Friday, June 8, 2018


BIDENS–Bidens Pilosa, Bidens Radiata, Bidens Minor, Bidens Bisetosa, Bidens Cynapiifolia, Bidens Frondosa, Bidens Parviflora, etc.

Also known as:  Spanish needles, Devil’s needles, Pitchforks, Beggar’s ticks, Broomstick, Cobbler’s pegs, Farmer’s friends, Blackjack, Demon spike grass, etc.

Parts used: leaves, root, flowers, seeds

Systems/organs affected:  immune, nervous, liver, digestive, cardiovascular, kidney, spleen, urinary, bladder

Properties:  anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-hyperglycemic, antidiabetic, antimalarial, antibacterial, anti-ulcerative, immunomodulatory, vasodilatory, anti-carcinogenic, edible, anti-dysenteric, antimicrobial, astringent, blood tonic, carminative, diuretic, galactogogue, hepato-protective, hypotensive, mucus membrane tonic, neuroprotective, styptic, vulnerary, prostaglandin synthesis inhibitor

          Bidens is a member of the Asteraceae (Compositae or Daisy) family.  There are about 240 known species at this time throughout the world.  There is some dispute over whether it is a perennial or annual so I would dare say there are probably both among the species.  It is an erect plant that is either smooth or hairy depending on variety with green leaves that are opposite.  The leaves can be serrated or lobed and either have white or yellow flowers (again depending on the species).  It has long narrow black seeds that resemble needles only thicker and can get up to five feet tall.  It likes full sun and dry soil but it has been found growing in all types of conditions. Typically it is found by roadsides, vacant lots, railways, back yards, meadows, the desert and shores of rivers and ponds.  It propagates easily from seed (usually within 4 days it germinates) and each plant has between 3000-6000 seeds.  In many places it is considered a noxious weed.  There is also some speculation as to the origins of the plant.  Some say it originated in South America and was brought here by the Spaniards.  Others say it originated in Europe and was brought over by the pilgrims and yet other say it began here in North America and has spread across the globe from here.  Wherever it came from it seems to have found a home on almost every continent.

Ancient Asian texts (Bencao Gangmu, 1596 AD-Chinese Materia Medica penned during the Ming dynasty) lists a few different types of bidens that were commonly used for snake bites, insect bites and chronic diarrhea.  (Bidens pilosa and bidens tripartita).  Bidens pilosa was an herb considered to push toxins from the body and ‘clear heat’ or ease inflammatory conditions.  In volume 5 of Chinese Medicinal Herbs of Hong Kong (there are 10 volumes), bidens pilosa is listed as being useful for rheumatic conditions, appendicitis, malaria, hepatitis, hemorrhoids, gastroenteritis (stomach flu) and pruritis (severe itching of the skin).  Bidens bipinnata is listed as a cooling herb that is said to invigorate the blood and remove wind dampness (rheumatic issues).  It was also commonly used for sprains, nephritis, insect and scorpion stings, dysentery, hepatitis, stomach aches and more.  Apparently it can be used in much the same way as bidens pilosa (which is the variety most used medicinally today).  In a book entitiled ‘Anticancer Medicinal Herbs’ (Chang, Minyi, 1992), bidens bipinnata was listed as useful for gastric and esophageal cancers.  The decoction was said to ‘cure’ cardiac spasms, dysentery, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), laryngalgia (neuralgia of the larynx), vomiting and diarrhea.  It has been used to treat chronic inflammation of the large intestine as well (called cecitis).  In ‘Chinese Materia Medica’ it is said to ‘cure’ a scorpion’s sting by external application alone.  In a ‘Thousand Formulas and Thousand Herbs of Traditional Chinese Medicine’ (1993), bidens parviflora was used for infant fevers with convulsions, frostbite, carbuncles, trauma, skin rashes, snake bites, boils, etc.  In ‘A New Compendium of Materia Medica’ (1995) it states that bidens is,

          “Good for diminishing inflammation, to cure common cold, bronchitis, hepatitis, tonsillitis, pneumonia, appendicitis and child-fever, eliminating sputum and relieving cough and asthma, also for curing snake bite or for external applications.”

The Native Americans would use a tea made with the leaves to get rid of worms.  They also chewed the leaves to help relieve sore throats.  The Shakers used the plant as an expectorant, for uterine issues, to treat heart palpitations and to induce menstruation and sweating.  Ayurvedic medicine used it for glandular sclerosis, eczema, headaches, ear infections, toothaches and leprosy.  (Quite a wide range of application for a noxious weed! Ha!)

Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1929.  Dr. Fleming found the even THEN there were a number of penicillin resistant bacteria.  At that time about 14% of staph was resistant to it.  As of 1995, 95% of staph was resistant to penicillin.  Almost 90 years since penicillin was discovered-some staph bacterium are now resistant to ALL KNOWN pharmarceutical antibiotics!  Why?  Unlike herbs, pharmaceuticals are made using only a few compounds.  Herbs generally have hundreds of compounds within them making it nearly impossible for bacteria and/or viruses to become resistant to them.  Bidens is a natural antibiotic with over 100 compounds in it.  It has been found to be more effective against bacteria than penicillin, methicillin. Tetracycline and a host of other pharmaceuticals.  The entire plant from seed to root is considered medicinally active. 

Michael Moore (herbalist) stated that,

          Bidens may be our best herb for benign prostate hypertrophy, usually decreasing the membrane irritability both in the urinary tract and the rectum, and often, over a few weeks of use, noticeably shrinking the prostate and giving its connective tissue better tone.

Stephen Buhner (author of Herbal Antivirals and Herbal Antibiotics) said that,

          Because it is a mucus membrane tonic and is astringent, powerfully anti-inflammatory and strongly antibacterial, it is specific for a number of diseases caused by resistant pathogens: UTI’s, chronic diarrhea and dysentery, gastrointestinal ulcers (anywhere in the GI tract, from mouth to anus), inflamed mucus membranes in colds and flu and respiratory infections of any sort, sore throats from coughs or infection or even overuse of the throat, and vaginal infections.

Bidens contains a host of compounds which include flavonoids, lipids, terpenes, benzenoids, phenylpropanoids and acetylenes.  The polyacetylenes and flavonoids are the most active of these.

The polyacetylenes have been found to inhibit yeast, bacteria and insect larvae in lab experiments.  They were also found to inhibit human fibroblast cells.  (Interesting to note that it works extremely well when combined with sunlight or light therapy.  The therapeutic effects seems to diminish in darkness so light is key).  These polyacetylenes were also effective against the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) which explains why it is used extensively in the Amazon for just that.  When combined with chrysanthemum and houttuynia, it effectively inhibited tuberculosis as well.

The flavonoids contain quercetin and luteolin, both of which protect the body from toxins.  Flavonoids are usually used for cardiovascular issues of which bidens has been proven effective.  A mixture of the bidens species (bipinnata and parviflora) was found to inhibit platelet aggregation, lower cholesterol and inhibit thrombosis.  To date, bidens has been found to be effective against candida, bacillus cereus (a bacteria that causes vomiting and/or diarrhea), kiebsiella pneumonia, E. coli, human cytomegalovirus (a kind of herpes virus), bacillus subtilis (bacteria commonly found in soil and the gastrointestinal tract), Entamoeba histolytica (an anaerobic parasite that feeds on cells in the colon), mycobacterium tuberculosis, herpes simplex 1&2, Streptococcus faecalis (bacterium found in the gastrointestinal tract and in diseased teeth or bad root canals), plasmodium, leishmania amazonesis (Skin bacteria), Neisseria gonorrhea, salmonella, shigella flexneri (Bacteria that causes diarrhea), pseudomonas aeruginosa (the most common acquired hospital bacteria-from being IN the hospital), staphylococcus aureus, serratia marcescens (bacteria that can be found in the respiratory tract, urinary tract, soft tissues and surgical wounds), and staphylococcus epidermis.

Bidens is most potent in tincture form from fresh plants.  It can be decocted or infused but that will be much less effective than the tincture form.  Bidens does have some cautions.  The internet medical sites say it shouldn’t be taken by diabetics as it lowers glucose levels, stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas and can increase insulin sensitivity.  Bidens is also known to absorb cadmium and arsenic from dumps and waste places so use caution when harvesting and never harvest these plants near those areas.  Also it should not be taken by pregnant and/or nursing women.  (It is amazing any woman survived through millennia of time using plants as medicine.  How did we manage?  Gasp, the horror…)  As always, consult a qualified physician before ever beginning an herbal program or regimen.

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



RHODIOLA–Rodia Riza, Rhodiola Rosea, Rhodiola Crenulata, Rhodiola Heterodonta, Rhodiola Sacra, Rhodiola Quadrifida, Rhodiola Rhodantha, Rhodiola Semenovii, etc.

Also known as:  Golden Root, Roseroot, Artic Root, King’s Crown, Orpin Rose, Stone Crop, etc.

Parts used: leaves, root, stems, shoots

Systems/organs affected:  heart, brain, immune, reproductive, digestive, thyroid, nervous, etc.

Properties:  adaptogenic, antioxidant, anti-depressant, anti-tumor, immune enhancing, 
stimulant, anti-toxic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-aging, cardio-protective, anti-mutagenic, tonic, edible, adrenal protectant, anti-fatigue, neuroprotective, neuro-regenerative, mitochondrial protectant, hippocampal protectant, antiviral, antibacterial, etc.

          Rhodiola is a member of the Crassulaceae (Stone Crop) family.  There are about 60-90 varieties of this species around the globe.  It is a rather hardy perennial that grows in cold areas like Siberia, the northern regions of the usa and Europe as well as the northern parts of Asia, Britain and Tibet.  It has a golden colored root that is said to smell like roses and has several stems that grow upward out of said root.  They have grayish-green leaves and clusters of flowers that are either pink, orange, yellow or red depending on the variety. (Rhodiola Rosea is yellow in color).  It can get up to a foot tall and can have a large root system if the soil conditions are right.  There are three species found in North America, two of which are located on the north east region of the united states and continue all the way to the Artic circle.  The other is located in the Rocky Mountains (rhodiola rhodantha) and also goes all the way to the Artic.  The north east varieties are considered endangered.  (Given the face we live in a prime area to grow this kind of plant-one should consider doing so).  The root is what is used medicinally and should be harvested in the spring when it is most potent.  The shoots, leaves and stems are all edible and have a slightly pungent/bitter taste to them that add to salads, soups, etc.  Rhodiola rosea is the most commonly used variety for medicine (and some say the ONLY one that should be used while others say all varieties work….I say it depends on the region it is grown in as to its true potential as a medicinal.  The kind in this region should work well for US).

Let me make a case here for adaptogens.  Adaptogens are special in that they are capable of giving your body exactly what it needs when it needs it.  If there are any class of herbs you should keep for emergencies, this would be the class due to their ability to read your body’s needs at the time.  Think of adaptogens as the plants ‘most likely to succeed.’  Rhodiola is an adaptogen that has the added ability of surviving some of the world’s harshest conditions.  This makes it a very powerful ally indeed.  (Some practitioners refer to this plant as a ‘Magic Bullet’).

Rhodiola has a legendary background.  Dioscorides wrote about it in ‘De Materia Medica’ (circa 77 AD) which he referred to as rodia riza.  In central Asia the tea has been used for millennia to treat colds and flu.  The Vikings used the plant to enhance strength and endurance.  The Mongolians used it for cancer and tuberculosis and Chinese Emperors sent scores of expeditions out to gather the golden root to be used in medicinal formulations.  The Russians have known of its ability for ages but kept it rather secret until it finally hit the western world around 1994.  The Russians used it to enhance athletic performance, work performance, to decrease depression, stimulate the nervous system and to combat fatigue.  Snice coming to the attention of western medicine a number of studies have been conducted on this plant to ascertain its benefits.

In vitro studies have found compounds in rhodiola that protect neurons from damage caused by hypoglycemia and hypoxia.  In vivo studies found that it enhances and protects the hippocampus (remember the hippocampus is responsible for long term memory).  In one study, forty students were either given a placebo or 50 mg of rhodiola extract twice a day for 20 days.  Those who received the extract had significantly less mental fatigue, improved study habits, improved sleep patterns and an overall sense of well being.  Their test scores also showed a marked improvement.

In animal studies rhodiola extract was found to enhance the transport of tryptophan and 5 hydroxy-tryptophan to the brain.  These chemicals are precursors of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter involved in blood pressure, smooth muscle contraction, the regulation of body temperature, appetite, respiration and pain perception.  Too much or too little of this neurotransmitter can cause clinical depression, SAD, chronic fatigue, schizophrenia, headaches, hypertension, fibromyalgia and a host of other complaints. 

Several species of rhodiola have been found to have both antibacterial and antiviral capabilities.  Rhodiola rosea has been found to be effective against several strains of the flu as well as the cox-sackie virus (an enterovirus that lives in the digestive tract and can cause such things as hepatitis A and polio).  Rhodiola Kirilowii was found to be effective against tuberculosis and hepatitis C.

Rhodiola has been found to decrease harmful blood lipids and increase intracellular calcium into the heart which helps to regulate heartbeat and counter arrhythmia.  It has been found to shorten recovery time from working out, to stimulate muscle energy, glycogen synthesis in the liver and muscles and to increase strength , memory and anti-toxic actions of the body.

A more recent study conducted in China at the Jiangsu Institute found that salidroside-a compound found in rhodiola-protects the nervous system from oxidative stress (which can lead to neuro-degenerative diseases).  They found that the herb also helped to soothe feelings of anxiety, agitation and insomnia.  It lifts one’s mood and eases fatigue.

Rhodiola contains a host of antioxidants (kaemferol, rosavin, quercetin, etc) that Russian researchers found to inhibit tumor growth in rats by 39% and metastasis by 50%.  In other tests with various types of cancer, rhodiola was found to greatly increase the survival rate of the test subjects. (Other cancers tested were breast, bladder, prostate and colon).

Rhodiola was also found to both stimulate and protect the immune system as it increases the natural killer cells in both the spleen and the stomach.  (Remember that in Chinese medicine it is believed to be a weakness of the spleen that leads to disease).

One interesting study was done on rats that related to anorexia.  Researchers created a stress-related anorexia in the animals and then gave them 15-20 mg/kg of rhodiola extract.  To their surprise it completely reversed the anorectic effects.  (This is something that should be considered for those dealing with eating disorders then….)

Scientists also conducted a study using a combination of cinnamon and rhodiola on rats with diabetes.  Each rat was given the combination for 12 weeks.  At the end of the study the rats blood glucose levels were greatly decreased and the levels of several key antioxidants were significantly increased in the system (glutathione, catalase, SOD, etc).  Based on the rats response the scientists believed that the combination would correct hyperglycemia and prevent diabetes (quite a bold statement).

Several doctors, both natural and medical, have used the plant for infertility, menstrual disorders, adrenal fatigue, depression, weight loss, menopause, to enhance athletic and sexual performance and to increase sexual interest in those experiencing a loss of libido.  Chris Kilham (aka the ‘Medicine Hunter’) called rhodiola the ‘single most beneficial medicinal plant in the world.’

Rhodiola has also been found to improve hearing, protect the liver from environmental toxins, to regulate blood sugar levels and help burn fat, to enhance thyroid, thymus and adrenal gland function and delay the aging process.  Quite a feat for one plant.

Although it is rare-rhodiola has some side effects such as hypertension, nervous excitability and fevers.  It should not be taken by those on blood thinners or blood pressure medications, pregnant and/or nursing women or children under the age of 10.  A typical dose is between 200-400 mg.  Always consult a qualified physician before starting any herbal product or regimen.

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