Tuesday, 26 October 2010

(1) Sea Buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides


The sea buckthorns are deciduous shrubs in the genus Hippophae, family Elaeagnaceae, not to be confused with the buckthorns, genus Rhamnus, family Rhamnaceae (1).

There are six species and 12 subspecies native over a wide area of Europe and Asia (1). The common sea buckthorn Hippophae rhamnoides is by far the most widespread of the species in the genus, ranging from the Atlantic coasts to Europe right across to northwestern China (1). In Europe it is largely confined to sea coasts where salt spray off the sea prevents other larger plants from out-competing it; they are tolerant of salt in the air and soil, but demand full sunlight for good growth and do not tolerate shady conditions near larger trees (1).

Seabuckthorn is a dioecious species, meaning that the male and female flowers are on seperate trees (3). Pollination normally occurs by wind (3). It is an incredibly thorny shrub, with pale grey bark and long thorns, of up to 5 inches; normally it grows between two and four metres tall, about the same circumference (3). In China the shrub is used for erosion control, as not only has it a high tolerance for arid and wet soil conditions, fluctuations in temperature and a pH range from 5 to 9, it has an extensive root system which can penetrate to 3 metres and propagates by producing suckers from this root system (3). Seabuckthorn has also been used as an effective shelterbelt on the Canadian prairies; plantations also exist in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (3).

Nutritional and Medicinal Values

According to Russian and Chinese scientists, sea buckthorn contains 190 bio-active components; the oil is the best single source known to man for vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, unsaturated fatty acids, 18 essential amino acids, flavonoids and contains 11 out of 14 essential trace minerals, including calcium, iron, manganese, boron and silicon. (2). This history of sea buckthorn and its great medicinal and nutritional value can be traced back many centuries in Europe and Asia, however it has only recently come to the attention of the North Americans (2). The earliest mention of seabuckthorn was in the Tibetan medical classic "rGyud Bzi" in the eight century. Then in ancient Greece, the berries were fed to horses where it was found to improve their health and impart a gloss to their coat; the latter property explains the Latin name: Hippophae Rhamnoides - "bright shining horse" (2).

The berries have proven to be among the most nutritious fruits known (2). Traditionally used to stimulate digestion, sea buckthrn provides nutritional support for the circulatory system over longer use, due to the presence of flavonoids (2). It is also an excellent source of plant based polyunsaturated fatty acids, for maintaining good health and, normal growth and development; it's seed oil naturally provides a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6; the berry contains more linolenic acid per equal serving size than any other fruit oil; it is also an excellent source of oleic acid, an essential fatty acid known to help reduce blood cholesterol levels (2).

Mark Blumenthal of the American Botanical Council stated:
"If there ever was a herb that could qualify for the next generation of herbal luminaries, I would nominate Seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)."
At last count, seabuckthorn contains over 190 nutritional compounds (3). The fruit, seeds and leaves contain an impressive array of antioxidant compounds (3). The concentrations of vitamin C in the berries reaches 2500mg/100g depending on the species; also a potent source of vitamin E, carotenoids, flavonoids, sterols including beta sitosterol, stanols, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and polar lipids (3). The leaves are an equally rich source of important antioxidants including beta carotene, vitamin E, flavonoids, catechins, elagic acid, ferulic acid, folic acid and significant values of calcium, magnesium and potassium (3). The dried leaves also provide an important source of protein at 24% (3).

In addition to its carotenoid and vitamin E content, the oil from the seabuckthorn berry contains on average 35% of the rare and valuable palmitoleic acid; this rare fatty acid is a component of skin fat and is known to support cell, tissue and wound healing (3). The seed oil is characterised by its high oleic acid content (17%) and its one-to-one ratio of omega 3 (alpha linolenic) and omega 6 (linoleic) at approximately 34% and 31% respectively (3). The relationship of equivalence between the two omegas is critical because they self-check each other in a delicate balance to regulate thousands of metabolic functions through prostaglandin pathways (3).

Until recently, most of the research into the medicinal, nutraceutical and cosmeceutical properties of seabuckthorn has originated in China and Russia where studies have been ongoing since the 1950's (3). Preparations from the fruit, seeds, leaves and bark of seabuckthorn have demonstrated great promise in the treatment of the mucous membranes including ulcers and gastro-intestinal disorders as well as vaginal problems (3)(4). Additional studies have shown that seabuckthorn oils and juice have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system and have a cholesterol lowering activity (3). Certain compounds in the bark and leaves are anti-carcinogenic and anti-tumoregenic (3).

The oils are effective in the treatment of burns, bedsores and such skin conditions as dermatitis, eczema, rosacea, acne, psoriasis and the effets of sun damage (3). The powerful syngeries and antioxidant properties of seabuckthorn fruit, leaves and oils support te immune system, eye health, are anti-senescent, reduce cholesterol, support cardiovascular health, muscle nourishment, strengthens cell walls, regulate endocrine function, regulate blood lipids, and have significant anti-inflammatory activity and pain reduction (3). It is generally accepted in the cosmetic industry that seabuckthorn oils have unique anti-aging properties and stimulate tissue regeneration (3)(4).
The seabuckthorn oil is the most marketable product from the plant; it is traditionally utilised to promote the healing of skin injuries, such as burns, sores, wounds, eczema and help improve conditions of mucous membranes, including ulcers, lesions, erosions (4). Due to the high content of nutrients essential for the metabolism of skin cells, seabuckthorn oil is applied to combat wrinkles, dryness and other symptoms of malnourished or prematurely aging skin (4).
  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea-buckthorn
  2. http://www.starthealthylife.com/page242.htm
  3. http://seabuckthorn.com/VISTA%20SYNERGISTIC%20GIANT.pdf
  4. http://floraleads.com/seabuckthorn/

Sunday, 24 October 2010

(1) Crab Apple - Malus sylvestris


The apple is a genus (Malus) of about 30-35 species of flowering plant in the Rosaceae family. The term "apple" also refers to the fruit of these trees; the term generalises the variety of fruits and particularly refers to the species Malus domestica, the domesticated orchard or table apple (1).
The species Malus sylvestris, commonly known as the "crab apple" or the "European wild apple", is a forest apple, the wild variety; they are generally small and sour, unpalatable fruit (1)(2). This species is native to Europe, from as far south as Spain, Italy and Greece, to as far north as Scandinavia and Russia (2).

Malus sylvestris has been shown, through recent DNA analysis, to contribute to the ancestry of M. domestica, however in older apple cultivars the evidence is lacking slightly (1)(2).

Nutritional and Medicinal Background

The proverb: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" addresses the health benefits of the fruit, and dates back to 19th century Wales, however the benefits of the fruit were known and used long before that time (3).

Apples are a rich source of phytochemicals, and epidemiological stuides have linked the consumption of apples with reduced risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and diabetes (4). In the labratory, apples have been found to have very strong antioxidant activity, inhibit cancer cell proliferation, decrease lipid oxidation, and lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (4). Apples contain a variety of phytochemicals, including quercetin, catechin, phloridzin, epicatechin, procyanidin B2 and chlorogenic acid, all of which are strong antioxidants (4).

Antioxidants are molecules capable of slowing or preventing reactions promoted by oxgen or peroxides (5), in nutritional terms, antioxidants act against the effects of free radicals. A free radical is an atom or group of atoms with at least one unpaired electron - usually oxygen - that aims to stablisie itself by "stealing" an electron from a nearby molecule; "in the body free radicals are high-energy particles that ricochet wildly and damage cells" (6).

The phytochemical composition of apples varies greatly between different varieties of apples, and there are also small changes in phytochemicals during the maturation and ripening of the fruit; the skin and the flesh also show distinct differences; storage has little to no effect on apple phytochemicals, however processing can greatly affect apple phytochemicals (4). Phytochemicals are non-nutrient plant compounds, a significant source of such found in apples are referred to as flavonoids (4).

Flavonoids are a large class of brightly coloured, water soluble plant pigments (7), collectively they are also known as Vitamin P and citrin (8). They are potent antioxidants produced by plants to protect themselves from bacteria, parasites and cell damage (9). In the body they improve immune function by supporting the cells and internal systems, and prevent disease and some cancers (13).

Apple juice concentrate has been found to increase the prodcution of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in mine studies, providing a potential mechanism for the "prevention of the decline in cognitive performance that accompanies dietary and genetic deficiencies and aging". Other studies have shown an "alleviation of oxidative damage and cognitive decline" in mice after the administation of apple juice (3). Apple polyphenol extracts have been highlighted in new research, as a prevention and possible cure for the oxidative damage associated with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other neurodegenerative conditions (10). In one study, apples with skin (where the concentrations of polyphenols are highest) reversed age-related brain function decline in rats (10).

Apples also contain a substance called pectin, many other fruits also contain this compound, however apples contain very high concentrations (11). Pectin is defined as any of a group of white, amorphous, complex carbohydrates that occur in ripe fruits and certain vegetables; raw apples have been found to be the richest source of fruit pectin (12). Protopectin is present in unripe fruits, and is converted to pectin as the fruit ripens; in overripe fruits, the pectin becomes pectic acid (12).

Pectin's primary use is as a treatment for digestive disorders, it is a source of water soluble fibre - which has a gel-forming effect when mixed with water, and is a source of dietary fibre (12). In addition to regulating bowel movements, apple pection can also be helpful for people with colitis, irritable bowel disease, and other digestive disorders (11). Research in Japan has found that apple pectin can decrease the chances of malignant colon disease (12).
Apples also contain malic and tartaric acids that inhibit fermentation in the intestines, along with pectin, which encourages growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, this allows natural and comfortable elimination of the bowels (13).
Study's at the University of California have shown pectin to be useful at reducing LDL cholesterol in the blood, beneficial for subjects that suffer from coronary heart disease or have the disease in their family history (13). Pectin has also been shown to reduce blood sugar, and therefore is an useful food stuff for those suffering from diabetes (13).

Apples have an high internal water content, and are useful for reducing fever through their cooling and moistening properties (13). Steamed apples sweetened with honey are also beneficial for a dry cough and may help to remove mucous from the lungs (13).

Eating raw apples can also prevent against dental caries, as they give the gums a healthy massage and clean the teeth (13).

Nutritionally, unpeeled apples provide their most plentiful nutrients just underneath the skin, they are a good source of ptassium, folic acid, with trace volumes of B vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc (13). Crab apples are listed as having very little vitamin C content (compared weight for weight to modern apples) (14). This measurement may not necessarily apply to all species of wild crab apple, such as M. sylvestris (14).

Medieval Medicinal Uses

In the ancient herbals the crab apple was revered as a medicine for oils, abscesses, splinters and wounds, and for coughs and colds and a host of other ailments ranging from acne to kidney ailments (15). Many dishes made with apples, and apple blossoms; the crab apples, roasted, drenched in honey and dried, were used by the monks and physicians as treatment for diarrhoea, dysentery and gallstones (15). In the spring they gathered the blossoms and perserved them in vinegar for drawing poultices and for beestings and other insect bites (15).

  1. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Apple
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malus_sylvestris
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple#Health_benefits
  4. Boyer, J., Liu, R. H., "Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits", Nutrition Journal (2004), 3(5):1-15
  5. http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=antioxidant
  6. http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=free%20radical
  7. http://www.greenfacts.org/en/diet-nutrition/glossary-diet-nutrition.htm
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flavonoids
  9. http://www.naturally-healthy-eating.com/health-and-nutrition.html
  10. http://www.applepolyphenols.com/studies/alzheimers.htm
  11. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-apple-pectin.htm
  12. http://www.viable-herbal.com/singles/herbs/s904.htm
  13. http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch39.html
  14. http://www.naturalhub.com/natural_food_guide_fruit_common.htm#Apple
  15. Roberts, M., "Edible & medicinal flowers"

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Starting the day with Damson Gin.

Catherine began the day by handing out our assignment, due in two weeks, that can slot into our Herbal Jounrals, we have to pick three out of twelve plants, and discuss their nutritional, medicinial and historical values.
So I'm going to do all twelve on here and then I'll pick my favourite three to hand in for the assignment. Catherine went through all twelve of the plants, mainly fruiting plants, giving brief descriptions of them and their benefits. During this time we also sampled Catherine's damson gin and quince jelly.

Greg then appeared to take our Phytology lecture, he took us through the different terminology and identification for leaves and stems of plants. We then had a stomp around the gardens.
It's more expensive and time-consuming for the plant to make female rather than male "parts" - some plants, like the one below, make one female "part" and surround it by males.

The soft-spiky fruit is the female (picture one), the female surrounded by male flowers (picture two).

Colletia spinosissima

Picture one: small, clustered pale flowers, that smell of magnolia.
Picture two: Fleshy-looking spines, they're hard and dangerous, to protect the plant against predator attack.

Leaf with leaflets, toothed-edge.

The wafer-looking bark is designed for trees in hot climates, the only way they can get water is by collecting dew droplets.

Pre-historic plants, they have thick waxy leaves, and have cyanide components to stop predators from eating them. They adapted for the dinosaurs, and because the adaption was beneficial the plants never redeveloped.

Medlars. Member of the apple family, five star leaf shape on the top of the medlar is the same as the five star leaf shape on the bottom of an apple.

Cultivated variety of the yarrow, which has changed the petal colour from pale cream/white to pale pink.

Each "leaf" is seperate but attached to a whole. Opening up one leaf, they're all folded over each other, protecting the seed (female) inside.
Stomping around the gardens - random photos.

Last photo - Bella Donna - plants tell you what they are designed for, this plant is poisonous, but in Elizabethen times eyedroplets were used to dilate female's pupils to make their eyes look more sparkly - the black droplets look like dilated pupils.

Dissection kits and our dissection time! Pulling apart and studying flowers, roots, leaves and fruits.

In the afternoon, we went wild harvesting to Gullane with Catherine and Heather - our aim was to collect some sea buckthorn, rosehips, hawthorn berries and if possible some elderberries. Gullane is out in East Lothian, on the coast, about a 30-45 minute drive down the A1.

The area is rich in sea buckthorn, originally brought up from the south of England and it has run wild over the area, strange as the east coast is significantly colder than the west, however there seems to be a nice pocket of weather over Gullane which will encourage the sea buckthorns growth.

The berries are high in beta-carotene, hence their orange/yellow colour, the berries have to be frozen to be removed from the stem, otherwise they just burst. They're full of juice and a single hard pip, which you spit out. They've got a bitter citrus taste - sweetened they would be an bareable taste.

Rosehips. Picking them when a ruby red colour, the berries need frosted before they can be used. The rosehip is full of hard seeds, they're an external fruit casing.

Hawthown Berries. Dark red berries, high in anthocyanins, grow in clusters, pastey texture under a waxy skin.
We also saw when we were stomping around:



Blackberry flowers.

Bittersweet - very poisonous berry.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Self Study - Botanical Information: Saxifrage, Sage, Almond & Corn

This essence helps balance the right and left brain so your logical and creative skills come together. It encourages serenity and an ability to weigh up the value of freah ideas, opening you to new thoughts without getting caught up in emotional reaction. It helps you apply your spiritual learnings in everyday life. It supports you in giving balanced emphasis to your soul's needs as well as your need for appreciation and reward in the material world. When you've found this healthy relationship between ego and spirit, you're better able to receive meaningful and authentic abundance.

Sage allows spiritual inspiration to integrate with your personality so you're able to view problems from a more detached viewpoint. It releases physical tension, encouraging you to take life less seriously, allowing for more laughter and a lighter approach. It is a great cleanser of negative psychic energy and awakens your own psychic abilities. Sage can help you identify your deeper spiritual purpose and clarify your resistance to receiving soul wisdom. It stimulates the heart and abdominal chakras.

Almond brings maturity, helping you resolve unconscious fears. It helps you see that all you need is within you. It's wonderful if you're fearful of changing direction. Almond helps you detach from past difficulties and patterns, showing you a fresh way forward. It connects you with your soul teachings. As you shed familiar identities you live less in reaction to your past. You gain self-worth so that you're unaffected by others who may feel threatened by your changing personality. You begin to rely on your intuition and to understand what feelings are true guidance and what is just the promptings of your ego. Almond enables you to step out of emotion and see where your patterns originated. It also gives insight into the gifts you gained during past difficulties.

Corn essence cleanses the emotional body, enabling you to disentangle from emotional issues so you can see the situation more clearly. It also makes it easier for you to accept both your masculine and feminine sides, which helps decision making. If you're having difficulty paying bills this essence helps calm you so you can deal with things sensibly. It's a valuable support when making long-term commitments such as buying property or signing contracts. Corn helps deepen your spiritual connection to the Earth. It's excellent if you're on edge, spacing out or having difficulty concentrating. It helps bad dreams, as it strengthens the astral body and brings emotional balance to the solar plexus chakra.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Self Study - Herbs and Herbal Medicine

Bauer, B A "Herbal therapy: what a clinician needs to know to counsel patients effectively", Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2000), 75(8): 835-841

"The use of herbal medicine in the United States has been increasing at a steady pace over the past decade. Most recent estimates suggest that the US population spends $5 billion per year for herbal supplements alone."
"Interest in herbal medicine has been facilitated by multiple factors, including the perception that pharmaceutical medications are expensive, overprescribed, and often dagnerous. Alternatively, herbal medicine is often perceived as being 'natural' and is therefore considered safe."
"By strict botanical definition, a herb is 'a seed-producing annual, biennial, or perennial that does not develop persistent woody tissue but dies down at the end of a growing season'."
"Another definition for a herb is a 'plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory or aromatic qualities'."
"To avoid semantic confusion, some experts prefer the term botanical, which encompasses any plant-derived product used for a medicinal or health purpose. Others use the term phytomedicine or phytotherapeutics to denote the plant-derived products used for medicinal purposes."

Fugh-Berman, A "Herb-drug interactions", The Lancet (2000), 355(9198):134-138

"Concurrent use of herbs may mimic, magnify, or oppose the effect of drugs. Plausible cases of herb-drug interactions include:
- bleeding when warfarin is combined with ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), garlic (Allium sativum), dong qual (Angelica sinensis), or danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza)
- mild serotonin syndrome in patients who mix St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) with serotonin-reuptake inhibitors
- decreased bioavailability of digoxin, theophylline, cyclosporin, and phenprocoumon when these drugs are combined with St John's wort
- induction of mania in depressed patients who mix antidepressants and Panax ginseng
- exacerbation of extrapyramidal effects with neuroleptic drugs and betel nut (Areca catechu)
- increased risk of hypertension when tricyclic antidepressants are combined with yohimbine (Pausinystalla yohimbe)
- potentiation of oral and topical corticosteroids by liquorice (Glycyrrihiza glabra)
- decreased blood concentrations of prednisolone when taken with the Chinese herbal product xaio chai hu tang (including senna [Cassia senna] and cascara [Rhamnus purshiana]) and soluble fibres (including guar gum and psyllium) can decrease the absorption of drugs.
Many reports of herb-drug interactions are sketchy and lack laboratory analysis of suspect preparations. Health-care practitioners should caution patients against mixing herbs and pharamceutical drugs."

What is the definition of a "herb"?

"A herb is a plant that is valued for flavour, scent, medicinal or other qualities other than its food value."
"Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, or in some cases even spiritual usage. In medicinal or spiritual use any of the parts of the plant might be considered 'herbs', including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resin, root bark, inner bark (cambium), berries and sometimes the pericarp or other portions of the plant"
"Culinary use of the term 'herb' typically distinguishes between herbs, from the leafy green parts of a plant, and spices, from other parts of the plant, including seeds, berries, bark, root and fruit. Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavour rather than substance to food."
"Botanical herbs by definition cannot be woody plants"
"There may be some medicinal effects when [herbs are] consumed in the small levels that typify culinary 'spicing', and some herbs are toxic in larger quantities."
"Herbs have long been used as the basis of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, with usage dating as far back as the first century CE and far before."
"Medicinal use of herbs in Western cultures has its roots in the Hippocratic (Greek) elemental healing system, based on a 4-fold elements healing metaphor."
"Modern pharmaceuticals had their origins in crude herbal medicines, and to this day, many drugs are still extracted as fractionare/isolate compounds from raw herbs and then purified to meet pharmaceutical standards."

American Botanical Council: Terminology


Getting to know the taxonomic classification's of plants...

Second day at RBGE.

Arrived at RBGE at 9am, traffic was bad on the way through, I parked at John Lewis again and stormed down the hill accordingly. I was slightly late but it was no big deal, I fobbed my way in and got to Lecture room 2 quickly. Michael wasn't here today.

There were flowers and plants spread across the front desk, and Catherine chatted to us about the programme for the day. Phytology lecture with Greg and then to the Herbarium to see Kate Eden. She also wanted to fit in a trip to see the graduate show work.

Greg arrived and took us through the taxonomic classifications of plants, the binomial names and why those sorts of classifications were so important. Identification through the tags, and how we were to read the tags in the gardens.

Flowers gather together to form mega-flowers. So, when you're holding a flower, you're actually holding a number of flowers.

Greg then took us on a stomp around the garden. Some trees are female or male, some change their sex throughout their lives, and then some trees are both male and female.

Only cultivated plants form mutations, such as this contortion on a hazel.

Learning to tell the difference between plants is key in the field, to tell the difference between an ash and a rowan - two very similar trees, there is one key difference. The rowan has small wings around the base of the leaf. The leaves on rowan's and ash, are one leaf with several leaflets.

Greg took us through the Heath garden, he is really great to learn from, as he's so excited about all the plants and the gardens. We were the perfect class, "smell this", "smells like plant" - obviously we still have a lot to learn.

After lunch we went to the Herbarium, where Kate Eden showed us how to mount specimens properly, also details about how to make spirit collections and dried boxed specimens.

The Herbarium.

How to mount specimens.

How to make spirit collections.

Boxing dried larger specimens, that aren't suitable for spirit collections or mounting.

At the end of the day we went to see the graduate display, distinction projects from last years grads and innovative herbal journals, pharamcopias and herbariums.

We received our first two assessments. A herbarium, 12 mounted specimens and 1 spirit collection, and our herbal journal - this is my version at the moment but I'll eventually move it into a book form, but for now... blogging its easier!