From the Earth to the Bar

By Kyle Branche Source: Andrew Chevallier’s Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Part 5 – 8 Entries
Artichoke – Barley – Cardamom – Corn – Echinacea – Nutmeg and Mace – Prickly Pear - Sesame

Cynara scolymus ( Compositae )

Part used – Flower heads, leaves, roots Native to the Mediterranean region, it thrives in rich soil in warm temperate climates. Plants that are commercially grown are renewed after 4 years. Picked in early summer when the flower heads are unopened, along with leaves. Perennial herb growing to 5 ft, with large thistle-like leaves, white beneath and gray-green above, and very large purple-green flower heads. Greatly valued by the ancient Greeks and Romans. A Mediterranean home recipe uses fresh artichoke leaf juice mixed with wine or water as a liver tonic. Good for diabetics, as it significantly lowers blood sugar. A valuable medicinal plant, the leaves benefit the liver against toxins and infection. All parts of the plant have bitter constituents and stimulate digestive secretions. This also benefits the lowering of blood cholesterol levels.

Hordeum distichon ( Gramineae )

Part used – Seeds Cultivated in temperate regions worldwide. The seeds are harvested when mature. Annual grass growing to around 3 ft, with an erect hollow stem, lance-shaped leaves, and ears with twin rows of seeds and long bristles. Barley has been consumed since neolithic times, a period of human culture beginning around 10,000 BC, and characterized by the invention of farming and the making of technically advanced stone implements/tools. Actions – Excellent as a form of porridge or barley water. It is soothing to the throat, providing nutrients easily, such as proteins, sugars, starch, fats, and B vitamins. It also acts as a demulcent, soothing sores, swelling, and inflammation to the gut and urinary tract. It also aids digestion of milk, and a treatment for fever.

Eletteria cardamomum ( Zingiberaceae ) – Elaci (Hindi)

Part used – Seeds Native to southern India and Sri Lanka, it grow abundantly in forests at 2500–5000 ft above sea level. Also cultivated in southern Asia, Indonesia, and Guatemala. A perennial growing to 15 ft, with mauve-marked white flowers, and very long lance-shaped leaves. Harvested by hand in dry weather autumn just before the pods start to open, and are dried whole in the sun. Each pod contains up to 20 aromatic dark red-brown seeds. One of the oldest spices in the world, it was used extensively in ancient Egypt to make perfumes. Used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years as an excellent remedy for digestive problems. Actions – Carminative, aromatic, antispasmodic, digestive stimulant, tonic, eases stomach pain, aphrodisiac. Preparations – Infusion, tincture, essential oil

Zea mays (Gramineae) – Maize, Cornsilk, Yu Mi Shu (Chinese)

Part used – Fresh meal (corn), cornsilk (stamens) – dried or fresh Native to the Andes and Central America. Propagated from seed in spring, it is cultivated universally as a food crop. The cornsilk is harvested with the ripe cob in summer, then separated and dried. An annual grass reaching 10 ft, with plume-like male flowers. The female flowers produce cobs. Corn meal has been used by Native Americans for a wide range of ailments. The Aztecs gave a corn meal concoction for dysentery, “heat in the heart”, and to increase breast-milk production. Actions – Urinary demulcent, diuretic, gently lowers blood pressure, and mildly stimulated bile secretion. Corn Silk also has a beneficial effect on the kidneys, by reducing stone formation, and is also helpful with chronic cystitis.

Echinacea angustifolia & E. Purpurea ( Compositae ) – Purple Coneflower

Part used – Root (fresh and dried), flowers Native to the central parts of the U.S., it is now grown commercially in Europe and the U.S.. The flowers are gathered in full bloom. The roots of 4-year old plants are lifted in autumn. A perennial growing to 20 in, with daisy-like purple flowers and leaves covered in coarse hair. One of the world’s most important medicinal plants, echinacea is also the most highly regarded immune stimulant in Western herbal medicine, with the ability to raise the body’s resistance to bacterial and viral infections. So beneficial, it is now being investigated as a treatment for HIV and AIDS. In Native American medicine, the Comanche used echinacea for toothache and sore throats. The Sioux took it for rabies and snakebite. There is an organic juice on the market today, with the flavor and name of Lemon Ginger Echinacea, as well as tinctures of the herb solo, and with goldenseal. Actions – Immune stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, detoxifier, antiallergenic, heals wounds, and increases sweating. Preparations – Tincture (of root, for chronic infections) Decoction (of root, to treat throat infections) Capsules (of powdered root, for colds) Tablets (immune stimulant for infections)

Nutmeg and Mace
Myristica fragrans ( Myristicaceae ) – Rou Dou Kou (Chinese)

Part used – Aril, dried seed kernel Native to the Molucca Islands (Indonesia), the nutmeg trees (of which nutmeg and mace come from) are now widely cultivated. It yields fruit after 8 years, and can continue to fruit for over 60 years. When fresh, the aril (mace) is scarlet colored, and turns yellow as it dries, separated from the seed casing it surrounds, which contains the kernal (nutmeg). Evergreen tree growing to 40 ft, w/ aromatic leaves and small clusters of flowers.

The volatile oil myristicin, more highly concentrated in the mace, is known to be a hallucinogenic when over-consumed. Actions – The principal medicinal benefits stimulate the digestion and treat infections of the digestive tract. Secondarily, nutmeg has long been valued as an aphrodisiac, and as a remedy for eczema and rheumatism. Preparations – Ointment, essential oil, infusion (add a pinch to a peppermint infusion to treat gastroenteritis), grated nutmeg, and powdered mace.

Prickly Pear
Opuntia ficus-indica (Cactaceae )

Part used – Flowers, fruit, stems Native to Mexico, and naturalized in semi-tropical regions around the world. The fruit is harvested when ripe. The stems as required. Perennial cactus growing to 10 ft, with large spatula-shaped stems covered in clusters of spines, bright yellow flowers, and round purple fruit. This fruit is used to make an alcoholic drink in Mexico. The nutritious fruit contains mucilage, sugars, vitamin C, and other fruit acids. The flowers contain a flavonoid. Action – The flowers are an astringent and reduce bleeding, along with helping problems of the gastrointestinal tract. They are also taken to treat an enlarged prostate gland.

Sesamum indicum ( Pedaliaceae )

Part used – Seeds, seed oil, root Native to Africa, it is also cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. The root is unearthed in summer, and the seeds collected after the seed capsules have turned brown-black. Erect annual growing to 6 ft, with lance-shaped to oval leaves, white, pink, or mauve flowers, and oblong capsules holding many small gray seeds. In ancient Egypt, the seeds were eaten and also pressed to yield oil, used to

make ointments and burning in lamps. India and China have eaten sesame for thousands of years, used as a food and a flavoring agent. Highly nutritious, the seeds contain 55% oil, mainly unsaturated fats, 26% protein, vitamins B and E, folic acid, and minerals (especially calcium). Actions – The seeds can be prescribed for problems such as dizziness, tinnitus, and blurred vision (due to anemia). Sesame has a lubricating effect within the digestive tract. The oil benefits the skin, and is a cosmetic base.

Perennial Plant that lives for at least three seasons Poultice Herbal preparations usually applied hot to affected area to alleviate and reduce swelling Purgative A very strong laxative Qi Vital energy force in Chinese philosophy Rhizome Underground storage stem Rubefacient Stimulates blood flow to skin, causing reddening and warming