Friday, April 29, 2016

Let your herbs be your medicine

Humans meet their primary food requirements of carbohydrates and proteins from a narrow selection of foods. For example the primary source of carbohydrates for a majority of humans on earth is wheat or rice. Even when it comes to vegetables and fruits, most choose from a narrow selection according to their varying tastes and availability. While all this can meet primary food requirements, for optimum health and well being, a human also requires a whole lot of other micro-nutrients and organic compounds. A shortage of just one micro-nutrient can create serious health problems.

To ensure that a person may not miss out on essential components required by the body or mind, it is a good idea to have a large variety in food. However, as mentioned since variety is usually not large in main food items of daily consumption, it may easily be added through a variety of herbs, flowers and other plant parts. Many herbs have a medicinal value and even without knowing its precise medicinal effect a human can keep many physical ailments at bay through consumption of a variety of herbs and plants added to main dishes in small quantities. That is what cats and other animals do too as pet owners would have noticed.

Some herbs and flowers can be collected and dried and added to the daily cup of tea. Nuts like almonds may be ground to add a spoonful to a cup of tea, milk, coffee or coco for that additional punch. Some herbs may be added to the bread or pasta mix to push up their nutritional value. For example, dried and crushed drum stick, spinach or goosefoot leaves can be added to wheat flour before making bread or pasta.  A large number of herbs spice up the main dishes. Curry leaf is a great addition to lentils, mint may spice lamb and fennel leaves will brighten a fish dish. Cilantro used as a garnish is good with most any savory sauce or curried dish and celery is great with scrambled eggs or an omelet.

While one can pick up some of herbs in a regular supermarket, others can be picked up from the garden or forests and dried for use later. One can combine a trip to the forest with a picnic for a delightful weekend. If the city you live in has herbal medicine store one may pick some from there too.  Some may be grown in a small garden patch or even flower pots to brighten up a home. This blog has articles on many such herbs and flowers that you can learn about by going through the archives. At times, as this author has discovered a herb containing a most critical medicine has been found growing for years as a weed in the garden or another as an ornamental bush that was regularly trimmed and discarded in the compost heap.

Getting to know your Herbs

A large number of herbs, flowers and plants are edible that are eaten in some part of the world while many others remain unfamiliar with them. The herbal enthusiast would get to know these more by cultivating a friendship with the green side of life. This is done best when we become not just consumers of herbs but also contributors in growing them. One can grown herbs in pots at home, in gardens and the countryside by organizing tree plantation excursions and picnics with family and friends. Aside from information on various plants in this blog there is much more out their on the net. An excellent description of commonly used herbs can be found at the following link with pictures. The link takes you to a list and when you click on a selected herb, it would lead to its picture and description

Information on a lot of edible wild plant material may be found at

And an earlier post in this blog on floral teas carries a list of edible flowers. These are excellent for drying as a tea mix or to use as a garnish on food, especially deserts.

The lists at these links are not exhaustive and with time and exploration you can add to them. Use traditional folk knowledge in your area to discover more and then cross check this knowledge by a search on the internet. When it comes to foods that are new, it is always a good idea to cross check from more more than one source before incorporating it in your food and checking out its effect on yourself, because while there are a huge number of beneficial plants, there are also many that harm. Some are person specific since the chemistry of each person is different and unique. We all know that there are individuals that are allergic to specific common foods but the reverse is also true, some individuals benefit greatly from some herbs, more than others. This individual effect is something that each person has to discover on their own. There are also a few herbs and flowers that are psychoactive and could take your mind on a journey of the galaxies and the stars.Of all herbs two that have the maximum possible benefit on mind, body and soul of humans when used properly are Cannabis and Holy Basil and these two may be regarded as the god and goddess in the herbal world. it is a different matter that the first has been maligned in the modern age as much else that is divine is maligned in the age when evil and greed prevails.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trees for Food – Basswood

Trees make a tremendous contribution to improving climate and environment of the planet. Many provide food for birds, insects, animal and humans. All know of fruits and nuts from trees but the flowers and foliage of some are excellent as food too. At the present time, when population of humans on planets has increased to around seven billion, food producing trees must become the first choice for planting in homes, towns and forests.

An earlier note in this blog described the Moringa or drumstick tree as an excellent one for food in warmer parts of the planet. Its foliage, flowers and fruits are all edible. In cooler parts of the planet another tree, Basswood is an excellent choice as a food tree. It is the best wild salad plant in North America. Basswood leaves make a good salad green in spring and early summer, when they are young and tender. They are best just after the buds open, when the flavor is sweet.  Its new leaves and buds are more delicious and crisp than lettuce and older leaves may be cooked as spinach. The fragrant flowers of this tree can be used to make perfume or dried to add to tea. Bees and insects love this tree and the honey produced from it is one of the finest. The tree has other uses as well. Its soft wood is used for carving to make beautiful sculptures.  It has a fine light grain and being light in weight, it has been used for centuries for this purpose, especially in Germany. The bark yields a fiber similar to jute.

It is also called linden or lime tree. The exact number of species is uncertain, as many if not most of the species will hybridize readily, both in the wild and cultivation. The Tilia species may be propagated by cuttings and grafting, as well as by seed although it is more difficult to propagate them from seed. They grow rapidly in rich soil, but are subject to attack of insects. 

Linden flowers are used in herbal medicine for colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), and as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue. The wood burned to charcoal is ingested to treat intestinal disorders and used topically to treat edema or infection or ulcers of the lower leg. Therefore aside from its food value this tree is a medicine chest too. 

The basswood is great for wildlife. It tends to become hollow, providing sites for owls, squirrels and in the forest for larger animals too. The tiny nuts it often litters over the forest floor are edible to humans, tasting like sunflower seeds. However, the tiny nuts are difficult for humans to gather. They are a food source for deer mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and other small animals.  Dear readers do plant some in your home or near you and enjoy this gift from mother earth while giving a gift to her too by adorning her vacant spaces