From the Earth to the Bar

By Kyle Branche Source: Andrew Chevallier’s Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants

Part 8 – 9 Entries
Allspice – Apricot – Buttertree – Caraway – Ginseng – Lemon – Pepper – Rosemary - Star Anise

Pimenta officinalis ( Myrtaceae )

Part used – Berries, essential oil Native to the Caribbean and Central and South America, and extensively cultivated in Jamaica. Aromatic evergreen tree growing to 40 ft, with leathery oblong leaves, clusters of small white flowers, and tiny green berries that turn brown as they mature. The berries are gathered prior to becoming fully ripe, because the volatile oil content reduces as they mature. The herb acts as a stimulant, stomach settler, and antiseptic. Similar action to that of the clove. Also taken to relieve flatulence and indigestion.

Prunus armeniaca ( Rosaceae )

Part used – Fruit, seeds, bark Native to China and Japan for over 2000 years, it is now cultivated in Asia, North Africa, and California. Deciduous tree growing to 30 ft, this sturdy tree has oval leaves, clusters of white 5-petaled flowers, and pale yellow to deep purple fruit. Actions – The fruit is cleansing and mildly laxative. The sizeable kernels are highly toxic, but have prescribed in small amounts to treat coughs, wheezing, asthma, mucus, and constipation. Laetrile, an extract, has been used in western medicine as a treatment for cancer.

Madhuca spp. ( Sapotaceae )

Part used – Flowers, seed oil Native to central and northern India. The flowers, leaves, and seeds are gathered in summer. Deciduous tree growing to 70 ft, with leathery leaves, clusters of scented white flowers, and greenish fruit. A source of food and medicine for over 2000 years, the flowers are eaten, and are fermented to make alcoholic drinks. Actions – The expectorant flowers are used to treat bronchitis and other chest problems, and also taken to increase production of breast milk. The seed oil is a laxative. The leaves relieve eczema, when applied as a poultice.

Carum carvi ( Umbelliferae )

Part used – Seeds, essential oil Native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. It grows wild, where it prefers sunny sites up to 6000 ft above sea level. Caraway is also cultivated in Russia and the U.S. Aromatic annual growing to 2 ft, with ridged stem, feathery leaves, and umbels of white flowers in mid summer. The seeds are harvested ripe in late summer. Commonly used in cooking, the seed also helps in the relief of colds of the head and stomach Action – An antispasmodic, diuretic, and expectorant. It has beneficial effect on intestinal spasms, and is similar in action to anise.

Panax ginseng ( Araliaceae ) – Ren Shen (Chinese)

Part used – Root (fresh and dried) Native to northeastern China, eastern Russia, and North Korea. Great skill is required for proper cultivation. The plant takes at least 4 years to mature, when the active constituents are most concentrated, and is normally harvested in autumn. A perennial growing to 3 ft, with oval tooth leaves, and a cluster of small gree-yellow flowers. 7,000 years of use, it is the most famous of all Chinese herbs, and valued for its remarkable therapeutic benefits. Actions – Adaptogenic, tonic. Ginseng helps the body adapt to many reactive difficulties, such as stress (mental, emotional, and physical), fatigue, hunger, and extreme temperature changes, as it increases the strength of the immune function. In China, it is best known as a stimulating tonic herb for athletes, and as a male aphrodisiac. Overall, it’s a great tonic in maintaining vitality through life for all ages. Even old age, it’s an excellent restorative and sedative.

Citrus limon ( Rutaceae )

Part used – Fruit, pith, and peel First grown in Europe in the 2nd Century AD, they are now cultivated in Mediterranean and subtropical climates worldwide. The fruit is best harvested in winter when the vitamin C content is at its highest. The lemon tree is a small evergreen growing to about 22 ft, with light-green toothed leaves and yellow fruit. Highly effective against colds and flu, it is also taken to prevent conditions such as stomach infections, circulatory problems, and arteriosclerosis.

Actions – Antiseptic, antirheumatic, antibacterial, antioxident, and reduces fever. Preparations – Juice, essential oil

Piper nigrum ( Piperaceae )

Part used – Fruit, essential oil Native to southwestern India, it is now cultivated in tropical areas around the world. Harvested from plants at least 3 years old. Perennial woody climber growing to about 15 ft, with large oval leaves, spikes of small white flowers and clusters of small round fruits, which ripen from green to red.
Green – Picked unripe and pickled Black – Picked unripe and dried Red – Picked ripe and dried White – Picked ripe and soaked in water for 8 days before drying.

The peppercorns are in four colors:

Cultivated as a spice and medicine since ancient times, pepper was a vital commodity in world trade. Pepper contains a volatile oil, up to 9% alkoloids, about 11% proteins, and small amounts of minerals. Actions – The sharp taste of pepper reflect the stimulant effect it has on the digestive tract and the circulatory system. It is also antiseptic, antibacterial, and reduces fever. The essential oil eases rheumatic pain and toothache.

Rosmarinus officinalis ( Labiatiae )

Part used – Leaves (fresh and dried), essential oil Native to the Mediterranean, it grows freely in many parts of southern Europe, and cultivated throughout the world. Preferring a warm, sheltered site, after summer flowering. The branches are gathered and dried in the shade. An aromatic evergreen shrub growing to 7 ft, with narrow dark-green pinelike leaves. Today, it is still burned in the homes of students in Greece who are about to take exams, as it is used to improve and strengthen the memory. Constituents – Volatile oil, flavonoids, tannins, rosmarinic acid, diterpenes, and rosmaricine

An invigorating herb, known to raise the spirits and improve the thriving of one’s life from long term stress and chronic illness. Actions – Tonic, stimulant, astringent, restorative, nervine, anti-inflammatory, and carminative.

Star Anise
Illicium verum ( Illiciaceae ) – Ba Jiao Hui Xian (Chinese)

Part used – Fruit Native to China, India, and Vietnam. It grows in tropical and subtropical regions, including parts of North America. Evergreen tree growing to 60 ft, with tapering leaves, pale greenish-yellow flowers, and star-shaped segmented fruit (seed pods). Like anise, star anise is similar in taste and is mainly used as a spice. The herb’s Chinese name means “8-horned fennel”. Actions – Having stimulant, diuretic, and digestive properties, an extract of the herb’s volatile oil constituents has antibacterial properties. Used in Chinese medicine as a remedy for rheumatism, back pain, and hernias of the intestine or bladder. When mixed with fennel, it helps to relax the organs, muscles, and relieve spasm. Dried star anise can also be used as an attractive garnish in some straight cocktails or cordials.

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