Encyclopedia Of Herbology

Pumpkin

  • Scientific Name Curcurbita pepo L.
  • Plant Family: Curcurbitaceae
  • Parts Used Fruit, Seeds, Leaves, Flowers
  • Actions:  Fruit:  Antioxidant, Antidiabetic, rich in beta-carotene
  • Actions: Seeds Anti-anemic, Anthelmintic properties, isprenoid compound, high mineral content, and vitamin F

The Basics

Cooling thermal nature; sweet and slightly bitter flavor; relieves damp conditions including dysentery, eczema, and edema. Helps regulate blood sugar balance and benefits the pancreas – used for diabetes and hypoglycemia. Promotes discharge of mucus from lungs, bronchi, and throat. Regular use has been shown to benefit bronchial asthma. Cooked pumpkin destroys intestinal worms, but not as effectively as pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin has long been used to treat common ailments, such as bloating, dehydration, fatigue, infertility, and certain skin conditions. Consuming it and topically applying its flesh are among the most popular medicinal uses of pumpkin, while mixing the roasted or ground seeds with other ingredients is also common. Moreover, the oil extracted from the pumpkin seeds can be used to create capsules. Though less common in the U.S., pumpkin leaves have been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as a pain reliever.

Traditionally, pumpkin was used for medicinal purposes in Mexico, China, America and Africa. The medicinal properties of pumpkins are normally obtained from either the extract from the stem, leaves, fruit or seeds.

The pumpkin is very useful as food and its seeds are highly valued for their health benefits as an anthelmintic and contain 50% of a fatty oil composed by oleic acid and linoleic acid. The pulp either raw or cooked is used as emulsifier.

It has a high content of carbohydrates, amino acids and vitamins B, C, D, E and K. It also contains minerals like calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

Other substances present in pumpkin are the glycoside (cucurbitin), albumin, lecithin, phytosterol and various resins.

Pumpkin is used for treating bladder irritation, kidney infections, intestinal worms, and trouble urinating due to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

  • How does it work?

The chemicals in the pumpkin seed cause an increase in urination (diuretic effect), which helps relieve bladder discomfort. Pumpkin seed also contains a chemical that might kill intestinal worms.

Health Benefits

Pumpkin has a range of fantastic health benefits, including being one of the best-known sources of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant. It also gives orange vegetables and fruits their vibrant color. The body converts any ingested beta-carotene into vitamin A.

Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant. It also gives orange vegetables and fruits their vibrant color. The body converts any ingested beta-carotene into vitamin A. Consuming foods rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, offer protection against asthma and heart disease, and delay aging and body degeneration. Pumpkins are also a powerful source of fiber.

The potassium contained within pumpkins can have a positive effect on blood pressure. The antioxidants in pumpkin could help prevent degenerative damage to the eyes.

Many studies have suggested that eating more plant foods such as pumpkin decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality. It can also help prevent diabetes and heart disease, and promote a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and a healthful body mass index (BMI).

They have demonstrated the following health benefits:

  • Regulating blood pressure

Among the various other important nutritional benefits of pumpkin is its well-documented hypotensive effect. Pumpkins contain an abundance of phytosterols and vitamin E, which protect the heart by widening the blood vessels, preventing blood clots, and lowering blood pressure.

Eating pumpkin is good for the heart. The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content in pumpkin all support heart health.

Studies suggest that consuming enough potassium may be almost as important as decreasing sodium intake for the treatment of hypertension, or high blood pressure. Decreasing sodium intake involves eating meals that contain little or no salt.

Increased potassium intake is also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, and preservation of bone mineral density.

  • Reducing the risk of cancer

Research has suggested a positive relationship between a diet rich in beta-carotene and a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

Beta-carotene has also been shown to hold back the development of colon cancer in some of the Japanese population.

“We found a statistically significant inverse association between higher plasma lycopene [a type of beta-carotene] concentrations and lower risk of prostate cancer, which was restricted to older participants and those without a family history of prostate cancer.”

Pumpkins contain a wealth of antioxidants. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene have been shown to support eye health and prevent degenerative damage.

A cross-sectional study of older African-American women showed that eating 3 or more fruit servings per day was associated with a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration. It also led to slower progression of the disease.

  • Combating diabetes

Pumpkins have a powerful effect on glucose absorption. This can help keep diabetes at bay. Pumpkin also helps to control diabetes.

The plant compounds in pumpkin seeds and pulp are excellent for helping the absorption of glucose into the tissues and intestines, as well as balancing levels of liver glucose.

They may be associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, but this effect is not consistently demonstrated. However, the compounds have such an impact that researchers suggest that they could be reworked into an anti-diabetic medication, though further studies are needed.

  • Daily fiber content

Pumpkins are a fantastic source of fiber. People in the United States (U.S.) do not consume enough fiber, with an average daily intake of just 15 g. The recommended daily fiber intake of is between 25 and 30 g.

Fiber slows the rate of sugar absorption into the blood, as well as promoting regular bowel movements and smooth digestion. A healthful fiber intake can also help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

With nearly 3 grams (g) of fiber in cooked, fresh pumpkin and over 7 g in canned pumpkin, adding a serving of pumpkin to the daily diet can help supplement the fiber shortage in the average American diet.

  • Pumpkin can protect immunity.

Pumpkin pulp and seeds are high in both vitamin C and beta-carotene. These offer a boost to the immune system using a powerful combination of nutrients.

Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A. This triggers the creation of white blood cells that fight infection.

Vitamin E and zinc work together to help activate different cells in the immune system, which makes pumpkin beneficial for preventing common illnesses.

  • Treating Common Skin Conditions

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North or Central America. In that region, traditional healers have long used pumpkin as a treatment for common skin conditions. In the Yucatan Peninsula, for example, pumpkins are applied topically to burns, sores, and blisters. The effectiveness of this practice has been validated by modern science.

Powerful antioxidants in pumpkin are beneficial for maintaining the health of the skin.

  • Maintaining Healthy Vision

Pumpkins get their distinctive color from the presence of plant carotenes, which are easily converted into vitamin A in the body. Both vitamin A and beta-carotene help to protect the eyes from damage, especially when adjusting to the dark after being in bright light.

  • Maintaining proper hydration.

Staying hydrated is of profound importance for the human body, which uses water to maintain healthy cellular growth and to perform just about every other major bodily function. Therefore, pumpkins – which are low in calories and composed of about 90% water – have been used as a cure for thirst and dehydration.

  • Supporting reproductive health.

Vitamin A and zinc play an important role in supporting healthy fetal growth and development during pregnancy while caring for the reproductive system overall. In some ancient traditions, pumpkins were used as a fertility boost and as a treatment to help new mothers produce milk for nursing.

Medicinal Uses of the Seeds

Pumpkin seeds as a disease-preventative, has been little noticed until now. Used for prostate disorders, stomach problems, worms, and nausea as in morning sickness, motion sickness and swollen prostate. The oil of the seeds are useful for healing wounds, especially burns, and for chapped skin.

Good source of plant protein, high mineral content, and vitamin F.

Traditional folk medicine touts pumpkin seeds as an effective treatment for prostate enlargement. Anti-inflammatory agents, known as phytosterols, combine with the healing properties of zinc to potentially reduce the size of the prostate.

Pumpkin seeds are just about the richest natural sources of zinc nutrition ever found. The use of pumpkin seeds for their beneficial effect on the prostate gland is as old as the ages. (Referred to as He-man power). A decoction of the unhulled seeds have long been of use in domestic folk-medicine.

The rejuvenating powers for men are extolled with praise by popular medicine both in America and in Europe. Experience reveals that men in those countries where the seeds of the pumpkin plant are copiously eaten throughout a lifetime remain amazingly free of prostatic hypertrophy (prostate trouble) and all its consequences.

Men without prostate trouble show high zinc concentrations; while men with the sick prostate have low zinc concentrations. Studies show that in regions where there is a widespread deficiency of zinc, the sex organs to not develop properly.

The seed has refreshing and soothing properties, is given as “seed milk” for nephritis and inflammation of the bladder and urethra.

From the pumpkin seeds is extracted an oil very good for household and medicinal uses. Oil extracted from pumpkin seeds contains about 50% vitamin E, which shields the skin from damage caused by free radicals and is used for the necessary cellular communication the skin needs to heal itself. A one-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds can provide about 28% of the recommended intake of zinc, which also plays a role in wound healing.

Pumpkins can provide a necessary energy boost as a treatment for general fatigue. A one-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds provides about 53% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium, a vital nutrient that is required for the production of energy.

Traditional use of seeds for the treatment of intestinal infections led the United States Pharmacopoeia to list pumpkin seeds as an official medicine for parasite elimination from 1863 to 1936. More recently, a research conducted in China and Russia showed that pumpkin seeds help treat tapeworm infestations.

In China pumpkin seeds were used to be treat people with acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease that is transmitted through snails.

Presently, there are very good interventions against bacterial infections in form of antibiotics. However, the misuse of antibiotics is causing some bacteria to become resistant warranting development of new drugs or turning to natural remedies.

Proteins and oil extracted from pumpkin seeds are good candidates for such drugs since they inhibit growth of wide range of bacteria, fungi and yeast.

  • Anti-bladderstone

Two trials in Thailand have reportedly found that eating pumpkin seeds as a snack can help prevent the most common type of kidney stones.

Pumpkin seeds appear to both reduce levels of substances that promote stone formation in the urine and increase levels of substances that inhibit stone formation.

Approximately 5–10 grams per day of pumpkin seeds may be needed for kidney stone prevention. However, the active constituents of pumpkin seeds responsible for this action have not yet been identified.

Pumpkin seeds are high in protein to the extent that a gram of protein from pumpkin seeds contains the same amount of essential amino acid called tryptophan as a glass of milk.

  • Antidepressant

Due to high levels of tryptophan content in pumpkin seeds, the seeds have been recommended to treat depression.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that raises levels of serotonin ‘happiness-inducing hormone’ in the brain.

  • Anti-inflammatory

In 1995, Fahim, from University of Cairo, Egypt showed that oil extracted from pumpkin seeds has anti-inflammatory properties similar to indometacin, a well known anti-inflammatory drug.

Fahim and his colleagues effectively treated rats experiencing artificially-induced arthritis using pumpkin seeds oil, confirming that the pumpkin seed oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Description:

Botanically speaking, pumpkin is considered to be a fruit. Pumpkin fruits are a type of botanical berry known as a pepo. This is because it has seeds and develops from the mature ovary of pumpkin blossoms.

Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. One often-used botanical classification relies on the characteristics of the stems: pumpkin stems are more rigid, prickly, and angular (with an approximate five-degree angle) than pumpkin stems, which are generally softer, more rounded, and more flared where joined to the fruit.

The pumpkin is a large, annual, creeping plant; the stem, which may reach a length of 30 feet, has branched tendrils and bears alternate, stiff-haired, triangular or ovate-triangular leaves that may be sharply or weakly lobed. The leaves are larger than a hand and have irregularly sharp-serrate margins.

Solitary, yellow, funnel-shaped flowers with pointed lobes grow on angular peduncles that expand where the flower attaches. Flowering time is from June to August. The fruit is the familiar large, orange, furrowed pumpkin which contains numerous white, elliptic seeds. This is the pumpkin made into jack-o-lanterns at Halloween.

Habitat and Cultivation:

Pumpkins are a warm-weather crop usually planted in early July. Widely cultivated in warm and temperate climates, this annual plant has a short cycle and in the tropics, can be planted as early as March and then again in June,.

Pumpkins have rampantly-growing vines that need a lot of room to breathe and spread out as the plant grows. Pumpkin plants should be planted near the end of spring, as they crave warm soil, and seeds will not germinate in cold temperatures. The fruit can be harvested in 18 – 24 weeks.

The specific conditions necessary for growing pumpkins require that soil temperatures 8 centimeters (3 in) deep are at least 15.5 °C (60 °F) and soil that holds water well. Pumpkin crops may suffer if there is a lack of water or because of cold temperatures (in this case, below 18 °C or 65 °F; frost can be detrimental), and sandy soil with poor water retention or poorly drained soils that become waterlogged after heavy rain.

Pumpkins are, however, rather hardy, and even if many leaves and portions of the vine are removed or damaged, the plant can very quickly re-grow secondary vines to replace what was removed.

Propagation of the pumpkin plant generally occurs when bees transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. However, it can also be accomplished through human intervention by hand-pollinating the pistil of a female flower.

Pumpkins have historically been pollinated by the native squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, but this bee has declined, probably at least in part to pesticide sensitivity, and today most commercial plantings are pollinated by honeybees. One hive per acre is recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If there are inadequate bees for pollination, gardeners often have to hand pollinate. Inadequately pollinated pumpkins usually start growing but abort before full development.

Collection:

  • Harvesting the Flowers

The female blossoms will become the fruit so in order to preserve your harvest, it is best to pick the male blooms. Being aware of the difference between male and female blooms is important to know when picking pumpkin blossoms.

Male pumpkin blossoms are hairier and have a thin base where they attach to the stem. Females have a thick bulge, which is the ovary, where they grow from the plant.

Morning is the best time for harvesting pumpkin flowers. Choose male flowers when they are still in bud form. Male flowers grow first on the plant but the fully formed blooms are hairy and difficult to handle in the kitchen. Female blooms are considered the tastiest but you should minimize their harvest if you want fruit on the plant.

Give a gentle squeeze to the back of the bloom when picking pumpkin flowers. This will help you detect the bulb of a female or the flat end of a male flower.

  • How to Store Pumpkin Blossoms: 

The optimum condition is to use them the day of harvest. Picking pumpkin flowers and then using them immediately gives you the freshest taste of spring. Pumpkin flowers are very delicate and don’t store for long. However, there is a trick on how to store pumpkin blossoms for best flavor and to extend the life of the blooms. Keep them in the refrigerator. Male blooms last the longest and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Either sex will keep best if laid out gently on tissue or a paper towel on a dish or flat container.

  • Harvesting the Fruit:

Your best bet is to harvest pumpkins when they are mature. They will keep best this way. Do not pick pumpkins off the vine because they have reached your desired size. If you want small pumpkins, buy a small variety. A pumpkin is ripening when its skin turns a deep, solid color (orange for most varieties).

When you thumb the pumpkin, the rind will feel hard and it will sound hollow. Press your nail into the pumpkin’s skin; if it resists puncture, it is ripe.

To harvest the pumpkin, cut the fruit off the vine carefully with a sharp knife or pruners; do not tear. Be sure not to cut too close to the pumpkin; a liberal amount of stem (3 to 4 inches) will increase the pumpkin’s keeping time.

Handle pumpkins very gently or they may bruise.

Pumpkins should be cured in the sun for about a week to toughen the skin and then stored in a cool, dry bedroom, cellar, or root cellar—anywhere around 55ºF.

  • Harvesting the Leaves

Pick the young-medium aged leaves (not the older tougher ones), and use them in cooked recipes like you would a spinach or a heavy winter green.

Covered in fuzz and possessing a thick, fibrous spine, pumpkin leaves aren’t all that intuitively edible. They take a little bit of advance preparation before you can use them in recipes.

Here is a simple method:

“Holding the leaf upside down by its stem, you see that the stem is hollow. Use your thumbnail to split half or a third of the stem and snap it backward so that the flesh breaks cleanly, but the outer fibers do not. Pull gently, removing the fibers from the outside of the stem and the back of the leaf. Repeat until you have de-strung a good pile, because, like all greens, pumpkin leaves cook down quite a bit.”

Once you’ve de-strung a pile of pumpkin leaves, you can cook them in a variety of ways. In Malawi, they are often simmered simply with tomatoes just for a few minutes until the leaves are tender.

  • Harvesting and Preparing the Seeds

To harvest your pumpkin seeds, slice open your pumpkin (to eat or to make as a jack-o-lantern). Scoop out the seeds with your hands or a large, sturdy spoon. Place the seeds in a bowl. *Some pumpkin varieties have seeds with white husks over the nut meat, and some just contain the green nutmeat, aka “pepitos.”

You can process and eat pumpkin seeds the same way, regardless of the variety.

Heat a frying pan and add enough high heat vegetable oil (we like organic sunflower, grapeseed, or raw coconut oil) to sauté them. Once the pan is hot, add the pumpkin seeds. *Don’t worry if there is a little bit of pumpkin string still attached, this cooks up fine and adds some nice flavor & nutrition.

As soon as the seeds are in the pan, add some fresh ground sea salt. Stir repeatedly to ensure light, even browning uniformly on the seeds’ surfaces. Let them cool down, but eat them while they’re still warm for best flavor! They’ll also store for a long time and make a great, healthy alternative to potato chips.

Preparation and Dosage:

  • Pumpkin Seeds:

Very helpful in removing the Taenia Solium and Taenia Saginata. To use for worms, crush 7-14 oz. peeled pumpkin seeds for children, up to 25 oz. for adults, and stir into fruit juice, honey, or syrup to make a mash and gradually taken over the course of 1 hour.. 2-3 hours later, take castor oil or  some type of laxative to expel the parasites. Take care, especially with tapeworm, that the entire worm is expelled.

A good remedy for burns is 30 g of pulp per liter of water and makes a porridge with the mix.

  • Pumpkin Seed Oil:

For benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): 480 mg of pumpkin seed oil extract per day in 3 divided doses alone or in combination with saw palmetto and other herbs.

As a food source:

The edible parts of a pumpkin are the leaves, fruit and the seeds. High nutrients and medicinal properties in pumpkin leaves, fruit and seeds make it an attractive health food proposition.

The pumpkin’s flesh can be either sweet or bitter, and it is commonly used in pies, scones, soups, stews, and other recipes.

  • Pumpkins are high in protein and fiber, but low in fat. They are an excellent source of iron and vitamin A.
  • Cooked pumpkin provides about 20 calories and 4.90 g of carbohydrates per 100 g serving.

Pumpkin flower blossoms have a light, buttery taste. They are sometimes prepared as vegetables in a number of pasta, soup, and salad recipes.

Pumpkin leaves are also edible. They are chock-full of iron, and may be prepared like other dark green, leafy vegetables. How do they taste? Here’s a review:

“The pumpkin greens lacked any bitterness that other greens tend to have, which surprised me. These might be the sweetest greens I have eaten. Even my son and wife enjoyed them. The flavor reminded me of a mixture of green beans, broccoli, spinach and asparagus.”

Pumpkin seeds are usually roasted and consumed as healthy, protein-packed snacks.

The young fruit of a pumpkin is best used in savory entrees and sides, while the mature fruit goes best in pies and other sweet desserts. Medium-sized varieties, like ‘Autumn Gold’, ‘Jack-o-Lantern’, and ‘Spirit’ are among the best for culinary use; however, larger varieties like ‘Big Tom’ and ‘Jackpot’ are also popular.

When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, or roasted. Pumpkins that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as pumpkin or zucchini.

In addition the fruit can be baked by cutting it into two halves, scooping out seeds and placing the hollow side down in a big tray followed by baking in an oven.

Preparing fresh pumpkin at home will deliver the most benefits for your health, but canned pumpkin is also a great choice. Pumpkin retains many of its health benefits in the canning process.

Pumpkin pie is a sweeter way to incorporate the benefits of pumpkin into the diet. Be sure to make a pumpkin puree rather than buying pre-made. Steer clear of canned pumpkin pie mix. This is usually placed next to the canned pumpkin in grocery stores, and is sold in a similar can. It contains added sugars and syrups.

  • Canned pumpkin should have only one ingredient: Pumpkin.

Pumpkin is a highly nutrient-dense food. It is rich in vitamins and minerals but low in calories. Pumpkin seeds, leaves, and juices all pack a powerful nutritional punch. Although the variety of pumpkins that usually ends up carved into a jack-o-lantern is perfectly edible, it is best to cook with the sweeter and smaller sweet or pie pumpkin varieties.

Make sure the pumpkin has a few inches of stem left and is hard and heavy for its size. Store uncut pumpkins in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months.

The most common preparation methods of pumpkin involve desserts like custards and pies. One of the simplest ways to enjoy the contents is to gently roast or dehydrate the seeds in sea salt and other preferred spices.

There are many ways pumpkin can be incorporated into desserts, soups, salads, preserves, and even as a substitute for butter.

  • Use pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin in place of oil or butter in any baking recipe.
  • Make a quick treat of pumpkin chocolate yogurt by combining Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin, honey, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.

Pumpkin fresh flowers add flavor to salads. Eaten as a side dish, the recipe is as follows: Pick flowers when vines are blooming, wash and roll in paper towel to dry. Dip in beaten egg, roll in fine bread or cracker crumbs and fry in buttered pan.

In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and pumpkin flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil.

The pumpkin fruit is a good weaning food when mashed together with salmon and broccoli or any other vegetables.

  • Pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin seed oil, a thick oil pressed from roasted pumpkin seeds, appears red or green in color depending on the oil layer thickness, container properties and hue shift of the observer’s vision. When used for cooking or as a salad dressing, pumpkin seed oil is generally mixed with other oils because of its robust flavor.

Used in cooking in central and eastern Europe, it is considered a delicacy in traditional local cuisines such as for pumpkin soup, potato salad or even vanilla ice cream. Pumpkin seed oil contains fatty acids, such as oleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.

Historically:

Though information about where pumpkins originated remains largely unclear, they have been observed growing wild in parts of northeastern Mexico. The earliest known record of human domestication and consumption of pumpkins comes from Mexico, where remnants of seeds and pumpkines have been found in the Oaxaca valley and Tamaulipas dwellings – perhaps dating as far back as 8750 BCE and 7000 BCE, respectively. Additional findings in Missouri (4000 BCE) and Mississippi (1400 BCE) are also relevant.

After domestication, pumpkins were transported to other parts of the world by boat during the colonial era. The earliest evidence of pumpkins in Europe, for example, can be found in a prayer book made for Anne de Bretagne, the duchess of Brittany, between 1503 and 1508. Once domesticated, the crop produced larger fruit, developing more colors and sizes, compared with the wild plant.

Many culinary uses for pumpkin have developed over time. There is some evidence to suggest that the ancient Aztecs enjoyed pumpkin seeds as a quick but satiating snack. Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin to eat, while European colonists are responsible for the origin of pumpkin pie – they would cut off the pumpkin top, remove the pumpkin’s seeds, and fill it with honey, milk, and seasonings before baking it in hot ashes.

Names From Around The World:

  • Afrikaans: pampoen
  • Arabic: qar’ miskî , qar’miski, qara’ sudani, qar’ah yábisah
  • Chinese: nan gua, nam gua, fan gua, fan kua, jin dong gua, zhong guo
  • Czech: tykev pimová
  • Danish: centnergræskar, kroghals, krumhalsgréskar, moskusgréskar
  • Dutch: pompoen, reuzenkalebas
  • English: pumpkin, pumpkin, summer squash, winter squash, ornamental gourd
  • Finnish: jättiläiskurpitsa
  • French: citrouille, potiron, potimarron, pompon, courge (gourde), courgette, giromons (giraumon/giraumont), calabasse, patisson
  • Gaelic: peapag
  • German: kürbis (kirbiz)
  • Greek: pepon
  • Hebrew: delaat
  • Hindi: vilayati kaddu
  • Hungarian: pézsmatök
  • Italian: popone, cocuzza, zucca
  • Japanese: kabocha, kabotcha
  • Korean: hipak
  • Latin: Cucurbita, Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita pepo L., Cucurbita argyrosperma, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata
  • Norwegian: muskatgraskar
  • Polish: dynia pizmowa
  • Portuguese: abóbora, jerimum (jerimu, jerumu, jirimu, jirumum, jurumu, gerimum, gurumu, girimu, girumum)
  • Russian: tykva, tykva krupnoplodnaja
  • Slovenian: mukatna bua
  • Spanish: calabaza, tamalayotl
  • Swedish: bisampumpa
  • Tagalog: kalabasa
  • Thai: fak thong, namtao farang
  • Vietnamese: bi do, bi ngo
  • Yoruba: elegede

Folklore:

This fruit is sacred to the Yoruban goddess Oshun and is offered to her in exchange for wishes granted concerning love, money and fertility. Offer whole pumpkins smeared with honey to the river where you wish to conceive a child. Offer whole pumpkins with names carved into them for love spells. Throw a handful of pumpkin seeds into the river and ask for a financial boon. It is important to know that the pumpkin and its seeds are considered the children of Oshun. If you are working with her magick, you must abstain from eating any pumpkin.

Some say that early American legend maintained that leaving a half of a pumpkin open or exposed in any room, but especially the kitchen, would attract negative energies into your living space. Pumpkins that have begun to spoil were believed by the Romany to suck the life energy from the people around them, and create illness and bad luck.

Halloween Pumpkins

Pumpkins are commonly associated with the spooky jack-o-lanterns that children make with their families to light the night every Halloween. Because of their hard outer skin and soft, fleshy innards, pumpkins can be carved, then scooped out, and later preserved on front porches in the days leading up to the Halloween festivities. Since pumpkins may vary drastically in their color, size, shape, and general appearance, some will make good jack-o-lanterns, while others are good for decorative and ornamental use in centerpieces, as well as on windowsills.

Throughout Britain and Ireland, there is a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip, mangelwurzel, or swede. The practice of carving pumpkins for Halloween originated from an Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack”. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. Not until 1837, does jack-o’-lantern appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern, and the carved pumpkin lantern association with Halloween is recorded in 1866.

Other Uses:

Native Americans used pumpkins to meet a number of home décor needs. Dried strips of pumpkin were often used to weave mats during ancient times. They also used the thick shells as carrying containers. This method could be adapted for vases and other modern DIY projects.

Canned pumpkin is often recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats that are experiencing certain digestive ailments such as constipation, diarrhea, or hairballs. The high fiber content helps to aid proper digestion.

Raw pumpkin can be fed to poultry, as a supplement to regular feed, during the winter to help maintain egg production, which usually drops off during the cold months.

Commercial Uses

Generally pumpkin is under-utilized and under valued, although it can be converted to commercially valuable products such as purees, jams and marmalades.

In 1972, Stephanie Lapinig was among the first to seriously explore the commercialisation of pumpkins by obtaining a patent in US for converting pumpkin mesocarp into sour and sweet pickle.

The patent involves chilling pumpkin in high salt concentration for over 5 hours to obtain crispiness. This is followed by addition of vinegar and sugar.

Others have followed the steps of Stephanie including Egbekun from Nigeria school of Technology who successfully developed a pumpkin marmalade with no difference in sensory attributes such as taste, spreadability and overall acceptability when compared to orange marmalade.

Pumpkin ketchup has been rated closely to tomato ketchup by scoring 2 compared to tomato ketchup that scored 3.2, suggesting that its perceived quality is slightly lower but very close to that of tomato ketchup.

Several food companies in Britain, America and China make canned pumpkin puree which is a popular food for weaning.

Bread when stored, loses its freshness by staling, addition of pumpkin pulp to bread flour slows staling and generally improves the quality of bread.

Due to high protein content in pumpkin seeds, adding the seed’s flour to wheat flour makes composite flour high in protein for making bread and cookies.

Cosmetic Uses

Pumpkin is packed with skin-loving nutrients like antioxidants, zinc, vitamins A and C, fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids. Pumpkin flesh can help to nourish, brighten and smooth skin, as well as boost collagen and help tame the signs of aging, according to The International Dermal Institute.

You can use cooked fresh pumpkin puree, or canned if you have some. If you are using canned pumpkin, check the ingredients. There should be just one ingredient – pumpkin. Pumpkin pulp can be mixed with honey, oils, and other natural ingredients for a rejuvenating homemade facial mask, body scrub, and hair conditioner.

The pumpkin flower has found purpose in a number of fragrances and cosmetics due to its sweet and delicate aroma.

Pumpkin seed oil is high in antioxidants like vitamin E, which aids in cell regeneration to help protect skin cells from damage. Pumpkin seed oil-based creams and moisturizers smooth the skin’s appearance, and may be a positive addition to skincare regimens.

Special Precautions and Warnings:

Pumpkin is safe in food amounts and considered POSSIBLY SAFE in medicinal amounts for most people. It may cause ejaculation problems in some men.

Not enough is known about the use of pumpkin in medicinal amounts during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick with usual food amounts.

Drug Interactions:

  • Lithium interacts with Pumpkin

Pumpkin might have an effect like a water pill or “diuretic.” Taking pumpkin might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.

Recipes, Formulas, and Lore:

Wild Carrot

  • Scientific nameDaucus carota
  • Common name: Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Plant familyApiaceae
  • Parts used: Whole herb, seeds, root
  • Medicinal actions: Diuretic, Anti-lithic, Carminative, Abortifacient, Deobstruent, Emmenagogue
  • How does it work? Wild Carrot contains chemicals that might have effects on blood vessels, muscles, and the heart.

General Overview

Wild Carrot, or Queen Anne’s Lace is the wild progenitor of our cultivated carrot. It still has many of the properties lost in cultivation. If an apple a day will keep the Doctor away, legend has it that a Wild Carrot a day might keep death itself away!

The parts that grow above the ground and an oil made from the seeds are used to make medicine. Be careful not to confuse Wild Carrot with the common carrot (which has the familiar orange tap root we eat).

Wild Carrot has been used for centuries as an alternative medicine. It is used for urinary tract problems including kidney stones, bladder problems, water retention, and excess uric acid in the urine; and also for gout, a painful joint problem caused by too much uric acid.

The seed oil is used for severe diarrhea (dysentery), indigestion, and intestinal gas. Women use it relieve pain in the uterus and to start their menstrual periods.

Other uses include treatment of heart disease, cancer, kidney problems, and worm infestations. It is also used as a “nerve tonic” and to increase sexual arousal (as an aphrodisiac).

Constituents

The medicinal properties of the seeds are owing to a volatile oil which is colorless or slightly tinged with yellow; this is procured by distilling with water. They also yield their virtues by infusion to water at 212° F; boiling dissipates them. No thorough analysis has been made.

Description

A pest to farmers, a joy to the flower-lover, and a welcome signal for refreshment to hosts of flies, beetles, bees, and wasps, especially to the paper-nest builders, the sprangly wild carrot lifts its fringy foliage and exquisite lacy blossoms above the dry soil of three continents. From Europe it has come to spread its delicate wheels over our summer landscape, until whole fields are whitened by them east of the Mississippi.

Wild carrot is a biennial plant, and in its second year, from a taproot, the stems grow to a height of two to four feet or more. The stems are erect and branched, generally about 2 feet high, tough and furrowed. Both stems and leaves are more or less clothed with stout coarse hairs. The leaves are very finely divided, the lowest leaves considerably larger than the upper; their arrangement on the stem is alternate, and all the leaves embrace the stem with the sheathing base, which is so characteristic of this group of plants, the Umbelliferae, to which the Carrot belongs.

The two to four inch “flower” is actually a compound of terminal umbels, made up of many small white flowers. The central flower of the Umbelliferae is often purple. A ring of finely-divided and leaf-like bracts grows at the point where the umbel meets the stem. The blossoms are densely clustered together in terminal umbels, or flattened heads, in which the flower-bearing stalks of the head all arise from one point in rays, like the ribs of an umbrella, each ray again dividing in the case of the Carrot, in like manner to form a secondary umbel, or umbellule of white flowers, the outer ones of which are irregular and larger than the others.

The Wild Carrot is in bloom from June to August, but often continues flowering much longer. The flowers themselves are very small, but from their whiteness and number, they form a conspicuous head nearly flat while in bloom, or slightly convex, but as the seeds ripen, the umbels contract, the outer rays, which are to begin with 1 to 2 inches long, lengthening and curving inwards, so that the head forms a hollow cup hence one of the old popular names for the plant – Birds’ Nest.

The fruit is slightly flattened, with numerous bristles arranged in five rows. The ring of finely-divided and leaf-like bracts at the point where the umbel springs is a noticeable feature.

Its root is small and spindle shaped, whitish, slender and hard, with a strong aromatic smell and an acrid, disagreeable taste, very different to the reddish, thick, fleshy, cultivated form, with its pleasant odor and peculiar, sweet, mucilaginous flavor. It penetrates some distance into the ground, having only a few lateral rootlets.

Varieties

The Carrot is well distinguished from other plants of the same order by having the central flower of the umbel, or sometimes a tiny umbellule, of a bright red or deep purple color, though there is a variety, Daucus maritimus, frequent in many parts of the seacoast in the south of England, which differs in having somewhat fleshy leaves and no central purple flower. In this case, all the flowers of the head have usually a somewhat pinkish tinge. There was a curious superstition that this small purple flower of the Carrot was of benefit for mitigating epilepsy.

Habitat

The Carrot was in ancient times much valued for its medicinal properties; the Wild Carrot, which is found so plentifully in Britain, both in cultivated lands and by waysides, thriving more especially by the sea, is superior, medicinally, to the cultivated kind.

Probably originally a native of the sea-coasts of Southern Europe degenerated into its present wild state, but of very ancient cultivation. The name ‘Carrot’ is Celtic, and means ‘red of colour,’ and Daucus from the Greek dais to burn, signifying its pungent and stimulating qualities.

This biennial herb has become naturalized throughout the United States and Canada. Wild Carrot blooms in summer and fall. It thrives best in sun to partial shade. Daucus carota is commonly found along roadsides and in unused fields.

Cautions

Extra caution should be used when collecting Wild Carrot because it bears a close resemblance to poison hemlock. In addition, the leaves of the Wild Carrot may cause phytophotodermatitis, so caution should also be used when handling the plant. It has been used as a method of contraception and an abortifacient for centuries. Continue reading

Lemon Balm

  • Scientific Name: Melissa officinalis
  • Plant Family: Laviatae
  • Parts Used: Leaves – fresh or dried
  • Actions: Carminative, Anti-spasmotic, Anti-depressive, Diaphoretic, Hypotensive, Anti-emetic, Hepatic, Nervine, Tonic
  • Constituents: Rich in essential oil containing citral, citronellal, geraniol and lindol; bitter principles, flavones, resin.
  • How does it work? Lemon balm contains chemicals that seem to have a sedative, calming effect. It might also reduce the growth of some viruses.

General Overview:

A member of the mint family, lemon balm is considered a “calming” herb. It has been used for centuries to help heal wounds, treat venomous insect bites and stings, induce relaxation and a sense of well being, improve appetite and aid digestion. Lemon balm, known and named for its fresh, lemony scent, has long been used as a culinary, cosmetic and medicinal and magical herb.

Note: Lemon Balm, though often called Bee Balm, should not be confused with another plant commonly called Bee Balm (Mondara dydima).

The botanical name, melissa, is Greek for “bee”. Lemon balm has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for about 2000 years. The Muslim herbalist Avicenna recommended lemon balm “to make the heart merry”. Paracelsus claimed this herb could completely revitalize the body and called it the “elixir of life”, and 14th century French King Charles V drank its tea every day to keep his health.

Lemon balm is used for digestive problems, including upset stomach, bloating, intestinal gas (flatulence), vomiting, and colic; for pain, including menstrual cramps, headache and toothache; and for mental disorders, including hysteria and melancholia.

Lemon balm is excellent for treating anxiety and battling some hard-to-treat viruses. The list of symptoms from anxiety is vast but melissa tackles them all bravely. It is equally fearless when it comes to taking on viruses as daunting as Mono and Herpes. This is an herb every healer wants in the medicine cabinet.

In Ayruvedic medicine, Lemon Balm’s energy is pungent, sour-sweet, cool, and wet. Crushed leaves rubbed on the skin in the garden helps keep away bugs.

Many people believe lemon balm has calming effects so they take it for anxiety, sleep problems, and restlessness. Lemon balm is also used for Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an autoimmune disease involving the thyroid (Graves’ disease), swollen airways, rapid heartbeat due to nervousness, high blood pressure, sores, tumors, and insect bites.

Lemon balm is inhaled as aromatherapy for Alzheimer’s disease. Some people apply lemon balm to their skin to treat cold sores (herpes labialis).

Description:

A familiar garden plant with its fresh, green, nettle shaped leaves and strong bushy growth, lemon balm is native to southern Europe and was probably introduced to the north by the Romans. The creamy flowers are undistinguished and grow in loose clusters from midsummer. The hardy root is perennial.

Lemon balm has the square stems indicative of the mint family with green, oval, finely toothed leaves that grow opposite each other on the stem. The leaves also have fine hairs that capture morning dew and helps keep the plant moist. Flowers are small and yellow to white depending on soil type. It can vary in height between 12 inches to well over 3 feet.

Cultivation:

Easy to grow and tolerant of most soils, it does especially well on a fairly rich, moist ground in a sheltered, sunny position. Sow seeds in the spring or late summer; divide the roots in the fall or early spring; take cuttings in the summer. Keep the plants well weeded.

It prefers moist, not soggy, loamy soil in full sun but will develop more volatile oils when grown in drier, shadier soils. It can tolerate a vast pH range from 5 to 8 in the soil. Lemon balm flowers in the summer and provides an excellent source of nectar for bees and hummingbirds.

Barely cover seed to germinate in 1-2 weeks at room temperature. Set out at 12-15 inches apart in full sun and rich soil. This perennial plant typically gets 12-18 inches tall.

Like any mint, it can be aggressive–it spreads by runners, self-seeds, and can be propagated by cuttings. But it’s a plant, not a monster. I have my lemon balm in partial shade, next to my cabbages and some other aromatic herbs. It has formed some nice thick clumps in two years, but it is not taking over the garden by any means. If you feel concerned, plant it in a pot and sink the pot in the soil.

It is hardy to zone 4: -30°F. It is a good companion plant for members of the brassica family, and deer don’t usually eat it. For drying, harvest leaves just before or after it flowers. Don’t harvest when it’s wet or the leaves will discolor.

Collection

Leaves may be harvested two or three times a year between early summer and early fall. They are gathered by cutting off the young shoots when they are approximately 12 in long. Harvest them for drying as the flowers begin to open. Dry quickly and carefully in the dark, or in the shade, to preserve their color. They should be dried at a temperature not above 95° F.

Unlike other herbs which are at their best when the dew has dried off them in the morning, Lemon Balm should be harvested in mid to late afternoon when the oils are strongest.

Lemon balm can be harvested for fresh use once or twice a week and leaves can be kept in the fridge for a few days, or be frozen. Leaves should be handled delicately as they tend to bruise and turn black.

Hang sprigs to dry in dark cool place. Be sure to keep out of moisture, as leaves are prone to browning and more susceptible to mold. Store dried leaves in air tight container. The leaves lose some of their flavor when dried.

Medicinal Uses

Lemon balm is an excellent carminative herb that relieves spasms in the digestive tract and is used in flatulent dyspepsia. Because of its anti depressive properties, it is primarily indicated where there is dyspepsia associated with anxiety or depression, as the gently sedative oils relieve tension and stress reactions, thus acting to lighten depression.

A little patch of lemon balm in the garden, particularly near the bedroom windows, brings uplifting energy on dark days. We get a lot of cloudy days here in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve found that a bit of lemon balm growing in close proximity to my home brings just enough sunny energy to give my family the lift we need during long spans of dark weather. When the going gets particularly tough, we pick a few sprigs for our drinking water, but most of the time Lemon Balm’s presence is enough. Continue reading

Fenugreek

  • Scientific Name: Trigonella foenum-graecum
  • Plant Family: Leguminosae
  • Parts Used: Seeds
  • Medical Actions: Expectorant, Demulcent, Tonic, Galactagogue, Emmenagogue, Emollient, Vulnerary
  • Constituents: 30% mucilage, bitter principle, volatile and fixed oil, flavonoids, alkaloids, coumarins, vitamins, and saponins; the most prevalent alkaloid is trigonelline and coumarins include cinnamic acid and scopoletin.

The Basics

Originally from the eastern Mediterranean, cultivated in Europe, Africa and Asia for thousands of years as a fodder plant, a medicine, and a spice, Fenugreek is an herb that has an ancient history. It has great use in local healing and reducing inflammation for conditions such as wounds, boils, sores, fistulas, and tumors.

It can be taken to help bronchitis and gargled to ease sore throats. It’s bitterness explains its role in soothing disturbed digestion.

The seeds are rich in vitamins, nitrates and calcium, have a softening soothing action and are said to encourage lactation. It is a strong stimulator of milk production in nursing mothers, for which it is perfectly safe, and  also has a reputation for stimulating development of the breasts.

In traditional medicine, Fenugreek is thought to promote digestion, induce labour, and reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Description

It is an annual and grows about 2 ft high with yellowish peaflowers in midsummer, trifoliate leaves and long narrow pods containing at least 10 square seeds, reaching maturity in a few months in warm climates. It is tender in temperate climates.

It is an annual, erect, robust aromatic herb which grows up to a height of 60 cm. it has compound leaves around 5 cm in length, with long pedicles. The leaflets are obovate, around 2.5 cm long and the margins are slightly toothed. Flowers are seen in pairs or single, axillary and yellow in color. Fruits of the plant are leguminous pods around 5-8 cm long, with a persistent beak, narrow and enclose 10-20 golden yellow seeds which have a typical savory aroma.

Cultivation and Harvesting

Fenugreek is a fairly fragile annual that has a visual similarity to clover. Preferring rich soils and requiring full sun, it grows from one to two feet in height and blooms in smallish white flowers during midsummer.

The primary caution in planting Fenugreek is an awareness of soil temperature. It must have a soil temperature of at least 55°F to germinate, in colder or very damp soils the seeds will rot, and the plant itself will be prone to root rot even when older.

Harvest the seeds when the pods are ripe, but just before they open. Remove the seeds from the pods and dry them naturally in the sun

Medicinal Uses

Fenugreek is a herb which is bitter to taste and increases lactation, soothes tissues which are irritated, stimulates uterus, reduces fever, blood sugar, improves digestion, improves relieving capacity and works as an expectorant, diuretic, laxative, anti-tumour and anti-parasitic effects. Fenugreek relieves diabetes, poor digestion, tuberculosis, gastric inflammation and digestive disorders.

Fenugreek acts as a reliever for many ailments, here is a quick list:

  • Cholesterol: It is a proven fact that by consuming Fenugreek cholesterol can be balanced. Around 2 ounces can be taken every day.
  • Diabetes: Fenugreek is effective in relieving Type 2 diabetes. Consumption of around 500 mg Fenugreek every day will yield the desired results.
  • Skin inflammation: Fenugreek is very effective in relieving burns, boils, abscesses, gout and eczema. Fenugreek powder should be made into a paste with water and a cloth should be soaked into this paste. The soaked cloth can be applied on the affected area of the skin as a poultice.
  • Heartburn and Acid Reflux: Seeds of Fenugreek contain mucilage which help is soothing gastrointestinal inflammation. It coats the lining of the intestine and stomach. Hence it works effectively against acid reflux and heartburn. Around 1 teaspoon Fenugreek seeds can be swallowed along with water before meal.
  • Fever: This herb is useful for reducing fever. The seeds should be consumed along with honey and lemon.
  • Breast enlargement: Fenugreek balances female hormones. It should be consumed up to 3g every day.
  • Child Birth problems: Fenugreek stimulates uterine contractions and is helpful in inducing childbirth. But pregnant women should use this remedy only after consulting the doctor.
  • Lactation: Fenugreek influences milk production in nursing mothers.

Continue reading

Nasturtium

  • Scientific name: Tropacolum majus
  • Plant family: Tropaeolaceae
  • Note:  It should not be confused with watercress, whose Latin name is Nasturtium officinale.
  • Parts Used: The fresh or dried leaves, flowers, and the seed pods.
  • Medical Action: Anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral
  • Constituents: Glucosilinates; unknown anti-bacterial substance, vitamin C

The flowers contain about 130 mg vitamin C per 100 grams (3.5 oz), about the same amount as is contained in parsley. Moreover, they contain up to 45 mg of lutein per 100 gr, which is the highest amount found in any edible plant.

The Basics

Nasturtium is quite a powerful anti-microbial, especially when used as a local remedy for the treatment of bacterial infection. Internally it can be used with benefit in any bacterial infection but it is especially indicated for respiratory infections suchas bronchitis.

It has been found to be beneficial in influenza and the common cold. Some herbalists report it to be indicated in infections of the female reproductive organs.

Nasturtium is mostly taken fresh by adding leaves, flowers and seed pods into salads and other edibles. The plant is antimicrobial, so it is good to eat this herb for infections. It is useful for respiratory infections like bronchitis, flu and colds, and it is also helpful for reproductive infections. It can help clear mucous from the throat and lungs.

By taking herbal tincture when you first feel a cold coming on, you can help speed that cold on its way. The seed pods may be antifungal. Tinctures can be made in alcohol or vinegar to preserve the nutrients of the plant for later use. Vinegar can be put on cooked greens for a mustardy touch.

The mustard oils contained in nasturtium have an antibacterial and antiviral effect and can protect against infectious and undesired yeasts such as candida. They can be used to relieve pain, improve wound healing, treat digestive disorders and bladder infections and infections of the upper respiratory tract.

Description

Nasturtium is found in many gardens with its round flat leaves and bright cheery flowers. It comes in many different colors and some varieties have variegated leaves as well.

Nasturtium is both a decorative garden annual as well as a useful culinary herb. There are two types of nasturtium; a trailing type (Tropaeolum majus) that can be trained to climb or allowed to spread on the ground and a bush type (Tropaeolum minus) that forms loose mounds.

Nasturtium produces colorful flowers all summer and has attractive water lily-like foliage. It is useful as a plant for garden beds as well as for containers. The big beautiful flowers and leaves with their unusual  shield-like shape are particularly striking and ornamental. The plant forms up to 4 m long shoots that bear flowers throughout the year.

Because it is not hardy, all this splendor sadly ends with the first frost. Continue reading

Fumitory

  • Scientific nameFumaria officinalis
  • FamilyFumariaceae
  • Medical Action: Laxative, alterative, cholagogue, hepatic, diuretic, and aperient, a weak tonic, slightly diaphoretic,
  • Constituents: Alkaloids, bitter principle, mucilage, fumaric acid, amino acids, resin. The plant contains isoquinoline alkaloids protopine and allocryptopine.
  • Parts Used: Leaves
  • Other Fumitories: American Fumitory Fumaria Indica, or Codder Indian

The Basics

Earth smoke, as it is also called, is a wild poppy plant traditionally used as an incense herb with a stimulating effect on liver and gallbladder and as a protection against skin diseases and eczema. The drug fumitory is toxic in high doses.

Fumitory has been known since antiquity and was described in herbals from the Middle Ages. Fumitory is a predominantly Mediterranean genus that once was used medicinally. Traditional preparation involved expressing the juice and evaporating it. It has been used as a laxative and diuretic.

Fumaria species are used in Turkish folk medicine as a blood purifier and an anti-allergic agent.

In traditional medicine, the plant has been used to treat eczema and other dermatologic conditions. It was thought to be good for the eyes, and to remove skin blemishes. In modern times herbalists use it to treat skin diseases, and conjunctivitis; as well as to cleanse the kidneys.

Fumitory has a long history of use in the treatment of skin problems such as eczema and acne. Its action is probably due to a general cleansing mediated via the kidneys and liver. Fumitory may also be used as an eyewash to ease conjunctivitis.

The name is said to be derived either from the fact that its whitish, blue-green colour gives it the appearance of smoke rising from the ground, or, according to Pliny, because the juice of the plant brings on such a flow of tears that the sight becomes dim as with smoke, and hence its reputed use in affections of the eye.

Constituents

The leaves yield by expression a juice which has medicinal properties. An extract, prepared by evaporating the expressed juice, or a decoction of the leaves, throws out upon its surface a copious saline efflorescence. Fumaric acid was early identified as present, and its isomerism with maleic acid was established later.

The alkaloid Fumarine has been believed to be identical with corydaline, but it differs both in formula and in its reaction to sulphuric and nitric acids. It occurs in colourless, tasteless crystals, freely soluble in chloroform, less so in benzine, still less so in alcohol and ether, sparingly soluble in water.

Etymology

The “smoky” or “fumy” origin of its name comes from the translucent color of its flowers, giving them the appearance of smoke or of hanging in smoke, and the slightly gray-blue haze color of its foliage, also resembling smoke coming from the ground, especially after morning dew.

The plant was already called fūmus terrae (smoke of the earth) in the early 13th century, and two thousand years ago, Dioscorides wrote in De Materia Medica and Pliny the Elder in Naturalis Historia that rubbing the eyes with the sap or latex of the plant causes tears, like acrid smoke (fūmus) does to the eyes. Continue reading

Coltsfoot

  • Scientific name: Tussilago Farfara
  • Family: in the groundsel tribe of the daisy family Asteraceae
  • Recommended variety: Tussilago farfara ‘Wien’
  • Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, root.
  • Medicinal Actions: Demulcent, expectorant, tonic, antitussive, anticatarrhal, diuretic, emollient, pectoral.
  • Constituents: All parts of the plant abound in mucilage, and contain inulin, zinc, a little tannin and a trace of a bitter amorphous glucoside. The flowers contain also a phytosterol and a dihydride alcohol, Faradial, and carotene

Cautions:

Coltsfoot root contains tumorigenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids and it suspected that there may be small quantities in the leaves. There are documented cases of coltsfoot tea causing severe liver problems in an infant, and in another case, an infant developed liver disease and died because the mother drank tea containing coltsfoot during her pregnancy. In response the German government banned the sale of coltsfoot. Clonal plants of colstfoot free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids were then developed in Austria and Germany. This has resulted in the development of the registered variety Tussilago farfara ‘Wien’ which has no detectable levels of these alkaloids.

The Basics:

The coltsfoot is another wonderful remedy for coughs and colds, whooping cough and shortness of breath. It has a little yellow flower that smells of honey and blooms in February, long before the leaves which grow to enormous size.

Coltsfoot grows nearly everywhere, on rubble heaps, by the side of newly-made roads, on railway banks and on coal mine tips. In fact there is a very old gypsy saying that wherever coltsfoot grows freely, coal will be found. Once it was so revered in France that coltsfoot flowers were painted as a sign on the doorpost of apothecarie’s shops to let people know that the art of healing was practiced there.

Coltsfoot combines a soothing expectorant effect with an antispasmodic action. There are useful levels of zinc in the leaves. This mineral has been shown to have marked anti-inflammatory effects. Coltsfoot may be used in chronic or acute bronchitis, irritating coughs, whooping coughs and asthma. Its soothing expectorant action gives coltsfoot a role in most respiratory conditions, including the chronic state of emphysema.

The Romanies praise this herb very highly. It also has been a part of Chinese folk medicine for centuries.

A decoction of the leaves of the herb coltsfoot to a pint of boiling water (strain before drinking) is very good for colds, coughs and asthma. If you haven`t time to make a decoction when a cough is bad, use an infusion of coltsfoot and take in teacupful dose. It can be sweetened to taste with honey.

As a mild diuretic it has been used in cystitis.

An infusion or juice from fresh leaves can be used as an antiseptic wash for wounds and skin blemishes. The fresh bruised leaves can be applied to boils, abscesses and suppurating ulcers as a poultice, (enclosed in fine muslin to prevent skin irritation)..

Description

Coltsfoot is a low-growing perennial with fleshy, woolly leaves. A member of the daisy family, coltsfoot produces a single golden-yellow flower head that blooms in spring. As the stem dies, the leaves appear. It has long-stalked, hoof-shaped leaves, about 4 inches across, with angular teeth on the margins. The top of the leaf surface is smooth and almost waxy in appearance, while the underside is covered with white, wool-like hairs. Both surfaces of the leaves are covered, when young, with loose, white, felted woolly hairs, but those on the upper surface fall off as the leaf expands.

The bright yellow flowers appear early in the spring, prior to the emergence of any leaves. In Southern Ontario, coltsfoot flowers in April, often before the last of the snow melts. Flower heads have even been known to push through snow. Some people confuse these flowers with dandelion flowers.

The specific name of the plant is derived from Farfarus, an ancient name of the White Poplar, the leaves of which present some resemblance in form and color to those of this plant. There is a closer resemblance, however, to the leaves of the Butterbur, which must not be collected in error; they may be distinguished by their more rounded outline, larger size and less sinuate margin.

An old name for Coltsfoot was Filius ante patrem (the son before the father), because the star-like, golden flowers appear and wither before the broad, sea-green leaves are produced.

The root is spreading, small and white, and has also been used medicinally. The underground stems preserve their vitality for a long period when buried deeply, so that in places where the plant has not been observed before, it will often spring up in profusion after the ground has been disturbed. In gardens and pastures it is a troublesome weed, very difficult to get rid of.

The plant is so dissimilar in appearance at different periods that both Gerard and Parkinson give two illustrations: one entitled ‘Tussilago florens, Coltsfoot in floure,‘ and the other ‘Tussilago herba sine flore.’

‘Coltsfoot hath many white and long creeping roots, from which rise up naked stalkes about a spanne long, bearing at the top yellow floures; when the stalke and seede is perished there appeare springing out of the earth many broad leaves, green above, and next the ground of a white, hoarie, or grayish colour. Seldom, or never, shall you find leaves and floures at once, but the floures are past before the leaves come out of the ground, as may appear by the first picture, which setteth forth the naked stalkes and floures, and by the second, which porttraiteth the leaves only.’

Pliny and many of the older botanists thought that the Coltsfoot was without leaves, an error that is scarcely excusable, for, notwithstanding the fact that the flowers appear in a general way before the leaves, small leaves often begin to make their appearance before the flowering season is over.

Habitat and Cultivation

Coltsfoot, for all its beauty, tends to like rough places to hang out. Seek it in waste ground, building sites, roadsides, the edge of woods, remembering that it has a preference for heavy clay.

Coltsfoot grows abundantly throughout England, especially along the sides of railway banks and in waste places, on poor stiff soils, growing as well in wet ground as in dry situations. The plant is native to Europe, but also grows widely throughout the United States and Canada.

Coltsfoot is found in open, disturbed areas. It often grows in ditches, along roadsides, on forest edges and on steep slopes prone to landslides. It tolerates wet, poorly drained areas and riverbanks susceptible to spring flooding.

Coltsfoot is collected widely from wild plants in the Balkans, Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, the former Yugoslavia), and Italy.

Collection

After the leaves have died down, the shoot rests and produces in the following February a flowering stem, consisting of a single peduncle with numerous reddish bracts and whitish hairs and a terminal, composite yellow flower, whilst other shoots develop leaves, which appear only much later, after the flower stems in their turn have died down.

These two parts of the plant, both of which are used medicinally, are, therefore, collected separately and usually sold separately.

The flowers should be gathered before they have fully bloomed (end of late winter to mid-spring) and dried carefully in the shade. The leaves are best collected between late spring and early summer. They should be chopped up before they are dried and stored. The fresh leaves can be used until Fall.

Medicinal Uses

Demulcent, expectorant and tonic. One of the most popular of cough remedies. The botanical name, Tussilago, signifies ‘cough dispeller,’ and Coltsfoot has justly been termed ‘nature’s best herb for the lungs and her most eminent thoracic.’

As part of its Latin name Tussilago implies, coltsfoot is reputed as an antitussive. The buds, flowers, and leaves of coltsfoot have been long used in traditional medicine for dry cough and throat irritation. The plant has found particular use in Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of respiratory diseases, including cough, asthma, and acute and chronic bronchitis. Continue reading

Alfalfa

  • Scientific Name: Medicago sativa
  • Plant Family: Fabaceae
  • Parts UsedThe leaves, sprouts, and seeds.
  • Actions: anti-anemic, appetizer, diuretic, galactagogue, laxative, nutrient, tonic.
  • QualitiesNeutral thermal nature; Bitter flavor; Dries dampness, Spring, Yin 

The basics:

Alfalfa follows the doctrine of signatures: its ability to produce exceptional roots benefits our “roots,” which are often identified physiologically as our intestines and kidney/bladder functions. Alfalfa cleans and tones the intestines and takes harmful acids out of the blood. It benefits the urinary system and intestines and detoxifies the body.

Alfalfa contains eight enzymes which help assimilate protein, fats, and carbohydrates. It is safe food even for children and helps nursing mothers produce more milk.

In ancient India, Ayurvedic texts prescribe the use of Alfalfa seeds and sprouts for improving blood cell production and its leaves and stem as a good source of protein and minerals.

Nutritional Value:

Alfalfa is rich in chlorophyll, carotene, protein, calcium and other minerals, vitamins in the B group, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Other important nutrients include iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, sulfur, silicon, chlorine, cobalt, and zinc. Alfalfa also contains vitamins K and P, and abundant chlorophyll.

The sun-dried hay of alfalfa has been found to be a source of vitamin D, containing 48 ng/g (1920 IU/kg) vitamin D2 and 0.63 ng/g (25 IU/kg) vitamin D3. There is also reference to vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 being found in the alfalfa shoot.

Medicinal uses:

Alfalfa is used medicinally in a variety of ways, depending on the country, culture, and healing tradition.

  • In China it is considered to have the following qualities: Anodyne, Depurative, Emetic and is used to treat Fever, Gravel, and Dysuria.
  • In Iraq it is commonly used to treat Arthritis.
  • In Turkey, in addition to treating Arthritis, it is considered to be a Cardiotonic  and used to treat Scurvy.
  • In the United States it is believed to be Cyanogenetic, and used in the treatment of and prevention of Cancer.
  • Elsewhere it is used to treat Arthritis, Boils, as an Emmenagogue, Lactagogue, and for Scurvy.

Note: In this day and age of global information via the internet and social media, these dividing lines have become increasingly blurred.

Alfalfa is used for kidney conditions, bladder and prostate conditions, and to increase urine flow. It is also used for high cholesterol, asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, upset stomach, and a bleeding disorder called thrombocytopenic purpura. People also take alfalfa as a source of vitamins A, C, E, and K4; and minerals calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and iron.

Other uses include edema, weight loss, bladder stones, plantar warts, chronic sore throat, fevers, gas pains, peptic ulcers, drug and alcohol addiction recovery.

Alfalfa is helpful for chronic joint inflammation and aiding female hormonal balance. It comforts and strengthens the immune system. Alfalfa is rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that play an important role in the maintenance of a healthy body. It contains protein, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K. It also contains calcium, potassium, carotene, iron and zinc and is considered one of the healthiest plant foods, providing an excellent range of nutritive properties for good health and well being.

Interestingly, alfalfa is a treatment hay fever. Externally the seeds can be made into a poultice for boils, to soothe insect bites, and reduce inflammation. It alkalizes and detoxifies the body. Binds carcinogens in the colon to help speed up their elimination from the body.It is an overall tonic for general health, fatigue, weight gain, and debility. Alfalfa also stimulates the growth of supportive connective tissue, and is useful in the treatment of diabetes.

Alfalfa is a herb rich in protein and the vitamins A, D, E and K. The leaves contain eight of the essential amino acids.Such a a nutrient-rich formula, can be used to replenish the body with vitamins and minerals. It is specifically indicated for those with poor diets and inadequate nutrient intake.

Daily Dosages:

In addition to alfalfa sprouts found in most supermarkets, alfalfa is available as a dried leaf herb, in tablets, capsules, and powders.

  • 2 to 3 cups tea
  • 2 to 4 grams in capsules or pills 3 times a day
  • 6 to 12 grams powder
  • 3 ounces sprouts

To make tea, steep 1 tablespoon seed or 2 ounces dried leaf in 1 quart boiling water. In powder form, the pleasant taste of alfalfa is a welcome addition to soups and salads.

For high cholesterol: a typical dose is 5 to 10 grams of the herb, or as a steeped strained tea, three times a day. 5 to 10 mL of a liquid extract (1:1 in 25% alcohol) three times a day has also been used.

Herbal Combinations:

To get more natural vitamins, combine Alfafa with herbs such as Nettle and Rosehip, Nettle is high in both vitamin C and Iron, thus ensuring that energy levels and prevention of cellular damage is assisted. Nettles acts as a blood tonic with the ability to strengthen the body’s natural resistance. Rosehip is also extremely high in vitamin C and is one of the best herbs used for its antioxidant action on the body. It also assists with maintaining healthy collagen.

Cosmetic Uses:

Alfalfa extract (Medicago Sativum Extract) can be an antioxidant in skin-care products, it is said this extract is a great source of protein, minerals and vitamins C,D,E,K for the skin. Conditions and increases skin metabolism to promote skin healing,used as a topical skin conditioner.Alfalfa Extract is primarily used in manufacture of natural face masks and lotions. Saponins in alfalfa extract acts as natural foaming agent. Boots, Clarins and Lancome are using alfalfa extract in their skincare products. Continue reading

Bilberry

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  • Scientific NameVaccinium myrtillus
  • Plant Family: N.O. Vacciniaceae
  • Parts UsedThe ripe fruit. The leaves.
  • Actions: astringent, diuretic, tonic, antiseptic,antibacterial  

Varieties:

  • V. arboreum, or Farkleberry. This is the most astringent variety, and both berries and root-bark may be used internally for diarrhoea, chronic dysentery, etc. The infusion is valuable as a local application in sore throat, chronic ophthalmia, leucorrhoea, etc.
  • V. resinosum, V. damusum, and V. gorymbosum have properties resembling those of V. myrtillus.
  • The Bog Bilberry ( V. uliginosum) is a smaller, less erect plant, with round stems and untoothed leaves, greyish green beneath. Both flowers and berries are smaller than those of the common Bilberry. This kind is quite absent in the south and only to be found in mountain bogs and moist copses, in Scotland, Durham and Westmorland.
  • The ‘Huckleberry’ of North America, so widely appreciated there, is our Bilberry – the name being an obvious corruption of ‘Whortleberry.’

Constituents: The leaves contain glucoquinones, which reduce the levels of sugar in the blood. The skin of the fruits contains anthocyanin and is specific in the treatment of hemeralopia (day-blindness). The fruit is a rich source of anthocyanosides, which have been shown experimentally to dilate the blood vessels.

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The Basics:

Although often called huckleberry, the bilberry is more nearly related to the cranberry. Vaccinium myrtillus has been used for nearly 1,000 years in traditional European medicine. Bilberry fruits have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally (directly or as tea or liqueur) for treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and diabetes. Herbal supplements of V. myrtillus (bilberry) on the market are used for circulatory problems, as vision aids, and to treat diarrhea and other conditions.

Bilberry is a well-known folk remedy for poor vision, especially for people who suffer from “night blindness,” that is, they have difficulty seeing in the dark. In fact, bilberry jam was given to Royal Air Force pilots who flew nighttime missions during World War II. It works by accelerating the regeneration of retinol purple, commonly known as visual purple, a substance that is required for good eyesight. European medical journals are filled with studies confirming bilberry’s positive effect on vision. Unfortunately, this herb has not received the attention it deserves in the American medical community so far.

Some people use bilberry for conditions of the heart and blood vessels including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), varicose veins, decreased blood flow in the veins, and chest pain. Bilberry is also used for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), hemorrhoids, diabetes, osteoarthritis, gout, skin infections, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

The dried leaves of bilberries are used in the treatment of a variety of complaints. A tea made from the dried leaves is strongly astringent, diuretic, tonic and an antiseptic for the urinary tract. It is also a remedy for diabetes if taken for a prolonged period. Another report says that the leaves can be helpful in pre-diabetic states but that they are not an alternative to conventional treatment. The leaves contain glucoquinones, which reduce the levels of sugar in the blood.

A decoction of the leaves or bark is applied locally in the treatment of ulcers and in ulceration of the mouth and throat. It is sometimes applied directly to the inside of the mouth for mild mouth and throat soreness. A distilled water made from the leaves is an excellent eyewash for soothing inflamed or sore eyes.

Whilst the fresh fruit has a slightly laxative effect upon the body, when dried it is astringent and is commonly used in the treatment of diarrhea etc. The dried fruit is also antibacterial and a decoction is useful for treating diarrhea in children. The skin of the fruits contains anthocyanin and is specific in the treatment of hemeralopia (day-blindness). The fruit is a rich source of anthocyanosides, which have been shown experimentally to dilate the blood vessels, this makes it a potentially valuable treatment for varicose veins, hemorrhoids and capillary fragility.

How does it work?

Bilberry contains chemicals called tannins that can help improve diarrhea, as well as mouth and throat irritation, by reducing swelling (inflammation). There is some evidence that the chemicals found in bilberry leaves can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Some researchers think that chemicals called flavonoids in bilberry leaf might also improve circulation in people with diabetes. Circulation problems can harm the retina of the eye. Continue reading

Oregon Grape

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  • Scientific NameBerberis Aquifolium
  • Common Name: Barberry
  • Plant FamilyBerberidaceae
  • Parts UsedRhizome and Roots, Bark, Fruits
  • Actions: Alterative, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative and tonic

Description: 

Several varieties of the subgenus Mahonia contribute to the drug of commerce under the name of Berberis aquifolium. It is a quickly-growing shrub about 6 feet high: the oddly compound leaves have no spine at the base; they are evergreen and shining. The flowers grow in terminal racemes, are small and yellowish-green in color, and the purple berries are three- to nine-seeded. The bark is brown on the surface and yellow beneath. The root is from 1/2 inch in diameter to 3 inches at the base of the stem, odorless, and with a bitter taste. The shrub was introduced into England from North America in 1823. It was formerly known as Mahonia aquifolia and is very hardy.

Note:It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine.

The Basics:

Oregon grape was often used by several native North American Indian tribes to treat loss of appetite and debility. Its current herbal use is mainly in the treatment of gastritis and general digestive weakness, to stimulate the kidney and gallbladder function and to reduce catarrhal problems. The root and root bark is alterative, blood tonic, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative and tonic. It improves the digestion and absorption and is taken internally in the treatment of psoriasis, syphilis, haemorrhages, stomach complaints and impure blood conditions. Externally, it has been used as a gargle for sore throats and as a wash for blurry or bloodshot eyes.

The blue fruits are tart and improve after frost. They are often gathered for jelly or wine. Used to treat a wide variety of ailments, Oregon Grape species contain the extremely potent alkaloid, berberine, (also found in goldenseal) which is antiseptic and stimulates the liver and spleen.

The fruit is an excellent gentle and safe laxative. Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Mahonia species, has marked antibacterial effects and is used as a bitter tonic. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery.

Berberine has also shown anti-tumor activity.

It is one of the best alterative blood purifiers and liver stimulants. Uses for the Oregon Grape Root include weak digestion, flatulence, jaundice, blood impurities, and as a general tonic to the whole system.

A decoction (instructions below) will be found to be a wonderful blood purifier and will restore health to many who are suffering from a sluggish liver, weak stomach, indigestion, and sallow skin.

Years ago, it was given to children, and said to create appetite and promote digestion, and increase strength and vitality. The current medical thinking is that it is not safe for children, especially infants, or pregnant or nursing women. (see information at the bottom of the post)
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