase the chance of bleeding-stop using at least 2 weeks before scheduled surgery.  Peony should be taken in short spurts for most people-take up to 4 weeks and then let the body rest for a few weeks before starting again as needed.  As always, consult a qualified physician before ever starting a new regimen. 
          As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Use them wisely.  Stay strong and healthy!