Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Herbal IQ Program August 10, 2011

This is basically from the website What Grandma Knew, but links are given to all the other sites quoted in the answers.

Saffron comes from Western Asia and most likely Persia. The crocus was cultivated in ancient Europe. The Mongols took saffron from Persia to India. In ancient time saffron was used medicinally and as well as for food and as a dye.
How To Buy and Store Saffron
Unless you use saffron frequently it is best to purchase in small amounts like .5 or 1 gram at a time. You can view the chart below to see equivalents and about how much is used in common recipes.  If you use saffron frequently then you may want to invest in a one ounce tin. (See Where to Buy)

Threads vs Powder
Like most all spices and herbs, "whole" is more powerful than ground. Whole saffron must be prepared before use, sometimes soaked, sometimes toasted and ground.  If that's too much fuss for you then you may want to purchase ground. Buy ground saffron in small amounts and use within 3 to 6 months.  Purchase saffron from a reliable shop and be particularly careful when buying powdered saffron as it can be "cut" or diluted with turmeric or other additives.

Saffron must be stored in a cool dark place.  It is customary to wrap saffron in foil and place in a tin or jar with a tight fitting lid.

Properly stored you can keep saffron for minimally three years.  It won't "go bad" but the flavor will diminish as it ages.

Coriander is a spice made from the seed of the Cilantro  plant. The plant, which is also called the Coriander plant or Chinese Parsley, is a member of the carrot and parsley family. The seeds are small and round, with a brown or yellowish-brown color.
Both the seeds and leaves of the Cilantro plants are edible, but they have very distinct flavors and uses. Coriander has a light and fresh flavor, tinged with lemon. It is commonly used in curries or in other Asian cuisines and is often combined with ginger. Coriander is also used to flavor sausages and is even used in manufacturing some cigarettes. Cilantro leaves have a very pungent flavor; people generally love or hate the taste of Cilantro.
The Cilantro plant has been grown in India, China and Egypt for thousands of years. Coriander is believed to be one of the earliest spices used by man. There are references to the spice in early Sanskrit documents, the Bible and ancient Chinese and Middle Eastern stories. It gained an early reputation as both an aphrodisiac and an appetite stimulant. More recently, it has gained popularity in Western and Southwestern cuisine. Today, Spain and Morocco are some of the leading producers of coriander.
Cilantro is easy to grow and it develops quickly. It can be grown indoors or in most warm climates, but it is especially suited for environments with dry, hot summers. The coriander seeds usually ripen in late summer and should be dried thoroughly before they are used. Dry the seeds by cutting the stems and hanging the plant cuttings upside down. Do not use hot air to dry the seeds since it will detract from the delicate flavor of the spice.
Coriander seeds can be used whole or ground. One unit of ground coriander can be substituted for one unit of coriander seeds in many recipes. Try sprinkling the whole seeds over salads or roasting meats. The ground spice is ideal for creating spicy rubs and is often used in marinades.
Goldenseal root
Also known as
Hydrastis canadensis, Orange Root, Yellow Root, Yellow Puccoon. Ground Raspberry. Wild Curcuma. Turmeric Root. Indian Dye. Eye Root. Eye Balm. Indian Paint. Jaundice Root, and Warnera.

Goldenseal root has a long history of medicinal use among Native American tribes of the northeast, its native habitat. The plant was first described to the outside world in the 1700s and was greeted with such enthusiasm as a virtual cure-all that exports of the native American plant reached 200,000 to 300,000 pounds annually. Among the maladies that goldenseal root was said to be an effective treatment for were upper respiratory infections, catarrh, intestinal infections, infections of the mucous membranes, diabetes, yeast infections and thrush. Recent research has isolated constituents in goldenseal which have broad spectrum antibiotic properties, as well as astringent and anti-inflammatory actions, giving credence to many of the traditional uses of the herb.

Hydrastine, Berberine, berberastine, canadine, candaline, and hydrastinine, fatty acids, resin, polyphenolic acids, meconin, chlorogenic acid, phytosterins and a small amount of volatile oil

Parts Used

Typical Preparations
In tea as an infusion or decoction, in capsules, as a poultice and in liquid extract form.

Goldenseal root is considered to be an effective broad spectrum antibiotic, and is very much in demand worldwide. Its antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties have led researchers to study goldenseal root as a possible alternative to chemical antibiotics. Goldenseal also appears to promote healthy glandular function, and may have a tonic and detoxifying effect on the entire system.

Because berberine can stimulate contractions, goldenseal root should not be used by pregnant women. Goldenseal may raise blood pressure and should not be used for extended periods of time by those with heart conditions.
4.What herbal liqueur has been credited for the birth of the Impressionist art movement?

  It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of the herb Artemisia absinthium, commonly referred to as "grande wormwood", together with green anise and sweet fennel. Absinthe traditionally has a natural green colour but can also be colourless. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as "la fée verte" (the "green fairy" in French).
Although it is sometimes mistakenly called a liqueur, absinthe is not bottled with added sugar and is therefore classified as a spirit.[5] Absinthe has a very high level of alcohol by volume but is normally diluted with water when consumed.
5. Which herb provides the salicylic acid from which aspirin was originally synthesized?
 White Willow Bark
Also known as- Salix alba, Willow and Willow bark.

Native to North America, northern Asia, and much of Africa, the white willow is a low-growing deciduous tree bearing long, green, tapering leaves and catkins in spring. Bark is tripped from young trees in the spring for use in herbal medicines.
Willow bark is the grandmother of aspirin and many other medications for arthritis and rheumatism. Almost two thousand years ago, the Greek physician Dioscorides used willow bark to sooth the pain of inflamed joints. Native American healers used willow bark long before Columbus„or the Vikings„landed.
The conversion of willow bark to aspirin began in 1828 when a German chemist isolated the active ingredient and named it salicin. In 1899, the Bayer company began manufacturing and selling a modified form of the willow bark chemical acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin. This first of the modern miracle medicines has been a mainstay in the treatment of joint pain ever since. Willow bark is a proven painkiller appropriate for colds, fevers, minor infections, headache, arthritis, and pain caused by inflammation.

Salicin, tannins.

Parts Used

Typical Preparations
Most commonly used in tea preparations, and equally convenient as a capsule or extract. Also used to make lozenges, and salicin tablets.

The analgesic action of willow bark depends on symbiotic or "friendly" intestinal bacteria to digest is components into painkilling forms. Aspirin does not require digestion by intestinal bacteria, and works more quickly. Willow bark, on the other hand, continues to provide pain relief longer than aspirin.
Unlike aspirin, the salicylates in willow bark do not increase the risk of bleeding. They do not usually irritate the lining of the stomach. For these reasons, willow bark may be useful for people who have chronic joint pain but cannot take NSAIDs or COX-2 inhibitors.

Native American herbal medicine used willow bark to diminish sexual desire. Long-term, daily use of willow bark will reduce sexual desire, although it will not alter sexual performance in either men or women. Do not use willow bark if you are allergic to aspirin, and do not give willow bark to a child under sixteen years of age who has symptoms of any kind of viral infection, especially flu or chickenpox.ow bark
Alternate names: Maidenhair tree, Kew tree, Japanese silver apricot
Ginkgo is one of the oldest living tree species. The extract of ginkgo leaves is used medicinally in North America, where it's one of the most popular medicinal herbs, and many other countries around the world. In traditional Chinese medicine, the seeds of the ginkgo tree are used.

Why Do People Use Ginkgo?

  • To improve mental function
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Age-related memory loss
  • Macular degeneration
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • To enhance blood circulation
Ginkgo leaves are believed to contain compounds that thin blood and help to improve muscle tone in the walls of blood vessels. This may enhance blood flow.

What are the Safety Concerns?

Constituents in ginkgo leaves may affect blood clotting, so ginkgo leaf extracts shouldn't be used by people with bleeding disorders. People with epilepsy (or anyone with a history of seizures) should avoid ginkgo, because it may increase the frequency of seizures.
Ginkgo leaf products may affect blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes should only be used under the supervision of a health care provider.
The safety of ginkgo in pregnant or nursing women and children isn't known.

What are the Side Effects of Ginkgo?

Side effects of ginkgo leaf include excessive bleeding. Rarely, seizures have been reported in people using either the ginkgo leaf or seed. Other side effects include digestive problems, headaches, allergic skin reactions, or muscle weakness.
People should not consume fresh ginkgo seeds. Roasted ginkgo seeds may cause diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, vomiting, or allergic skin reactions. Side effects of fresh ginkgo seeds or over 10 roasted ginkgo seeds may include difficulty breathing, seizures, unconsciousness and death.

Possible Drug Interactions

Ginkgo can increase the effect of blood-thinners (antiplatelet or anti-clotting drugs), such as clopidogrel, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), heparin, and aspirin, which may result in uncontrolled bleeding or hemorrhage. Certain herbs, such as danshen, devil's claw, eleuthero, garlic, ginger, horse chestnut, papain, red clover, and saw palmetto, can also increase the risk of bleeding if combined with ginkgo.
Ginkgo has been found to interfere with the metabolism of drugs processed by an enzyme called cyp3A4. Ask your doctor to check if you are taking medications of this type.
Ginkgo may increase the risk of seizures if combined with other drugs or herbs that do the same, such as antidepressants, bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban), certain antibiotics such as penicillin and cephalosporins, Corticosteroids, fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic), theophylline, methylphenidate (e.g. Concerta, Ritalin), drugs that suppress the immune system, such as azathioprine and cyclosporine, borage, evening primrose, and wormwood.
Ginkgo shouldn't be used with the drug cyclosporine (used to suppress the immune system), because it has been found to decrease the effect of that drug. Theoretically, ginkgo may have the same effect with other immunosuppressant drugs.
Ginkgo may interact with insulin and other drugs for diabetes, such as metformin (Glucophage), glyburide (Glynase), glimepiride (Amaryl), and glipizide (Glucotrol XL). It shouldn't be used with medications to prevent seizures.
There have been some cases of high blood pressure in people taking ginkgo and thiazide diuretics, such as chlorothiazide, chlorthalidone, hydrochlorothiazide, metolazone, and polythiazide.


  • Arbor Vitae
  • Buttons
  • Hineheel
  • Scented Fern
  • Stinking Willie
  • Tansy
Known to botanists as Tanacetum vulgare L., family Asteraceae, tansy has a long history of use in folk medicine. This strongly aromatic herb, which reaches a height of up to 3 feet and produces bright yellow flowers, is native to Europe but is naturalized and widely cultivated in the United States.
The dried leaves and flowering tops of tansy have been employed, usually in the form of a tea, as an anthelmintic (expels worms), tonic, stimulant, and emmenagogue (promotes menstrual flow-often a euphemism for promoting abortion). Tansy also makes a flavoring in cakes and puddings, especially those eaten at Easter. And it enjoys a considerable reputation as an insect repellent, especially for flies.
Thujone is a relatively toxic compound, capable of inducing both convulsions and psychotic effects in human beings. There are far more effective and much safer medicines than the thujone-containing tansy for expelling and destroying intestinal worms - the principal use of the plant in folk medicine. In this enlightened era, there is absolutely no reason to utilize a potentially dangerous, toxic material of this sort as an emmenagogue-abortifacient. As a matter of fact, since more effective insect repellents are readily available, there is no real reason to use tansy for anything. Well, perhaps there is just one. Tansy is used as a flavoring agent in certain alcoholic beverages, including Chartreuse, but the resulting product must be thujone-free.
The very name tansy, herbalists declare, is a corruption of the Greek word for immortality - athanasia.
Because of its strong smell, tansy is a natural insect repellent. In the Middle Ages dried tansy was one of the "strewing herbs" scattered across floors to keep pests away. Housewives also hung it from rafters, packed it between bed sheets and mattresses, and rubbed it on meat to discourage lice, flies, and other vermin. In more recent times, they have used tansy to repel moths and get rid of fleas.
Tansy also has a long history as a seasoning and medicinal plant. In England, the leaves were once used to flavor small tansy cakes eaten during Lent - their bitter taste symbolized Christ's suffering. A tea from the leaves was once commonly taken for colds, stomachaches, and intestinal worms. Folk healers also made a poultice from the leaves to place on cuts and bruises.
Tansy has been used in the past as a carminative to aid digestion. However it is not used much today because of its potential toxicity. When the plant is taken, it is chiefly in order to expel intestinal worms and to help stimulate menstrual bleeding. Tansy may be used externally to kill scabies, fleas, and lice, but even external application of tansy preparations carries the risk of toxicity.


Tansy contains volatile oil containing thujone; bitter glycosides; sesquiterpene lactones; terpenoids; flavonoids; tannin.


Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for  10 - 15 minutes. This should be drunk twice a day.
Tincture: take 1 - 2 ml of the tincture three times a day.


The leaves and flowers are collected during the flowering time between June and September.


For intestinal worms tansy may be used with wormwood and a carminative such as chamomile in conjunction with a purgative like senna.

8. Other than catnip, what is the other herb that sends cats into pure ecstasy?
Valerian Root

Also known as- Valeriana officinalis. Common Valerian, European Valerian, Valeriana and Allheal.

Valerian is a perennial plant native to northern Europe and central Asia. Growing four feet (120 cm) tall, it ears pin-like leaves and pink flower heads.
Valerian root is used in herbal healing. The root must be dried at temperatures below 105 degrees F (40 degrees C) for its medicinally active compounds to form. In teas, it tastes sweet and spicy if somewhat bitter, but its odor is unpleasant. Ancient medical texts acknowledge the odor of the herb by calling the plant phu.

Acetic acid, ascorbic acid, beta-ionone, calcium, caffeic acid, magnesium, manganese, quercitin, valeric acid.

Parts Used

Dried root.

Typical Preparations
Teas, tinctures and capsules. The chopped herb is combined with St. JohnÍs wort. Valerian powder is mixed with hops and/or lemon balm. Because of its often expressed unpleasant taste, most prefer to take it as a capsule or extract.

Valerian is a calmative and tranquilizer. It has been used at least since the time of Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.E.) for treating headaches, insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, menstrual problems, nervous stomach, and hysteria.

Clinical trials have confirmed the use of valerian for treating insomnia, especially the insomnia that accompanies menopause. The advantage of valerian over tranquilizers such as Valium and Xanax is that it reduces sleep latency, the time required to fall asleep, without a period of bedtime drowsiness and without creating a "hangover" or grogginess the next morning.
Valerian has greatest effect in treating chronic insomnia, rather than short-term sleeplessness. It also soothes the digestive system and may prevent cramping caused by irritable bowel syndrome.

If you use valerian for several months, you may experience withdrawal symptoms (headache, insomnia, racing heart, and general grouchiness) if you stop using the herb abruptly. Reduce dosage of a period of about a week if you wish to discontinue using the herb. Valerian itself does not cause side effects, but it may increase the side effects of some of the older medications for insomnia, such as Ativan (lorazepam), Valium, (diazempam), or Xanax (alprazolam).

9. What herb comes from the pimiento plant?

Pimenta dioica, Pimenta officinalis

10. The Aztecs made hot chocolate using powdered Cacao beans, and which spice?

 Also known as- Capsicum annum, Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum spp, Sweet Pepper, African Pepper, Hot Pepper

PLEASE NOTE! Cayenne and Chili are the same thing and contrary to popular myth, the difference in their names has nothing to do with either their heat units or origins.

The Capsicum family includes bell peppers, red peppers, paprika, and pimento, but the most famous medicinal members of the family are cayenne and chile. The tasty hot peppers have long been used in many of the world's cuisines, but their greatest use in health comes from, surprisingly, conventional medicine.

1,8-cineole, 2-octanone, alanine, alpha-carotene, alpha-linoleic acid, alpha-phellandrene, arginine, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, betaine, campesterol, capsaicin, capsanthin, carvone, fiber, folacin, glutamic acid, hesperidin, isoleucine, isovaleric acid, kaempferol, manganese, myrcene, p-coumaric acid, potassium, proline, quercetin, scopoletin, solanine, thiamin, thujone, tryptophan, valine, zeaxanthin, zinc.

Parts Used
The fruit, fresh or dried, chopped or powdered.

Typical Preparations
Widely used in cooking. Most often compounded as a cream for external use, rarely brewed into a tea for internal use.

The burning sensation of hot peppers is a reaction of the central nervous system to capsaicin; unlike horseradish, wasabi, garlic, ginger, and mustard, capsaicin only causes the sensation of damage, not real damage to tissues. This sensation of pain, however, depletes a chemical called substance P, and when substance P is used up, the ongoing tissue damage of arthritis, shingles, cluster headaches, fibromyalgia, or lower back injury does not result in pain.
Eating hot peppers can also deplete pain chemicals in the stomach. Peppers do not actually cause heartburn or ulcers. They merely cause the sensation of pain, depleting substance P, so other conditions cannot cause pain. Eating foods seasoned with cayenne or chile may even protect the stomach against damage by aspirin, ibuprofen, or other NSAID pain relief medications.
Capsaicin creams can also reduce itching in psoriasis.

Don't touch your eyes with your hands after you have handled capsaicin cream. Excessive use internally may result in gastro-intestinal upset.

1 comment:

Herbie said...

Wonderful! Glad you posted this.