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Just Plain Drunk? No. Plant Drunk - Absinthe



Artemisia "Silver Mound" - Van Gogh's Bad Choice For Absinthe

   
     Van Gogh may have kept his ear had he not been sipping absinthe ( Banned in the U.S.), a toxicating substance derived from the plant species "artemisia".   Yes it was known that Van Gogh was imbibing on absinthe when he made that fateful choice to amputate his ear.   But the basic rule is not to use artemisia internally for it's medical properties but to use  externally as a poultice for:

  • bruises
  • sprains
  • antiseptic for topical infections

 
History: 
    Artemisia is also called  "wormwood," and has been used over the centuries to treat people for worms - accounting for the common name.  There are presently over 400 varieties of artemisia.  Depending on native plants artemisia had numerous other medicinal uses; i.e., to treat poor circulation, rheumatism, colds, fevers, jaundice, stomach problems, and more.  However, it is generally considered unsafe for internal use; because the active ingredient in artemisia is thujone, which is a narcotic and a poison which causes convulsions.  

Practicial Uses:
    It is an effective insect repellant, especially against black flea beetles, cabbageworm butterflies and in some instances ants.  It is also a great plant to have around to discourage slugs.  Due to the absinthe in the plant it is not always the best neighbor for surrounding plants and some feel it dwarfs their growth. If you have concerns, though, give your artemisia its own special place and use as a true specimen plant in it's own niche.

 Landscaping: 
     One of the nicer aspects of artemisia is using it in your landscape as a specimen plant or for borders or mounding as a visual feature.  The silvery aspect of the leaves makes it stand out in areas where greens, yellows, and browns are predominant coloration.   At night the silver leaves reflect the moon's light and it becomes a very attractive night time addition to the landscape.  Many people use artemisia as a ground cover plant and plant it to edge out areas of their yard, gardens in the overall landscape design.   The distinctive color and habit helps to deliniate borders.  The problem with artemisia over time is the plant tends to get "heavy in the middle" and the branches will flop down leaving a mound with a hole in it.   The way to avoid this issue is to simply cut back the branches in early spring so they do not get as heavy and thus the moundings aspects of the plant's habit are retained.  The other control method is to divide and plant each spring when one of the plants is getting too large.    Artemisia does have a flower, generally yellow, however it is of little concern as the flower does not last long and is small in overall appearance of the plant. 

Growing Conditions:
   Artemisia grows in zones 3- 7 and is known as a Mediterranean herb.    It requires little, if any, fertilization.  The more sunlight the better for growth.  The "deal killer" to artemisia in your landscape is "wet feet".  Being a meditteranean herb the ideal soil is sandy, not rich in nutrient content, and rain falls on the plant, into the ground and passes away from the roots.  The plant will not survive in a moist environment.

Artemisia "powis castle"

  

Artemisia 'Silver Mound' and 'Powis Castle" will be available at HerbFest 2014.   Artemisia is the International Herb Association Herb of the Year in 2014.
 

 

What to do with fresh mint.


Mints   

      What do you do with all those mint leaves you harvest each year?     There are so many uses and benefits of mint as pointed out by Organic Facts in the article below.   

    When you see the varities of mint it becomes apparent how they developed and were cultivated over time.  Lemon, orange, lime, pineapple mints are just the tip of the

iceberg.  Basically all mints derived from the basic spearmint or peppermint plants and over time certain characteristics of the plants were culled for flavor and fragrance. 

The biggest user of mint oil is Wrigley's, the gum company.


Mint, the well known mouth and breath freshener that is scientifically known as Mentha, has more than two dozen species and hundreds of varieties. It is an herb that has been used for hundreds of years for its remarkable medicinal properties.

The market is full of products like tooth paste, chewing gum, breath fresheners, candy and inhalers which have mint as their base element. Most of us are familiar with the refreshing application of mint, but it has far more to offer than that.

Health Benefits of Mint Leaves

The health benefits of mint include the following:

Digestion: Mint is a great appetizer or palate cleanser, and it promotes digestion. It also soothes stomachs in cases of indigestion or inflammation. When you feel sick to your stomach, drinking a cup of mint tea can give you relief. Also, if you are someone who travels long distances via plane or boat, the menthol oil derived from mint can be very soothing for nausea and related motion sickness.

 

The aroma of mint activates the salivary glands in our mouth as well as glands which secrete digestive enzymes, thereby facilitating digestion. These attributes are why mint is extensively used in the culinary arts. Much of the western world includes mint as a part of appetizers or as an element of palate cleansers, to be eaten before the main course so the food will digest comfortably.

Nausea & Headache: Again, the strong and refreshing aroma of mint is a quick and effective remedy for nausea. Even just the smell of mint oil or freshly crushed mint leaves or the use of any product with mint flavor, and your stomach issues will be alleviated. In fact, many people keep menthol oil or mint-flavored products with them at all time to avoid nausea. Balms with a mint base or basic mint oil, when rubbed on the forehead and nose, gives quick relief in case of headache. Mint is a naturally soothing substance, so it can alleviate the inflammation and temperature rise that is often associated with headaches and migraines.

Respiratory Disorders and Coughs: The strong aroma of mint is very effective in clearing up congestion of the nose, throat, bronchi and lungs, which gives relief for respiratory disorders that often result from asthma and the common cold. As mint cools and soothes the throat, nose and other respiratory channels, it relieves the irritation which causes chronic coughing. This is the main reason why so many balms are based on mint. Unlike the inhalers that are based on aerosols, those with mint as the fundamental component tend to be more effective and eco-friendly as well.

Asthma: Regular use of mint is very beneficial for asthma patients, as it is a good relaxant and relieves congestion. That being said, using too much mint in this way can also irritate the nose and throat.

MintDepression and Fatigue: Mint is a natural stimulant, and the smell alone can be enough to charge your batteries and get your brain functioning on a high level again. If you are feeling sluggish, anxious, depressed, or simply exhausted, mint and its derivative essential oils can help. It can be ingested, applied topically in a salve form, or inhaled as a vapor, and all of those techniques can give you a much-needed boost! A popular way to get good results in an easy manner is to put a few drops of mint essential oil or menthol oil on your pillow at night and let it work on your body and mind while you sleep.

Skin Care and Pimples: While mint oil is a good antiseptic and anti-pruritic material, mint juice is an excellent skin cleanser. It soothes skin, and helps to cure infections and itchiness, as well as being a good way to reduce pimples, and it can even relieve some of the symptoms of acne. Its anti-pruritic properties can be used for treating insect bites like those of mosquitoes, honeybees, hornets, wasps, and gnats. The cooling sensation will relieve you of the irritating sensation to scratch, and the anti-inflammatory nature of mint will bring down swelling! In that same vein, mint oil is often a basic component of bug repellent products like citronella candles, because the strong aroma is unappealing to most insects.

Memory Loss: A recent study explored the effects that mint has on alertness, retention, and cognitive function. It found that people who frequently use chewing gum, whose major active ingredient is mint, had higher levels of memory retention and mental alertness than those who did not. The stimulant qualities of mint, once again, have shown yet another reason to pop that stick of gum in your mouth, or chew some leaves when you’re feeling less than brilliant!

 

Weight Loss: Aside from all the other health benefits of mint, it also can help in your efforts to lose weight in a healthy way! Mint is a stimulant, as we’ve already mentioned, but it also stimulates the digestive enzymesthat absorb nutrients from food and consume fat and turn it into usable energy. Therefore, by adding mint to your diet, you are increasing the amount of fat that is being consumed and put to use, rather than being stored and contributing to your weight gain!

Female Sterility: There are mixed opinions regarding the role of mint in treating this condition. Some argue that prolonged use of menthol may cause sterility, reducing a woman’s ability to conceive by interfering with the production of ova and killing these gametes. This is due to the germicidal and insecticidal properties of mint, which are beneficial for so many other health concerns. Other research has claimed that men who smoke menthol cigarettes are more likely to suffer from impotency than those who smoke normal cigarettes. It is not certain whether this is due to the tobacco alone or if the mentholated aspect has anything do with it. Another group or researchers suggest that mint may actually be used to treat sterility in females. Suffice to say, a great deal of further research must be done on the effects of mint in both male impotency and female sterility.

Breast Feeding: For many women, breastfeeding is a beautiful part of raising a child, but it can seriously damage your breasts and nipples. Studies have shown that mint oil can reduce the nipple cracks and nipple pain that so often accompany breastfeeding.

Allergies and Hay Fever: Season allergies and hay fever (also known as rhinitis) affect millions of people around the world at certain times of the year. Extracts from mint leaves have been shown to inhibit the release of histamines, which often spur on the severe nasal symptoms that are associated with hay fever and seasonal allergies.

mintOral Care: Improving the health of a person’s mouth is a well known benefit of mint. Since it has germicidal qualities and quickly freshens breath, it adds to oral health by inhibiting harmful bacterial growth inside the mouth and by cleaning the tongue and teeth. This is why mint used to be rubbed directly on the teeth and gums to refresh the mouth and eliminate dangerous forms of growth. In modern times, for the same reason, mint is one of the most common elements in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and other dental hygiene products. Of course, the easiest way to get these results is to simply chew on the leaves.

Cancer: Current research shows that certain enzymes that can be found in mint may help prevent and treat cancer.

Other Benefits: Besides its wide industrial use in foods like ice-cream and chocolates, as well as in alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, medicines, inhalers and breath fresheners, it is also used as a condiment and a decorative item in culinary preparation around the world. Drinks and foods containing mint cool you off in the summer, and it is often included in summer cocktails for a refreshing burst of flavor. It is also a good relaxant.

One peculiar property of mint that seems quite contrary to its traditional cooling and soothing effects is that it induces sweating if consumed during fever, thereby breaking the fever and speeding the rate of recovery. Mint juice can also be applied to heal and soothe burns. It is also beneficial in the treatment of rheumatism. Furthermore, mint is also said to improve the activity of the brain, although legitimate and consistent research on its neurological impact has yet to be completed.

Are you feeling tired or bored after reading all of that info on mint? Why don’t you have a stick of mint chewing gum? That may be just the refreshing boost you need!

   

Pros & Cons of Genetic Modified Insects Replacing Insecticides

 

Will Genetically Modified Insects Be Safer Than Using Insecticides?

 

    As with all changes made one has to measure the detriments of not changing with the benefits of change.   Of course the "hidden" is the NIC - Not Intended Consequences.   That is the case as you read this article by Joe Arrigo discussing the positives of using GM bees  GM insects are already being used to save crops and also to ward off diseases transmitted by other insects such as mosquitos.  Go here to....

Read more: Pros & Cons of Genetic Modified Insects Replacing Insecticides

   

The Non Science of GMO Produce

   Are we safe eating non-gmo foods is an ongoing question.   This is a very well written article by cardiologist, Dr. Joel Kahn.    The science at the present time is simply not readily apparent as to the safety of the produce we eat from gmo plants.   Dr. Kahn lays out his logic and why he chose to not eat GMO plants and produce himself.  

   This past year's Herbfest brought out the first noticeable group of herbanites that specifically requested informaton on whether our plants were genetically modified or not ( they are not ).   Prior to 2013 the mantra we heard the most was whether the herb plants were raised from organic stock and if the plants were grown organically ( they are ).   As we wait for the science to come to a conclusion on safety or not safe you may enjoy the logic of Dr. Kahn.

 
I was asked this week to speak about the effects of genetically modified foods on the cardiovascular system for a group of health care providers and the public. Was I shocked to learn that eating GMO foods can increase the rate of heart attacks, strokes, and bypass surgeries in multiple medical studies in humans?  
 
No ... because these studies don't exist.  
 
In fact, I couldn’t present a clear scientific argument linking foods with GMO to the development of heart disorders. I'm not an alarmist and I believe in the scientific process. However, on a personal level, I've instituted tighter rules in my home about food purchases. The more I learned about GMOs, the more I decided to just say no. 
 
As it says in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, "Avert the danger that has not yet come." Here's what I learned about GMO foods that moved me to this decision: 
 
1. GMO foods have less nutrition. 
 
Just this year, we learned that there is a striking difference in the nutritional content of corn produced with GMO compared to corn produced without GMO. Foods grown with GMO can have half as much sulfur and potassium and significantly less magnesium than non-GMO versions. (Why? Because the inserted genetic material is only on, not off at times, the demand for cell energy may rise and deplete the cells of nutrients.) 
 
As a cardiologist, I know how essential nutrients such as potassium and magnesium are in controlling blood pressure and arterial health. Sulfur is important in the production of glutathione, the major cellular antioxidant counteracting the stress of using oxygen for energy production. What does it mean to my family to feed them nutritionally deficient vegetables and food items? Again, I am concerned.
 
2. Rats who were fed GMO diets died sooner than rats who were GMO free. 
 
In the first-ever GMO feeding study, European researchers fed rats either chow made with 11% GMO products or GMO-free chow for two years. By the 17th month of life, rats fed the GMO chow were 5 to 6 times more likely to have died. Of those rats who'd been fed GMO feed, the females grew giant tumors in their reproductive organs, while the males grew tumors in the liver. Liver and kidney abnormalities were seen frequently in the GMO fed rats. I know we do not have human data, but I'm concerned what this data could mean for my wife and children.
 
3. GMO foods contain viruses that we don't yet fully understand.  
 
In order to create GMO foods, new genetic material is inserted into the cell nucleus, often with a virus that "turns on" the new genetic material. One problem is that there is no material that can turn it off and these cells will be working to replicate themselves non-stop. We all have a variety of "natural" viruses in our body and the concern is whether or not the altered viruses inserted into GMO food could infect viruses already inside us and cause them to grow abnormally. Sounds like a science fiction movie.  
 
Another component of the new material is another gene that makes the GMO plant cells resistant to an antibiotic.  This process is used in over half of the methods of creating foods that contain GMO, and I am alarmed about the possible impact of new viruses on the health of my family. I am concerned whether new diseases from these "super" viruses never before seen in our body could result in new diseases and cancer. 

4. Mice who were fed GMO foods developed damaged red blood cells. 
 
Brazil is the second largest producer of crops modified with GMO. In March of this year, Brazilian researchers studied the effects of Bt, a microbial control agent used widely on plants with GMO that resist Bt. Among the mice fed the GMO-laced chow, the scientists observed hematoxicity, (blood cell damage), with significant injury particularly to red blood cells. (It's possible, but not yet clear whether or not this could contribute to anemia in animals and humans.) These researchers called for more studies on the effects of GMO altered foods on “non-target” mammals, which would be you and me. 
 
5. Eating GMO foods led to sterility in rats. 
 
In 2006,  Russian researchers fed rats chow with added soybeans using GMO or regular chow and looked at fertility. Guess what? Of the rats were fed GMO, fewer reproduced, and those who did had offspring with smaller birth weight. By the third generation Fewer rats were born at a smaller birth weight to the rats fed the altered soybeans and by the third generation of rats the animals were sterile.  The effects of food produced with GMO on sex hormones is an area I am concerned about for my family.
What will we do?
 
What can you do? 
 
There is a Chinese phrase that “Pure water has no fish.” It will be very hard to have a completely GMO-free lifestyle. The checklist in my home to make it into the kitchen is already complex (Is it kosher? Vegan? Nut-free? Gluten-free? Non-GMO?), and we will do our best.  
 
We will read the Environmental Working Group for updates and opt for organic when buying anything from the "Dirty Dozen" produce list. We follow the Non-GMO Project and support movements for mandatory labeling.  I have begun to use an app on my smart phone that assists in shopping GMO-free. 
 
The rising awareness and concern over this topic has forced Monsanto and other major producers of GMO produce to hire new marketing consultants. (Turns out, being referred to as "Satan" is not good for their brand.) In my home town, we just had a major maker of tortilla chips announce sourcing of corn and cottonseed oil from non-GMO producers, and other manufacturers will follow suit. 
 
I invite you to get involved in this important area of food safety as we have the power to be heard and improve the acceptability of our food supply.
 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

   

Stop Slugs In Your Garden


Slugs are "electrified" when placed on copper destroying them plus more organically healthy tips to keep slugs off your hostas, lettuces and out of your garden. 


How to Prevent Slugs in the Garden

     

      If you’ve got lettuce or hostas planted in your soil, you’ve probably got slugs. Their diet isn’t just those two things; they’ll get into everything that’s worth eating in your garden. These little trouble-makers begin to pop-up once the temperature rises about 40-degrees Fahrenheit. They love damp garden spaces. And when they lay eggs, it’s in the range of about 100.

  How can you keep the slugs at bay?  

  1. If you’ve got lettuce or hostas you’ve probably got slugs. They begin to pop-up once the temperature rises about 40-degrees Fahrenheit.

    • Hair - It doesn’t matter if it’s human or dog. What matters is that it causes the slugs to hang themselves on the delicate strands. When the hair breaks-down, it provides the soil with extra nitrogen.

     

    • Coffee - Caffeine makes slugs nervous. Take your used grounds and surround those plants that are being attacked.

     

    • Beer - Don’t use stale beer. Give them a drink of the good, cheap stuff. Line-up a bunch of disposable tubs near where the slugs are. Wait until twilight, then top them off with brew.

     

    • Epson Salts - This is not just plant food for roses, if you broadcast some around the soil of your garden it will chase away the slugs. It also will solve any Magnesium issues with your plants.

     

    • Iron phosphate - Iron wreaks havoc on the digestive tract of a slug. Sprinkling these pellets gives your soil an iron boost and wipes out the slimy creatures.

     

    • Vinegar - You don’t want to spray this on plants like salvia because it is a herbicide, but spritzing some plain white vinegar around your garden will actually dissolve any mollusks.

     

    • Rove beetles - They may look nasty, but they won’t chew up your plants. They do feast on slug eggs and slugs.

     
    • Lightning bugs - Glowworms have an appetite for slugs. Adult lightning bugs create glowworms. Make mom and pop happy by giving a small portion of your garden a damp, weedy place and don’t turn on the lights in your yard at night.
     

    • Boards - Between your garden beds, place some old planks. Slugs hate the sun, so they’ll slither underneath the wood. First thing in the morning, armed with a disposable aluminum tray, simply scrape them off and into the tray.

     

    • Toads - If you take this solution, stay away from using pesticides as you don’t want to kill the toads. You’ll want to create a little toad-haven near your garden, though. They’ll need a shady, damp area and a small pool of water to survive during the day. But then at night, these small hoppers love to dine on slugs.

     

    • Citrus - Use the rinds of things like oranges, lemons and grapefruit to make slug traps. Slice a little hole in the side of the skin so the slugs can get inside, then turn the rind upside-down. They love citrus and will tend to leave your plants alone. Check the progress and when you have captured enough of the beasts, toss the whole deal into your compost heap.

     

    • Copper - When a slug encounters a penny, it actually gets a jolt of electricity. Go to your local gardening shop and purchase some copper plant guards. Want to amaze the kids? Catch a couple of live slugs and stick one on a penny. Zzzzzzt!

   

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