Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Herb Class April 1st, 2012

Please realize this information is for educational purposes only. Some of the plants discussed below are toxic and should not be used by anyone but a professional trained to do such. Do not ingest these herbs. These notes are posted for 2012 herb class. The class is not posted in its entirety. These are brief notes to help remind my class of what we covered.
I am late getting these notes and photos up from the April herb class, but here it is. The weather was nasty this day  and the creek was a mess from the storn, so we did not get to see as much as I had wished. I don’t have everything here, but have tried to include most of what we saw and discussed. You can find dosage information in my book. I have not listed it here due to lack of time.

First we started our discussion on Oregon grape. We discussed it last time but I forgot to mention that the older the plants are the more berberine they contain and the berberine content seems to be higher from plants collected at lower altitudes. You also find the highest concentration in the root bark although the stem bark is also used.

Then we went over the different categories of laxatives used in herbal medicine and talked about the herbs in each category. Next time we will look at the Cascara by the creek. No one wanted to be outside any longer so we went inside seeking shelter from the rain and cold before finishing our herb walk.

Overview form the morning discussion on Laxatives.

Bulking laxatives: Act via fiber such as oat bran and psyllium husks.

Stool Moisteners: Act to moisten the stool such as fresh mucilaginous or rehydrated mucilaginous herbs such as marshmallow or slippery elm bark, oily seeds such as flax (also a bulking laxative), cholagogue herbs such as dandelion or oregon grape and don’t forget water.

Stimulating Laxatives: These are the purgative herbs which increase bowel activity when there is insufficient peristalsis. These include cascara, aloe, and senna as examples.

Sedating Laxatives: Antispasmodics used when there is constipation due to a spasmodic bowel. Seen with alternating diarrhea and constipation accompanied by pain and chronic spasms.

Echinacea Processing

We pressed out the Echinacea and will filer it during our next class. We also filtered out the popular bud tincture we made last time.

 The Herb Walk

When it warmed up outside, we went out for a little walk to collect horseradish root, and nettle. We also looked at Red current, Wasabi, Uva ursi, Rosemary, Dandelion, Pulsatilla, Bloodroot, and a variety of other herbs poking their heads out of the ground.

Stinging Nettles - Urtica spp.
My nettles are behind time here at this altitude, but Cari brought some to make up for it. We made a lovely pesto with them. I have already went over information on nettles and the pesto on an earlier blog. You can find it here.

Wasabi - Wasabi Japonica
 The taste of wasabi comes from glucosinolates. Glucosinolates can also be found in horseradish, turnips, pak-choi, rutabaga, mustard, cabbage, brussel sprouts, brocolli, caulifolower, kale, kohlrabi, watercress, rapeseed and radish.

When we eat wasabi or another gulcosinolate containing plant, the act of chewing it alters the glucosinolate. We activate an enzyme in wasabi that changes glucosinolate to isothiocyanate or thiocyanates or other compounds. If the wasabi has been dried the enzymes gets destroyed in the drying process unless it undergoes freeze drying.

For you science buffs, glucosinolates are hydrolyzed by either the enzyme glucosinolase or thioglucosidase into glucose, HSO4- , and one of the following aglycone derivatives: isothiocynates, thiocyanates, nitriles, or related compounds such as oxazolidine-2-thiones. The enzymes for hydrolysis are produced by plants and by rumen organisms. They react with the glucosinolates when plant tissue is crushed, for example by mastication (chewing), or when the plant is consumed into the rumen of a ruminant animal such as a goat, cow or bison.

Isothiocyanates have been found in research to be anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antioxidant, protective of kidney neprhons, and protective of the cardiovascular system.

Isothiocyanates are irritating to mucous membranes and not readily consumed in sufficient quantities to be toxic. However, if they are consumed as glucosinolates and then hydrolyzed to isothiocyanates via mastication or in the gut, they can have powerful antithyroid effects and interfere with the synthesis of necessary thyroid hormones.

In animal studies they have identified that the animals can tolerate 10% of their diet being rapeseed (also contains glucosinolates) before they have symptoms of poisoning from the glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are thioethers. These compounds often contribute a bitter, "hot" taste to condiments (mustard, horseradish) and may exhibit goitrogenic or antithyroid activity.

Uva ursi - Arctostaphylos uva ursi
This plant is also known as Kinnikinnick  which was the Algonquian word for “mixture”. Uva ursi was mixed with tobacco and smocked. Some people still smoke it today.  Some how the name Kinnikinnick began being used for Uva ursi itself. Ursi is most known for its use in urinary tract infections. The leaves contain arbutin, an antiseptic that is hydrolyzed by gut bacteria to hydroquinone.  In alkaline urine, hydroquinone is an effective antimicrobial agent and uva ursi itself tends to alkalinize the urine. Arbutin itself also contributes to the antiseptic activity in the urinary tract. Consumption of this herb may cause a green tinge in the urine.

This plant is usually used short term as larger doses or use long term is contraindicated. It should not be used in pregnancy because of the oxytocic properties. Toxic doses can cause nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, difficult breathing, and really excessive doses can cause convulsions and loss of consciousness. Arbutin inhibits the degradation of insulin and may be problematic for those with hypoglycemia.

Dandelion - Taraxacum officinalis
Dandelion is a mild laxative, diuretic (especially the leaf) coloagogue, choleretic, blood thinner, antioxidant and blood thinner. It has been used in arthritis, gout,  edema, gastric headaches and a variety of liver ailments. The whole plant, especially the root, is beneficial to the liver but is slow in producing the desired action. Autumn roots are roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The high inulin content, especially in the autumn makes dandelion root a good food source for beneficial gut bacteria.

Red current - Ribes rubrum
Red Current
Red Current
 All the Currants are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. Red Currants have mildly laxative, astringent (leaves especially), appetite increasing, diuretic and digestive properties. It can calm stomach upsets. Tea made from dried leaves can be helpful in relieving the symptoms of gout and rheumatism. The leaves can also be useful in treatment of slow healing wounds, and as a gargle in cases of mouth infections.

Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis
Rosemary was beginning to bud out and although damaged by the storm, was still beautiful. This common cooking herb has a long history of medicinal use. It has been used as a nervine, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, choleretic, hepatoprotective, antispasmodic, diuretic etc....

Its strong antioxidant effect has gained the interest of food processors in the past who have tried to use it as a natural preservative but they decided they did not want all their food tasting like rosemary so it did not catch on in a big way.  
Rosemary has always been said to help with memory and recently research investigated its use in this way. They found that indeed it does seem to help with cognitive abilities but smaller doses were more effective than larger doses.

Bloodroot - Sanguinaria canadensis
 This is a low-dose herb. This means it is toxic and you should not use it unless you are a professional trained to do such. It is used by health care professionals to support people in cancer therapy.

Bloodroot is in the poppy family. The part of the plant used is the root. It is very bitter and acrid tasting. Not a plant you consume as a food for sure.

Bloodroot is an antispasmodic, expectorant and diaphoretic as well as diuretic and choleretic. However, due to its possible toxicity other herbs get used in its place generally. It does get used sometimes in acute or subacute respiratory tract illness by practitioners. You will see it used in bronchitis, laryngitis, nasal catarrh and after pneumonia where debility persists. The most common traditional use has been for internal  use in cancer formulas and even more so, externally in cancer salves. It is of course illegal for anyone but an oncologist to treat someone for cancer currently. However, there are people still making salves and herbal formulas for this use but they are not allowed to treat cancer with them.

Studies show the constituent, sanguinarine, helps reduce and limit the deposition of dental plaque.. You will find it in some toothpastes as an antiplaque agent.

 Contraindications: It is contraindicated in pregnancy due to the emmenagogue effect and uterine stimulating activity of the alkaloids, berberine, protopine and chelerythrine, as reported in animal studies. Over-dosage can cause nausea and vomiting, hepatitis, vertigo, visual disturbances and prostration. Do not use this herb unless under the guidance of a trained health care practitioner. The fresh root is more dangerous than the dry root.  Professionals do not use more than 1-2 drops every 2-4 hours in acute phase, then 1-2 drops per day after the acute phase.

Pulsatilla - Anemone pulsatilla
This is another low-dose herb. This means you should not use it unless you are a trained professional. It gets used in very small doses.

Pulsatilla is in the Buttercup family. The whole plant, especially the root is used. It has an acrid and bitter taste to it.

Pulsatilla is an anti-inflammatory, sedative and analgesic. Used for people who have nervous conditions like fearfulness, general nervousness, dejection, emotional lability, and weep easily. Often the person feels exhausted and perceives that they are not in control. They may have heart palpitations and insomnia. The individual is gentle, with a yielding disposition, and has changeable symptoms and moods. It is used for amenorrhea following wet cold feet, endometriosis, ovarian neuralgia ovarian congestion and inflammation, with dull, nagging, aching, tearing pains. It is useful with unbearable headaches prior to menses.

Contraindications: An overdose can cause toxicity with sensations of burning in the mouth and throat, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, slowed pulse and breathing, hypo-thermia, sensory and motor depression, stupor, coma and convulsions. Because it is a uterine stimulant, it is contraindicated in pregnancy.

Artichoke - Cynara scolymus

This is a common garden plant with a lot of healthy kick to it. It is a strong antioxidant used to protect the liver  from damage and to regenerate damaged liver tissue. It is a cholagogue and a choleretic. Research shows it lowers cholesterol and lipids, decreases atherosclerosis and acts to thin the blood. It is also helpful in preventing gall stones, and irritable bowel. The artichoke flavonoids appear useful in supporting cardiovascular health by supporting endothelial integrity via increasing endothelial nitric oxide production. The part commonly used as a medicine is the leafy parts early in the spring when still young and fresh.

Lily of the Valley - Convallaria majalis

Lily of the Valley
We also looked examined Lilly of the Valley which is used in congestive heart failure (Another botanical that only trained folks should use.) Some students dug up and took some of this wonderful smelling plant home with them.