Thursday, May 10, 2018


AMARANTH- amaranthus hypochondriacus, amaranthus caudatus, amaranthus hybridus, amaranthus erythrostachys, amaranthus retroflexus, amaranthus frumentaceus, etc.  

Also known as: love lies bleeding, pigweed, red cockscomb, redroot, prince's feather, velvet flower, etc.

Parts used: aerial parts, seeds.

Systems: spleen, kidneys, digestive, blood, cardiovascular.

Properties: nutritive, astringent, alterative, hemostatic, diuretic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-proliferative.

Amaranth is a member of the Amaranthaceae family of which there are around 70 species worldwide.  Many consider it to be a grain, but that would be incorrect as it is a seed.  However, it's used in the place of grains for many things. Amaranth (depending on the species) can be either a perennial or an annual.  It can be anywhere from six inches to six feet tall.  In general, it has lance like leaves (some varieties are notched at the end of the leaf) that have deep veins and tend to be a reddish-purplish green on the underside.  The flowers tend to manifest terminally in densely bristled spikes of pink or white and bloom in Summer and/or Autumn.  The seeds are spherical and, depending on the species, can be black, red, yellow, brown, white, or pink in color.  Just one of these plants, which prefer a warm climate and well drained soil, produces around 60,000 seeds).

Amaranth is from the Greek word 'amarantos' which, translated, means 'one that does not wither.'  It has been a staple for over 8,000 years.  When Cortez landed in Mexico in the early 1500s, the white seeded amaranth was being used by the natives as a main food crop.  It also was used for their religious ceremonies.  The seeds were mixed with honey or blood and sculpted into idols, carried through the streets, and consumed.  The Spaniards considered it a pagan ritual and outlawed the crop, driving it to near extinction.  The Aztecs were actually the first to cultivate amaranth as a food crop.  It is still raised that way in Peru today, but has spread as a food crop to India, China, Africa, Russia, South America, and parts of North America.  It has withstood the test of time for many cultures due to its high nutritive value aside from being right tasty!  For every cup of cooked amaranth there are 9 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber (10 grams uncooked), and 46 grams of carbohydrates, not to mention a host of vitamins and minerals.  Amaranth is also gluten free - making it perfect for those who suffer with gluten intolerance!

Amaranth wasn't just a food, it was also used as a medicine.  Traditionally, it was used for bleeding gums, stomach flu, diarrhea, dysentery, gastroenteritis, excessive menstruation, ulcers of the mouth and stomach, and nose bleeds to name a few.  Lucky for us there have been a number of studies done on this plant so we have some hard evidence to prove its capabilities.  In 1988, the Journal of Nutrition published a study done by researchers in Peru.  Young children were given toasted amaranth flour, amaranth flakes, and popped amaranth as their main source of protein and fat.  Later, they were fed a combination of corn and amaranth in multiple forms.  The results showed that their protein uptake was better when corn and amaranth were combined as opposed to eating corn by itself (which was a main staple for them at that time).  (The Journal of Nutrition, January 1988; 118(i):78-85).

In 1993, the Institute of Nutrition of Central America/Panama did a study on the differences between animal and plant protein - in this case between cheese and amaranth.  Scientists found that amaranth protein was comparable to animal-based proteins.  (Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, March 1993; 43(2):123-43).

In 1996, the USDA found that amaranth oil significantly reduced LDLs in 6-week old female chickens.  (The Journal of Nutrition, August 1996, 126(8): 1972-8).  The Russians took that study and ran with it in 2007, testing it on human patients with cardiovascular disease.  They found that their patients showed a remarkable reduction in LDLs, total cholesterol levels and triglycerides.   (Lipids in Health & Disease, January 2007; 6:1.  DOI: 10.1186/1476-511X-6-1.)

In 2008, scientists in Mexico found a peptide similar to lunasin which is believed to prevent cancer and block inflammation.  (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, February 2008; 56(4): 1233-40).  A Bangladeshi study found that amaranth has the ability to stop cancer cells from spreading (www.ncbi.n/

The Arthritis Foundation reports that amaranth is good for gout, arthritis, and osteoarthritis.  As it contains a fair amount of magnesium and manganese, it makes it a great food for bone health.  (  In fact, one cup of amaranth contains 105% of the daily amount of manganese.  This plant is one of the richest sources of that mineral in nature.  It is also the only 'grain' that contains Vitamin C.

In yet an other study, rats fed amaranth experienced an increase in insulin, but a decrease in blood sugar levels making it an interesting food stuff for diabetics (www.ncbi.n/

Amaranth is high in lysine, the amino acid commonly used for cold sores.  However, lysine also is necessary for proper maintenance of tendons, bones, skin, and cartilage.  It also has a     in calcium absorption by the body and how the body burns fat.  There are 721mg of lysine per half cup of amaranth!  WOWZA!!!

Amaranth is rich in zinc which boosts the immune system and aids with night vision.  It is high in iron which is needed to prevent anemia; it helps in the healing processes of the body; and it is absolutely essential for the proper growth of children.  It has a decent amount of Vitamin A as well as carotenoids, making it beneficial to the eyes.  Its high content of insoluble fiber makes it perfect for the digestive system and those trying to achieve weight loss.

Amaranth is a powerhouse of nutrition, containing decent amounts of calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, Vitamins A. B2, B6, niacin, thiamine, and Vitamin E.

Like most leafy greens amaranth contains oxalates so people with kidney stones and/or gallstones should probably avoid it.  People with allergies should probably avoid it as well.  As it is not known if there are effects to pregnant or nursing women it is advised that they avoid amaranth while in that state.

Amaranth flour is white or cream colored.  The grains/seeds are several shades, but the most commonly used seems to be a pale cream color.  Amaranth can also be popped like popcorn.  As it is a heavier flour it is generally added to other flour for use.  When cooking it, use the idea that it is similar to rice.  However, one should use six cups water to one cup of amaranth and let it cook for 20 minutes.  Then it can be drained, rinsed and consumed. As always, consult a qualified practitioner before ever starting any herb or herbal regimen.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links here for your benefit.  Enjoy and stay strong and healthy! 



CATTAILS - Typha Latifolia, Typha Augustifolia, Typha Orientalis, Typha Augustata, Typha Glauca, Typha Domingensis, etc.

Also known as: Cattail, Nailrod, Reed-Mace, Bullrush Corndog grass, Hot dog on a stick, Super walmart of the swamp, etc.

Parts used: roots, leaves, cob, pollen.

Systems: liver, spleen, heart, female reproductive, urinary, lymphatic.

Properties: vulnerary, diuretic, emmenogogue, analgesic, antiseptic, nutritive, astringent, hemostatic, edible, sedative, tonic, anticoagulant, lithotriptic, anti-inflammatory.

CATTAIL is a member of the Typhaceae/Graminacae (grass) family.  It is a perennial plant usually found growing near a water source.  The plant has stiff, strap-like leaves that have a spongy texture on the inside.  It has a cigar-shaped blossom that is tightly packed with tiny flowers; female flowers are on the bottom of the cigar while the male flowers are on the top.  If the male and female parts meet then it is Typha Latifolia or the common cattail.  If there is space between the male and female parts then it is Typha Augustifolia or the narrow leaf cattail.  The roots grow horizontally and are very starchy.  Cattail plants can get up to nine (9) feet tall and there are approximately 15 species of Typha around the globe.  The male portion of the plant turns into pollen and then eventually into a small dried twig.  The female portion turns into the brown cigar-shaped seed we all know.

CATTAIL has an interesting history - in a way it reminds me of hemp due to the amount of practical uses it has.  The starch from the plant was found preserved in Paleolithic digs dating back tens of thousands of years - proving its use as an edible even then.  The Native Americans have been consuming them for centuries showing that it wasn't merely a food for survival but rather an every day cuisine.  The tender inner parts of the shoots were eaten like celery or asparagus and are often consumed raw, stir-fried, or steamed.  The green flower spikes were eaten like corn.  The white root core was baked, boiled, dried and ground into flour, fermented into ethyl alcohol, or eaten raw.  The pollen was mixed with flour for biscuits, cookies, muffins, and other pastries.  It also was used to thicken gravy and sauces.  The seeds were added to bread or oatmeal and more recently made into oil and chicken feed.  The starch was collected by peeling the root and crushing it in water, straining out the fibers.  The heavy starch was washed in several changes of water and then dried for later use.

It has even been said that the USA almost won WWII with cattails.  They were trying to find a nutritious food that was cheaper to give the troops when the war ended.  It was discovered that one acre of cattails could produce 6,475 pounds of flour per year.  In fact, it was so prolific that a study done by the Cattail Research Center of Syracuse University found that roughly 140 tons of rhizomes could be harvested per acre - that is 10 times the average yield for potatoes.  (Makes one wonder why this isn't grown as a sustainable crop...)

Aside from food, cattail has many other uses.  The fluff from the flower spikes was gathered and used for bedding, menstrual padding, diapers for babies, and even as a baby powder.  It also was stuffed in pillows, life jackets, mattresses, sleeping bags, as insulation, to soundproof rooms, and as tinder.  The leaves and roots were used to caulk barrels and boats; they were woven into baskets, chair seats, mats, water jugs, and even origami toys.  The fluff also was mixed with lime and ashes to make a kind of cement that was said to be as hard as marble.  The mats were often layered and used to cover sweat baths, tipis, and lodges; they were hung from homes with the belief that the cattail mats would protect one from lightning and bring rain.  The dried cattail heads were often dipped in tallow for torches.  The leaves were braided into cords for fishing and the dried stalks were used as arrows and hand drills.  The pollen was once widely used for religious ceremonies until it was replaced by corn.  The pollen also was eaten or added to flours or soups.  It also was used in pyrotechnics to produce bright flashes of light.  In China, the stems of the plant are used to make rayon and paper.  Cattail is also a very popular cuisine that dates back to the Ming Dynasty.  'Nai Tang Pu Cai,' roughly translated, is 'milk soup of cattail' and is a regular at high grade feasts.  The leaves are used for making fans and shoes and artistic useful crafts of all kinds.

Typha comes from the Greek language and means 'marsh'.  Makes sense since you usually find cattails growing in or around water.  Cattails are easy to identify in their mature state; however, in their youth they resemble members of the iris/orchid/lily families which are toxic.  If you plan on harvesting roots or shoots, make sure you have the right plant.  Cattails are oval at their base and not flat.  They have a mild flavor and not much of a smell.  If you have a plant that is aromatic and strong flavored then it is NOT cattail.

Cattails also have a few medicinal uses.  The roots once were used for chronic dysentery, to increase urination, and for gonorrhea.  They were soaked in milk and/or water to make a tea for diarrhea and abdominal cramping.  The roots also were made into a paste and applied to boils, burns, wounds, and other skin issues.  The root was 'bruised' and used as a poultice for insect bites, bruises, scrapes, etc.  The plant was chewed on for coughs and the green flower spikes were consumed to treat diarrhea and digestive complaints.  The fluff from the flower spikes was used in salves for smallpox, burns, and other skin conditions.  The ash was said to be antiseptic and used on wounds and abrasions; it also was used to stop bleeding.  The lower stems secrete an amber liquid that was used as a topical anesthetic before tooth extractions.  In China it is used to treat nosebleeds, uterine bleeding, to promote lactation, prevent miscarriage, stop blood in the urine and stool, for atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, angina, to relieve pain, dissolve clots, improve circulation, and much more.  In Chinese Materia Medica, cattails are considered sweet and neutral in nature, making them good for the heart, liver, and spleen.   In Chinese herbal compounds cattails are referred to as 'Pu Huang.'  There are even some studies being conducted on the plant for its possible use in lymphatic cancer.

Cattails are high in nutritive value also, offering beta carotene, Vitamin C, phosphorous, riboflavin, potassium, niacin, thiamine, amino acids, quercetin kaempferol, sterols, polysaccharides, boron, chromium, selenium, molybdenum, iron, copper, iodine, zinc, Vitamin K, manganese, magnesium, fiber, B6, sodium, etc.  However, if the water supply to the cattails is tainted or suspicious AVOID HARVESTING them as they will also absorb mercury and aluminum, etc.

The shoots are best harvested in the early spring; the stem, pollen, and green flower spikes are best harvested in the summer; the root is best harvested in the fall and winter.

This plant is high in gluten as well.  Those with gluten issues should probably avoid it.  It should not be consumed by pregnant women either as it stimulates the uterus.  Some people may have allergies to it and those on blood thinners should avoid it as well.

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


Tuesday, May 8, 2018


COLTSFOOT - Tussilago Farfara 

Also known as: coughwort, hallfoot, horsehoof, bullsfoot, foalswort, ass's foot, the son before the fathers, British tobacco, flower velure, butterbur, etc.

Parts used: roots, leaves, flowers.

Systems: lungs, urinary, immune, skin, circulatory.

COLTSFOOT  is a member of the Compositae (Sunflower) family.  It is a perennial that has an interesting growing cycle as the flowers appear before the leaves do.  The lovely yellow blossoms come out in early spring and as they fade, the leaves begin to emerge.  The leaves are about four (4) inches wide and resemble a hoof or are hoof shaped with mildly teethed margins.  The leaf and stem are covered with a white felt substance when young but this disappears as the leaves get bigger.  ColtsFoot tends to like alkaline, clay, loamy, or limestone soils but can be found growing by roadsides, waste places, railways, stream banks, pastures, etc.  The root is white and small but tends to spread with time.  It is native to North Africa, Europe, and Asia but can now be found in Canada and the USA.  The leaves are best gathered in June or early July while the flowers should be gathered much earlier (Feb. - Apr.)  The root can be gathered in the early months of the year also, before the plant flowers or in the fall/winter after the leaves die back.  The seed heads become fluff balls (much like a dandelion's) which often are gathered by birds to line their nests.  (Incidentally, it is said that the Scottish Highlanders once used this fluff to stuff their pillows.)

ColtsFoot dates back centuries as many herbs seem to.  Its Latin name 'Tussilago' literally means 'cough depart.'  It was also called 'Filius ante patrem,' which means 'son before the father,' no doubt due to the flowers blooming before the leaves appear.  The herb has been used through the ages for respiratory issues to great effect.  In fact, Dioscorides, Boyle, Galen, and Pliny all recommended smoking the leaves to relieve coughing, bronchitis, asthma, catarrh, and other respiratory issues.  Linnaeus said the Swedes also used it for lung issues.  The British even had their own special tobacco blend which featured ColtsFoot (it also contained thyme, eyebright, betony, chamomile, rosemary, buckbean, and lavender) that was smoked during times of respiratory distress; they also created a cough drop called Coltsfoot Rock that was quite popular for sore throats and laryngitis.  The French apothecaries had a picture of ColtsFoot on their signs so those who couldn't read were able to distinguish herb shops.  The flower stalks were decocted into a syrup for bronchitis.  It also was decocted with wormwood for lymphatic issues, and a decoction of the leaves was used for colds and asthma.

Culpeper stated that:

     "The fresh leaves, or juice, or syrup thereof, is good for a bad dry cough, or wheezing and shortness of breath.  The dry leaves are best for those who have their rheums and distillations upon their lungs causing a cough, for which also the dried leaves taken as tobacco, or the root is very good.  The distilled water hereof simply or which elder flowers or nightshade is a singularly good remedy against all agues, to drink 2 oz. at a time and apply cloths wet therein to the head and stomach, which also does much good being applied to any hot swellings or inflammations.   It helpeth St. Anthony's fire (erysypelas) and burnings, and is singular good to take away wheals."

John Gerard, 16th century herbalist, said that the plant was named 'Farfara' due to the  resemblance of its leaves to the white poplar.  Apparently, ColtsFoot leaves are covered with hairs, but the top becomes smooth as the leaf rolls out whereas the underside becomes white and felt-like.  Afterward, these leaves were  wrapped in cloth and dipped in saltpeter (aka potassium nitrate), dried, and used as fire starters.  (The leaves also were said to forecast the future by peeling away a small layer of the leaf to show a shiny surface which was once referred to as a mirror or window.  Special chants were said over this window which was then opened to show one their future.)

ColtsFoot was often used by Cornish tin miners to help with respiratory complaints.  It was also used for inflammation, vaginal complaints, eye irritations, depression, gastric ulcers, colitis, diarrhea, irritable bowel, sinus congestion, cystitis, sore throat, urinary infections, dandruff, insect bites, etc.

ColtsFoot is high in pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are believed to cause cancer.  However, it seems that infusing/decocting the plant diminishes that a great deal.

ColtsFoot also contains a number of beneficial elements as well such as potassium, sulfur, zinc, manganese, iron, calcium, copper, vitamins A, C, B, and P, inulin, pectin, quercetin, rutin, and magnesium.

WebMD advises against using it while pregnant or nursing, if one is allergic to the ragweed family, if one has high blood pressure, liver disease, or heart disease.  It should also not be given to children under the age of five (5).  Also, those on blood thinners should avoid it.  Excessive ColtsFoot can cause an increase in blood pressure as well. 


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