Alt.folklore.herbs - medicinal herb FAQ (v.1.21) Part 2/7

Archive-name: medicinal-herbs/part2
Posting-Frequency: monthly (on or about 20th)
Last-modified: 1996/06/21
Version: 1.21

Available on the www: http://sunsite.unc.edu/herbmed/mediherb.html
or by ftp: sunsite.unc.edu or sunsite.sut.ac.jp

2.1.5 Ginseng
Ginseng comes from the Chinese "jen shen," which means "man root", so named
because some roots have limb like branches resembling arms and legs.
Because the root has a humanlike shape, it is considered by the Orientals
to be an overall body tonic. The root is not harvested until it is two or
more years old; the older the root, the higher its value. It is held in
high esteem in China where it has been valued for thousands of years,
sometimes commanding a higher price than gold. An ancient Chinese Herbalist
is quoted as saying, "Person would rather take handful of ginseng then
cartload of gold and jewels." There are three main herbs that fall under
the label ginseng. Although all forms of ginseng have similar properties,
there are some subtle differences.

GINSENG, KOREAN (Panax) is the most widely used and studied ginseng in the
world. As an adaptogen herb, it is believed to help "balance" the body.
Ginseng's botanical name, Panax, is derived from the Greek goddess,
Panacea, the one who "heals all.". Ancient Chinese records dated from 25 AD
mention this plant as a superior herb for increasing overall strength and
endurance, and for promoting health and wellbeing throughout the body.
Korean Ginseng is said to be hotter than either the American or Siberian

There are two types of Panax - red and white - which reflect differences in
the processing of the root. The red ginseng is considered to be of superior
quality. David Mowrey in his book, "next Generation Herbal Medicine", has
compiled a "Top Twenty" listing for Korean Ginseng based on the "mass of
clinical data and 3,000 years of ancient Chinese medicine":

  1. Tumours
  2. Diabetes
  3. Radiation sickness
  4. Neurosis
  5. Hypotension
  6. Hypertension
  7. Joint swellings and pain
  8. Cardiac arrhythmia
  9. Atherosclerosis
 10. Fatigue - exhaustion
 11. Stress
 12. Asthma
 13. Headaches
 14. Anemia
 15. Indigestion
 16. Impotence
 17. Depression
 18. Nervous - Anxiety
 19. Mental disorders
 20. Heart disease

GINSENG, SIBERIAN (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is a member of the ginseng
family, though it is of a different genus than other popular ginsengs such
as the Panax variety. Natural resources of Siberian Ginseng can be found in
eastern Russian and northern Japan. What makes Eleutherococcus particularly
interesting is that it is a completely novel plant, unknown in traditional
medicine, and discovered by fairly recent research when the Russians were
hunting for a homegrown substitute for expensive ginseng they were
importing from China and Korea. Screening other members of the same
Araliaceae family, they put this dark-berried plant through their standard
mouse-stamina test and noted that mice fortified with it swam half as far
again as the control mice. Interest sharpened, more tests were done at the
U.S.S.R. Academy of Science's Institute of Biologically Active Substances,
and the decisive test was personally supervised by the Institute's
Director, Professor I. I. Brekhman. He watched the performance of a large
group of athletes running a 10 mile race, and saw that those who had taken
the plant clocked up an average time of 5 minutes less than the runners who
had swallowed a placebo. By 1962, Eleutherococcus was officially entered in
the Russian pharmacopoeia.

Summary of Benefits of Siberian Ginseng:

   * Increases physical indurance under stress
   * Prevents reduction of endurance after exposure to heartstressing
   * Protects against reduced cellular oxygen
   * Protects against excessive heat and excessive cold conditions
   * Protects against radiation exposure
   * Protects against viral and microbial infections
   * Augments sexual function
   * Helps prevent tumor metastasis
   * Favors normalization of neurotransmitter metabolism
   * Promotes normal endocrine function
   * Functions as a detoxifier, reducing the effect of toxic chemical
   * Improves visual acuity, color perception and hearing acuity
   * Increases output per person-hour in work settings requiring attention
     and nervous tension

GINSENG, WILD AMERICAN (Panax quinquefolius) grows in the northeast U.S.
and Canada. In the U.S. it is found from Michigan and Wisconsin, south to
northern Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Oklahoma. A heavy concentration
lies in the Appalachian Mountains, although wild American ginseng is
considered endangered. Ginseng was valued by the native American Indians
long before the white men began to popularize it. It gained wide acclaim in
the 1700's, when a French Jesuit priest returned to Paris with a sample he
had found in southern Canada. Sensing the potential profits from the plant,
Jesuits sent missionaries to Canada to find more of it, and for several
years the Jesuits shipped tons of American ginseng to China. In 1784 George
Washington reported meeting pack horses carrying ginseng. Daniel Boone and
Davy Crockett are said to have made large sums of money in ginseng
trafficking. American ginseng became a lucrative crop, and not unlike the
gold during the gold rush of California, the wild ginseng was almost wiped
out along the Eastern seaboard due to overharvesting. American ginseng is
considered to have more cooling properties than its Asian counterparts. It
is only used after the roots are at least four years old. Despite its being
very difficult to cultivate, some farmers have succeeded. Eighty percent of
U.S. ginseng is grown in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Most American ginseng
is exported to Asian countries.

Elizabeth Toews

On the herblist Aug. 1994:

>Could someone be kind enough to summarize the possible adverse effects of
ginseng? I've been taking a popular brand for a month now and am generally
happy with the effect on a chronic sinus problem and energy levels, but
beginning to feel kind of strung out ... I am drinking caffeine and wonder
if this could be a problem. Also need to know about possible adverse
interactions with prescription drugs such as blood pressure medications.

From Jonathan Treasure <jonno@teleport.com>:

Woah...."Ginseng Abuse Syndrome" is even recognised by the AMA. You do not
mention what kind of Ginseng or how much. I will defer to the TCM people on
this list to give wither you from the Chinese view but ... surely you're
not really doing coffee and ginseng? Oh dear oh dear ... tut tut.

  1. It is nonsensical to take caffeine and ginseng together regularly. You
     will stress your adrenals (*get strung out*) and possibly raise your
     *stress threshold* to a danger point .
  2. Ginseng should be used with extreme caution in hypertensive situations
     especially if under medication.
  3. Sinusitis? Not the *usual* prescription. Pass.
  4. Toxic signs - not uniformly predictable but can include hypertension,
     euphoria, nervousness, skin eruptions, morning diarrhea.
  5. Contraindications - nervous anxiety, nervous tension, hypertension,
     disturbed menstruation, stimulant or rec. drug abuse, good vitality in
     younger persons.

Most recommend taking as a tonic for a period then alternating without e.g.
3 weeks on 2 weeks off.

> the Peterson guide I have on edible wild plants recommends wild American
ginseng as a trail nibble...

If you did happen to find a Wild American ginseng, you should leave it
right where it is! Shame on Peterson. The plant is rare, and probably
endangered throughout its range.

Paul || p_iannone@pop.com

On alt.folklore.herbs June 1995:
> I've heard the ads for ginseng pills - are they worth the money? If so,
are all brands the same?

You definitely want to buy from a reputable company. According to Professor
Wang at the University of Alberta, researchers found that many prepackaged
ginseng products had a major shortcoming designed to fool the consumer. You
guessed it ... no ginseng.

Elizabeth Toews

The UP side of poison ivy

Rarely mentioned but soon enough found out, ginseng and poison ivy are
childhood sweethearts: they grow up in the same neck of the woods. If you
go digging ginseng in the Cumberlands of Tennessee, you will getpoison ivy
-- all over your fingers. With common roots in the forest loam, the one
looks out for the other.

But if that's not sufficient protection, the 'sang has yet another look-out
in the plant kingdom: Virginia creeper. A master of disguise, ginseng sets
up housekeeping in the thick of creeper beds. Takes a covite to tell them
apart; the untutored need not apply.

Cumberland ginseng endangered? Don't think so. Most of the knowledgeable
diggers have sense enough to harvest after the seeds have matured, and
don't have to be told to replant from what they've dug. If there's to be
"more where that came from" (talking car payments), they know they have to
replant. It's city slickers, out for a test drive of their bean boots, we
got to look out for. For their advancement, thank we heavens, there is
poison ivy.

Alex Standefer (astandef@seraph1.sewanee.edu)

> I had read somewhere that women should not take ginseng on a regular
basis (I'm cutting back from six capsules to two per day), but was told by
a friend that Siberian ginseng is suitable for women to take.

Ginseng shouldn't be used as a stimulant, but where needed it can be taken
for comparatively long periods by children, women, old people, anyone.

I have many female clients who take ginseng on a regular basis, in formulas
appropriate to their health pattern.

As a general rule Chinese herbalists don't use ginseng by itself.

--Paul || p_iannone@pop.com

2.1.6 Stevia Leaf - Too Good To Be Legal?
by Rob McCaleb, Herb Research Foundation

For hundreds of years, people in Paraguay and Brazil have used a sweet leaf
to sweeten bitter herbal teas including mate. For nearly 20 years, Japanese
consumers by the millions have used extracts of the same plant as a safe,
natural, non-caloric sweetener. The plant is stevia, formally known as
Stevia rebaudiana, and today it is under wholesale attack by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration.

Stevia is a fairly unassuming perennial shrub of the aster family
(Asteraceae), native to the northern regions of South America. It has now
been grown commercially in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Central America, the
United States, Israel, Thailand and China. The leaves contain several
chemicals called glycosides, which taste sweet, but do not provide
calories. The major glycoside is called stevioside, and is one of the major
sweeteners in use in Japan and Korea. Stevia and its extracts have captured
over 40% of the Japanese market. Major multinational food companies like
Coca Cola and Beatrice foods, convinced of its safety, use stevia extracts
to sweeten foods for sale in Japan, Brazil, and other countries where it is
approved. Europeans first learned of stevia when the Spanish Conquistadors
of the Sixteenth Century sent word to Spain that the natives of South
America had used the plant to sweeten herbal tea since "ancient times".

The saga of American interest in stevia began around the turn of the
Twentieth Century when researchers in Brazil started hearing about "a plant
with leaves so sweet that a part of one would sweeten a whole gourd full of
mate." The plant had been described in 1899 by Dr. M. S. Bertoni. In 1921
the American Trade Commissioner to Paraguay commented in a letter "Although
known to science for thirty years and used by the Indians for a much longer
period nothing has been done commercially with the plant. This has been due
to a lack of interest on the part of capital and to the difficulty of

Dr. Bertoni wrote some of the earliest articles on the plant in 1905 and
1918. In the latter article he notes:

"The principal importance of Ka he'e (stevia) is due to the possibility of
substituting it for saccharine. It presents these great advantages over

  1. It is not toxic but, on the contrary, it is healthful, as shown by
     long experience and according to the studies of Dr. Rebaudi.
  2. It is a sweetening agent of great power.
  3. It can be employed directly in its natural state, (pulverized leaves).
  4. It is much cheaper than saccharine."

Unfortunately, this last point may have been the undoing of stevia.
Noncaloric sweeteners are a big business in the U.S., as are caloric
sweeteners like sugar and the sugar-alcohols, sorbitol, mannitol and
xylitol. It is small wonder that the powerful sweetener interests here, do
not want the natural, inexpensive, and non-patentable stevia approved in
the U.S.

In the 1970s, the Japanese government approved the plant, and food
manufacturers began using stevia extracts to sweeten everything from sweet
soy sauce and pickles to diet Coke. Researchers found the extract
interesting, resulting in dozens of well-designed studies of its safety,
chemistry and stability for use in different food products.

Various writers have praised the taste of the extracts, which has much less
of the bitter aftertaste prevalent in most noncaloric sweeteners. In
addition to Japan, other governments have approved stevia and stevioside,
including those of Brazil, China and South Korea, among others.
Unfortunately, the US was destined to be a different story. Stevia has been
safely used in this country for over ten years, but a few years ago, the
trouble began.


Around 1987, FDA inspectors began visiting herb companies who were selling
stevia, telling them to stop using it because it is an "unapproved food
additive". By mid 1990 several companies had been visited. In one case
FDA's inspector reportedly told a company president they were trying to get
people to stop using stevia "because Nutra Sweet complained to FDA." The
Herb Research Foundation(HRF), which has extensive scientific files on
stevia, became concerned and filed a Freedom of Information Act request
with FDA for information about contacts between Nutra Sweet and FDA about
stevia. It took over a year to get any information from the FDA, but the
identity of the company who prompted the FDA action was masked by the

In May, 1991 FDA acted by imposing an import alert on stevia to prevent it
from being imported into the US. They also began formally warning companies
to stop using the "illegal" herb. By the beginning of 1991, the American
Herbal Products Association (AHPA) was working to defend stevia. At their
general meeting at Natural Products Expo West, members of the industry
pledged most of the needed funds to support work to convince FDA of the
safety of stevia. AHPA contracted HRF to produce a professional review of
the stevia literature. The review was conducted by Doug Kinghorn, Ph.D.,
one of the world's leading authorities on stevia and other natural
non-nutritive sweeteners. Dr. Kinghorn's report was peer-reviewed by
several other plant safety experts and concluded that historical and
current common use of stevia, and the scientific evidence all support the
safety of this plant for use in foods. Based on this report, and other
evidence, AHPA filed a petition with FDA in late October asking FDA's
"acquiescence and concurrence" that stevia leaf is exempt from food
additive regulations and can be used in foods.

FDA, apparently attempting to regulate this herb as they would a new food
additive, contends that there is inadequate evidence to approve stevia.
However, because of its use in Japan, there is much more scientific
evidence of stevia's safety than for most foods and additives. The extent
of evidence FDA is demanding for the approval of stevia, far exceeds that
which has been required to approve even new synthetic food chemicals like
aspartame (Nutra Sweet).

AHPA's petition points out that FDA's food additive laws were meant to
protect consumers from synthetic chemicals added to food. FDA is trying, in
the case of stevia to claim that stevia is the same as a chemical food
additive. But as the AHPA petition points out, Congress did not intend food
additive legislation to regulate natural constituents of food itself. In
fact, Congressman Delaney said in 1956, "There is hardly a food sold in the
market today which has not had some chemicals used on or in it at some
stage in its production, processing, packaging, transportation or storage."
He stressed that his proposed bill was to assure the safety of "new
chemicals that are being used in our daily food supply," and when asked if
the regulations would apply to whole foods, he replied "No, to food
chemicals only." AHPA contends that stevia is a food, which is already
recognized as safe because of its long history of food use. Foods which
have a long history of safe use are exempted by law from the extensive
laboratory tests required of new food chemicals. The AHPA petition,
however, supports the safe use of stevia with both the historical record,
and references to the numerous toxicology studies conducted during the
approval process in Japan, and studies by interested researchers in other

To date, the FDA still refuses to allow stevia to be sold in the U.S. but
the recently-enacted Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994
may prevent the FDA from treating stevia and other natural herbs as "food

rmccaleb@herbs.org -- [also herbal@netcom.com]

========== Changed legal status of Stevia Leaf
> Where do you get your stevia? No one here in RI will sell it.

From: Mark D. Gold <mgold@tiac.net:

You should suggest to your local natural food stores and herb stores in RI
that the legal status of stevia has changed recently. While importation of
stevia was banned to protect Monsanto's NutraSweet sales and the future
sales of other artificial sweeteners a few years ago, stevia can now be
sold as a "dietary supplement." I have a copy of the FDA's new "Import
Alert" on my Web page (or I can email it to you). Stevia products can and
have been sold over the last few years as skin treatment products.
Therefore, your local natural foods store should be able to get stevia skin
treatment products and supplements from their distributor (or they should
find a distributor who does sell it).

Stevia still cannot be legally sold as a "sweetener" by itself or in
another product. This will help protect companies such as Monsanto (selling
a dangerous artificial sweetener - aspartame) from having to compete
against a safe, natural sweetener on a large-scale basis. But at least
individuals can now use stevia as a supplement.

I have a list of stevia resources on my web page which you can use and give
to your local natural foods store. Hope this helps.


2.1.7 Poison Ivy / Oak / Sumac
We're lucky in Finland in that we don't have any of these problem plants.
But since it's asked every week in season it has to be in the FAQ, so
what's in here is mostly pulled from rec.gardens archives 1992 - 1994, or
from alt.folklore.herbs archives 1993 -, or taken off bionet.plants June
1995. If you wrote some text I've included here but you aren't mentioned
please email - I'll be happy to mention you in the next posting.

How to recognize PI/PS/PO

From Kay Klier (kk11188@cedarnet.org):

POISON IVY (Toxicodendron radicans = Rhus radicans = Rhus toxicodendron)

Found in a wide range of habitats, but in the midwest often seen in
disturbed woods, roadsides, and flood plains. Most widespread of PI, PS,
and PO.

Small, slightly woody plant, or shrubby, or vining. LEAVES ALTERNATE (= 1
leaf per node), TRIFOLIATE (= 3 leaflets), with pedicel (leafstalk) and the
CENTRAL LEAFLET WITH PETIOLULE (= leaflet stalk). The lateral two leaflets
are not distinctly stalked. Leaflets are a variety of shapes, but generally
ovate or obovate (roughly apple-leaf shaped). Leaflets may be smooth-edged
(entire), irregularly toothed, or shallowly lobed. Leaves of one variant
look like small oak-leaves (but look again!).

Leaves apple-green and shiny in the spring, deep green and often dusty in
the summer, turning a glorious reddish orange in the fall. Flowers tiny,
whitish, in clusters; fruits white berries in late summer or fall.
Closest look-alike: Box-elder seedlings (Acer negundo), which has OPPOSITE,
trifoliate leaves; the lateral two leaflets are often slightly stalked.
Older box-elders generally have 5 leaflets per leaf.

POISON SUMAC (Toxicodendron vernix = Rhus vernix)

Shrub, to perhaps 15-20 ft tall, often branched from the base. LEAVES
ALTERNATE WITH 7-13 LEAFLETS, lateral leaflets without a petiolule (leaflet
in a long cluster. Usually in wetlands, Maine to Minnesota, south to Texas
and Florida.

Closest look-alikes: Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, which has clusters of
fuzzy, red fruits and toothed leaflets, and likes dry soils; Smooth sumac,
Rhus glabra, with bright red fruits and slightly toothed leaves; much drier
soil than PS.

POISON OAK (Toxicodendron diversiloba = Rhus diversiloba).

Reputedly the worst of the bunch. Erect shrub, usually about 3-6 ft tall
generally lobed slightly or as much as an oak leaf; CENTRAL LEAFLET
STALKED. Leaves generally bright, shiny green above, paler below. Fruits
are small whitish berries. Common on the west coast, esp. low places,
thickets and wooded slopes. Occasionally a 5-leafleted form is found.

Steve Hix (fiddler@concertina.Eng.Sun.COM), in response to above:

>POISON OAK description...
If it were only that simple! In addition to that form, you can find poison
oak growing as a vine (very like wild grape, but with smooth bark) up to
six inches in diameter disappearing up into the tree tops near streams, or
in thickets that look a *lot* like blackberry without spines, or sometimes
as collections of leafless single branches (later the leaves appear, shiny
and red, changing to oily green, and so on).
Fortunately, it doesn't seem to grow much above 5000' elevation.

How to avoid the rash

Difficult if you live near PO/PI/PS...
... the best way not to get the rash is to learn to recognize the plant(s)
and avoid it (them) after that.

- You can even get a dose if a bunch of the leaves get dumped into a stream
or pond ... the oil ends up floating on the surface of the water.
- Dogs / cats / horses can get it on their coats and you'll get it from
them when you pet them barehanded.
- If you burn these plants and inhale the smoke you'll get a bad case of
internal PI.

Why does it give you a rash? / Spreading the oil about

From Ron Rushing (f_rushingrg@ccsvax.sfasu.edu):

The irritant in poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak is urushiol. The
rash you get is an allergic reaction. Everything I say below about poison
ivy should also apply to poison oak and sumac. If you brush up against a
healthy undamaged plant, you won't usually get urushiol on you. You usually
have to come in contact with a damaged leaf. Almost all plants have damaged
leaves - either from insects, weather, or from your stepping on them.

The oil is easily transferred from one place to another. For example, I got
some on my shoelaces once, and I kept getting poison ivy on my hands for a
couple of months. Once it is on your hands, it can, and will, end up
anywhere on your body.
The rash from poison ivy can take up to 72 hours to appear after exposure,
and is often spread on the body by taking showers while the oils are still
on the skin.

Once you get the oil on clothing, it can sit for months and still cause a
rash upon contact with your skin. For example, lets say you get some poison
ivy oil on your boots, then put the boots away for the winter. Next spring
you get out the boots and go for a walk - but not in the woods. A few days
later, voila - your hands are breaking out from putting on your boots and
tying the laces. As long as you've washed the original oil off your skin,
the exudate from the blisters should not re-infect your skin. It's just
exudate, and does not contain urushiol.

From krrobert@uiuc.edu (K. R. Robertson):

Washing with strong soap merely removes excess poison from the skin, but
will not remove any which has already reacted, because the poison is
believed to form a complex with skin proteins and therefore is not
removable short of removing the skin! Even so, it is difficult to wash off
this insoluble poison completely.

Eating a leaf of poison-ivy may have disastrous results. One may surpass
the normal level of immunity by the first bite; in this case one is in for
an internal case of poison-ivy, occasionally known to be fatal.

The mechanism of sensitivity is not thoroughly understood. It does not
behave like protein sensitivities such as hay fever. It is a
hypersensitivity of the delayed type, whose mechanism is related to that of
organ transplant rejection.

(Originally prepared by William T. Gillis, 1973, Revised by Kenneth R.
Robertson, 1993, Illinois Natural History)

From ab282@detroit.freenet.org (Robert Gault):

The active ingredient in poison ivy and other plants in the same family is
3-n-Pentadecylcatechol, common name urushiol, which is a chemical in the
phenol family.

Dermatitis (skin inflammation and blistering) is spread by the act of
scratching which redistributes the urushiol over the body. While the normal
treatment for poison ivy does not include the suggestion below, a
reasonable approach would be to convert the urushiol into a water soluble
material. Phenols are acids so washing with a weak base like diluted house
hold ammonia or a paste of baking soda should do the trick.

From Kay Klier (kk11188@cedarnet.org):

People who react to any of the species of PI/PO/PS will undoubtedly react
to the others; further, they may cross-react with mango (Mangifera indica),
cashew (Anacardium occidentale), and Chinese or Japanese Lacquer (Rhus
verniciflua). (the cellulose-based spray paint that is called lacquer is
not involved in this... just "real" lacquer, like carved lacquer boxes,
etc.). Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to sit under any member of
the Anacardiaceae in the rain... they all tend to have a leaf toxin that
falls on innocent bystanders below.

Most people are NOT sensitive to PI/PO/PS at birth, but become sensitized
through repeated exposures. Some people are apparently immune throughout
their lives, but I really don't know how to test that claim... ;-)

There is a barrier cream and a cleanup wash called Technu commonly used by
those who are sensitized to PI/PO/PS. Works quite well.

What helps

First a word of caution:
The recommendations listed here are without medical foundation and, if
actually used, are at the sole risk of the reader.

  1. Jewelweed, Impatiens pallida, I. capensis, I. biflora, or similar
     species. AKA Touch-me-not, silverweed.
     The plant produces both cleitogamous (self-fertilized), and
     chasmogamous (cross- fertilized) flowers. Mature seed pods will build
     tension as they dry, and can "shoot" seeds 5 feet away when activated
     by a slight disturbance.
     a. Jewelweed, fresh Crush some leaves and a bit of the stem and rub
     the resulting juice on the rashy area. Repeat frequently.
     b. Jewelweed decoction Take one part Jewelweed (or stronger as
     needed), and twenty parts water. Boil water in non-metallic container,
     add jewelweed, boil for fifteen minutes, strain and store in jar in
     fridge or freeze as ice cubes. Apply frequently.
     c. Jewelweed juice From YE71@MUSIC.FERRIS.EDU (Robert King):
     - Gather the entire plant, leaves, stems, and all; the plant is very
     succulent and juicy... I have never had a need to add extra water, but
     if you do, use distilled. Don't be greedy, either trim tops & outer
     branches, or selectively take entire plants from the center of a
     crowded stand. One large (4-foot) plant should be adequate for the
     largest rash on one person. Plants will lose turgor and wilt quickly
     after cutting, this is OK, just makes it easier to emulsify.
     - Liquefy the plants in a blender at the highest speed possible. Then
     extract the juice by filtering thru cloth, common strainer, or fruit
     press... a little pulp in the mix won't hurt, this will settle out
     after a couple hours, anyway. Use immediately, or refrigerate... this
     stuff spoils rapidly at room temperature..!!
     - Apply the juice to the infected area with a common paint brush...
     I've found 1 to 2" size works best. Blow-dry the area as you apply it
     with a hair dryer on low heat... after several coats of 'paint,' an
     orange-colored "skin" will develop. This "skin" will protect
     uninfected areas against the poison ivy allergen.
     - Repeat this procedure as needed, especially first thing in the
     morning, and before bedtime. Be sure to use common sense in keeping
     any fluid that happens to come from blisters away from unprotected
     areas... yourself AND others. Keeping the infected area as dry as
     possible will hasten the healing; continue application until no more
     blisters are present... usually about 3 days.
     - Ironically, jewelweed favors growing in areas of similar habitat as
     poison ivy, therefore it can often be found nearby, preferring moist
     ground, near water, or often, even in shallow water. It grows rapidly
     in ideal environs, but usually doesn't reach significant size until
     mid-summer; therefore, it might pay to keep a bit frozen in the fridge
     from the previous year for early-season use. The extract tends to
     spoil rapidly, even at cooler temperatures, so I wouldn't recommend
     keeping it for much more than a week without freezing... the fresh
     solution works best, anyway.
  2. Catnip
     Rub fresh catnip leaves on the affected area.
  3. Mugwort (Jilara [jane@swdc.stratus.com])
     Pick two large handfuls of fresh mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and let
     infuse in 1 cup alcohol for overnight. Apply to affected area with a
     clean sponge/washcloth/q-tips/whatever every four hours. Dries it up
     Robert Gault reminded me that mugwort is a strong allergen (have I
     told you they keep track of mugwort pollen in the air over here?). To
     quote Robert Gault: 'Can you imagine the result if the poison ivy
     sufferer is also allergic to Mugwort?!' Ouch - yes, I can.
  4. Aloe vera (Jilara [jane@swdc.stratus.com])
     Take a large leaf from the aloe vera plant you keep on your windowsill
     for burns. (If you don't have one, get one!) (NOTE: "aloe vera gel"
     sold commercially does NOT work!) Slice lengthwise to expose the juicy
     interior of the leaf. (This will give you an upper and lower leaf,
     with a juicy side to each.) Trim off leaf edges. Apply directly to
     affected area, juicy side against the sores. Bandage in place. Apply a
     new leaf every day until healed. This works phenomenally well, but you
     have to put up with bulky slabs of aloe vera leaf against the area.
     Which would you rather have: oozing sores or a succulent slab of leaf?
     Thought so. ;-) I can't laude this one enough! It works faster than
     any other remedy! And relieves the dreadful *itching*, too!
  5. Goldenseal (please don't do this - see 2.1.19.)
     Liberally dust powdered goldenseal on top of Jewelweed/Aloe juices
     juices before they dry onto the lesions; this will promote rapid
  6. Mixed poultice, with (1) (4) and (5): (please don't do this - see
     Mash leaves and stems of comfrey, plantain leaves, and the remains of
     the jewelweed and aloe leaves/stems you used in (1) and (4). Make a
     poultice or compress and put it on top of the goldenseal dusted on the
     lesions; hold poultice in place with a bandage of some sort, if
     After four hours or so remove poultice and clean the lesions with
     water. Repeat this entire procedure every four hours as needed until
     itching is reduced and lesions begin to heal.
  7. Gumweed Plant (Grindelia)
     Indians used the resin from the gumweed plant (Grindellia) to treat
     poison ivy.
  8. Baking Soda
     I swear by baking soda paste for poison oak. It not only soaks up the
     oozing mess, it completely stops the itching throughout the day.
  9. Mixed alcohol liniment
     Take sweetfern, jewelweed, witch hazel, rubbing alcohol... Zip it all
     up in a blender until it's green and mushed, let it sit for two weeks
     (ouch! I know...not for THIS outbreak, sorry), strain it and voila, a
     marvy liniment.
 10. Poison Ivy leaf
     From: bear@helium.Gas.UUG.Arizona.EDU (Soaring Bear), May 1994:
     Actually, this is just the time of the year to build up your immunity
     by nipping off a very tiny piece of poison ivy leaf (size of a head of
     a pin) and put in a capsule and swallow. Do 1-2 times a week. Stop if
     you start breaking out.
     Caution: from krrobert@uiuc.edu (K. R. Robertson):
     Eating a leaf of poison ivy may have disastrous results. One may
     surpass his normal level of immunity by the first bite; in this case
     he is in for an internal case of poison-ivy, occasionally known to be
 11. Salt (from bss8n@galen.med.virginia.edu)
     For the little initial blisters, I rub salt and burst them and leave
     the salt on to dry. They're history. Also salt worked on the moist
     areas of my face and under my nose where lye soap lather couldn't stay
     dried out long enough to dry out the rash. Works well on large surface
     rashes in case the blister stage grew untreated (but it didn't work on
     the "mini-mountain" reaction to p.i. that my mom got). MOST essential,
     leave the salt on to dry, adding more salt moistened with water to
     help create a paste that will stick as it dries, thus drying out that
     nasty, annoying p.i. The worse the spread, the longer the duration of
     salt/soap treatment alternated 12 hours to 1) dry out the present
     fresh redness, and 2) dry out *new* fresh red.
     Yep, you guessed it... the salt falls off everywhere. That's one
     reason I used the lye soap during bed hours. The other reason was that
     neither treatment, in a prolonged battle (1 1/2 wks) stayed effective
     by itself, i.e. continuous dry-out, but alternating them did it. I've
     wondered why?
 12. Lye soap (bss8n@galen.med.virginia.edu)
     - initially from a pioneer reenactment lady. The older/yellower the
     bar got, the less effective it seemed. Now, I've found it at the
     grungiest grocery store in town, a soap called Oxygon. Wet the bar and
     lather it up on the rash into a paste and let dry. Easier than the
     salt but since discovering salt, I tend to believe salt is more
     effective for me, at least with my initial tiny blisters, which is all
     I ever have to deal with now.

How to get rid of poison ivy in your yard (suggestions from

  1. Planting catnip should get rid of poison ivy.
  2. Goats. They are very effective, but in the end will be a bigger bother
     than the poison ivy. (Be suspicious if someone offers you free goats!)
  3. Poison ivy again: buy the super concentrated form of Round-Up and
     dilute to 3 times the recommended strength. (Well, hot damn! It killed
     off nearly every piece of PI in one application and only a few (about
     a dozen) plants returned a year later.)
  4. Pull it, but protect yourself (big plastic bag, disposable suit...)
     Immediately wash all clothes you used two-three times. Do not touch
     the plastic bag / disposable suit from the outside. Do not touch your
     clothes / boots / whatever from the outside before washing.

===== Impatiens
From Elizabeth Perdomo, ElizPer@aol.com

Jewelweed is a plant I wouldn't be without here in the South, any time of
the year! It works so remarkably well for Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac, and
for Fungal Infections, as well (try it on athlete's feet!). People are
always getting inspired to rake up leaves in the middle of winter, and get
into the roots or old leaves, producing the nasty itch. However, since the
plant only grows in mid-late summer, this is what I do to keep a supply

Harvesting: Jewelweed is an annual, which means it flowers, produces seeds
and then dies all in one year. Thus, I try to harvest Jewelweed well before
flowering time, so it has a chance to regroup, flower and seed before
frosts. To do so, I cut off (with knife or pruner) the top 1/3 of some of
the plants, leaving many untouched. I don't pull or pinch the tops, as this
often dislodges or pulls up the plant. If you take more than about the top
1/3, the plant may not have enough time to sprout side shoots and go to
seed, thus diminishing future supply for you, others & the earth...

Preparing: Jewelweed is one of those plants which just doesn't dry well.
It's too fleshy and juicy, and loses it's good qualities when dried. I make
a strong infusion, by adding LOTS of the plant to a pot (non-aluminium) of
boiling water. Then, I cover the pot, and allow it to simmer for at least
30 minutes. After simmering, covered, I put it into a blender or food
processor and blend. Then, I cover the mixture again and allow it to cool
to room temp. After cooling, I strain the mixture through a stainless steel
strainer and/or cheesecloth. Then, if needed right away, I label and store
part of the mixture in a jar in the refrigerator. The remainder, I freeze
in ice cube trays. After frozen, pop the cubes into a zip lock bag and
LABEL WELL with herb name/date before returning to freezer. Then, I have a
winter's supply. The cubes also feel really good on especially sensitive
areas, like on the face, between fingers, under arms and in private
parts... I also use the fresh Jewelweed and make it into a tincture by
filling a jar with the plant, and then covering it with 100 proof vodka. If
you are going to use it exclusively for EXTERNAL use, it could be
"tinctured" in rubbing alcohol.

Administering: Whether fresh, infused, tinctured or in ice cube form, apply
Frequently!!! Cotton balls work well to apply the infusion or tincture.
Yes, the tincture burns some, so I dampen the cotton ball 1st with water,
then add the tincture. The alcohol also helps to dry out the ooze... If
someone has a really bad, "systemic" case (not just a few bumps on their
ankles or hands), I recommend that folks take the (vodka) tincture
INTERNALLY, about 1/2 dropper 2-4 x Daily, in liquid, But for only 2-3
Days! (I don't recommend using this orally if pregnant or nursing.) It
seems that the oral use in conjunction with frequent, liberal external use,
can really turn a bad case of poison ivy around fast! Also, for "oozy"
spots, cosmetic grade (French) clay can be sprinkled on as often as desired
to help dry the spots out. Sometimes, I mix the clay with powdered oatmeal,
and apply the mixture to absorb and sooth.

- Elizabeth Perdomo

From: Peter Gail <PETERGAIL@AOL.COM>

Re: the post about jewelweed tincture: Be extremely careful in applying an
alcohol extract of jewelweed on anybody. Over the past 8 years Steven
Foster has reported one and I have observed 3 extremely severe skin
reactions from such applications, in each case landing the person in
hospital. Euell Gibbons also referred to the possiblity of allergic
reactions to jewelweed tinctures.

HeK comment: the frozen cubes don't have these risks.

2.1.8 Echinacea - uses
From tcaldec@Direct.ca (Todd Caldecott)

In my training with NA's I learned that Echinacea (blood purifier and
antibiotic) can be used as long as two weeks. The German research branch of
their equivalent of FDA (called Komission E) Drs. Wagoner and Bauer
demonstrated this fact. Their studies also showed that tinctured extract of
this plant could be chemically potent or not depending on how it was grown,
harvested and extracted. In their studies, the extracts available on the
commercial market were far less potent than their own prepared version. So
their conclusion was 2 weeks on then off for a week, then one could use it
for another two weeks at diminished activity. Also the plant varieties of
Echinacea angustifolia, purpurea and to a lesser extent pallida all had
medicinal chemical activity. The whole plant is medicinal but needs to be
at least 3 years old before you should harvest.

There is no evidence to suggest that Echinacea cannot be used longer than 2
weeks. In the original study (and please be patient I'm doing this from
memory) Echinacea was found to be increasingly effective for 5 days, after
which the study ceased. This paper, originally written in German, was
mistranslated, leading one to believe that Echinacea's effects plateaued
after five days. Echinacea is being used by several professionals long
term. Typically though, it is used as a surface immune tonic, useful in
chronically immunodepressed patients who suffer from chronic colds etc.
(although its use in AIDS is still a matter of some controversy). For most
of us who take it seasonally for colds etc. it is most effective when taken
in combination with other herbs i.e. garlic, Baptisia, Thymus, Astragalus

===== Echinacea - poaching and extinction
Thread on the phytopharmacognosy list:

> Over 90% of all echinacea material in the U.S. and Europe comes from >
cultivated species. There is very little wild harvested ech. on the market.
> The claim that the use of ech. preparations contributes to the extinction
> of this plant species is nonsense. Such claims may apply to other >
medicinal plants but not to the easy to cultivate Ech. spp..

From P. Mick Richardson <richards@mobot.org>, to above:

Disappearance of the plant in the wild may be nonsense to you but it is
reality to those of us who live in areas where the plant is native. Several
points. The plant is easy to grow in cultivation but if you have no land on
which to grow it you can get ready cash by collecting it in the wild. Even
if 90% comes from cultivated sources, the remaining 10% is still a massive
amount in relation to the ever decreasing number of plants in the wild,
especially when consumption rises each year and the 10% translates into an
ever increasing number of plants to be sought.

After receiving your message, I sought out a local person who collects
seeds of Echinacea from wild plants in Missouri for cultivation of the
plant. He confirmed my suspicions that the plant is becoming non-existent
in many parts of Missouri as local populations are exterminated. So the
nonsense is in fact reality to the people who see the plants. I suggest
greater cultivation of the plant would decrease the demand for
wild-harvested material. After all, no-one would be killing rhinos and
elephants for sale if there was not a market for them. Let's stop before
Echinacea becomes a great auk or a passenger pigeon example for textbooks.
Sorry to ramble on, but extinction is for ever and it would be shameful for
herbalists to contribute to it.

... and more in the same thread:

From: P. Mick Richardson <richards@mobot.org>:

It is illegal to collect Echinacea unless it is on your own property in
Missouri. However, if someone offers cash for echinacea plants, then the
demand will be met by poaching. Although on a lesser scale, it is no
different to the situation with rhino horm and elephant ivory. If there is
a cash market, people will provide the product. I could give descriptions
of the nationalities of the buyers but this is probably unnecessary. The
plants end up in Europe, presumably the site of greatest demand.

Hopefully, there will soon be enough Echinacea in cultivation that the
price will fall and this may remove the demand for wild-collected plants.
Until then, if you encourage the use of Echinacea, you endanger the plants
growing wild in Missouri. Admittedly Echinacea is being poached on a lesser
scale than Panax or Hydrastis, but it is still disappearing. Let's aim for
complete domestication. It works for Ginkgo, which is a cultivated cash
crop in the U.S.A. now.

2.1.9 Feverfew and migraine
by Eugenia Provence, EProvence@aol.com

It's not at all unusual for people interested in using herbs to replace
over the counter medications with simple herbal counterparts. What has been
unusual enough to generate headlines, though, is the conventional medical
community's research and acceptance of a traditional European folk remedy,
Feverfew, in preventing migraine headaches.

Migraines are believed to be caused by an upset in serotonin metabolism,
causing spasms of intracranial blood vessels, which then causes dilation of
extracranial blood vessels.

In the 1970s an English research group sought volunteers already using
Feverfew before beginning a study of its efficacy. Their advertisement in a
London newspaper brought more than 20,000 responses. Since then, several
well-documented double-blind, placebo studies in England confirm its value.

An interesting one reported in The Lancet (July 23, 1988; 2(8604):189- 192)
followed 72 volunteers. After a one-month trial using only a placebo, half
of the group received either one capsule of dried Feverfew leaves a day (or
a matching placebo) for four months. Neither the group nor the researchers
knew which group was receiving the Feverfew. The group kept diary cards of
their migraine frequency and severity. After four months, the groups
switched medications, and the trial continued for an additional four
months. 60 patients completed the study, and full information was available
on all but one.

The study found Feverfew to be associated with reducing the number and
severity of attacks (including vomiting), with the researchers concluding
that there had been a significant improvement when the patients were taking
Feverfew. There were no serious side effects.

Feverfew is currently classified as Tanacetum parthenium, a member of the
Asteracea (or Compositae) family, and was formerly named Chrysanthemum
parthenium, where you'll still find it listed in some references. Feverfew
is a corruption of Febrifuge, based on its tonic and fever-dispelling
properties. It's been called Maid's Weed, referring to its emmenagogue
qualities, which are also reflected in its Greek name, Parthenion ("girl").

Its primary actions are anti-inflammatory, bitter, emmenagogue and a
vasodilator. Aside from migraine relief, long-term users report relief from
depression, nausea and inflammatory arthritic pain. Drunk in cold infusion,
it can relieve the cold, clammy sweats associated with migraine.

Additionally, it's been used externally as an insect repellant, and
topically for insect bites. Perhaps the insect-repelling quality accounts
for the tradition of planting it around the house to ward off illnesses and
to purify the air.

The tea, drunk cold, has been used for sensitivity to pain, and for relief
of face-ache or ear ache (all migraine-like symptoms). The Eclectic
physicians of the 19th century called it one of the pleasantest of the
tonics, influencing the whole intestinal tract, increasing the appetite,
improving digestion, promoting secretion, with a decided action on kidney
and skin.

John Gerard's Herbal in 1663, said it to be "...good against summer
headaches to inhale crushed Feverfew blossoms. Dried and taken with honey
or sweet wine good for those as be melancholic, sad, pensive or without
speech." Culpepper used in it poultice form for head ache.

Feverfew in blossom is easily identified by its flat or convex yellow disk
and numerous short, broad 2-ribbed white rays. The leaves are alternate,
petiolate, flat, bi or tripinnate with ovate, dentate segments. It quickly
escapes cultivation, and has become naturalized in many areas of the U.S.
and Europe, in some places regarded as a nuisance weed.

Among its constituents are a volatile oil, containing pinene and several
pinene derivatives, bornyl acetate and angelate, costic acid, B-farnesine
and spiroketal enol ethers; Sesquiterpene lactones, the major one being
parthenolide); and Acetylene derivatives.

Pharmacologists say it is likely that the sesquiterpene lactones in
Feverfew inhibit prostaglandin and histimine released during the
inflammatory process, preventing the vascular spasms that cause migraines.
It appears to regulate the serotonin mechanism.

To attain the maximum benefit from Feverfew, it should be taken daily as a
preventive. For migraine prevention, parthenolide plays an important role.
The parthenolide content in Feverfew is highly variable in different
populations grown in different locations or harvested at different times of
the year.

Recent Canadian tests of U.S. Feverfew products found all of them to be low
in parthenolide. Canada, which has recently recognized Feverfew products as
official, over the counter drugs for migraine prevention and relief, will
require that they contain a minimum of 0.2% parthenolide.

So, this is one of the few cases where a standardized extract may be more
desirable than the whole plant, with a lot to be said for fresh or
freeze-dried preparations. If you want to use the fresh plant, the flowers
have a higher parthenolide content than do the leaves. If you are picking
the leaves, they are best just before flowering.

In one of those magical bits of synergy that herbalists love, the isolated
parthenolides used alone don't work on migraines, nor does the whole plant
with the parthenolides removed. The parthenolide is bioavailable only in

PRECAUTIONS: I know of nothing, whether allopathic or herbal medicine, that
I would feel free in saying to have absolutely no unpleasant side effects.
We're all unique individuals when it comes to body chemistry. Some
unfortunate people are allergic to chamomile. They may also be allergic to

A few recent studies of parthenolide in vitro point to toxicity involving
smooth muscle tissue. However, no side effect resembling this has ever been
reported in human use. Feverfew's safety and usefulness are historic.

Pregnant women should never take Feverfew. Its traditional use as an
emmenogogue underlines the risk here.

The bitter tonic qualities, so useful for indigestion, can cause gastric
pain in people with gall stones or gall-bladder problems, by making the
gall bladder try to empty. Likewise, the increased production of stomach
acid would make it highly aggravating to anyone with a gastric ulcer or
esophogeal reflux.

Some people have developed mouth ulcers from eating the fresh leaves.

DOSAGE: Feverfew is most effective fresh or freeze dried. Take the
equivalent of 1 fresh leaf or 125 mg. freeze-dried herb once a day (0.2%
parthenolides) 1-3 times daily (don't chew the leaf).

In addition to Feverfew on its own as preventive herbal therapy, one would
want to look at one's individual migraine triggers or pattern and add herbs
whose actions complement Feverfew's anti-inflammatory, bitter and
vasodilator actions to support the affected body systems.

Please also check the 'Herbs for migraine' entry (2.2.2) below.

From Rene Burrough <100735.543@compuserve.com>:

Eating feverfew leaves I learned this from a nursery woman here who grows
herbs commercially & was a nurse during WW2, and has suffered from
migraines from years, and it extremely sympathetic to herbal medicine. She
swears that the GREEN leaf is far more efficacious than the yellow or
golden version. And she takes one leaf a day for months at a time to keep
the migraine at bay. What she does is to make a <bread pill> with the
feverfew leaf inside and squished into a tiny ball with a doughy bit of
bread around it as a casing. Then the pill can be swallowed without the
leaf coming into contact with the lining of the digestive tract.


I looked up feverfew in Medline and would like to report what I found
there. If you aren't interested in medical experimentation as it applies to
herbs, you will probably not be interested in what follows.

The good news (for migraine sufferers): I found two double blind
experiments looking at the effectiveness of feverfew on migraines: The
first one used 72 migraine sufferers. Half got a capsule per day of
feverfew, the other half got a placebo. There was a significant reduction
in the mean number and severity of migraine attacks. The other experiment
looked at 17 migraine sufferers who normally ate feverfew to control
headaches. They gave placebos to some and continued the feverfew with
others. The placebos increased frequency and severity of migraines.

The bad news: Feverfew affects the smooth muscles of the body. These are
muscles that control much of your involuntary muscular processes, such as
the vascular system (blood vessels), digestive system, internal organs,
aorta, etc. From what I can gather from some of the abstracts in Medline,
feverfew PERMANENTLY affects the ability of these smooth muscles to
contract and relax. Here are some snippets from the abstracts which looked
at this:

"(Feverfew)...inhibits smooth muscle contractability in a time- dependent,
non-specific, and irreversible manner."

"(Feverfew)...affects smooth muscles...may represent a toxic modification
of post-receptor contractile function in the smooth muscle...effects are
potentially toxic"

"...inhibition of eicosanoid generation is irreversible"

"...irreversible loss of tone of precontracted aortic rings... inhibited
ability of acetylcholine to induce endothelium dependent
relaxation of tissue."

What does this all mean for the long term health of those who take
feverfew? That does not seem to have been looked at yet; these articles
were very recent. However, I think that people who take feverfew should
know that they may be permanently affecting the smooth muscles in their
bodies and may want to take this into account when deciding whether or not
to continue taking it.

From: Jim Heath (heath@iinet.net.au) (in reply to above):

I sent a copy of Julia Moravcsik's Medline findings about feverfew to
Reader's Digest (who published an article in their Feb 1995 issue advising
that feverfew can help prevent migraines.)

I've had a letter back from Elizabeth Craig, a RD researcher. She confirms
that none of their sources when they researched the article (late 1994)
showed any side-effects from feverfew. She also said that after she got my
letter (dated 21 June 95) she contacted a migraine research scientist who
is studying the effects of feverfew. The researcher is familiar with
Medline and says that "research has shown the dosage taken by migraine
sufferers has no side effects at all."

Whew -- that's good. (Or maybe, feverwhew.)

Jim Heath

End of part 2 of 7
Henriette Kress             HeK@hetta.pp.fi            Helsinki, Finland
http://sunsite.unc.edu/herbmed FTP: sunsite.unc.edu or sunsite.sut.ac.jp
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