About Witch Hazel and Its Benefits

Witch hazel is a number of species of bushes belonging to a genus called Hamamelis. The plants are native to North America, though one species grows naturally in China and another is native to Japan. Though it is common, growing wild in many places, the shrub is an attractive one and many people grow it as a landscaping plant. In fact, the picture above was taken in New York City’s Central Park. The name, ‘witch hazel’ really has nothing to do with witchcraft. The green branches are extremely limber and flexible, quite like river willow in that regard, so they were often used for the practice of water dowsing. The ‘witch’ comes from this. (“Wiche” in middle English means ‘bendable’.) Witch hazel appearance Most of the witch hazels grow less than six feet tall, but some species can become small-diameter trees that can grow to over 20 feet tall. A few have been known to even get twice this height. The alternate leaves are oval in shape, usually pointed at the tip and up to six inches long by four inches wide. The flowers can be almost white, orange, red or yellow. They are usually less than three-quarters of an inch in length and each has four petals. The seeds that this bush produces are in capsules and when they dry out, the capsules pop audibly and burst, sending the black, shiny seeds over two dozen feet away. Medicinal properties of witch hazel The leaves and inner bark or cambium of Continue Reading →

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Combating Iron Deficiency and Anemia Naturally

At one time or another, almost everyone develops a deficiency in iron. This is especially true of women, since they lose a large amount of blood every month, if they are pre-menopausal. Iron is needed for producing red blood cells, though vitamin C is also required for the body to absorb iron. Having a low red blood count is what anemia is and it can be deadly. Some of the most common symptoms of anemia are lack of energy, dizziness, trouble concentrating, vertigo, difficulty sleeping, poor memory, pale skin and muscle weakness. When it becomes severe, a person can even hallucinate. It is best to prevent the anemia from happening to begin with, by boosting your iron intake. People who eat lots of meat tend to have the least problem with iron deficiency. It isn’t hard to figure out that this is because meat is not only very high in protein, it is also high in iron. Red meat is especially high in iron and most seafood is as well. Not everyone is able to have plenty of meat in their diet, though, and some choose not to. Thankfully there are many vegetables and fruit that are all high in iron, though normally not as high as in red meat. Here are a few vegetables you can eat to boost your iron intake: Chard Spinach (chard is actually higher in iron than spinach) Broccoli Peas Kale Mustard greens Beets Dried beans Lentils Fruit that is high in iron includes: Tomatoes Strawberries Grapes Continue Reading →

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Amazing wild anise

  Wild anise, Pimpinella anisum, is a self-seeding annual that has now been naturalized in most places in the world so it grows in most countries. It likes areas where it gets plenty of moisture and a combination of both sunlight and shade. This makes proper identification important, since it often grows in the same areas that water hemlock grows and the two plants have a somewhat similar appearance. The identification really isn’t difficult, though, because crushing a wild anise leaf or seed releases an unmistakable and pleasant licorice-like aroma. Water hemlock, which is poisonous, has a disagreeable smell. The number of ways that wild anise can be used medicinally is large. The best part is that this herb has a mild action, to the point that it can be used for even young children. I had this knowledge affirmed when I went camping with my wife, our son and daughter in law and three of our grandchildren. It had taken about an hour and a half to drive our vehicles to our intended camping place. It took another hour to set up camp. Our youngest grandchild was cranky and whimpering, but I gave it little thought since the infant was obviously in unfamiliar surroundings. His whimpering continued well after dark when he finally fell asleep. A child’s pain I was up the following morning long before anyone else was awake and took in the wonderful sights and smells of the forest. My son finally got up and was joining Continue Reading →

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Herbal Treatments For Toothache and Teething

There aren’t many pains that are worse than toothache. Whether it is from cavities, the roots of teeth or from the gums, it is a pain that nobody wants to have. It is even worse when it is a young child who is teething, since they have no idea what is happening. They only know that it hurts. Either way, it is painful and it is a common occurrence that you can’t get in to see a dentist immediately. Thankfully, there are some sound and safe herbal treatments that might help. What to avoid Before mentioning what can be used to alleviate toothache and gum pain, there are some things that should be avoided. It does little good to get rid of the pain only to do something that brings it right back. Avoid eating sugar, which almost always increases pain. This might sound like it is common sense, but one of the biggest culprits is toothpaste. Most toothpaste on the market contains high levels of sugar. If you need to brush your teeth, use baking soda, not toothpaste. Avoid hot and cold foods. Both heat and cold cause more nerves to be active. This is especially true if the cause of the pain is a cavity. This also means that you should breathe through your nose rather than your mouth to avoid temperature changes over the painful area, too. Anise Anise and anise extract are superb for easing toothache pain. Swabbing the gums with anise numbs them and brings Continue Reading →

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Hidden Medicine in Your Kitchen Cupboards – Oregano

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is one of the most well-known and often-used culinary herbs in the world today. Italian sauces just don’t taste right without some oregano and naturally, since the herb originated in Greece and still grows there wild, it is heavily featured in Greek dishes as well. The fact is that it is so well liked that it is grown and used in almost every country in the world today. As widely as it is used, though, many people don’t realize that this herb has some really good medicinal properties, too. The name of this herb comes from the Grecian words ‘oros ganos’, meaning “mountain joy”. The plant grows in nutrient-poor and rocky soil and the herb is quite hardy, so it is easy to see why it was named oros ganos. It is a member of the mint family, so it isn’t surprising that some of the components in oregano that make it medicinally valuable are the same ones that make the other mints good additions to the medicine cabinet, too. Among them is thymol, which is similar to menthol and is also found in thyme. Because of the thymol and other chemicals the plant contains, oregano is highly aromatic. Oregano is quite high in fiber, vitamin E, calcium, iron, manganese and this is part of the healthy aspects it gives to foods that it is used to flavor. It is perhaps less well-known that this herb is also high in anti-oxidants. This makes it valuable in preventing Continue Reading →

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Health and Nutritional Benefits of Pigweed

Pigweed (Amaranthus blitoides) is also known as amaranth and it is now found on most continents except Antarctica. The plant is often considered to be an invasive weed, but like many weeds, it is quite edible and healthy to eat. This edible wild plant originated in North America and has become naturalized in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. The plant can be found in all US States and Canadian provinces. It has such great benefits that survivalists would be doing well to recognize it and to learn of its medicinal properties. Pigweed appearance Some species of pigweed grow more than three feet in height, but Amaranthus blitoides is low growing and sprawling, seldom growing taller than a few inches tall, with the branches laying upon the ground. It sometimes forms dense mats and the stems can be over a foot in length. The leaves are small, rarely over a half-inch in length and oval-shaped. The flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. The stems usually contain some reddish coloration and the leaves are normally dark green. Pigweed in general This annual grows well in sandy soil and doesn’t like clay soils that don’t drain well and which can become compacted. It is common in waste places, along fence rows, in fields and in lawns. Some species are purposely grown as a food crop, particularly in Asia and parts of Africa. Besides the wonderful nutritional benefits, pigweed is easy to grow and all parts of the plant are edible. Native Americans primarily Continue Reading →

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Montana Tree Profiles – Pussy Willows

It is really a misnomer to speak of pussy willows as if they are a single species, though it does show the reason that the scientific name is important. In the mountains of Montana, the pussy willows we have are Salix discolor, sometimes called the American pussy willow. Almost any species of willow that is small can, has been or is called pussy willows. Because of that, there are pussy willows in North and South America, Europe and Asia. They just aren’t usually the same species. Still, they are similar in appearance and I’m focusing here on Salix discolor. Pussy willow in general This pussy willow is found throughout the northern half of the United States and into Canada, and from coast to coast. While it is usually classified as a tree and it can grow up to 25 feet tall, it more often is much smaller. Pussy willows are extremely hardy (withstanding temperatures well below zero), fast growing and they require a large amount of water for growth, so they are commonly found on the banks of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. That makes them numerous in the mountains of Montana. In fact, willow branches or ‘switches’ are often used by campers for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in camp. Part of the reason is that the wood is soft and flexible when it is green, so the branches don’t break easily, unless they are dry. Appearance Pussy willows have leaves that are up to four or five inches Continue Reading →

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Make Your Own Liquid Stevia Extract

I’ve written a couple of articles so far about the wonderful plant called stevia or more properly, Stevia rebaudiana. It is easy to grow and it is fantastic for dieters and diabetics because it has no calories and no glucose. In fact, some studies suggest that it might actually lower insulin resistance of cells and reverse some of the problem with diabetes. It can easily take the place of refined sugar in your diet because the plant is about 600 times sweeter than sugar. It is potent stuff. Stevia can be purchased as an extract, either powdered or liquid. This can be cost prohibitive. It can be purchased in the store, for instance as products called “Stevia-in-the-Raw” and “Tuvia“. However, these have other non-glucose sugars added, such as erythritol or isomaltulose (corn sugar). Part of the reason is that stevia is so powerful that a teaspoon of powdered stevia has the same sweetening power of over a cup of refined sugar. The additives make it less likely that a person will use so much that it is bitter. Still, considering the amount of stevia in the package, this is also expansive. I recently priced a bag of Stevia-in-the-Raw that weighed less than a pound and the cost was $9.97. Naturally, your health is worth far more than this, so it is worth it. However, most of this was taken up by other sugars, so the amount of stevia in the bag was minimal. A person can also buy dried stevia leaves and Continue Reading →

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