Food and Medicinal Value of Sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla is a plant that was used at one time to make a very popular non-alcoholic drink, particularly in the southern United States. The part of the plant that was normally used was the root. This was added to sugar and water, with the beverage being bottled and capped before full fermentation could take place. Since it was the root that was used and the process for making it wasn’t dissimilar to making beer, the drink was dubbed “root beer”. Modern day rootbeer is often made using flavorings, however ‘old fashioned rootbeer’ is still sometimes made with sarsaparilla roots. It is from this that most people are acquainted with sarsaparilla, though perhaps not the plant itself. It should be noted that the reference to sarsaparilla is being used here for the plant with a scientific name of Smilax ornata and closely related plants (Smilax aristolochiifolia, Smilax febrifuga, Smilax regelii and Smilax officinalis). This distinction is important because another plant that is commonly called wild sarsaparilla is Aralia nudicaulis. This is an entirely different genus. Although the flavor is quite similar to sarsaparilla and many of the uses are the same, wild sarsaparilla is an unrelated plant of the ginseng family. True sarsaparilla is a member of the lily family. Additionally, wild sarsaparilla is native to the northern US and Canada while true sarsparilla (alternate spelling; sarsparilla) is tropical to semi-tropical. Sarsaparilla is a perennial vine that is native to Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The vines have Continue Reading →

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The Benefits of Great Burdock

Burdock is a plant that is commonly found in waste places and along roadsides. It is common enough in England, Europe, Asia and North America that it is probable that a majority of people who live in these regions have seen it, even if they didn’t know what it was. It is used both as food and as a medicinal herb. This is also a plant with many common names, including Lappa, beggar’s buttons, clot bur, fox clot, happy major, philanthopium, cockle buttons, thorny bur and others. Growing traits of burdock This wild herb is a biennial that grows from a rather carrot-like root that can grow bit less than 2 inches in diameter in healthy plants, tapering to a point about two feet or more below the soil’s surface. The plant is both drought and cold hardy, though it doesn’t grow rapidly, as a rule. Appearance Arctium lappa is a plant that grows up to four feet or more in height. The lower leaves are somewhat heart-shaped and up to a foot in length, while upper leaves are smaller and have more of an oval shape. The color of the leaves is light yellowish green and the undersides have fine hairs that give the leaf bottoms a silvery or whitish appearance. The flowers are rich purple and of a form common to thistles. Blooming normally occurs from July to September, depending on growing conditions and altitude. This plant produces fruit that has bracts that curve backward, forming a bur 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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