From the Earth to the Bar

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

Part 9 – 9 Entries
Anise – Blackberry – Carob – Cubeb – Pineapple – Radish – Strawberry Tree – Sweet Chestnut - Wormwood

Pimpinella anisum ( Umbelliferae )

Part used – Seeds, essential oil Native to the eastern Mediterranean, western Asia, and North Africa. Harvested when ripe in autumn, it is also used as a flavoring agent in cooking and liqueurs such as Absinthe, Anisette, Herbsaint, Ouzo, Pernod, and Sambuca. Erect annual growing to 2 ft, with feathery leaves, umbels of yellow flowers, and ridged gray-green seeds. The leaves and seeds offer a sweet licorice flavor. Cultivated in Egypt for over 4000 years, it has a long history of medicinal use Anise contains the volatile oil anethole, which has an observed estrogenic effect, which may substantiate its use as a stimulant of sexual drive and breast-milk production. Actions – Known for the ability to settle digestion, anise’s expectorant action is reason for its use with respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, asthma, and whooping cough.

Rubus fruticosus ( Rosaceae )

Part used – Leaves, berries Native to temperate areas of Europe, it is also naturalized in Australia and the Americas. A large prickly shrub growing to 12 ft, with palm-shaped leaves w/3-5 lobes, white to pale pink flowers, and clusters of blackberries. It grows along roads, open areas, and in woodland. Leaves are picked in summer, the berries in summer and autumn. Recommended in the 1st Century AD to use the ripe berries as a gargle for sore throat. In European folk medicine, the blackberry leaves were used for washing wounds, due to their strong astringent quality, and as a mouthwash to strengthen gums and ease mouth ulcers.

Ceratonia siliqua ( Leguminosae )

Part used – Fruit, bark Native to southeastern Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. It flourishes in poor soil, in warm temperate climates. Evergreen tree growing to 30 ft, with compound leaves, green flowers, and large violet-brown fruit (bean pods). Harvested in late summer or autumn. The fruit contains up to 70% sugars, fats, starch, proteins, vitamins, and tannins. Pulp from the pods has long been used as a sweet food and for making alcoholic drinks, and forms the basis of most cocoa-flavored drinks. Both a nutritious food and a medicine. A decoction is also made, gently helping to cleanse and relieve irritation within the gut.

Piper cubeba ( Piperaceae )

Part used – Fruit Native to Indonesia, cubeb is also cultivated in much of tropical Asia, primarily in the shade of coffee bushes. A climbing perennial growing to 20 ft, with oval to oblong evergreen leaves, small flowers forming spikes, and round brown fruit, which is gathered when immature. Cubeb contains a volatile oil (up to 20%), a bitter principle (cubebin), an alkaloid (piperidine), resin, and fixed oil. A member of the pepper family, it has a significant antiseptic action, it is also helpful in relieving digestive problems. The fruit is used to counter urinary tract infections, and its expectorant properties have been used in the treatment of chronic bronchitis.

Ananas comosus ( Bromeliaceae )

Part used – Fruit, juice, leaves Native to South America, it is also cultivated throughout the tropics for its fruit and leaf fiber. Herbaceous perennial growing to 3 ft, with a short, sturdy stem, spiny lance-shaped leaves, and thick, juicy reddish-yellow fruit. With high levels of vitamins A and C, the fruit also contains a protein-splitting enzyme called bromelain, which acts as an aid to digestion. Action – The juice of the ripe fruit is both a digestive tonic and a diuretic, and in Indian herbal medicine, it is thought to act as a uterine tonic. The sour unripe fruit also increases appetite and relieves dyspepsia.

Raphanus sativus ( Cruciferae )

Part used – Root Native to southern Asia. Different varieties are grown around the world as vegetables and for medicinal use. The root is unearthed in autumn. Bristly annual growing close to 3 ft, with swollen tap root, deeply cut compound leaves, pale violet to lilac flowers, and cylindrical seed pods. Radish has been used since at least the 7th century, to aid digestion. In Egypt, it was used as a vegetable, medicine, and a barter for work, along with onions and garlic. In Rome, radish oil was applied to treat skin diseases. In China, it was listed in the Tang Materia Medica (AD 659) as a digestive stimulant. Actions – One of its key constituents, raphanin, has antibiotic properties. The juice of the black radish has a tonic and laxative effect on the intestines, and generally improves digestion. The common red radish is used today as a salad vegetable. Due to its acridity and robust action. Some people may feel it sensitive to the system. Therefore, limit consumption.

Strawberry Tree
Arbutus unedo ( Ericaceae )

Part used – Leaves, fruit Native to Mediterranean coasts, it also grows in western Ireland, Australia, and Africa. Leaves are gathered in late summer, the fruit in autumn. Evergreen shrub growing to 20 ft, having an upright stem with reddish bark, leathery serrated leaves, white or pink bell-shaped flowers, and warty red fruit resembling strawberries. Unpalatable when fresh, the fruit is made into liqueurs and preserves. Actions – Due to the strawberry tree’s key constituents, it is very useful as an astringent for diarrhea and dysentary. It’s antiseptic action makes it a useful remedy within the urinary tract for treating cystitis and urethritis. It also makes a gargle for sore and irritated throats.

Sweet Chestnut
Castanea sativa ( Fagaceae )

Part used – Leaves, bark Native to the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and the Caucasus. It also grows freely across Europe, including Britain. Deciduous tree growing to a height of 100 ft, with smooth silver-gray bark, lance-shaped dark-green leaves, male and female catkins, and spiny yellow-green seed cases holding 2 or 3 gloss brown nuts. Sweet chestnut contains tannins, plastoquinones, and mucilage. The Mohicans in North America used an infusion of American chestnut leaves to treat whooping cough. The nuts are a nutritious food that can be roasted, candied, or made into a flour. The flowers are sometimes added to blends of aromatic tobaccos. Actions – An infusion of the leaves treats bronchial congestion and whooping cough, as the preparation tightens the mucous membranes and inhibits wailing coughs. The leaves also treat rheumatic conditions, lower back pain, and stiff

muscles. A decoction of the leaves or bark works well for sore throats.

Artemisia absinthium ( Compositae )

Part used – Fresh leaves, aerial parts (fresh and dried) Native to Europe, it now grows wild in central Asia and in eastern parts of the U.S. It is also cultivated in temperate regions worldwide. A perennial reaching 3 ft, with gray-green stems and feathery leaves, both covered in fine hairs. The aerial parts are harvested in late summer. There are 7 other species of artemisia with a medicinal use. In the past, wormwood was one of the main flavorings of vermouth (whose name is German for wormwood). Wormwood is also the source of absinthe, a highly popular liqueur in 19th century France, where it was banned for close to 80 years for its addictive and toxic effects, due to the essential oil of wormwood containing the constituent thujone, a known hallucinogen and stimulant to the brain, when excessive doses or drinks are consumed. Other herbs containing thujone are sage, tansy, and arbor vitae. Actions – Due to its aromatic bitter actions, it has a strong tonic effect on the digestive system, increasing stomach acid and bile production, therefore improving the absorption of nutrients. This makes it beneficial for those who suffer from anemia. If a tincture is taken regularly, it slowly strengthens the body to return to full vitality after a prolonged illness. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory and as a mild antidepressant.

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