Monday, April 21, 2014
Also known as: juniper bush, juniper bark
Parts Used: berries, needles
Meridians/Organs affected: urinary, glandular, kidneys, stomach
Properties: aromatic, diuretic, antiseptic, anti-rheumatic, blood purifying, carminative, stimulant, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-catarrhal, tonic, stomachic, depurative, emmenogogue, anti-inflammatory, sudorific, parasiticide
Juniper is a member of the Cupressaceae family. There are 60 different species of juniper but only ONE is used for its medicinal and culinary aspects: that is the Juniperus Communis.
Juniper can either be an evergreen shrub or tree depending on its habitat and location. As a shrub it is prostrate or sprawling but as a tree it can get up to 12 feet in height. The trees are unisexual with the flower 'cones' of the female trees developing into berries that are first green but develop into blue or black berries when ripe (starting its 2nd or 3rd year). Juniper can be found growing throughout the northern hemisphere nears forests and mountains and growing freely in limestone or chalky soil. They also can be found in the forests of Korea, Canada and Sweden and in the mountains of Hungary and Scotland.
The name of juniper was developed from the Celtic 'geri' meaning 'small bush' and 'prus' meaning 'bitter hot'. This is believed to be the start of European names 'genever' (Dutch) and 'genievre' (French) which became the word 'gin'-the liqueur that is flavored by juniper berries.
Juniper berries were mentioned in Egyptian papyri and have been found in prehistoric Swiss dwellings. The Greeks burned the wood to fight off epidemics; the French used it in hospitals in the 1800's for smallpox; the Romans considered it to be a strong antiseptic; and Galen and Pliny used the berries for liver issues and would recommend it instead of pepper for people who tended towards overeating. Cato the Elder formulated a diuretic wine recipe that seemed to work wonders for people. During the Middle Ages juniper was considered somewhat of a cure-all for bladder and kidney problems as well as headaches; Hildegarde of Bingen used it for pulmonary issues and fevers, and the British considered the berries to be magical and hung swags of juniper on their doors to keep witches and demons at bay. An infusion of the berries was believed to bring youth back to the aging; the French considered it to be a universal panacea; and Dr. Lemery made juniper dragees to give people during the plague so they could avoid infection. (Those became quite a popular item). Juniper has been used to stimulate digestion and improve the appetite, help eliminate mucus from the system, and to stimulate kidney and bladder function. A strong tea made with the berries is also used as a wash for poisonous insect and snake bites, bee stings and dog bites. Among the Native Americans juniper has been used as a urinary tract disinfectant, diuretic and as a contraceptive for women. (In fact, that is what juniper is most well-known for at this time).
The berries are primarily used for urinary issues, stones, gout, rheumatic issues and back pain. The oil of juniper was often mixed with fat in salves to protect wounds from flies, and the berries were used to cause sweating, mucus secretion, stimulate contractions in the intestines and uterus, and help the body produce hydrochloric acid. More recent studies have shown that the berries help lower blood sugar caused by hyperglycemia which means it could prove useful for insulin dependent diabetics. The National Cancer Institute has released information that juniper also has some antibiotic components that are effective against tumors. This might be because juniper contains a high amount of terpinen-4-ol, which is the most prominent component in tea tree oil. Juniper has been found to be effective against staph, shigella, E. Coli, candida, salmonella, strep and pseudomonas aeruginosa. There is no doubt it has many powerful uses for man. However, too much of juniper can also cause kidney irritations so small amounts over a small period are better medicinally. Juniper should not be taken by pregnant women as it stimulates the uterus and menses.
As is the custom with my posts I am including some links below for your benefit. May they prove informative and useful.
MUSTARD-Sinapsis Alba, Brassica Alba, Brassica Nigra, Lepidium Perfoliatum, etc.
Also known as: white mustard seed, yellow mustard, kedlock, black-mustard, brown mustard, wild turnip, bird's rape
Parts Used: seeds, leaves
Meridians/Organs affected: digestive, pulmonary, structural, nerves
Properties: pungent, laxative, stimulant, emetic, digestive, diuretic, alterative, rubefacient, blood purifying, antibacterial, expectorant, carminative, analgesic, preservative
Mustard is a member of the Cruciferae (Brassica) family. There are three types used to produce seeds that are used as condiments. These are black mustard which is native to the Middle East, white mustard which is native to the Mediterranean, and brown mustard which is believed to be a native of India and/or China. The brown and black varieties are those used to distill and use in healing. Black mustard is the largest variety-getting up to eight feet tall-but all three are cultivated throughout the world today. Mustard has beautiful yellow flowers with four petals that resemble a cross. The leaves are deeply indented at the base of the stalk and less indented as they rise up the stalk. The young leaves are fuzzy and are usually the ones harvested for eating.
Mustard (most notably the seeds) is one of the oldest recorded spices in history. Sanskrit text dates it back to 3000 BC but it was also mentioned in papyri going back the the First Dynasty. Mustard seeds were found buried in Egyptian tombs along with other spices. The Greek and Roman cultures were certainly familiar with the plant. According to legend, mustard was introduced to them by Aesclepius (the god of medicine) and Ceres (the goddess of seeds and agriculture) because we all know that they (the Greeks and Romans) had gods for everything!
The Romans would take the seeds and steep them in fermented grape juice (called 'burning must'). The Romans were responsible for bringing the seeds to Britain. England and France both began cultivating it and are well known for their mustard variations today.
Mustard has been used throughout the centuries for medicinal reasons as well. The Assyrians used it as a mouthwash for toothaches, the Copts used it as a poultice for headaches (not sure I would want mustard wrapped around my head), Pliny used it to 'overcome lassitude in females' and it was even used in love potions in medieval times. Culpeper used mustard for sciatica and joint pain and would often mix it with honey for coughs. It has been used throughout time in foot baths for chilblains, poor circulation and mucous buildup in the respiratory system.
Mustard oil draws blood to the surface of the skin which relieves inflammation in the deeper tissues. Usually used for external purposes now it is mostly used in poultices. The oil (which is HOT and needs to be diluted ALOT) can be used for sciatica, lower back problems, arthritis, rheumatism and neuralgia. A mustard plaster (poultice) has been used since time began to help chest infections and pulmonary conditions. Mustard plasters also have been used for sprains, aches, spasms, and to warm cold areas (useful in cases of frostbite I should think).
The seeds also stimulate the production of digestive juices which help the digestive process. Internally, a teaspoon of crushed mustard seeds in warm water acts as a mild laxative and a tablespoon will cause vomiting fairly quickly. Mustard helps dispel phlegm, stops coughs, and is useful for boils and oozing, chronic sores.
Mustard contains a variety of components that are thought to prevent cancer (just like most members of the Brassica family). It is also one of the Bach Flower essences. It is typically used for people who are constantly in a bad mood or fall into depressive states for no reason.
Mustard greens are also a good source of nutrition, containing a good supple of trace minerals and the vitamins A, B and C. Mustard greens can be boiled, steamed, stir-fried or eaten raw but be sure to get them YOUNG!
Pregnant women should not use mustard as it causes a heating sensation that may stimulate the uterus.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links here for your perusal. Live long and stay healthy!
CELERY-Apium Graveolens, Apium Graveolens Dulce
Also known as: Selinon, Ache, Smallage
Parts Used: seeds, stalk, leaves
Meridians/Organs affected: urinary, kidney, spleen, structural, blood
Properties: aromatic, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic (especially for the urinary tract), antioxidant, sedative, emmenogogue (seeds), diuretic, carminative (seeds), anti-inflammatory, blood purifying
Celery is a member of the Umbelliferae family (along with carrots, queen anne's lace, etc.). There are a few varieties but all are grouped into two sub-groups-wild and cultivated. Wild celery is a native to the European salt marshes. The cultivated variety didn't show up on the records until 1623 when the French began growing it although it is believed the Italians cultivated it much earlier. It is a hardy biennial that grows mainly in damp areas in Asia, America, southern Europe and Africa. It has a ridged stalk, toothed leaves and a pungent flavor.
The Greeks and Romans consumed celery often. Pliny ate it as a vegetable when a lot of cultures were still using it merely for seasoning. (Europe and North America didn't start really using it until the 19th century-or rather it didn't become popular until that time). The Romans would weave celery garlands to wear on their heads to keep them from getting too drunk or having hangovers. The Greeks referred to it as 'selinon' or 'moon plant' and it was believed to be a strong tonic for the nervous system. Dioscorides, Hippocrates and Hildegarde of Bingen all considered it to be an excellent diuretic.
Celery has many uses. It is believed to be good for diabetics as it is a negative calorie food and can be eaten freely. It has insulin-like activity and suppresses adrenaline hyperglycemia. As it is diuretic in nature, celery can be useful for menopause, menstruation, edema or to help relieve bloating due to over indulging. It has been found to help with cystitis (when juiced and drunk) and as a gargle for loss of voice. Celery seed oil has been found helpful for those with nervous fatigue and was often used in bath water for this purpose. Celery contains apigenin-which dilates the blood vessels and helps reduce blood pressure. Celery seed is good also to reduce inflammation that causes arthritis and rheumatic conditions. Celery itself contains phytochemicals that have also been found beneficial for cancer. It has antioxidant effects on the cleansing organs (liver and kidneys) that help push toxins from the system.
Both celery stalk and celery seeds are often used to flavor soups, stews, sauces and in sausage. In many other countries it also is used in perfumery. In some countries it is believed to aphrodisiac effects (the jury is still out on that one) and to help one live a longer life. Jethro Kloss said it is excellent for incontinence, neuralgia and liver problems. Celery seeds have been used to treat chronic bladder issues, obesity, flatulence, pulmonary catarrh, gout, impotence, frigidity and delayed menses. Celery stalk is a sedative and often used to cool the body in heat conditions. Pregnant women should not use it as it is considered to be an abortifacient.
As is common with my posts I am leaving some links here for your personal use. May they serve you well.
Parts Used: seeds, leaves, roots
Meridians/Organs affected: colon, lungs, stomach, female reproductive
Properties: carminative, aromatic, stomachic, emmenogogue, galactogogue, expectorant, general stimulant, diuretic, antispasmodic
Caraway is in the Carrot (Umbelliferae) family. It is a hardy biennial that gets up to two feet tall with dark green leaves that are deeply divided and resemble carrots. It has hollow stems and umbels of small white or pink flowers that appear in its second year followed by the seeds. It is a native of Europe and Asia although it has been naturalized in several countries, including the united states. The seeds are often confused with cumin although their tastes and uses cannot compare. This confusion still lasts today so when in doubt pay attention to the Latin names. Caraway reseeds itself fairly easily.
Caraway's history is one of humor and confusion. Caraway was known as an herb of 'retention' or staying power. It was often used for love potions and as a feed for homing fowl. It was also believed that if caraway seeds were placed on or in expensive items that a thief would be paralyzed until the owner could get home. (You simply can't make up this stuff!)
Fossilized seends have been found in Mesolithic sites and in Neolithic dwellings so it was used as far back as 8000 years ago. The Egyptians used it in cooking to make onions more digestible and in breads. They also used it in religious ceremonies. The Romans would eat the seeds to sweeten their breath after meals and in cakes to assist with digestion. Saint Hildegarde used it for gas, as a diuretic, stimulant, galactogogue, stomachic, and an emmenogogue. The seeds have been found to be useful in cases of pleurisy and bronchitis, and when chewed they help with flatulence, digestion, and intestinal griping (common when using laxatives). Caraway is great for colic as well and has been used for menstrual irregularity.
Caraway is one of the most used spices in Europe. It is used in pate's, cheeses, sausages, sauerkraut, rye and other breads, pork dishes, goulashes and casseroles. The Germans have a liqueur known as 'kummel' that is flavored with caraway (which brings us another tasty little bit of confusion as the finest of all kummels is called 'Creme de Cumin'-good luck figuring THAT one out...lol). The earliest caraway liqueur was made in 1575 in Amsterdam by Lucas Bols.
As it is a member of the carrot family, the parsnip-like root can be eaten like a vegetable. Parkinson actually said that the roots boiled and eaten can help a weak stomach, promote urine, and help with flatulence. The leaves can also be added to dishes to give them a caraway flavor.
Oil of caraway is used in soaps and perfumes. Caraway also has been used by midwives to increase the milk flow in nursing mothers. Caraway should not be used by pregnant women as it can stimulate menses.
As is customary with my posts you will find some links included here for your benefit. Use them as you deem necessary.
Parts Used: seeds
Meridians/Organs affected: kidneys, spleen, lungs, stomach
Properties: carminative, tonic, stomachic, expectorant, stimulant, diuretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic
Cardamom is a member of the Zingiberaceae family along with ginger and turmeric. There are several varieties of cardamom. It is a native to Sri Lanka and India although it is now grown in Thailand, the Spice Islands, Indo China and Central America as well. Most cardamom is produced in India and used there locally exporting less than five tons annually.
Cardamom has strong rhizomes and stems that stand erect with long lance-like leaves. The flowers appear in May and are generally yellowish with a purple lip. The pods appear around October and contain rows of dark, brownish-red seeds that seem to be a favorite of gourmet lizards which is one of the main hazards for their cultivation. The pods must be gathered before they are ripe; otherwise the seeds burst out of the pods as they dry and lose their essential oil content as well as their fragrance. Cardamom is the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla.
Cardamom's history dates back to a thousand years before Christ. The first mention in Chinese medicine was around 721 AD. It was exported along caravan routes and was first introduced in Europe by the Romans. It was a component of 'metopion', an ancient Egyptian ointment used as a perdume in religious ceremonies and as a medicine. It has been used in India for millennia in Ayurvedic medicine under the name of 'Ela'. In these ancient cultures, cardamom often was used for paralysis, epilepsy, spasms and joint pain and stiffness. It was also found to be quite useful as a diuretic. The School of Salerno used it for cardiac issues and for stomach complaints. The Chinese view it as somewhat of a cure-all for intestinal issues. Madame Maury (Austrian biochemist) considered it to be an amazing antiseptic, antispasmodic and a tonic for weak hearts due to emotional issues. Its diuretic qualities make cardamom useful for water retention during menstruation and menopause. The seeds can be used to help with flatulence and digestion-usually in decoction form.
Cardamom has been used as an aid for nausea in wasting diseases and to stimulate the appetite of people with anorexia. The Chinese use it for urinary incontinence and infections. It also has been used for: vomiting, colds, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, to counteract mucous congestion, to relax bronchial spasms, and as an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory. What is interesting to note is that cardamom can be used in place of cayenne for chronic pain by those who find cayenne too much for them to tolerate. It can be taken with other herbs or by itself for chronic and acute pain and for prolonged periods without toxicity. It has been found to also be beneficial for spermatorrhea, gastralgia and enuresis as well.
Cardamom is a spic used to flavor cakes, curries, coffee, garam masalas, desserts, chai tea, and breads. It is also used in punches and hot mulled wines. The oil is added to some toothpastes and the seeds are also ground and used in herb pillows and potpourris.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal. Use them well.
Friday, April 11, 2014
Also known as: pussley, pigweed, pressley, little hogweed, verdolaga
Parts Used: leaves, stems
Meridians/Organs affected: circulatory, urinary, digestive, cardiac, brain
Properties: mucilaginous, digestive, nutritive, anti-mutagenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vermicide, stomachic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, febrifuge, diuretic, analgesic, antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic, cardiac protectant, refrigerant, demulcent
Purslane is a member of the Portulacacea family. It is a small, mat forming plant with alternate leaves that are paddle shaped and red or green stems that remind one of plumbing pipes going every which way. The leaves are smooth and glossy and the yellow flowers bloom from July through September. It can be found in nutrient-rich sandy soil and full sun. It is most commonly found in neglected landscapes, vacant lots, sidewalk cracks, rubble dumps and worn out lawns.
Purslane is a 'hot weather' plant that doesn't typically germinate until the soil warms up. The seeds actually continue sprouting throughout the hot summer months. It produces an abundance of little black seeds (over 52,000 per plant) that can remain dormant up to 40 years. The seeds are loved by birds and rodent which could help explain its world wide distribution as well.
Purslane is a native of India, Africa and Persia where it has been used for thousands of years. It has been considered a succulent garden herb by Europeans for centuries. In fact, early colonists in this country were surprised that the Native Americans weren't eating it but rather discarding it like so many gardeners do. Henry Thoreau once stated that, "I learned that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength. I have made a satisfactory dinner of a dish of purslane which I gathered and boiled. Yet men come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries but for want of luxuries."
This plant is well known in other countries as an anti-inflammatory. Dioscorides included it in his 'De Materia Medica'. It was grown as a crop by the colonists in New Plymouth in the early 1600's. Parkinson, Culpeper and Gerard all agreed it was great for conditions where heat was involved such as fevers and inflammation. The expressed juice of purslane mixed with honey (succus) often was used for dry coughs, immoderate thirst and shortness of breath, as well as externally for eye inflammation.
Purslane is one of the eight most common herbs on the planet. There have been several studies done on this plant and yet it still remains nothing but a weed to most of the populace. Chemical studies have found that purslane has quite a few flavonoids and nitrogenous compounds including dopamine and norepinephrine. Purslane is also the richest source of omega 3 fatty acids studied to date (particularly linolenic acid). It is a powerhouse of nutrients rich in vitamins A, C, E, B and the minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, lithium, phosphorus, zinc, chromium, manganese, silicon, copper and selenium. It is two times higher in antioxidants than grape seed extract and cranberries and seven times higher in vitamin E, ascorbic acid and glutathione than spinach. Glutathione is the 'master antioxidant' found within each cell of the body, detoxifying, flushing out heavy metals and fighting free radicals. We produce less glutathione as we age which causes premature aging, stress, disease, and decay. All the more reason to consume purslane regularly.
The ancient Egyptians used purslane as a medicinal plant; the Greeks used it for urinary inflammation and constipation, the Romans used it for headaches, intestinal worms, dysentery, and stomach aches, the Chinese also used it for dysentery but also for bleeding from the urinary tract and as a topical agent for snake and insect bites. It has been used across the globe for pulmonary issues, heart disease, liver problems, dry cough, scurvy, mouth ulcers, skin diseases, painful urination, burns, mastitis, enteritis, hemorrhoids, abscesses, cancer, acute appenditicitis, earaches, shingles, diabetes, etc. It also may be helpful in cases of Parkinson's due to its content of dopa and dopamine. It is high in psoralens which help normalize skin pigmentation aside from being cancer-fighting compounds. As it is a mucilagenous herb, it also enhances digestion and absorbs toxins in the digestive tract making it useful for any number of issues including candida.
Purslane can be used in salads or in the place of lettuce or other leafy greens. It is used as pickles, can be fried, and is also often used to thicken soups and stews. Try adding more to your diet when it is in season.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your benefit. Use them as you deem necessary and stay well and healthy!
APPLE-Pyrus Malus, Malus Sylvestris, Malus Pumila, Malus Baccata, Malus Sieboldii, etc
Parts Used: the fruit
Meridians/Organs affected: digestive, skin, brain, pancreas, cardiovascular, circulatory, respiratory, ocular
Properties: digestive, laxative, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, demulcent, anti-asthmatic, nutritive, astringent, tonic, culinary
Apples are a member of the Rose family. There are several thousand varieties of apples (currently about 7000), some ornamental, some hybridized, and some wild. Apple trees range from 15-40 feet in height. They are beautiful trees in bloom with fragrant white or pink blossoms with five petals. The fruits appear in the fall months and can be yellow, red or green when fully mature.
Apples originated in Europe and Asia and didn't make it to the States until about a decade after the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. John Chapman (known as Johnny Appleseed) traveled over 100,000 miles planting seeds. Due to his love of apples we now have them growing wild in every state in the union. Apples have been associated with many things-Eve was tempted by an apple (so we read) and Snow White was killed by one. In Norse mythology apples are believed to improve one's personality and help them live longer and stay young.
There is something to the 'live longer and stay young' part. The old saying goes, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Have you ever wondered why someone would say that? Apples are packed with polyphenols (antioxidants) such as quercitin, kaempferol, myricetin, epicatechin and chlorogenic acid. Quercitin protects the brain from degeneration (according to studies done on rats) but the skin of the apple must be eaten to be of benefit. In fact, the content of antioxidants is found in much higher amounts in the skin than in the pulp. This array of polyphenols has been found to protect the body from UV-B radiation. They help to decrease oxidation of cell membrane fats which basically means it protects your heart by lowering the risk of arterial plaqueing and decay. They have been found to lower the risk of asthma in studies as well as lowering the risk of lung cancers. Part of the cardiovascular benefits of consuming apples is their fiber content. Studies have found that regular intake of apples also lowered cholesterol and triglycerides. The quercitin content of apples also acts as an anti-inflammatory, thus aiding with a number of conditions including arthritis and rheumatism.
Recent studies have shown apples help regulate blood sugar levels. One group of scientists found that women who ate one apple a day had a 28% less risk of getting diabetes. The polyphenols inhibit certain enzymes from breaking carbohydrates down into simple sugars, thus putting less sugar into the bloodstream.
Apples not only protect against lung cancer they also protect the body against breast and colon cancer. The fiber in apples ferments in the colon. This fermentation process produces chemicals that fight the formation of cancer cells. These procyanidins trigger a series of cell signals within the body that result in cancer cell death.
Apples have been found to be beneficial to gum health. Biting an apple stimulates the gums, increases the flow of saliva and helps reduce tooth decay by reducing bacteria in the mouth.
In a food database analysis it was stated that people who consume apples every day are 37% less likely to have high blood pressure. (So why don't they just prescribe apples for those people...more doctors need nutritional education).
Studies conducted in Brazil and in Washington state have shown that people who eat apples a few times a day were more likely to lose weight. As apples are full of water and fiber, they fill the stomach and make you want less food.
Preliminary studies have also found that apples may help with neurological and neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's. These studies have also shown apples to be of some benefit for macular degeneration.
Crab Apple Essence is part of the Bach Flower remedies. It is for people who feel poisoned or impure either physically or spiritually. It is used as a basic treatment for the compulsive obsession with cleanliness, character, morality, internal or external toxic damage, chronic illness, and skin conditions. These types are obsessed with filth and cannot let go; they are 'clean freaks' and are perfect candidates for Crab Apple Essence.
One a side note, apple pectin is also an amazing heavy metal detoxifier. The ions in the pectin attract all sorts of toxins including arsenic and lead and flush them from the system. Indeed it seems an apple a day could keep the doctor away or at least at bay. Include them more often in your diet, it certainly can't hurt.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal. Enjoy!
Thursday, April 10, 2014
CLOVES-Caryophyllus Aromaticus, Eugenia Caryophyllata, Eugenia Aromatic, Syzgium Aromaticum
Parts used: the flower bud
Meridians/Organs affected: spleen, kidneys, stomach, oral/dental
Properties: stimulant, anti-nausea, astringent, carminative, expectorant, stomachic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, rubefacient, digestive, condiment, sedative, tonic
Clove is a member of the Myrtaceae family along with allspice and eucalyptus. This evergreen tree originated in the Spice Islands but is now grown in most tropical countries including Zanzibar, Madagascar and Tanzania. The trees are considered small (even thought they get up to 30 feet in height) and are somewhat conical shaped. They have laurel like leaves that are long and shiny with visible dots that when brushed or bruised give off the heady scent of clove. The trunk is covered with a smooth gray bark that develops branches which are situated quite low on the tree. The flowers are a beautiful crimson color (if allowed to get to that stage). They appear at the end of the rainy season. The flower buds themselves (the cloves) are the unopened, yellowish-green, long, nail-shaped projections. When they turn pink just before they open or bloom, they are picked from the tree. They are then dried in the sun for a few days until they become dark brown (this can also be done through gentle heat in an oven).
Below is a 1521 excerpt from a sailor from one of Magellan's voyages. His description is truly wonderful and very observant. He said,
"On that day of Sunday I went ashore to see how the cloves grow. The tree is tall and as thick as a man. Its branches in the center spread out widely, but at the top they grow into a kind of peak. The leaf is like that of a laurel, and the bark of the color of brown tan. The cloves come at the tip of the branches, ten or twenty together. These trees almost always bear more of them on one side than on the other, according to the season. When the cloves sprout, they are white; when ripe. red; and when dried, black. They gather them twice a year, at Christmas and again on the feast of St. John the Baptist, because at these two seasons the air is most temperate, but more so at Christmas. And when the year is hotter, and there is less rain, they gather three or four hundred bahar* of cloves in each of the islands, and they grow only in the mountains....Nowhere in the world do good cloves grow except on five mountains of those five islands...."
*A bahar is a unit of weight approximating 400 pounds.
Clove trees don't produce spice until they are five years old and they then will produce consistently until much older-increasing the yield every year until the tree reaches about 20 years of age. The average yield for a mature tree is 6 1/2 to 8 3/4 lbs of the fresh buds. However, when dried it is only about 2 1/4 lbs. which roughly yields about 20% essential oil. So basically 1/4 pint would be representative of one tree. Clove oil is distilled from the leaves and unripe fruit (buds). This oil is often adulterated with palm oil, balsam oil or oil from pimento berries and leaves. The therapeutic value of clove however is ONLY present in pure clove essential oil.
The isle of Amboina is where it is believed the clove tree began or at least our first record of it. The scent of clove wafting over the ocean waters would tell sailors they were close to the Spice Islands (the Moluccas). Clove was one of those spices that were highly sought after and many wars were fought and many lives were lost to acquire it. The English desparately sought after it because it had the ability to make their food more palatable during the winter months and helped cut down on spoilage. Most of the time it was only the rich who could afford to pay the ghastly fee to obtain the small amount of cloves they would get. Clove, along with the other three of the "Big Four" (pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon) were literally worth more than their weight in gold.
The lack of epidemics in Penang (in Malaysia) was attributed to the scent of clove being so prevalent as it is highly antiseptic. When the Dutch came in and destroyed all the clove trees in the early 17th century, the islanders began to suffer from all kinds of diseases and many of them died. The scent of cloves was believed to have kept the bulk of illnesses at bay. The Dutch eradicated all the clove trees from the islands except for those on Amboina (and a few tiny adjacent islands) in order to ensure the spice's scarcity, thereby also ensuring that the prices would continue to be high.
The isle of Amboina and a few small islands nearby together make up the 'clove garden'. It is part of the Moluccas, which is part of the Australasian island group. It is east of the Celebes and separate from New Guinea. Even today it is still considered the clove center of the world.
Cloves were first mentioned in China around 266 BC, when they were required by courtiers to keep their breath fresh in the presence of the Emperor. They have been used by the Persians, Romans and Greeks as part of their "love" remedies. Pliny often praised it as did Alexander Trallianus, one of the great Roman doctors. In 'Morborun Causae et Curae' Hildegarde of Bingen said clove was effective for migraines, dropsy, headaches and deafness brought on by colds. She stated that clove helps to cool the hot and heat the cold. The Arabs in North Africa have used the spicy pink petals of clove for thousands of years to give a more pleasing taste to their bitter tonics for fever.
Clove helps allay nausea and vomiting, aid digestion, increase energy, stop hiccups, and treat kidney issues and impotence. It helps with poor appetite and flatulence and is considered to be a general tonic for weakness (both mental and physical) and frigidity. Due to its high amount of eugenol (75-80%), it is one of the strongest antiseptic herbs in nature. It is used to prevent viral infections and to eliminate intestinal parasites. Perhaps its most well-known used is as a dental aid. Putting a drop or two of clove oil on a cotton ball for a toothache is a common remedy for tooth pain-and it WORKS! Even sucking on a whole clove will numb your tongue which speaks of its minor anesthetic capabilities. Eugenol is also a common addition to mouthwashes and in some toothpastes. Clove oil diluted with other essential oils is also a useful aid for rheumatic issues. It was used in pomanders in the Middle Ages to prevent plague and keep insects at bay. It also was commonly used in potpourris, soaps, bath salts, perfumes, and to scent tobacco. Now it is used as a part of the Chinese 5 spice blend, in many garam masalas (Indian cuisine), in curry and rice dishes and in sauerkraut. Clove is also used in many drinks and sauces, desserts and confections. This is a very powerful herb and should be used in small increments rather than large ones.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links here for your perusal. Stay well and healthy!
CINNAMON-Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, Cinnamomum Camphora, Cinnamomum Cassia, Cinnamomum Burmannii, Cinnamom Iners, Cinnamomum Loureiri, Cinnamomum Tamala
Parts Used: bark, twigs, branches
Meridians/Organs affected: spleen, liver, urinary, kidneys, lungs, heart, circulatory, immune, digestive
Properties: stimulant, analgesic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, stomachic, aromatic, antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, anti-parasitic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, tonic, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic
Cinnamon is a member of the Laurel family. It is an evergreen tree that can get up to 60 feet tall but is most commonly 20-30 feet in height. The leaves are oval like and shiny and when it blooms it has yellow cluster flowers that are tiny and very aromatic. The whole tree exudes a spicy scent. It is native to the Far East, mainly Sri Lanka and India. It needs a tropical setting in order to thrive.
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man. It is an unusual tree as it has a double bark. The cinnamon comes from the inner bark. It has been known since Biblical times and was often used with aloe and myrrh as a perfume. It also was used as incense in the temples.
Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) is believed to be the oldest seaport and was called 'Tarshish' in the Bible, which was the domain of the Phoenician traders at that time. Cinnamon was a major draw as it was prized by many civilizations at that time (roughly 4000 BC). Sri Lanka (Ceylon) has been the cinnamon capital of the world since Biblical times. In fact, many civilizations fought wars over its control. First came the Portuguese in 1505, then the Dutch in 1658, and then the English in 1796 until 1948 when it was given its own status as a country. While under British rule, the East India Company was formed. This company became very powerful and had seaports all over the world, including Boston. The Americans learned from the British to put cinnamon in their 'winter warmers'-hot drinks made of rum, hot water, butter, spices and cinnamon sticks.
Cinnamon was mentioned in Emperor Shen Nung's treatise in 2700 BC and called 'kuei' and then also in the first compendium of 'Materia Medica' called 'Pen Tsao', where it was referred to as 'ten-chu-kwei'. The Chinese have used cinnamon for millennia as a stomachic, cardiac tonic, tranquilizer and an antidepressant.
Cinnamon is spoken of in the book of Exodus as one of the things Moses was to take with him when he left Egypt (along with myrrh, olive oil and bulrushes). The Egyptians had long used it for any epidemics that were looming and for embalming (along with cedar, juniper, frankincense, balsam and pine). The Arabs took it to the Greeks and Romans. Pliny used it as a perfume for men and many times it was used to scent linen, potpourri and in herb pillows and bags to keep moths away. It is also one of the ingredients of Carmelite water.
When the trees are 6-8 years of age, the bark is removed in long strips and left to dry in the sun. The inner bark then curls up into what we know as cinnamon sticks. The bark is removed every 2-3 years and will produce for almost 200 years. The cassia comes from the leaves and young twigs. Cinnamon essential oil is made from the steam distillation of the bark. It is a very potent oil and shouldn't be administered unless by someone who KNOWS how to use it; it is a hot oil and can cause blistering and burns on the skin if not used correctly.
Cinnamon has a high phenol content (5-10%), which makes it one of THE strongest antivirals and antiseptics in nature. One source said that cinnamon oil places in a culture killed the typhoid strain in less than 30 minutes. It has also been shown to inhibit candida, staph, and E. Coli.
For centuries it has been used for colds, chest congestion, diarrhea, cramps, spasms and as a stimulant for the circulatory system. It enhances the immune system and has shown benefit for cardiovascular and pulmonary illnesses including bronchitis and asthma. It contains components that are expectorant in nature as well as being an antihistamine and anti-carcinogenic. Some of the elements that make up cinnamon have also been found beneficial against HIV.
Cinnamon stimulates the vital functions, raises vitality, relieves abdominal cramping, stops diarrhea, improves digestion, blood circulation and immune function and breaks up congestion. It is the second most widely used warming herb in Chinese medicine. It is used to warm the organs, which helps with coughing, wheezing, lower back pain and a host of other issues. It is used as a tincture for uterine bleeding (given every 15 minutes until it stops) and when cinnamon is simmered in milk and sweetened with honey it is very effective for gas, indigestion, diarrhea and dysentery.
Cinnamon has been a staple in many cuisines throughout the world. It is used a lot in Indian and Arab meat dishes. It is part of many garam masalas and the famous Chinese 5 spice blend along with anise, cloves, star anise and fennel seeds. In the West it is used mostly in desserts and pastries, creams, syrups, and mulled ciders and wines. Try using this herb more often in your kitchen!
As is customary for my posts I am including some links below for your benefit. Use them wisely and stay healthy!