Monday, October 3, 2016
PUNCTURE VINE –Tribulus Terrestris, Tribulus Pterocarpus, Haskoro Hirsut, Bogdanzi Glabr, Ankara, etc.
Also known as: Protodiscin, Trib, Gokshura, Caltrop, Goat’s Head, Bindii, Bullhead, Cat’s Head, Devil’s Eyelashes, Tackweed, Devil’s Thorn, etc.
Parts used: fruit, leaf, root
Systems/organs affected: cardiovascular, respiratory, urinary, reproductive, blood cholesterol, pancreas, liver, kidneys
Properties: analgesic, aphrodisiac, adaptogenic, antidepressant, anti-hypertensive, cardio-protective, anti-platelet (pterocarpus), anti-diabetic, antispasmodic, anodyne, alterative, abortifacient, stimulant, astringent, diuretic, galactagogue, antiviral, antibacterial, hepato-protective
PUNCTURE VINE is a member of the Zygophyllaceae (caltrop/caper) family. It is a ground loving plant (for the most part) that comes from a taproot. It sends out a number of stems that are multi-branched creating a sort of dense rug several feet long. Amongst these stems and branches you find the ‘fruit’ which is really a needle sharp woody burr that has spines so strong they can puncture bicycle tires with ease (not to mention what they do to one’s feet). The leaves are opposite on the branches and a bit furry. The flowers are yellow with five petals and bloom generally from April to October (depending on the location). The ‘fruit’ begins appearing about a week after the plant starts to bloom. It seems to like deserts, pastures, fields, waste places, roadsides, vacant lots as well as vineyards and orchards. It also does well in poor soil conditions. Grazing animals tend to stay away from this plant as it can be toxic to their intestines, stomach and mouth as well as cause damage to their hooves from walking on it. It is especially bad for sheep when consumed in large amounts. It is believed to be native to India and the Mediterranean but can be found throughout the globe. It is said that livestock brought it to the usa from the Mediterranean (trade deals, etc). There are several species of this plant-their composition depends entirely on the region in which they are found. The burrs are what is used most as medicine but the leaves and roots can be found in formulas as well.
Caltrop-as this herb is sometimes called, stands for a military weapon (an iron ball covered in spikes). An appropriate name for it if you have ever come in contact with this plant.
This plant has a host of uses in several different countries. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) it is used for immune issues, liver and kidney complaints and cardiovascular problems. In Ayurvedic medicine it is used for urinary issues, kidney and bladder complaints, to build strength in all the tissues of the body, for respiratory problems, back pain, sciatica and to help strengthen and/or build the sexual/reproductive organs. Eastern Europeans used it to build muscle strength and sexual potentcy. The Turkish used it for high blood pressure and inflammation.
There have been several studies done on this plant, especially since the Bulgarian weight lifting team attributed its use to their win in the 1970’s. Tribulus terrestris seems to be the most well-known of this species but each variety tends to be known for their unique make-up. There are currently 25 different varieties of tribulus, 12 of which are in the middle east. The most commonly marketed types for muscle building are the Macedonian, Turkish and Bulgarian varieties which contain twice the amount of protodioscin as all the other kinds. Protodioscin is the active steroidal saponin compound responsible for the increase in androgen receptors within the cells. This is what seems to be the trigger for pro-erectile effects (meaning it helps one to achieve and maintain an erection for longer periods). A study was actually done on the aphrodisiac capability of this plant. It was tested against Viagra and was found to be just as effective as the synthetic drug at producing erections and increasing libido. It was also found to improve sperm count and sperm quality as well as increase the sex drive of those individuals who seem diminished in that regard. (It was found to work for women as well).
Another study was done in Iran to judge its applications for pain management. The study was done on mice that were subjected to both thermal and chemical pain inducers. They found that Tribulus terrestris was indeed effective at reducing pain. It worked better than aspirin but not as well as morphine. It was also able to prevent hyperalgesia (the heightened sensitivity to pain) experienced by diabetic rats just as well as Pregabalin (aka Lyrica), which is one of the most prescribed nerve and muscle pain drugs on the market. (Used for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, diabetes, etc.)
In yet another study using stress induced rats it was found that this plant had the ability to act as an antidepressant in high doses, (although that is NOT recommended). Perhaps one of the most interesting studies was in regards to cardiovascular health. Tribulosan, another component found within tribulus, was found to protect cardiac cells from cell death. Similarly it was found to reduce blood pressure (partly due to its diuretic effects), cholesterol and protects the liver better than vitamin E against heavy metal toxicity. This may also be due in part to the fact it contains vitamin C, quercetin and keampferol. The infusion of the fruit was found to assist
in reducing kidney stone formation in vitro and in rats when paired with Boerhaavia Diffusa (pigweed/hogweed).
It has also been found to be beneficial for BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or commonly called Enlarged Prostate), but it was indicated that more studies needed to be done to verify its use in that regard. Some studies also show positive results in its use for breast and kidney cancers. Again, more research needs to be done.
There are some contraindications with this plant. Those on nitroglycerine or angina medications shouldn’t take this. It is also said that those with enlarged prostate or prostate issues in general should avoid this plant as it can increase testicular size. Pregnant and nursing women are advised against using it as are diabetics and those scheduled for surgical procedures as it may cause one’s blood sugar to dip too low. Those on blood pressure medications or lithium drugs should also avoid taking this herb. (I know…..don’t get me started). As always, consult a qualified physician before starting any herbal product or regimen.
As is customary with all of my postings I am including some links herein for your benefit. Use them wisely! Stay strong and healthy!
Thursday, September 29, 2016
OAK –Quercus Alba, Quercus Tinctoria, Quercus Rubra, Quercus Robur, Quercus Cortex, Quercus Petraea, etc.
Also known as:White oak, English oak, Red oak, Black oak, Durmast oak, Common oak, Cups and Ladles, Hu (Chinese), Tanner’s Bark, Jove’s Nuts, Mast Pipes, etc.
Parts used: bark (both inner and outer), leaves, gall (the small knobs on the branches), acorns
Systems/organs affected: spleen, intestines, stomach, skin, venous system, mucous membranes
Properties: astringent, hemostatic, antiseptic, tonic, anthelmintic, diuretic, febrifuge, anti-emetic, anti-venomous, anodyne, emmenogogue, anti-carcinogenic, anti-scrofulous, depurative, antibacterial, demulcent (oil), expectorant, anti-inflammatory
OAK is a member of the Fagaceae (comprises both Beech and Oak trees) family. There are over 200 species located throughout the globe. The white oak is native to England and North America and can get up to 150 feet tall. The trunk of an oak can get up to 8 feet in diameter. White oak has gray bark and leaves that have finger like shaped lobes. Oak leaves vary in shape depending on the variety. They can be ovate to maple leaf shaped. The leave alternate and are a lovely bright shade of green. Oak trees are monoecious which means they produce both male and female flowers. The female flowers are tiny and greenish brown in color. They look similar to acorns but are found by themselves in the leaf axils on the new growth of the tree. The flower is formed inside a cup of sepals that later turn into the actual acorn’s cap. Acorns generally fall from the tree between September and October at which point they can be gathered and processed for storage. (Acorns can be toxic unless leeched first of their tannin content).
The oak has many interesting stories attached to it. ‘Quer’ comes from the Celtic language which means ‘handsome’ and the ‘cuez’ means ‘tree’. The Greeks dedicated it to Zues, the Romans to Jupiter and the Druids referred to it as the Celestial Tree. The Hebrews considered it to be a sacred plant and the Teutonic tribes called it the Tree of Life and believed it to be the sacred tree of Thor. The Irish believed it to be the sacred tree of Dagda (the Father of All) and many ancient tribes believed that man was made from the oak and it was considered the first tree created by God. The acorn was a symbol of immortality and fertility to the Nordic people and was a staple in their diet.
Oak is one of the Bach Flower essences. It is for those that tend towards pigheadedness, a compulsion to be self-sacrificing and obligatory, as well as ambitious and unyielding or uncompromising in nature. It is used to treat obsessiveness, long term stress and obstinancy.
This tree is interesting because it creates a lichen/moss (as do many trees) that has an oil produced from it that can be used medicinally. The Latin for oak moss is Evernia Prunastri (so when you look it up you know what to look for) and it is mainly extracted in France with the usa and Bulgaria being the only other extractors. Oak moss resembles a green ,wet sludge and its oil is rather thick. (You need to warm it each time you use it to get it to come out of the bottle). The oil has plenty of medicinal components just as the tree does. It has been used for soothing the digestive system, nervous system and brain, for sepsis, as an expectorant to rid the body of excess phlegm and to diminish damage to the body by poor habits, the aging process and environmental toxins. (Sounds like we all need this on the shelf these days). It is used in a host of skin care products and cosmetics. The oil pairs well with lavender, patchouli, cypress, neroli and geranium.
Oak has been used medicinally it seems since time began. Native American tribes have used it for diarrhea, dysentery, tumors, bleeding, swelling and fevers. (It is considered to be a quinine substitute). The powdered root was made into a sort of snuff for tuberculosis. (This is the only time I ever found a reference to using the root of the oak tree for something…normally they never would do that as it kills the tree). The bark was decocted and used for sore throats as a gargle, for skin sores and to help rid the body of parasites. The leaves were used topically for varicose veins, to promote wound healing and to stop bleeding. The Europeans used it as an antidote to strychnine (a poisonous substance made from nux vomica and related plants and used occasionally as a stimulant), veratrine (a poisonous substance made from the lily family and used to relieve rheumatism and neuralgia), cadmium, lead, paraquat (an herbicide), etc. It was listed until 1916 in the US Pharmacopoeia (who knows WHY they ever STOPPED listing it or a number of other remedies) and was approved by the German Commission E to be used for diarrhea. It has been used for a host of health complaints such as hemorrhoids, cardiovascular issues, ringworm, menstrual issues, hypertension, vomiting, goiter, kidney and gallstones, high cholesterol, prolapsed uterus and/or anus, boils, chronic mucus discharge, poison ivy, varicose veins, burns, canker sores and oh so much more.
Aside from its medical uses (which are many), oak trees produce acorns which are considered a food by many native tribes. However, the plant is extremely high in tannins so the nuts must go through a leeching process before one can ingest them. There are a number of ways one can accomplish this. Some native tribes would bury the acorns in a swampy area and then dig them up a year later (500 pounds of acorns would be a year supply for a family). The constant flow of water around the acorns would remove the tannins. Sometimes the acorns were shelled and then wrapped in a burlap bag and submerged overnight in a river for the same effect. Some indian tribes would shell the acorns and grind them into meal, wrap the meal in burlap and them place it into a depression tamped into the sandy edge of a river or stream. Hot and cold water would then be poured over it most of the day, washing away the tannins. The meal/mush was then taken and dried to be used as flour or eaten as it was. The flour should be mixed with other flours for baking as too much of it can make one sick. Perhaps the easiest method for leeching the nuts today is by boiling them, although that causes them to lose oil and flavor. Shell them, put them in water and bring them to a boil. Every time the water turns brown change it out with fresh water and start the process again. Do this until the water no longer turns brown (it may take 45 minutes or so). Drain them and dry them for storage, etc. They can be used in soups, bread, grits, muffins, etc.
Dr. Christopher used oak bark for many things. He tells of an 18 month old baby that had thrush so bad you could smell it across the room. He made and oak bark decoction and used an atomizer to spray it into the baby’s mouth (the child’s lips were swollen as was the tongue and it had white sores all over its mouth). He would tip the baby over so the liquid wouldn’t run out of its mouth. He did this several times as the poor kid could only swallow small amounts. Dr. Christopher told the parents to only give him the oak bark decoction and red raspberry leaf tea until he was healed. He called on the family the next day to find the child happy and appearing more normal. The sores in his mouth were healing and his lips and tongue were a nice pink once more. He used it to great affect for varicose veins, gingivitis, hemorrhoids and a number of other maladies. Jethro Kloss said that acorn powder made into tea helps to counter the poison for venomous bites. He also said that the tea from the leaves was excellent for the kidneys, spleen, liver and for goiter.
Oak contains quercin-a substance similar to salicin and vitamin P (bioflavonoids), and has a strong effect on capillaries and veins. (No doubt the reason it works so amazingly well for venous conditions). Oak bark also contains a hefty amount of vital nutrients such as manganese, cobalt, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, sulfur, sodium and vitamin B-12. The wood has been valued for ages to make ships, furniture, houses, churches and more. The bark tanned leather for shoes and saddles and was used for dyes. The wood also supplied charcoal, fuel and hiding spots for birds, insects, kings (Charles II) and outlaws (Robin Hood). It can live to be over 450 years old.
WebMD had no information in regards to interactions with medications. They did say that people with heart conditions, nerve conditions, skin conditions, kidney and/or liver issues or those who have fevers or infections should probably not use oak. (Made me laugh out loud as they always have a long list of people who should avoid the things that might help them). They also say pregnant and nursing women should not use this either as it can stimulate menstruation. Consult a physician before starting any herbal product or regimen.
OCEANSPRAY –Holodiscus Discolor, Holodiscus Boursieri, Holodiscus Microphyllus, Sericotheca Discolor, Spiraea Discolor, Schizonotus Discolor
Also known as: Creambush, Ironwood, Arrow-Wood, Rock Spiraea, Mountain Spray, Hardhack, etc.
Parts used: seeds, flowers, leaves, stems and bark
Systems/organs affected: skin, gastrointestinal, bowel, immune, blood, DNA, respiratory
Properties: antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-diarrhea, antioxidant, cyto-toxic (a substance that has a toxic effect on certain cells), prophylactic, chemo-preventative (an agent that inhibits the development of invasive cancer by either blocking DNA damage or by stopping and/or reversing the progression of malignant cells).
OCEANSPRAY is a member of the Rosaceae family. It is a native of the Pacific Northwest but can now be found from British Columbia to California and as far east as Montana. It is a deciduous plant with arching branches, lobed, ovate leaves and creamy colored blossoms that are found in feathery clusters amongst the branches. The flowers kind of resemble an ocean wave as it hits a rock and sprays the surroundings. It blooms from late May to September (or later in some places) and the blooms turn a fawn color near the end. The flowers have a light sugary scent and produce a HUGE amount of pollen (they are considered an essential part of the environmental spectrum, often one of the first plants to grow in burned or logged areas). It can get up to 20 feet tall (depending on location) and does well on dry, rocky slopes but adapts to many environments. It provides food for moths and butterflies who seem to love this plant. In less productive months it also provides food for larger animals that have problems finding alternative sources of food such as elk, deer and snowshoe rabbits. It provides a home for nesting bushtits and gives cover to grouse, non-game birds, deer, elk and other mammals. The seeds of this plant are extremely costly (roughly $210 per pound) and not
easily propagated (only about 10% ever take). It grows best from branch cuttings or root sprouting.
The oceanspray plant is called the “Romance Herb” of the Northwest claiming that the flowers are as fragile as love. The story goes that a young woman was set to marry a man she did not love and so she ran away on the day of the wedding to the forest. As she ran her wedding veil was torn and left across branches of this plant for her true love to find, only he never comes, leaving her to mourn her lost love through the ages. SIGH…
The first mention of this plant is actually done by Meriwether Lewis while he was staying at Camp Chopunnish in Idaho County, Idaho. He harvested the plant for his scientific collection. However, the Native Americans had been using it for a very long time for a host of things, both medicinal and practical. The Okanagan-Coleville use the powdered bark mixed with Vaseline for burns and/or skin issues. The Lumi used the blossoms for diarrhea, the leaves they used topically in a poultice for sore feet as well as sore lips. The inner bark was used in an infusion as an eyewash. The Sanpoil used the powdered leaves for sores. The Makah used a bark decoction as a tonic for convalescents and athletes. The Navajo used a decoction of the leaves for the flu. The Chehalis and Squaxin used the seeds to purify the blood and help with such things as chicken pox, smallpox and the black measles (also known as hemorrhagic measles). The Oregon settlers would pulverize the bark and leaves to use for scrapes and burns.
The native tribes also used the plant for a host of more practical items. The Makah and Lumi both used it to make duck spears and tongs for roasting. The Saanich used it to make BBQ sticks, utensils and as digging sticks for harvesting camas bulbs. The Okanagan-Colville tribe would use it to make bows, arrows, teepee pins, baby cradle covers and spear heads for fishing. The Salish would use it to make skewers for clams and knitting needles to make clothing. The Karok used it to make sticks for games they would play. The various tribes also used this wood to make bow and drills, harpoons and hooks for fish and other things. The pioneers used it to make pegs to use in the place of nails. The Comox Indians believed that when the plant would bloom it was time to go dig clams (which they used sticks from this plant to do).
The flower essence of this herb is used for those who cover up their grief and go about their business as if everything is okay. These people often will experience eczema, psoriasis or some kind of respiratory disorder. The essence helps them to release this deeply seeded grief so they can move forward and heal.
As recently as 2001 oceanspray was studied and found to have a host of very beneficial components including resveratrol, taraxasterol, beta-sitosterol, etc. All are antioxidants and known to protect and detoxify the system.
While this plant is relatively new to the modern markets, it has been used prolifically by ancient ones. I was unable to find ANY information regarding medication interactions with this herb. Nor was I able to find any formulas using this plant. I do know I have it in my yard in several places so that makes me a VERY happy person! As always, consult a physician before starting any herbal product or regimen.
As is customary with my posts I am including a few links....enjoy! Stay healthy and strong!
FLEABANE – Conyza Bonariensis, Erigeron Canadensis, Inula Dysenterica, Erigeron Acris, Erigeron Philadelphicus, Erigeron Annuus, Erigeron Strigosus
Also known as: Horseweed, Mare’s Tail, Marsh Fleabane, Canadian Fleabane, Butterweed, Colt’s Tail, Hogweed, Common Fleabane, Blue Fleabane, Pride-weed, Scabious, Daisy Fleabane, etc.
Parts used: entire plant
Systems/organs affected: urinary, gastrointestinal, kidneys, female reproductive
Properties: astringent, styptic, slightly tonic, diuretic, diaphoretic, emmenogogue, anti-rheumatic, vermifuge, mild antispasmodic (flowers), antibacterial, antimicrobial, febrifuge, hepato-protective
FLEABANE is a member of the Asteraceae (daisy) family. There are mixed reviews as to the plants origin, some say that it originated in North America while others say it came from Europe or Asia. Wherever it came from it can now be found all over the globe. It is a lovely plant with terminal, flat headed, yellow flowers (you can also find them to be pink, white, lavender, red or blue depending on the variety) that are about an inch across. The stems are kind of furry and can be very leafy. The leaves tend to be arrow or heart shaped near the base of the stem while those near the top are more pointed and narrow. Some varieties also have toothed leaves and are also somewhat fuzzy like the stems. Depending on the variety it can be anywhere from 18 inches to nine feet in height. It is a grayish green color and enjoys a variety of growing areas (again according to the species) from meadows, fields and waste places to ditches, riversides and watery areas. Some even seem to enjoy rocky, dry soil. It blooms from June to September and should be gathered while blooming and dried if not using immediately. It was one of the very first ‘weeds’ to have developed an immunity to glyphosate (tells you how strong this plant is). This plant is also considered to be a sister plant to elecampane which opens up a host of medicinal possibilities.
The Greek term Erigeron comes from ‘eri’ meaning ‘early’ and ‘geron’ meaning ‘old man’. This sounds like a contradiction in terms but really refers to the grayish hairy substance that appears on top of the seed heads.
Several native American tribes used this plant. The Lakotas would make a tea from the plant for children, to aid with sore mouths as well as for adults with urination issues (the lack thereof). The Navajo would use the plant to make lotions for headaches and body pains. The Mesquakies would powder the flowers and make a snuff for head colds or to dry up mucous conditions. The Cherokee would infuse the root for applications in coughs, colds, menstrual issues, bad vision, hemorrhaging, kidney problems, epilepsy and gout. They also used the same concoction to heal a woman’s body from miscarriage. The Ojibwa used it for tuberculosis as well as for hemorrhaging. The Blackfeet used it for diarrhea and dysentery. The Catawba used it to help with cardiovascular issues. The Cheyenne would boil the plant in water and inhale the steam for head colds and respiratory complaints. Other tribes used it for stomach issues, intestinal parasites, rheumatism, lameness and as an insect repellant. They would also boil the plant in sweat lodges and burn it to create a natural insect repellant. The blossoms were mixed with brains, buffalo spleen and gall to be rubbed on hides during tanning. They also used the plant as a dye and for friction fires (the stalk) which is why some tribes referred to it as ‘fire-maker’. The Mexicans used it for toothaches and to make tooth powder. The early settlers would stuff their mattresses with it and hang clusters of it in their homes to drive away fleas (hence the name flea-bane).
Linnaeus was told by the Russian General Keit that his soldiers had been cured of dysentery by this plant when in Persia. The Arabs called this herb ‘Rarajeub’ which roughly translated means ‘Job’s Tears’. They believed Job used it to cure his ulcers.
As with most herbs-this plant also has a mythological beginning. It is associated with Hephaistos-the god of the Forge. He was the son of Hera and was believed to have no father. He built golden android like women to help him in his craft but these women were intelligent and outspoken and nothing like robots. It was believed that a blow from his hammer freed Athena from Zeus (he made weapons for both on his forge as well as other gods such as Hermes and Aphrodite) and because he stood up to Zeus (as did his mother), he was tossed out of Olympus. This is where the story kind of goes south. The legend has it that Hephaistos tried to force himself on Athena but she managed to get away. His ‘fiery’ seed was said to have fallen to the Earth creating a ‘serpent man’ named Erikhthonios-who became the first king of Athens. This seed also created the plant fleabane (so the story goes). In early Greek texts the ‘semen of Hephaistos’ refers to fleabane and as such it is considered to be a fire herb.
Culpeper refers to this plant in his writings as well. He said the English call it ‘mullet’ and that it is a hot and dry plant. He states that,
“The herb being spread under foot and smoked in any place, will drive away venomous creatures and will kill and destroy fleas and gnats. An ointment of the root and leaves
is used with success for the itch.”
For whatever reason, this herb was really never used medicinally in Britain. Although in Miss E.S. Rohde’s ‘Old English Herbals’ stated that binding fleabane to your forehead helps to ‘cure one of the frensie’. (I can only assume she meant seizures). Perhaps what it is most well known for today is for urinary issues and sexually transmitted diseases. Recent studies have found that it does contain some antimicrobial and antibacterial capabilities. It contains a host of terpenoids and creates an oil similar to turpentine. It also contains some powerful antioxidants such as quercetin, thymol and kaempferol. As it appears to have a beneficial effect on the capillaries it has been found to be quite useful for any type of mucous condition. It also has been helpful for uterine hemorrhaging although it seems to work even better when cinnamon is present. It has also been beneficially employed for chronic diarrhea and dysentery, for tympanitis, muscle weakness, flatulent colic, back pain, blood clots, colon issues, cholera, diabetes, cystitis, kidney stones, nosebleeds, bronchitis, sore throat, boils, tonsillitis, tumors, for menstrual issues, as a wash for head lice and for ANY type of urinary disorders.
One particular story was of a man who had been in an accident and had some bruised ribs, a dislocated hip and a badly bruised shoulder. He relates that for several days he had been coughing up blood after the incident. One day while coughing, he made a cup of tea with fleabane, cinnamon and honey. He said the bleeding stopped before he even finished his cup of tea. Another story was of a man who contracted dysentery in the early 1900’s. His mother was told about fleabane by a travelling salesman and she used it to save her son’s life.
Dr. Dupuy, who examined the plant in depth, found the essential oil called Oleum Erigerontis (aka the oil of Erigeron). It is not easy to find but it has been found to be very styptic and astringent. The oil has been used for high blood pressure, neuropathy, hepatitis, hormonal balance in women, as an anti-aging element as well as for all the rest here to for mentioned. The oil is believed to stimulate both the liver and the pancreas and mixes well with cilantro, citrus, spearmint, cardamom and coriander oils.
The leaves of this plant are considered edible although not well liked from my research. When bruised the leaves smell like soap (so one can imagine how they taste…). This plant is used mostly as an infusion, a decoction or a tincture. The oil is very useful if you can obtain it (www.theoilshop.com).
According to WebMD, people who are allergic to the ragweed family should avoid this plant as it may cause an allergic reaction. Some people who are extra sensitive may get contact dermatitis from fleabane. WebMD also states that this plant should be avoided by pregnant and nursing women. As with any herb, consult your physician before starting any herbal product or herbal regimen.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Use them wisely! Stay healthy and strong!
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
WITCH HAZEL: Hamamelis Virginiana, Hamamelis Verralis
Also known as: Winterbloom, Tobacco Wood, Snapping Hazel, Spotted Alder, Striped Elder, Pistachio, Shaping Hazel
Parts Used: bark, twigs, leaves
Systems/Organs affected: skin, venal system, oral, intestinal, female and male reproductive, rectal, eyes, lungs, stomach, nose, kidneys, heart, circulatory
Properties: astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-aging, tonic, sedative, styptic/hemostatic, antifungal, anti-abortive, anodyne
WITCH HAZEL is a member of the Hamamleidaceae family. It is referred to as both a shrub and a tree so take your pick. It has several crooked trunks that branch from one root. These ‘trunks’ can be between 4-6 inches around and up to 3 inches wide. The leaves are ovate, toothed and drop off in the autumn at which time the yellow, reddish to orange flowers appear (the color of flowers depends on the variety). Witch hazel blooms from September to November (depending on the location) and are in clusters at the joints of the branches (they kind of resemble spiders to me). The flowers are followed by black nuts which contain white edible seeds known as hazelnuts or filberts. (Interestingly the British variety doesn’t contain seeds/nuts). The seeds/nuts are violently ejected from the tree when they are ripe (usually happens in summer after the winter blooming) which is why this tree is sometimes referred to as the snapping hazelnut. The bark, leaves and twigs are what is/are harvested for medicinal use. This amazing herb is native to North America-mainly the eastern united states and Canada although it can now be found all over the usa and parts of Japan and China as well. It grows in moist, temperate climates near forested areas, roadsides and places where the soil is typically damp.
The stories and superstitions attached to this plant made me guffaw. There are many cultures with folklore passed down regarding this herb. It was believed by many early cultures to have magical/mystical properties. The Romans believed that Apollo gave Mercury a hazel rod to protect his godly virtue. The Norse believe that Thor carried a hazel rod to protect him from lightning and the Greeks believed that Hermes, the god of transitions and boundaries, carried a hazel rod to make himself more intelligent. The Welsh would make a cap of hazel twigs and leaves and wear it to make all of their wishes come true. The Prussians would make crosses of hazel wood in the spring during the first thunderstorm of the year to ensure that the blessing of rain would continue throughout the year. The Celts believed that the tree was sacred. They felt it was a tree of fertility, creativity and knowledge. The Irish mythological hunter/warrior Fionn MacCumhail (pronounced Finn MacCool) caught a salmon that had consumed hazelnuts and had become full of knowledge. While he was cooking said fish he burned his finger and immediately put it in his mouth to cool it. He believed the contact with the fish made him enlightened. He carried a hazel wood shield that supposedly made him invincible in battle. The Scottish refer to this plant as ‘calltuin’ (calton). A calton is considered to be a portal to the Otherworld. There is a place called Calton Hill between Ediburgh and Leith that was used for magical gatherings. In England the branches were gathered on Palm Sunday and kept in water inside the house to protect the inhabitants from lightning and thunder storms. According to Grimm’s Fairy tales, hazel branches are the best protection from the creepy crawlies of the Earth (snakes, spiders, insects, rodents, etc). The nuts were carried as a good health charm and believed to keep lumbago and rheumatism at bay. The nuts were also believed to enhance fertility and were given to brides on their wedding day. Fishing rods were often made from the wood believing the fish were attracted to the magical power of the wood. This was also the wood used as a divining rod to find water. The nuts were ground into flour for bread and also made into gruel. The nuts are also a well-known brain food and believed to enhance one’s creativity, focus and intelligence. There are A LOT more stories but lets cover the medicinal aspects of the plant before we get too carried away.
Witch Hazel has been used for centuries by Native American tribes as well as the Asian culture. It is highly astringent (due to the tannins) making it an excellent skin remedy to tighten and tone as well as heal. It’s been used by the Indians for treating sores, swelling and infections (both as a topical and oral agent). They used it to alleviate blisters, poison ivy, acne, as a skin wash for wounds and to speed healing. In fact, it works so well for the skin that you can find it in a variety of cosmetics and creams today from shampoo and after shave lotions to deodorant and acne or varicose vein treatments. It has been proven over the years to work very well for these things. What most people don’t know is that it works for a number of internal issues as well. For instance, witch hazel can be used topically or orally. It has been used to stop diarrhea, vomiting, colds, coughing, mucus colitis, internal hemorrhaging and prolapsed organs. It has been used in the place of hemorrhoid cream as it combats itchiness and bacteria and it has been used to great relief as a fomentation or poultice for varicose veins. It has also been used as a decoction for opthalmia, phthisis (infectious bacterial lung disease), menorrhagia and to heal the body from miscarriage or abortion.
Witch hazel contains a number of powerful and beneficial compounds. Some of these are proanthocyanidins, kaempferol, quercetin, choline, gallic acid, saponins and so much more. Witch hazel also contains minute amounts of safrole which is a known carcinogen-however, it is so small that it isn’t considered to be a health hazard.
Studies in Brazil have found that witch hazel combined with cinnamon, german chamomile, and horse chestnut act as anti-solar agents to protect one from too much sun (hence their use in creams used to treat sunburn).
Another study on a witch hazel ointment was done by the University Hospital of Luebeck in Germany. This study was done to test the efficacy of the ointment for children (used for rashes, burns, dry skin, etc) compared to a widely used pharmaceutical brand known as dexapanthenol. It was found to work just as well as the dexapanthenol with a higher tolerability than that brand. This is important to know as many children have sensitive skin.
In another more recent study, the tannins in witch hazel (called Hamamelitannins)were found to induce decay and death in colon cancer cells without negatively affecting healthy cells. (They used the bark for that study. Studies were also conducted in both England and Spain).
There are so many good things about this plant that it is worth investing some time and money to have some trees around. It is generally recognized as safe but WebMD cautions pregnant and nursing women against using it. They also caution against large doses as it may cause liver issues. Oral overdose can cause rashes, trouble breathing, upset stomach, itchiness, dizziness, inflammation and nausea. As always consult with a physician before beginning any herbal product or regimen.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Stay strong and healthy!
ASTRAGALUS ROOT-Astragalus Membranaceus, Astragalus Mongholicus, Astragalus Propinquns, Astragalus Americus, etc.
Also known as: Milk Vetch, Huang Qi, Locoweed, Bei Qi, Ogi, Hwanggi, Yellow Leader
Parts Used: Root
Systems/Organs affected: immune, respiratory, urinary, digestive, adrenals, liver, heart, DNA, pancreas, blood, spleen, kidneys
Properties: bitter, immune stimulant, antiseptic, carminative, diuretic, antispasmodic, prophylactic (used to prevent disease), anti-carcinogenic, adaptogenic, vulnerary, anti-aging, antibacterial, antiviral, general tonic, hypotensive, nervine, depurative (purifying), hepato-protective
ASTRAGALUS ROOT is a member of the Leguminosae family (pea and bean). It has a hairy stem with divided leaves and pea-like, sweet smelling, yellow flowers and seed pods. It grows in a sprawling, vine-like way and can get up to 6 feet tall. The root is woody and yellow and what is used as medicine and a food by many Asian cultures. The root is fibrous and pleasant tasting. It is native to northern China, Japan, Mongolia and North Korea but can be found in many regions of the world today. It grows best in well drained, sandy soil with lots of sun. There are over 2000 varieties of astragalus but the ones used most for medicinal purposes are astragalus membranaceus and astragalus mongholicus.
Once referred to as ‘anklebone’ by the Greeks as the seedpods would rattle and sound much like our modern dice. In ancient times ankle bones WERE used as dice-hence the name. Astragalus is an herb that has been used in Asian cultures for millennia. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses it to regulate metabolic functions, to boost immunity and enhance strength. It has only gained notoriety here in the west in recent years (seems like we are always behind the times, especially when it comes to things natural). In Chinese this herb is called ‘huang qi’ which translated basically means, ‘yellow leader’. This is no doubt due to the root color of the plant. It was discovered upwards of 5000 years ago by an herbalist named Shen Nong, who wrote about it extensively in his journal/writings (‘Shen Nong Pen Tsao Ching’, Circa 100 A.D.). To the Chinese this plant replenishes and strengthens the body’s life force (we refer to it as the immune system).
There have been many studies done on this herb in China (not many here yet but it is growing). Their extensive research has shown that astragalus root could very well play an active role in preventing and/or treating things like cancer, AIDS, aplastic anemia, herpes (all types), lupus, congestive heart failure, kidney issues, respiratory problems and a whole lot more. Astragalus contains cycloastagenols and astragalosides-two very powerful compounds that are credited with lengthening ones lifespan….literally. Can you say reverse aging? In 2009, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to Carol W. Grieder, Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Jack W. Szostak. They discovered an enzyme called telomerase. This enzyme is responsible for rebuilding telomeres. What are telomere’s? Telomere’s are the end caps on your chromosomes (kind of like a cap on a shoelace-put there to keep the string from unraveling). These ‘caps’ protect your chromosomes in much the same way. Each time your cells divide the telomeres on the chromosomes get shorter and shorter which is what causes the aging process. Telomerase is an enzyme that essentially maintains the health of the telomeres. The cycloastragenols and astragalosides found in astragalus activate the production of telomerase in the body which extends the length and life of the telomeres. (In other words, astragalus can make you age in reverse). From this information a concentrated extract called TA-65 was formulated. Early indicators showed that it lengthened telomeres in mice and humans but now that supplement is clouded by lawsuits and claims that it causes cancer. (I much prefer ingesting the plant in its whole form rather than its parts). Aside from that it is also ghastly expensive and only available through licensed practitioners (at least from what I was made to understand through my research). There are other less expensive supplements on the market that now claim to do the same thing but cost less. (Just make sure to do your homework and research products before you purchase them…KNOW what you are buying. From all indicators product reviews of the TA-65 were glowing…).
Astragalus is what is termed as an immune modulator. This means that rather than activating our immune systems against diseases, it instead increases the number and activity of the predatory white blood cells that roam around swallowing up invading organisms.
In studies done using cancer patients it was found that those taking astragalus recovered faster from chemo treatments, had more energy and higher survival rates than those not taking it. This may be because astragalus is thought to stimulate interferon-an essential item for optimal immune function.
In Asian countries this herb is used as an adjunct to cancer treatments.
The University of Houston found that astragalus enhances the body’s own killer cells (T-cells, NK cells) to destroy tumors. It also activates interleukin 2, a protein that regulates the activity of white blood cells (which is why it has been so effective in easing the side effects of chemotherapy). In Japan, the Hiroshima School of Medicine found that astragalus also increases B cells (lymphocytes responsible for antibody production)and helps to identify bacteria, viruses and other invading organisms.
Astragalus has many uses-it is a diuretic and aids in blood vessel dilation (which can help to lower one’s blood pressure), it has been used as a topical agent for psoriasis, eczema, rosacea and to heal wounds. One study found that it is also a thinking herb as it can lower or elevate blood sugar levels depending on one’s need. Some early studies also found that it increased the blood count of anemic individuals. The Chinese combine it with panax ginseng, for general dibility, fatigue, lack of appetite and a host of other things. They combine it with Codonoposis Pilosula (poor man’s ginseng) to strengthen the heart. It reduces inflammation, helps support the metabolism, improves adrenal and gastrointestinal function and strengthens the muscles. It has been paired with Ashwagandha and Cordyceps for increased stamina, concentrated energy flow for athletes.
According to one study done on this magical herb,
“Astragalus injection supplemented with chemotherapy could inhibit the development of tumors, decrease the toxic-adverse effect of chemotherapy, elevate the immune function of organism and improve the quality of life in patients.” (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12592686 ‘Clinical Study on effect of Astragalus in efficacy enhancing and toxicity reducing of chemotherapy in patients of malignant tumor’ 2002, July;22(7):515-17)
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology published a study on astragalus immunostimulatory effects. The article stated that astragalus,
“…showed powerful immune-stimulatory properties…”
and that that is likely the main reason it is so useful for things such as cancer. (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2005 Jan. 4, 96(1-2):71-7)
To the Chinese it supports both the Yin and Yang energies which is why it is considered an energy tonic. It tonifies the spleen and lungs in particular-the two major organs/systems that transform the air we breathe and the food we ingest into energy. The International Journal of Molecular Medicine published a study in 2013 (Jun;31(6):1463-70, Astragalus polysaccharide induces anti-inflammatory effects dependent on AMPK activity in palmitate-treated RAW 264.7 cells) that analyzed astragalus roots anti-inflammatory capabilities. The study stated that, ‘Astragalus polysaccharide effectively ameliorates palmitate-induced pro-inflammatory responses throught AMPK activity.” (AMPK is an enzyme that plays a role in the balance of cellular energy. It is a fat burning enzyme apparently activated by astragalus to work better when used in conjunction with exercise-which is anti-inflammatory…this is undoubtedly the reason it helps to lower cholesterol as well.)
According to yet another Chinese study astragalus is also good for congestive heart failure. They found that it could improve the immune function in CHF patients which would make it an excellent supplement for those with this particular malady. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12800417?dopt=Abstract# )
Astragalus also contains an ingredient called astragaloside IV which contains a saponin called cycloastragenol. This particular component has been found to increase the production of telomerase when taken in concentrated doses. Astragaloside IV has also been found to help with depression and is also currently being studied for its use with HIV and herpes as an antiviral.
Thorne Research (‘Alternative Medicine Review’, 2003, 8(1):7273) said that, ”Research shows that astragalus root stimulates the immune system in many ways. It increases the number of stem cells in bone marrow and lymph tissue and encourages their development into active immune cells.” (ummm….stem cells are like the building cells in the body-I would think EVERYONE would/should want to take this herb….)
Astragalus is also used with ashwagandha to combat adrenal fatigue. (Something that is a chronic problem in this country).
According to Drugs.com and the University of Maryland Medical Center, astragalus can interfere with immune medications such as those used for lupus, rheumatism and MS. It also interferes with corticosteroids and the medication cyclophosphamide (used to reduce chances of rejection by organ transplant recipients). Astragalus also makes it more difficult for the body to get rid of lithium so if one is on lithium drugs they should NOT take astragalus. Drugs.com also mentioned that astragalus displayed some mutagenic activity on the Ames test and that more studies need to be conducted on the herb. (The Ames test is used to test plants, chemicals, etc. on their ability to mutate or cause changes with one’s DNA). There are some toxic varieties of astragalus root out there so stick with astragalus membranaceus and astragalus mongholicus if using this herb. Always consult a physician before using any herbal product or beginning any new regimen.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal. Use them wisely and stay strong and healthy!