Guest Post: 10 Health Benefits Of Tomato Juice

Tomatoes are incredibly good for you

Health experts consider raw tomato juice as a super food because it contains Vitamin A, Vitamin K and B vitamins as well as minerals including iron, phosphorus, and magnesium. Thus, consuming tomato juice daily gives you the opportunity to reap all the health benefits that all those vitamins and minerals have to offer.

  1. Reduces the risks of developing cancer

    Aside from the vitamins and minerals, tomato juice also contains high levels of antioxidants that fight and helps prevent cancer formation. According to studies, the lycopene content of tomato can fight different types of cancer like lung cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and breast cancer.

  2. Promotes cardiovascular and heart health

    Tomato juice contains high amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, and folate that can lower the homocysteine level. Homocysteine is a compound that can damage the blood vessels and eventually causes heart disease. By integrating tomato juice in your diet, the blockages in the blood vessels will be reduced because of its fiber content.

  3. Strengthens the teeth and bones

    The vitamin C and K present in tomato juice help to make the teeth and bones strong just like calcium. Vitamin K is essential for bone health and the protein osteocalcin depends on vitamin K that plays significant role in preserving the calcium inside the bones.

  4. Improves the immune system

    Consuming tomato juice regularly can boost the immune system because of the vitamin A, C and copper content. It makes your body defenses strong, thus helping to prevent diseases from developing.

  5. Aids in weight loss

    Tomatoes are low in sodium but high in fiber. The fiber makes you feel full and satiated, thus avoids binge eating. Likewise, the water content of tomatoes keeps you hydrated; that’s why hunger is prevented. Consuming a glass of tomato juice prior to eating a meal makes you eat less. Therefore, if you want to lose weight you should include tomato juice in your diet.

  6. Eliminates free radicals

    Tomato juice helps to detoxify your body and flush out free radicals because tomato juice contains natural sulfur and chlorine that helps the kidneys and liver to function properly. Likewise, the sulfur protects the two organs from infections. Once the free radicals are removed, you will feel younger and more energetic.

  7. Healthier skin and hair

    The vitamin K present in tomato juice makes the hair stronger, shinier, and healthier. If you have dandruff or itchy scalp, you can apply the tomato juice into your hair and scalp after shampooing just like a conditioner.

    Likewise, studies showed that regular intake of tomato juice improves skin health, reducing acne formation and dark spots. It also protects the skin cells from damage caused by UV rays and other environmental elements. It prevents tanning and discoloration as well as regulating the production of sebum.

  8. Improves digestion and bowel movement

    Tomatoes are rich in fiber that plays important role in proper digestion and bowel movement. It also supports a healthy liver and prevents constipation. People who are experiencing irregular bowel movement should consider drinking tomato juice regularly.

  9. Helps you see better

    Vitamin A is essential for better eye sight. It helps the retinas to process visual information and send them to the brain. There are thousands of international units of vitamin A present in tomatoes to prevent eye diseases like blindness.

  10. Prevents high cholesterol level

    If you want to regulate your cholesterol level, the best thing to do is to consume tomato juice. The fiber content breaks down the bad cholesterol or LDL in your body. Likewise, the Vitamin B3 or niacin stabilizes the cholesterol.

To enjoy the health benefits of tomato juice listed above, you should make your own tomato juice at home rather than buying tomato juice in supermarkets. There’s no need to worry about drinking tomato juice regularly because it does not pose side effects. However, if your uric acid level us high, avoid tomato juice as it can aggravate the condition.

About the author

Mounota Rahman is a dietitian and writing regularly at HealthyNaturalDiet.com. She believes that food has healing powers and eating good food is the best way to lose weight. Mounota would like to share her knowledge and experience with the world. When she is not working, she loves to cook healthy food, watch movies, travel, workout, and read Bengali literature.


Bilberry health benefits: for circulation and eye health

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Bilberries are a wild relative of the blueberry

Bilberries are a wild relative of the blueberry

The bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus syn. V. m. oreophilum, V. oreophilum and V. yatabei), is also known as blaeberry (mainly in Scotland), dwarf bilberry, European blueberry, whinberry or whortleberry. It’s closely related to various blueberries, cranberries and some huckleberries.

Description

Bilberries grow on a deciduous shrub which reaches a height of about 20cm (8in) and a spread of 30cm (1ft), prefering moderate shade and moist soil, though it will tolerate full sun and any well drained light to medium, acid or even very acid soil. As a member of the Ericaceae family it will not tolerate lime. It also won’t tolerate maritime exposure, but strong wind is no bother, in fact it is said that bilberries prefer a bit of a buffeting. It will also survive grazing or even being burnt to the ground!

As well as providing fruit and medicine, leaves and fruit have been used for dying: the leaves for green, and the fruit for blue or black. Fruit juice has also been used as ink. On top of all this, the plant is attractive to wildlife, in particular bees.

The bilberry is native to temperate areas across Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Japan, Mongolia, Europe including the UK, USA, Canada and even Greenland, flowering from April to June and producing small bluish black fruit 5-10mm in diameter with dark red, strongly fragrant flesh in September. Bilberry has red juice that stains hands, teeth and tongues deep blue or purple when eaten. It is sometimes confused with the blueberry, which has white or translucent flesh but is neither as fragrant nor as likely to stain the mouth.

Edible uses

Bilberries have been a traditional wild food, eaten raw or cooked. The raw berries are slightly acidic, but the cooked berries make excellent jam and are also used for pies, cakes, biscuits (cookies), sauces, syrups, candies and for juice. They are also dried and used like currants, and the leaves are sometimes used to make a herbal tea.

Contra-indications and warnings

Due to the high tannin content, it’s best to avoid excessive quantities or regular consumption to avoid digestive problems. Avoid bilberries altogether during pregnancy, or if you are taking a prescribed anticoagulant such as Warfarin.

Medicinal uses

The parts used in medicine are the leaves, bark and fruit.

Standard infusion: 15g dried leaves to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water. Stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours and strain.

Berry infusion: 1 tbsp dried berries to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water. Stand for 15 minutes and strain.

Decoction: Put 15g dried leaves or bark in a ceramic, glass or enamel saucepan, cover with 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) cold water. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 15 minutes, strain.

Dosage: Up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 doses. Do not use for more than 3 weeks at a time.

A berry infusion can be used as a gargle or mouthwash to soothe sore throats and gums.

The decoction is used externally for ulcerated wounds and for mouth and throat ulcers.

Dried bilberries are used as medicine just by eating them. You can also use bilberry powder mixed with water, fruit juice or in a smoothie etc for the same purposes. The recommended daily dose of berries is 20-60g, or 2-5g of powder. They are high in antioxidant anthocyanins and used to treat diarrhea in both adults and children, and as a treatment for high blood pressure, varicose veins, hemorrhoids (piles) and broken capillaries. It also has anti-aging effects on collagen structures, and is very helpful for the eyes, improving night vision, slowing macular degeneration and helping to prevent cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.

Studies have shown that bilberry extract has potential in anti-cancer, circulatory disorders, angina, stroke and atherosclerosis treatments.

Aromatherapy

Bilberry is not used in aromatherapy.

Where to get it

I offer dried wild bilberries in my online shop.

Final Notes

As regular readers will know, if you are growing plants for medicinal use, it’s important to follow organic methods and avoid chemicals so that your remedy isn’t polluted by chemicals which may stop them working or even cause damage in the concentrations usually found in remedies. Bilberries are tough and resistant to many pests and diseases, so there’s no need to use chemicals. To find out more about organic gardening, visit the Gardenzone.


How Antioxidants Affect Your Health

antioxidant-rich

A selection of antioxidant-rich foods. Add some fish and/or shellfish to obtain the extremely important mineral, selenium.

The main antioxidant nutrients are Vitamins A, C and E and selenium. Antioxidants have been shown to have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Taming the free radicals

As you go about your daily life, your body produces free radicals from the oxygen in your bloodstream, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol causes a build up of fat in the arteries (this process is called atherosclerosis). Antioxidants deactivate these free radicals and thus help protect against heart disease as well as some cancers.

beta-carotene on its own has been shown to increase the likelihood of death by lung cancer in smokers.However, the most recent research shows that taking beta-carotene in combination with the other antioxidants is helpful, reducing lung cancer risk by 16% (Wright ME, Mayne ST, et al. Am J Epidemiol 2004 Jul 1;160(1):68-76.)>

Fighting the Big C

Studies have shown that diets high in antioxidants (eg. the Mediterranean diet with its high proportion of fruit and vegetables) have a protective effect against many forms of cancer, as well as heart disease. However, in spite of extensive studies, there is some dispute whether antioxidant supplements have the same results.

It’s possible that to work effectively, antioxidants require other co-factors, present naturally in the foods that contain them, and that this is why antioxidant-rich diets may work better in some cases than supplements. In any event, it seems that the standard advice about eating a balanced diet that contains a high proportion of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts holds true here as well.

Rare exception

The one exception (about which there is little dispute concerning supplementation) is Selenium, an essential trace mineral which is an important part of the antioxidant enzymes that protect cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. Several studies show that people with low intake levels of selenium have an increased risk of heart complaints and cancer.

Unfortunately, Selenium is quite difficult to get from most food, certainly in the UK, as this is mostly produced in areas with very low soil concentrations. You can obtain useful quantities from fish, shellfish and some brazil nuts, but if you don’t eat these foods very often, a supplement may be a good idea, especially if you are in one of the groups at risk.

I offer Selenium ACE tablets in my online shop.


Frankincense health benefits: ancient antibacterial and antifungal

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Frankincense is the resin collected from several Boswellia species

Frankincense is the resin collected from several Boswellia species

Frankincense, Boswellia sacra syn. B. carteri and  undulato crenata, is also called the olibanum tree and ru xiang shu. It is a tender tree, usually with multiple stems, which reaches a height of 8m (25′). It requires full sun and prefers an alkaline soil.

The resin was one of the gifts given to the infant Jesus Christ by the wandering magi, and it has traditionally been used in (high) churches and other places of worship as a fumigant. It is still used in religious rituals by Parsees. It was also one of the ingredients used in the Temple incense described in the Bible. It is also used in perfumery and to contribute fragrance to pot pourri.

Frankincense is a tree with an ancient history going back into the mists of time. This is appropriate, as it grows naturally in “fog oases” in desert areas like Oman, Yemen and other parts of the Arabian peninsula, though it is cultivated in other parts. It will not tolerate frost, so can only be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11 or warmer places. However, it can be grown in a container in a frost-free conservatory/sun room, and given some air in the warmer months of the year.

The resin (which is also called frankincense) is collected by making 5cm (2″) slashes in the bark (being careful not to ring the tree) and scraping off what accumulates after it has hardened for about two weeks, then storing for a further 12 weeks before use. The lighter the color, the better quality it is.

It is not the most attractive plant, but does have peeling bark a bit like the paper birch, and would make a good conversation piece, especially at Christmas time.

Frankincense is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer.

Powdered frankincense can be made into a paste and used to treat wounds.

In Arab communities, frankincense resin is chewed (like chewing gum) for gastrointestinal complaints, for mouth and gum infections and to strengthen teeth and gums. NB: Do not swallow, as this may lead to stomach problems.

All trees prefer organic treatment, and if you’re planning on using any part of a tree for medicinal purposes (or even just to eat) it’s definitely preferable to cultivate with organic-approved materials, rather than risking potentially toxic chemicals from affecting the resulting crop.

Aromatherapy

NB: Frankincense essential oil should not be used during pregnancy (except during labor) or for children under 6 years. It is antiseptic and is used for respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis and other coughs and colds, for mature, dry or wrinkled skin and to remove scars. It is also used as a uterine tonic, for heavy periods, to induce menstruation (emmenagogue) and as a birthing aid.

As with all essential oils, frankincense essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Sacred Herbs for Healing”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to get your own copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please go to Sacred Herbs for Healing.


Teasel health benefits: for congested liver and jaundice

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Not only beautiful, but great winter bird food

Not only beautiful, but great winter bird food

The teasel, Dipsacus fullonum, is also known as fuller’s teasel or Venuscup teasle. It’s not a plant one would normally associate with herbal medicine, but is surprisingly useful. It is not related to thoroughwort (also sometimes called teasel).

Normally, you would expect to see teasel used as an ornamental and everlasting. Not only beautiful, but great winter bird food and attractive to butterflies, teasel is a hardy biennial – which means that most of the time, it’ll be 2 years from sowing before you get those statuesque seed heads. If you want them every year, you’ll need to sow 2 years in a row, and hope that the birds carry the work on for you from then on.

Teasel reaches a height of 2m (6′) and a spread of 80cm (28″). It prefers full sun and deep rich moist soil, preferably clay. May become invasive in open ground. Sow in Spring in containers for best results.

Pick leaves as required and use fresh, or dry for later use. Lift roots in early Fall and dry for later use.

Make a standard infusion using i. 30g (1 ounce) fresh or 15g dried root or ii. 3 handfuls fresh or 30g dried leaves to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) water. Dosage is up to 1 cup a day.

It has to be said that teasel is rarely used nowadays. Traditionally it was used to treat cancer and conditions such as warts.

An infusion of leaves can be used externally to treat acne.

The root induces sweating and is diuretic. A root infusion strengthens the stomach, improves appetite and is used to treat congested liver and jaundice.

An ointment made from the roots can be used to treat warts, swollen sebacious glands and similar skin conditions.

A homeopathic remedy is used to treat skin diseases.

The hook spined teasel was once used for napping cloth. It can also be used to make a blue dye (a substitute for indigo) from the whole dried plant, and a yellow dye using alum as mordant.

Aromatherapy

Not used.

If you’re growing teasel to add to your remedy arsenal, then it’s important to use organic methods to prevent its medicinal components being altered or obliterated by the presence of foreign chemicals. Growing organic teasel on the Gardenzone.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Healing Herbs for the Ornamental Garden”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to buy a copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please go to Healing Herbs for the Ornamental Garden or search for it by putting B00A9HJ3QQ in your local Amazon’s search box.


Sacred Lotus health benefits: for men’s problems and women’s problems

The sacred lotus of Buddhists and Hindus

The sacred lotus of Buddhists and Hindus

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera (syn. N. caspica, N. komarovii, N. nelumbo, N. speciosum and Nymphaea nelumbo), is also known as East Indian lotus, lian, lotus, lotusroot, oriental lotus and sacred water lotus. It is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists. The Buddhist mantra “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus” (Om Mani Padme Hum) has many meanings, but the lotus referred to is this one.

At the risk of sounding irreverent, this plant is really just a “posh” waterlily, and requires similar growing conditions, though warmer. It will survive in water from 30cm (1′) up to 2.5m (8′) deep, but in cooler climates it should be grown in water at the shallower end of this range, as it will warm up quicker. Requires a five month growing season and prefers a water temperature of 23-27ºC. Plant them about 1m (3′) each way. In areas with frosty Winters, plant in aquatic containers and move the roots into a frost-free place after the leaves have died down in Fall; store in a tub of water or in moist sand. On the other hand, in favorable conditions where they stay out all year they can become invasive.

Lift roots in Fall or Winter and dry for later use . Collect other parts as required when they become available.

To make a decoction add 30g fresh/15g dried root or other parts to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) cold water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the water is reduced by half. Strain off and discard the source material. You can take up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, which may be split into 3 doses.

It’s not at all surprising that this plant was considered sacred, as there are just so many uses. It must truly have seemed like a gift from the gods.

All parts are edible. The roots can be pickled, stored in syrup or cooked Chinese-style giving a result like water chestnut. They are also a source of starch. Young leaves can be used in salad, cooked as a vegetable or used in the same way as vine leaves are used for dolmades. Stems can also be peeled and cooked. The seeds contain a bitter embryo (which can be removed before eating), and are pretty nutritious, containing 16% protein and only 3% fat. They can be popped like corn, ground for making bread, eaten raw or cooked, or roasted to use as a coffee substitute. The petals are used as garnish and floated in soups. Finally, the stamens are used as a flavoring additive for tea.

Attractive to bees and has been used for honey production. Also, of course, it makes a very ornamental water plant.

Every little piece of this plant has been used either in medicine or as food. Because there are so many uses, I’ve broken it down to a quick reference –

leaf juice: diarrhea;
decoction of leaves with liquorice (Glycyrrhiza): sunstroke;
decoction of flowers: premature ejaculation;
decoction of floral receptacle: abdominal cramps;
decoction of fruit: agitation, fever, heart problems;
seed: lowers cholesterol levels, digestive aid, bloody discharges;
flowers: heart tonic;
flower stalk: bleeding gastric ulcers, post-partum hemorrhage, heavy periods;
stamens: chronic diarrhea, premature ejaculation, enteritis, hemolysis, insomnia, leukorrhea, palpitations, spermatorrhea, urinary frequency and uterine bleeding;
plumule and radicle: hypertension (high blood pressure), insomnia and restlessness;
root: general tonic;
root starch: diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhage, heavy periods and nosebleed;
root starch paste: externally for tinea (ringworm) and other skin conditions;
root nodes: blood in the urine, hemoptysis, nosebleed and uterine bleeding.

According to research, the plant also contains anticancer compounds.

Aromatherapy

NB: Lotus essential oil is not suitable for use during pregnancy. It must be diluted before use. It is used for cholera, epilepsy, fever, fungal infections, jaundice, kidney and bladder complaints, skin conditions and as an aphrodisiac.

As with all essential oils, lotus essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Final Notes

It’s always important to grow medicinal plants organically, to avoid the active constituents being masked or destroyed by foreign chemicals. With water plants like the lotus, this is even more important. For example, do not use chemicals to kill algae – use barley straw instead.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Sacred Herbs for Healing”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to buy a copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please go to Sacred Herbs for Healing or search for it by putting B00ASMJFR4 in your local Amazon’s search box.


Mistletoe health benefits: for panic attacks (or kissing under)

European mistletoe is a welcome sight to most, an infestation to others

European mistletoe is a welcome sight to most, an infestation to others

The mistletoe, or to be precise the European mistletoe (Viscum album) is also known as European white-berry mistletoe, common mistletoe, all-heal and masslin. It is not related to other plants called allheal. It is also not closely related to American mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) or dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum), but all three of them are in the same family.

Mistletoe is sacred to modern Pagans. It is also believed to have been sacred to the Druids, though this may be a Victorian invention. It is hung up at Christmas as a plant to kiss under, though there is no biblical text relating to this; a berry is picked for each kiss.

Mistletoe is an evergreen hemi-parasitic* shrub. 1m (3′) x 1m (3′), It likes to be in full sun or semi-shade and usually grows on trees 20 years old or more, especially apple, hawthorn, lime, oak and poplar. Mistletoe is sacred to modern Pagans. It is also believed to have been sacred to the Druids, though this may be a Victorian invention. It is hung up at Christmas as a plant to kiss under, though there is no biblical text relating to this; a berry is picked for each kiss.
*  partly parasitic, but gets some of its nutrients from other sources apart from the host

Propagation is hit and miss. Obtain ripe berries in late Fall or early Winter, make wounds in the bark on the underside of a strong branch of the tree/s you wish to use and squash the berries into them.

Harvest leaves and young twigs just before the berries form and dry for later use.

Because of the potential side effects, this plant should only be used internally under the guidance of a herbal practitioner.

Do not eat berries or leaves. If 6-20 berries or 4-5 leaves of this plant are eaten, a visit to your local emergency room (casualty) is advised. Possible symptoms of overdose, which appear within 6 hours, are nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure and dizziness. American mistletoe is more toxic; even a single berry or leaf may cause serious symptoms. Ingestion of American mistletoe may cause ataxia or seizure in young children.

NB: Mistletoe is not suitable for use by pregnant or breast-feeding women or children under 12 years. Do not exceed the dose recommended by your practitioner.

Mistletoe is anti-cancer, antispasmodic, diuretic, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), nervine, stimulant and a vasodilator. It is used for anxiety, high blood pressure, cancer of the stomach, lungs and ovaries, convulsions and epilepsy, headaches, internal hemorrhage, palpitations, panic attacks, to improve concentration and promote sleep.

Externally, it is used to treat arthritis, chilblains, rheumatism, leg ulcers and varicose veins.

Approved in Germany for rheumatism.

This is the point where I normally advise you to grow your herbs organically, and this is still the best advice I can give you. However, in this case, there’s not a lot you can do for mistletoe apart from growing the tree it’s sitting on using organic methods. On no account spray mistletoe with any pesticide! Information on organic methods can be found on the Gardenzone.

Aromatherapy
A product called mistletoe essential oil is on sale. However, it does not contain any mistletoe but is in fact a blend of essential oils of anise, coriander, fennel, clove, oregano, peppermint and wormwood.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Sacred Herbs for Healing”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to buy a copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please go to Sacred Herbs for Healing or search for it by putting B00ASMJFR4 in your local Amazon’s search box.


Apple health benefits: they really do keep the doctor at bay

Apples come in many varieties

Apples come in many varieties

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

I’ve decided to start a series of fruits that are useful medicinally.

Today’s fruit is the apple, Malus domestica, which is a cultivated hybrid. If you find a true apple growing wild, it’s almost certainly an escape.

There are many other Malus species, but the star of them all from a medicinal (and edibility) viewpoint is the apple.

Apples grow on trees, as everybody knows, but these don’t have to be enormous. There are a large number of rootstocks on which apples are grafted to control their eventual size, so if you want to grow a small standard tree, choose one of the dwarfing rootstocks, such as M27 or M26. This will restrict the height to 1-2m or 2-3m respectively. A larger tree can be grown on MM106 or M25. The latter will produce a large vigorous tree which may be difficult to crop.

If you only have a small area available, you can also buy trees prepared for growing in containers or alternatively use a cordon, which is a single stem with no lateral branches (small branches grow each year, produce a crop and are then removed). The yield from a cordon or a containerized plant is less than you would expect from a larger tree, but most people have difficulty coping with a large crop of apples in any case. Using cordons is a great way to grow a large variety of top fruit in a small garden. You can even grow them as a “stepover” or to provide a fence-like division between one part of the garden and another.

Make sure you talk to your supplier to ensure that you have a pollinator nearby – most apples are not self-fertile, so if there isn’t another suitable tree nearby to act as “dad”, you won’t get any apples at all. A crabapple will generally do for this, but it has to be in flower around the same time as the variety you are growing, or it will be no use at all. Some trees are so picky they need two pollinators! You may wish to grow 2 or 3 different compatible apples to ensure a good crop.

Crabapples are not useful medicinally

Crabapples are not useful medicinally

Crabapples or crab apples (left), which come in many types, are a different species. Malus pumila nervosa is the true crabapple, but there are various others including Malus angustifolia, M. baccata, M. coronaria, M. floribunda, M. fusca and M. sylvestris. Unfortunately, the crabapple has no documented medicinal purposes, though I’m sure some of your grandparents will testify to its efficacy as a laxative! It is one of the nine sacred herbs of Wicca.

Apple trees are deciduous and are not fussy as to soil, so long as it is moist. They will grow happily in the open or in light woodland. If growing in open ground, keep a circle at least 1 meter in diameter around the trunk clear of grass and weeds for best results.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a well known proverb which carries a lot of truth. A medium sized apple eaten with the skin gives 17% of required fiber, 14% vitamin C, 2% vitamin A and 1% each of calcium and iron (based on the US RDA for an adult on a 2,000 calorie diet).

Apple juice is a popular drink, but should not be taken to excess, as even unsweetened types are high in sugar (most apple juice also contains added sugar), which may lead to weight gain. A whole apple contains useful fiber, which is mostly removed in the juicing process.

Apple wine which is at least 2 years old was recommended as a cure-all by Galen in the second century. I’m not sure what the difference between apple wine and cider is, if any, but either way I advise not drinking it in large quantities. Apple vinegar has a similar reputation in modern times, especially for weight loss.

Bark infusion: Put 30g (1 ounce) of chopped bark or root bark into a warmed pot, pour over 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water, allow to infuse for 20 minutes, then strain off bark and discard. Dosage is one third of a cup up to 3 times a day.

Apple peel infusion: Use 1-2 tsp dried apple peel to each 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) boiling water and prepare in the same way as a bark infusion. Drink a cup as required.

An infusion of bark (especially root bark) can be used as a vermifuge for intestinal parasites, to cool abnormal body heat, induce sleep and to treat nauseous fevers.

The leaves contain phloretin, an antibacterial substance which inhibits the growth of some gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, even at very low concentrations.

The seeds contain hydrogen cyanide which in small quantities stimulates respiration and improves digestion, and may be useful in the treatment of cancer. Large quantities of hydrogen cyanide can cause respiratory failure and death.

The fruit is both astringent (reduces any bodily secretion) and laxative. Ripe raw apples are very easy to digest and combat stomach acidity. Eating an apple raw cleans both the teeth and the gums. Grated unripe apple on a fasting stomach is a good treatment for diarrhea.

Dried apple peel can be used in a standard infusion to treat rheumatic conditions.

The recommended dose of cider vinegar for weight loss and as a general tonic is 2 teaspoons cider vinegar to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) cold water, sipped slowly throughout the day. Earth Clinic also recommend it for treating acid reflux, cough, bronchitis and sore throat using 2 teaspoons to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) 3 times a day. Both of these taste pretty sour, so unless you’re using it for weight loss, I recommend stirring in a teaspoon or 2 of honey to take the edge off.

I offer organic apple cider vinegar and apple cider vinegar 150mg Tablets in my online shop.

This varied list of applications puts apple among the most useful home remedies. If you can spare a small space for a couple of containerized plants or cordons, it’s definitely worth it.

Apple is not used in aromatherapy, though the fruit and the blossom are both often used in perfumery.

As I always say, try to avoid using chemicals on any plant intended for medicinal use, so as to avoid them ending up in your remedy. Some chemicals may also interfere with the remedy’s properties. For more information on growing organic apples visit the Gardenzone.


Vanilla health benefits: anti-cancer and antioxidant

Vanilla is an orchid, and also a vine

Vanilla is an orchid, and also a vine

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Vanilla is extracted from the beans produced by the orchid Vanilla planifolia (syn. Myrobroma fragrans, Vanilla fragrans). This is an unusual plant, because as well as being an orchid, it’s also a vine! The vanilla orchid also has other names, including Bourbon vanilla, flat-leaved vanilla, Tahitian vanilla and West Indian vanilla (the latter name is shared with Vanilla pompona). It requires a minimum temperature of 10ºC (50ºF) day and night to survive, so in temperate regions must be grown in a greenhouse or in a pot indoors for at least part of the year. Although it does require support for the vine, it can be grown successfully in a large pot in a similar way to the Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), see picture below.

Vanilla can be grown successfully in a pot with supportIt will take up to 5 years for the first flowers to be produced, and if you want to get any crop, you will have to perform the actions of a Mexican bee and pollinate the flowers (which only open for a single day) by transferring the pollen grains from the male part of the flower onto the female part. You can use a good quality artist’s paintbrush to do this. If you manage to get your plant to produce some beans, you need to harvest them when they are light yellow and about 12-20cm (5-8″) long, blanch them briefly in boiling water, dry them and put them in a sunny position, turning now and then until they go dark brown and wrinkly.

Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices, almost as expensive as saffron. For this reason, the vanilla you buy as essence may well be fake, so is not suitable for use as a remedy, although you can buy genuine vanilla pods from upmarket grocers and some of the larger supermarkets. This is probably a more practical way of obtaining supplies for use in remedies. You can also get some benefit by using genuine vanilla in recipes. The old way to make custard, for example, involved boiling a vanilla pod in the milk to flavor it (you could also use vanilla sugar, made by storing your vanilla pods in the sugar for several weeks). Vanilla pods were often used over and over again, simply rinsing, drying and storing to be used again next time. A vanilla pod will keep its flavor for at least 3 years.

Vanilla should be avoided by anyone suffering from Gilbert’s syndrome (chronic fatigue syndrome/CFS, chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome/CFIDS or myalgic encephalomyelitis/ME).

Traditionally, vanilla was used to treat insomnia and stomach ulcers and as an aphrodisiac. Vanillin, the active ingredient in vanilla, has been shown to prevent DNA mutations that lead to cancer and inhibit growth of cancer cells. A study in mice showed that it prevents metastasis of breast cancer cells.

Vanillin is antioxidant and research shows that it may reduce the occurrence of damage in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; studies are still ongoing. If you have 100% natural vanilla essence, a few drops in soda or milk will calm an upset stomach. Another way, if you only have the pods, is to warm some milk with a vanilla pod in it and drink. Rinse off, dry and return the vanilla pod to its storage jar after use.

If you’re growing it yourself, remember to follow organic methods to avoid contaminating the vanilla, although because it’s an orchid, you probably wouldn’t get it to grow any other way anyway.

Aromatherapy
The essential oil is used in aromatherapy for anxiety, depression, insomnia and also as an aphrodisiac.

As with all essential oils, vanilla essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Great Mullein health benefits: for respiratory complaints, frostbite and chilblains

The name great mullein is not undeserved

The name great mullein is not undeserved

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Great mullein, Verbascum thapsus, has a huge number of other names including Aaron’s rod, Adam’s flannel, beggar’s blanket, beggar’s stalk, blanket herb, bullock’s lungwort, candlewick plant, clot, clown’s lungwort, common mullein, cowboy toilet paper, Cuddy’s lungs, duffle, feltwort, flannel mullein, flannel plant, fluffweed, golden rod, hag’s taper, hare’s beard, Jacob’s staff, Jupiter’s staff, molene, Moses’ blanket, mullein, mullein dock, old man’s flannel, Our Lady’s flannel, Peter’s staff, rag paper, shepherd’s clubs, shepherd’s staff, torches, velvet dock, velvet plant, white mullein, wild ice leaf, woollen and woolly mullin. It’s not related to lungwort, nor to the plant normally called goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea, which incidentally is another plant also known as Aaron’s rod) nor rose root (also sometimes called Aaron’s rod), all of which belong to different botanical families.

Great mullein in the first year

Great mullein in the first year

Great mullein is a biennial which reaches a height of 2m (6′) or more in the second year, thoroughly deserving the name, though in the first year it has a totally different form and apparently different leaves, as they are thickly coated in fuzz, see picture left, rather like lamb’s ears (also unrelated). This must be where all the names about blankets, flannel, velvet and wool come from, as the full grown plant gives very little clue to this (although the hairs are still present, they are not so obvious). In fact, it’s quite a brute, isn’t it?

Given its appearance, this is not a plant anyone is likely to grow as an ornamental, despite the fact that the flowers (as well as the size) are similar to hollyhocks (unrelated, lol). I guess since it is so big it could be tucked at the back of a border with something in front to conceal the unattractive foliage, though this will leave the first year form (which is a lot prettier) hidden. This may not work in any case, because it is insistent on living in full sun, and will not thrive in shady areas. Perhaps it is best relegated to the allotment or bought dried from your friendly local herbalist.

Great mullein is found growing wild all over the temperate world, having been introduced to the Americas, Australia and New Zealand from its native Europe, Africa and Asia. Although unlikely to become invasive except in areas with little competition or after forest fires, it is listed as a noxious weed in Colorado, Hawaii and Victoria, Australia. Because each plant produces a huge number of seeds which can lie dormant for up to 100 years, it is very difficult to eradicate completely.

If you decide to grow it, you will find that it is completely unconcerned about soil type or acidity and will thrive in moist or dry conditions, though it does prefer chalky, well drained soil. As already mentioned it needs full sun. It will not tolerate maritime winds (despite the fact that it is often found growing in coastal areas). Sow in a cold frame from late Spring to early Summer, barely covering the seed. Pot on as required until late Summer, when they can be planted out in their final positions.

The leaves contain the natural insecticide, rotenone. Do not grow great mullein close to ponds which contain fish, or allow the leaves or seeds to fall into the water. Both leaves and seeds contain compounds that cause breathing problems and consequent death in fish.

The name torches comes from the old custom of dipping dried stems into wax or suet to make torches. Dried leaves were also used as candle wicks and can be used as tinder. Leaves were put into shoes to provide insulation.

Flowers produce a yellow dye without mordant, green with dilute sulphuric acid, brown with alkalis. An infusion of the flowers with caustic soda was used by Romans to dye their hair blonde.

Due to hormonal effects, great mullein is not suitable for use during pregnancy or by anyone trying for a baby.

The parts used in medicine are the juice, leaves, flowers and roots. The seeds are not used, as they are toxic to humans as well as fish. If using great mullein juice, leaves or flowers internally in liquid form, it must be carefully strained through a fine filter to remove the irritating hairs (a “quick and dirty” method would be to put a layer of clean kitchen towel in a tea strainer and pour it through that).

Great mullein has been used in medicine for at least 2,000 years, when it was recommended by Dioscorides for chest complaints. After its introduction into the US, native Americans used it to make syrup for treating croup (an acute inflammatory condition of the airways often characterized by a barking cough). It was once listed as a medicine in the German Commission E document to treat catarrh, and in the National Formularies of the US and UK. Even today, its main use is for coughs and other respiratory disorders. The dried leaves were once smoked to relieve asthma, croup, TB cough and spasmodic coughs in general.

Properties given for this herb are: analgesic, anodyne, anti-cancer, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, bactericide, cardio-depressant, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, estrogenic, expectorant, fungicide, hypnotic, narcotic, nervine, odontalgic, sedative and vulnerary. This list refers to the whole plant. Different parts of the plant have different properties.

To make a standard infusion, use 15g (a half ounce) of fresh or 30g (1 oz) of dried leaves to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water. Allow to infuse for a minimum of 15 minutes (up to 4 hours), then strain carefully as described previously before use. The flowers are also sometimes used in the same way. The dose is a third of a cup, taken up to 3 times a day.

A decoction of roots is made by putting 15g (a half ounce) of fresh or 30g (1 oz) of dried chopped root in a small saucepan, adding 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) cold water and bringing to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and continue heating until the liquid is reduced by half, then strain off the herb and discard.

To make an oil maceration of mullein flowers, fill a bottle with as many flowers as will fit, cover with olive oil and seal, then shake thoroughly. Place on a sunny windowsill and shake thoroughly once a day for 3 weeks, then strain off and discard the flowers using a fine filter to remove all hairs, as described above. Reseal and store in a cool place out of direct sunlight.

To make a poultice, mix fresh or dried chopped leaves with very hot water and mash up, then wrap in a piece of gauze and wring out as much of the liquid as possible. Apply to the area to be treated, refreshing in the hot water when it cools.

The standard infusion reduces mucus production and is expectorant. It is taken internally in the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints, including bronchitis, mild catarrh and sore throat. Its demulcent and astringent properties make it a good treatment for colic, diarrhea and hemorrhoids (if blood was found in the diarrhea, a decoction of leaves boiled in milk for 10 minutes was traditionally used instead, but my advice is to visit the doctor as this can be an early warning sign of more serious illness). It can also be used as a treatment for internal parasites (vulnerary).

An infusion made using 1 teaspoonful per cup of a mixture containing 2 parts of great mullein to 1 part each of coltsfoot and uva ursi by volume, taken twice a day, is recommended for lung repair by  Dr Elise Wright of AllExperts.com. According to eHow Health, the expulsion of a black tar-like substance after several days of use is an indication of this mixture’s effectiveness.

A decoction of the roots is analgesic and anti-spasmodic and can be used to treat toothache, cramps and convulsions. It can also be used to treat migraine.

Grind up dried roots and mix with strained mullein juice to make a topical treatment for boils, chilblains, hemorrhoids and warts. It is said to work only on rough warts, not smooth warts, though as all warts are caused by HPV, this seems strange. It’s probably worth trying even on a smooth wart, for this reason.

A poultice of leaves can be used to treat hemorrhoids, external ulcers, splinters, sunburn and tumors.

Studies have found that great mullein flowers have a bactericidal action and may also be effective against tumors. A flower maceration is used externally to treat bruises, chilblains, eczema, frostbite, hemorrhoids, mouth ulcers and ringworm. It can also be used in the ear to treat earache (2-3 drops at a time, up to 3 times a day).

A homoeopathic tincture of mullein is used to treat long-standing migraine.

As with all herbs used as remedies, great mullein should be grown organically to avoid corrupting your remedy with noxious chemicals. To find out more about growing organic great mullein visit the Gardenzone.