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May 8, 2010

The following comes from Nancy Beckham's book, "Nature's Super Foods".
'Wort' is the old English name for herb.
The plant is native to Europe, and a number of regions in the northern hemisphere, but it has been introduced into America, New Zealand and Australia. Unfortunately it can spread rapidly, and is declared a noxious weed in some Australian states. It is toxic to grazing animals, and cows, in particular, can develop a red, itchy, flaky skin condition, which can advance into slow-healing raw areas.
From the time of the ancient Greeks and throughout the Middle Ages St John's wort has been part of herbal folklore. People used to say that red spots appeared on the plant on the day that St John the Baptist was beheaded, and in Europe it eas hung over house doorways or was put under the pillow for protection against evil spirits.
  St John's wort was recommended for all respiratory and bladder complaints, diarrhoea, bleeding, jaundice and nervous depression. In the 1973 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia this herb was specifically recommended for menopausal neurosis, also for painful nerve problems such as sciatica, fibrositis and neuralgia. It was also a popular external remedy. Many of the traditional uses are supported by modern scientific investigations.
St John's wort possesses properties that are antiviral, antidepressant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antianxiety, wound healing and mild antibacterial. It is a gentle tonic with analgesic properties, and anticancer potential.
  For the treatment of mild to moderate depressive disorders, St John's wort is as effective as pharmaceuticals, but with far fewer side effects. (87)
  An assessment of 12 clinical trials confirmed that St John's wort was superior to a placebo, and its therapeutic effects were similar to those of pharmaceutical antidepressants. There was a low incidence of adverse effects and overdosing compared to pharmaceuticals. (88)
  Most of the trials on depression have been in Europe, using a daily dosage of up to 4.5g standardised herbal product containing 1-27 mg hypericin (probably the most therapeutically active component relating to the nervous system). When people are depressed they are usually lethargic, and do not have the motivation to do anything. Treatment with this herb can gently motivate depressed people.
  In cold climates some people experience seasonal affective disorder because of lack of exposure to light during long winters. The symptoms are depression, insomnia, fatigue with restlessness, increased appetite and sugar cravings. A study showed that St John's wort helped this condition just as much as 'light therapy'. Of course, we should all get at least a little sunlight exposure because it is necessary for good health.
 St John's wort is also helpful for anxiety and insomnia, and acts as a gentle tonic. I sometimes add it into formulas for menopausal sumptoms. In a study on healthy people St John's wort was shown to have a soothing effect; brain function was stimulated and performance tests under stress were enhanced. (89)
  This reinforces the concept of traditional herbalists who have categorised some herbs as nervine tonics (the capacity to calm the nervous system without causing fatigue).
  St John's wort is likely to relieve certain types of viral infections, including AIDS, herpes, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B, and some types of colds, and possibly some strains of influenza.
  Since 1989 a number of informal studies with HIV-positive people have been done using St John's wort, and the patient outcomes have been favourable. A report presented at the 1993 International AIDS Conference indicated that a long-term clinical trial resulted in 14 out of 16 patients remaining clinically stable, and able to maintain their normal lifestyle and work. No serious viral infections were experienced, nor were any adverse effects encountered. In most of these patients some very specific immune cells were improved. This suggests benefits to the immune system generally St John's wort may be therapeutically useful in many diseases that are linked to low immune functioning.  
 - skin-healing; accelerates wound healing and new skin growth;
 - external creams or compresses for nerve pain, inflammation;
 - oil used for dry skin, especially in older people; mix the oil into a plain base e.g. aqueous cream.
Some books warn that St John's wort can cause phototoxicity (sensitivity to sunlight), leading to skin discoloration and damage. This is based on experience with animals grazing on the plant. However, (one) report claims that a dose 30x above normal would be required to cause skin reddening in a human. I have only ever heard of one anecdotal report of such a reaction in a human.
People with severe depression and serious infectious diseases should always be under the supervision of a medical practitioner, and should always tell their practitioner if they are self-treating with any remedies.
If you are taking antianxiety or antidepressant medication, never add St John's wort or other natural nervous system remedies, unless guided by your practitioner.
In recent times there have been a few reports from practising herbalists of various adverse effects, and this confirms my experience that some batches of this herb may contain more of certain components, which may be causing sensitivity or allergic reactions.
Hypericin, pseudohypericin - antiretroviral; synthetic hypericin - available in some countries, may not have any antiviral activity. (90)
 - hypericin - capable of reducing biological compounds in the brain (such as monoamine oxidase) that are implicated as possible causes of depression. (91)
Flavonoids - in general, flavonoids can have wide-ranging benefits; majority have special affinity to blood vessel walls and connective tissue - these may protect the brain from circulating toxins; some flavonoids may help brain chemistry; others have antimicrobial activity; the proanthocyanidins are antioxidants. (92)
Hyperforin - antidepressant, relaxant, nervous system
100 g fresh St John's wort flowers (or 50 g dried)
200 ml almond oil (or sunflower, apricot kernel or olive oil)
6 capsules vitamin E (as an antioxidant)
1. Place the flowers in a clear glass jar, and pour the oil over. Cut the vitamin E caps, and squeeze out the oil into the jar.
2. Leave to stand in the sunshine, with the lid on.
3. After 6-8 weeks the oil should be reddish in colour. Strain the liquid into a dark bottle or jar, and seal before storing in a cool dry place. Label jar to show that this oil should be used within 3 months.
Apply the oil undiluted on minor wounds and herpes; or gently massage it into areas of joint or nerve pain.
 If you use it for household burns, wait until the heat has gone out of the injury first.
 Can be used for dry skin by mixing it into an aqueous cream - can stain clothes and linen.
For serious infection or depression, obtain standardised extracts, take dosage as advised by health practitioner. You may need to take the remedy for 2 or more months, and subsequently at a lower dose or intermittently.
 Usual dose is 2-4 g daily of dried herb, or 2-4 ml of a liquid extract.
The following was taken from "Newest Developments for..."
Klaus Linde of the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research at Technical University in Munich, Germany, found that St. John's Wort is more effective than both placebo and antidepressants in treating severe depression
  Germany had the best results with regard to effectiveness as opposed to 28 other countries. German doctors have already been prescribing St. John's Wort as their standard treatment of medication for depression for years. Currently, the herb is unregulated, so it is found in varying qualities and content.
  In the study, between 500 and 1,200 mg were used.

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Posted: May 8, 2010 8:59am
Dec 29, 2009

Allium sativum

Illustration at right by William Woodville,
Medical Botany, 1793
Above, Rocambole garlic illustration

Garlic is an extremely easy plant to grow in a sunny garden spot or in a large tub. While garlic plants grow quite tall, they don’t take up much horizontal space and maintenance is minimal. Flat leaves emerge from the clove. Later a stalk appears and grows to sixty cm, ending in infertile flowers. In cold weather the greens die back and the cloves are ready for harvest. Any unharvested cloves sprout again in warmer months.
Garlic is more closely related to the leek than to the onion.
What we call Levant or Elephant garlic is botanically a leek.
Garlic is an essential ingredient in both European and Asian cuisine. It has a characteristic pungent, spicy flavour that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking.
A Herbal Remedy: Garlic has both antiviral and antibacterial properties and can help boost the immune system, therefore good for relieving colds and flu. The health benefits from regularly eating garlic can include the favourable moderation of cholesterol levels, blood pressure readings and thinning of the blood. To get the best benefit from garlic, it is best to crush garlic up to 15 mins before eating it to give the enzymes time to work.

‘Softneck’ have no flower stem and produce large bulbous heads that store well; softneck garlic is the type you are more likely to find stocked in your grocery store.
‘Hardneck’  Some garlic lovers claime these varieties have the best flavours. Hardnecks produce a flower stalke (scape) like onions and have generally fewer cloves than softnecks but the cloves are larger and easier to peel. Planted bulbs can yield 5-8 times their weight at harvest time. A quarter kilogram of hardnecks will produce cloves for up to forty plants Most of the hardnecks do best where winters are cool, spring is damp and cool, and summer is dry and warm. Hardneck garlic heads are not as good for long-term storage.

Why grown your own? You know your home-grown garlic is not placed in a cool-store for long term storage; is not treated with growth inhibitors and is not bleached with chemicals to give an artificially white appearance.
(The following comes from Better Homes & Gardens, Australia)

When: Plant garlic in autumn, ideally after the autumn equinox (20 March). Plants make the most of their leafy top growth during the shorter days of the year.
Where: Like most bulbs, garlic prefers a position in full sun. Before planting, improve the soil by digging through a little aged manure and/or compost. If you are planting in pots, be sure to use a top quality potting mix.
Climate: Garlic can be grown in both cool and warm climates, but does not suit tropical areas. This is because the bulb requires a period of cold in winter to form good cloves. 
 TIP 1: In warmer areas, chill the garlic bulb in the fridge for about six weeks before planting, just as you would for tulips. 
 TIP 2: A good variety for growing in warm climates like Brisbane is ‘Glenlarge’, pictured at right, which was developed by the Queensland DPI.
Feeding: Apply a controlled-release fertiliser at planting time. During the growing season you can also boost plants with doses of soluble fertiliser.
Watering: Water garlic plants over their growing season, just as you would for other vegetables. They will tolerate dry conditions, but will suffer if drought periods are prolonged. Withhold water in the period immediately before harvest as a precaution against fungal infections.
Harvesting: Garlic is ready for harvesting when the foliage starts to yellow and die off, in late spring to early summer. Dig up the plants when there are four or five green leaves still left on the stem. Hang the freshly dug garlic out to dry for about two weeks so the skin hardens; it can then be stored for up to seven months.
Related Websites:
acta horticulturae: white rot abstract link
australian garlic farm sales: link
about hardneck garlic bulbs: link 
yahoo7 garlic recipes:
practically edible: australian food: link
American growers can check with Filaree Farm 
and The Garlic Store of the USA.
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Posted: Dec 29, 2009 8:55pm


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Jenny Dooley
, 3, 2 children
Eastlakes, SW, Australia
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