Belladonna

Despite being a very poisonous plant, people have used belladonna in many different ways throughout history.

While it has been used as a poison in the past, scientists today extract chemicals from belladonna for use in medicine. These chemicals, when used under a doctor’s supervision, can treat a range of afflictions, from excessive urination at night to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What is belladonna?

Belladonna plant
The belladonna plant may also be called deadly nightshade.

Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is a poisonous plant, native to parts of Asia and Europe. It is sometimes known as deadly nightshade.

Belladonna produces small, black berries that must not be eaten. Eating the berries or leaves can be deadly. Similar to poison ivy, a person whose skin comes into direct contact with the leaves may develop a rash.

In ancient times, people used belladonna for its toxic properties, as an oral poison or on the tips of arrows.

Some scholars believe that Shakespeare referenced belladonna in his play, “Romeo and Juliet.” It is possible that Belladonna was the poison that Juliet drank to fake her death.

As time progressed, people used belladonna for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. For example, doctors used it as an antiseptic before surgery in medieval Europe.

During the Italian Renaissance, which lasted from the 14th to 16th century, fashionable women drank the juice of belladonna berries to dilate their pupils. Belladonna owes its name to this practice, as it means “beautiful woman” in Italian.

In modern times, optometrists often use belladonna to help dilate pupils when examining a person’s eyes.

Other recent uses of belladonna include over-the-counter creams and other herbal supplements. Despite its commercial availability, people are strongly advised to use belladonna with caution and under a doctor’s care.

belladonnaMedicinal uses

When used correctly in appropriate doses, belladonna is safe to use as part of regular medicinal practices.

It is important to note that ingesting even small amounts of the leaves or berries can be deadly. Small children and infants are, particularly at risk. Be sure to use caution when storing medicines that contain belladonna.

Scopolamine and atropine

Belladonna contains chemicals used to treat conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Belladonna contains two chemicals used for medicinal purposes.

The first chemical is scopolamine, which is used primarily for reducing body discharges. It is also helpful in reducing stomach acid, which can help with both nausea and acid reflux.

Scopolamine is also used for controlling the heart rate and relaxing muscles.

The second compound extracted from belladonna is atropine. Similar to scopolamine, atropine can be used to help reduce bodily discharge, but it is not as effective as scopolamine when used as a muscle relaxant and in heart rate control.

Also, atropine can be used to dilate the eyes. In some cases, atropine works as an antidote to insect poison and chemical warfare agents.

Once extracted, one or both chemicals are combined with other medications to help treat some diseases and conditions.

Some of the treatments target:

  • motion sickness
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • stomach ulcers
  • excessive nighttime urination
  • diverticulitis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • pink eye

When taken as part of a prescribed medication, belladonna is considered mostly safe. Like all medicines, it can have side effects, and people should consider its use very carefully.

As with any potentially harmful medication, it is best to speak to a doctor before using a product containing belladonna.

Alternative medication

Like many well-known plants and extracts, belladonna is available in some over-the-counter alternative medications and supplements.

Unlike traditional medicines, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements, which means they are often not tested for safety or the effectiveness of their claimed outcomes.

Companies that have made products containing belladonna state that it can improve various conditions. These include:

  • the common cold
  • fever
  • whooping cough
  • hay fever
  • earache
  • asthma
  • motion sickness
  • flu
  • a cough and sore throat
  • joint and back pain
  • arthritis pain
  • spasms, or colic-like pain in the stomach or bile ducts
  • nerve problems
  • gout
  • inflammation
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • hemorrhoids

Belladonna is an ingredient in creams, some liquids, ointments, and, in some cases, suppositories.

There is little research into belladonna’s effectiveness at treating any of the above conditions. It is important to consider the potential side effects before taking belladonna as a supplement.

Risks and side effects

Blurred vision and hallucinations are potential side effects of belladonna.

Belladonna is considered a toxic plant with historical uses as a poison. Despite being sold as an over-the-counter supplement, it is likely not safe to consume. It is also important to be aware that the FDA do not monitor the quality and purity of belladonna supplements.

There are some side effects to consider before using belladonna. These side effects include:

  • dry mouth
  • red, dry skin
  • inability to sweat
  • muscle spasms
  • blurred vision
  • enlarged pupils
  • hallucinations
  • inability to urinate
  • convulsions
  • seizures
  • coma

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be at additional risk, as some of the belladonna’s side effects may appear in the unborn child, and it might dry up milk production.

In addition to the side effects, belladonna may make some conditions worse. These include disorders that some manufacturers claim Belladonna helps.

Conditions that belladonna can make worse include:

  • acid reflux
  • fever
  • rapid heartbeat
  • gastrointestinal (GI) tract infections
  • high blood pressure
  • constipation
  • urination problems

Belladonna has negative interactions with certain medications as well, such as those for allergies and depression. Side effects of the interaction include a rapid heartbeat and rashes.

Outlook

Belladonna can be a safe herbal supplement or part of medication but only when used properly under a doctor’s care and supervision. There are a number of side effects that should be considered before using belladonna as a supplement.

Additional research needs to be conducted to test the effectiveness of belladonna alongside the risks. Individuals should carefully consider their options before trying belladonna as a replacement or supplemental treatment.

Chicory Root

You may know the chicory root as a popular coffee substitute. In fact, it was widely used during the Great Depression and World War II when coffee was in short supply or too expensive. Today, it is used around the world and in the US, particularly in New Orleans, as a natural caffeine-free substitute for coffee. However, it’s much more than a rich drink.

Chicory has a long history as a cleansing medicinal herb. In fact, the ancient Egyptians were known to consume large amounts of chicory to purify the liver and blood. Romans were also known to have used the root to help with blood purification. Medieval monks cultivated the plant, and it is widely used in Europe and the Mediterranean where it natively grows.

Called kasni in the Far East, chicory contains tannin phlobaphenes and several forms of sugar. The seeds have carminative and are useful as a brain tonic and for a headache, asthma, and bilious vomiting.

Chicory Root for Natural Liver Health

Chicory is an acclaimed liver protective and is used to treat hepatic enlargement, fever, vomiting, and abdominal aches. Its primary benefits are that it both protects the liver and supports the breakdown of fats by increasing the flow of bile.

Chicory Root as an Antibacterial & Antifungal

In addition, it has strong antibacterial and antifungal activity–and it is even effective against salmonella. Medicinally, chicory has been used to help address acne, cellulite, constipation, diabetes, eczema, gallstones, gastritis, gout, hepatitis, jaundice, liver stagnation, rheumatism, and urinary ailments.

Chicory Root as a Prebiotic Source

Naturally, inulin (a dietary fiber) can be found in more than 36,000 species of plants, however, chicory root has the greatest concentration. There are many health benefits that inulin, and therefore chicory root can provide. It contains prebiotics, a soluble fiber that people cannot digest that stimulates the growth and/or activity of bacteria in the digestive system. Chicory root has 64.6% prebiotic fiber by weight. Compared to the banana, which has only 1%, it easy to see why it’s considered to be the number one choice for natural prebiotic consumption. You would have to eat roughly one pound of bananas a day to get your recommended daily dose of prebiotics.

The inulin factor contributes a number of other health benefits to chicory root. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Inulin has health benefits similar to those of fiber in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It prevents constipation, helps maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon, and lowers blood cholesterol levels.”

Chicory Root as a Food Ingredient

You may be surprised to discover that chicory is often used as an ingredient in common food products. But that’s because of the inulin. The inulin adds fiber without adding unwanted taste or texture. It also has the advantage of having a smooth, creamy feeling in your mouth, like fat. According to Dr. Weil, “Food manufacturers now extract inulin from chicory root and add it to edible products such as yogurt, ice cream, chocolate bars, breakfast bars, salad dressings, and margarine.” Its flavor ranges from bland to subtly sweet (approx. 10% the sweetness of sucrose). It can be used to replace sugar, fat, and flour.

Chicory (Cichorium intybu) is actually a relative of the dandelion and contains both Vitamin C and inulin (not to be confused with insulin). Despite its coffee-like depth and flavor, it does not contain the caffeine so prevalent in traditional coffee beans. Chicory lends itself well to experimentation and can be taken as a tea, mixed into a tonic, or you can try creating your favorite coffee drink with Roasted Chicory as the sole substitute.

chicory coffee

Try these wonderful recipes from our friends at:

https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/make-roasted-chicory-coffee-recipe

United Plant Savers – The Future of Ginseng and Forest Botanicals

Source: United Plant Savers – The Future of Ginseng and Forest Botanicals

Alchemy of Fermentation Workshop | Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism

    Valerie Blankenship, RH, AHG has over 24 years experience in the herbal field as a clinician, formulator, medicine maker and educator. She is

Source: Alchemy of Fermentation Workshop | Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism

Hibiscus Water Extract Demonstrates Significant Antioxidant Effects in Patients with Marfan Syndrome

Marfan syndrome (MFS) is an autosomal dominant genetic disorder manifesting in persistent oxidative stress and malfunction of connective tissue in the cardiovascular and skeletal systems. Previous studies of hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa, Malvaceae) calyx drinks showed improvements in circulating antioxidant levels in healthy humans. Anthocyanins and organic acids like ascorbic acid are water-soluble antioxidants that are uncharacteristically rich in the hibiscus calyx, the ripened flowering body that is typically dark red in color. The goal of this prospective, observational, single-cohort study was to evaluate if a water infusion of hibiscus consumed daily could improve oxidative stress in patients with MFS.

The 3-month study took place at the National Institute of Cardiology Ignacio Chávez; Mexico City, Mexico. Seventeen patients with MFS and 10 healthy, control subjects were recruited through physical examination at the National Institute of Cardiology Ignacio Chávez. Additional echocardiography, computerized tomography, or magnetic resonance was done to ensure no aortic damage, and none of the enrolled patients were on anti-inflammatory medication.

Each patient consumed 1L daily for 3 months of a beverage made from boiling 20 g hibiscus calyces in a liter of boiling water (95-100°C) for 10 minutes, then left to cool. Hibiscus calyces were acquired in Chilapa de Álvarez (high zone from Guerrero, Mexico). Anthocyanins, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) were estimated in the beverage by ultraviolet spectrometry, although composition data were not included in the study. Circulating levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione-S-transferase (GST), glutathione reductase (GSHR), glutathione (GSH), lipid peroxidation (LPO) index, total antioxidant capacity (TAC), and ascorbic acid were measured in plasma from patients with MFS.

Levels of all oxidative stress markers were significantly different in patients with MFS versus control subjects. After 3 months of treatment, significant improvements in SOD (P = 0.03), GPx (P = 0.02), GST (P = 0.01), GSHR (P = 0.03), GSH (P = 0.05), LPO index (P = 0.001), and TAC (P = 0.04) were observed in patients with MFS. [Note: The P values in the abstract do not match those found in the text and figures.]

This study adds to existing clinical research on the antioxidant effects of hibiscus calyx beverages in humans. More research should be done to determine whether high-elevation hibiscus could have a different composition than other varieties. Admitted limitations include the small sample size, which was in large part due to the rarity of MFS (occurring in 2 or 3 individuals per 10,000). The long-term effects of hibiscus on slowing the progression of chronic disease related to oxidative stress should be investigated further.

Resource:

Soto ME, Zuñiga-Muñoz A, Guarner Lans V, Duran-Hernández EJ, Pérez-Torres I. Infusion of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. modulates oxidative stress in patients with Marfan syndrome. Mediators Inflamm. 2016;2016:8625203. doi: 10.1155/2016/8625203.

Valerian Root for Insomnia and Anxiety

Valerian is a plant with mild sedative properties that is sold as a sleeping aid and to treat anxiety. But does it work?

In the United States (U.S.), valerian dietary supplements are usually sold as sleeping aids. In Europe, people more often take them for restlessness and anxiety.

There are actually over 250 valerian species, but Valeriana officinalis is the one most commonly used for medicinal purposes.

While medicinal valerian dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times, strong clinical evidence for valerian’s effectiveness in treating insomnia and anxiety is lacking.

Still, Valerian is considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and is gentler than synthetic drugs, such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates. For these reasons, valerian could be worth trying for anxiety or insomnia relief.

Potential benefits

Valerian root can potentially improve sleep quality and provide relief from anxiety.

Some possible benefits of valerian that have been reported by users include:

  • falling asleep faster
  • better sleep quality
  • relief from restlessness and other anxiety disorder symptoms
  • no “hangover effect” in the morning

However, stronger evidence is needed to be confident that valerian, and not some other factor, is responsible for these effects.

It is also necessary to determine whether a person’s insomnia and anxiety improvements are statistically significant.

Weaknesses in the studies

While there have been many studies exploring valerian’s effects, many of them have weaknesses that make their data unreliable.

Even with carefully controlled studies, it is still difficult to compare and combine data across studies. Some of the reasons for these problems include:

  • a small number of study participants
  • high rates of study participant withdrawal
  • wide variation across studies in methods of measuring sleep quality and anxiety relief
  • wide variation across studies in dosage and duration of valerian treatment
  • the severity of a person’s anxiety or insomnia is not well defined
  • flawed statistical analyses

Many of these issues are revealed in a review paper published in the American Journal of Medicine, which carefully analyzed the methods and data of 16 different valerian studies.

The paper produced conflicting results about the soundness of these studies. For example, one issue was that only six of the studies used similar methods to measure sleep quality, which meant that sleep quality improvement could not be compared across all studies.

Combined data shows improvements in sleep

woman's feet in bed
A combination of studies showed that valerian root may improve sleep quality significantly.

On the other hand, the combined data of these six studies did show a statistically significant improvement in sleep quality for the group of participants using valerian.

These studies also happened to have the largest sample sizes, perhaps giving them more strength than the others. Still, the authors of this review warn that the results should be taken with caution, as there were many flaws in their statistical analyses.

Studies look at a combination of herbs

A separate issue is that many studies do not explore the use of valerian alone, but instead analyze the effects of valerian combined with other medicinal herbs, such as passionflower or kava.

For example, another literature review analyzed 24 studies about the effectiveness of herbal supplements for anxiety. An individual study explored the impact of herbal supplements on insomnia in 120 participants.

Both found robust evidence for the effectiveness of supplements. However, it was hard to tell how responsible valerian was for these effects.

Larger, more statistically sound valerian-specific studies are needed to understand how well the supplement actually works in terms of treating insomnia and anxiety.

How valerian root works

Many researchers believe that it is not just one chemical that is responsible for valerian’s effects, but a combination of the plant’s components.

According to the National Institutes of Health, several of valerian’s chemical compounds have individually demonstrated sedative properties in animal studies.

It is also uncertain how valerian affects the brain. The most common theory is that valerian extract stimulates nerve cells to release a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.

GABA slows down nerve cell activity instead of exciting it.

Valerian extract may block an enzyme that destroys GABA, which means that more GABA is available for a longer amount of time.

All of these factors together might produce the calming effect that many who try valerian experience. Drugs such as Xanax and Valium also increase the amount of GABA in the body, and their effects are much greater than valerian.

Preparations

Valerian root can be consumed in many forms, including as a tea.

Valerian dietary supplements are usually made from the plant’s roots, but can also derive from its stems. Dried roots, other plant materials, or valerian extracts may be consumed in several forms, including:

  • teas
  • tinctures
  • capsules
  • tablets

The amount of valerian a person should take varies, but the dose typically ranges from 400-900 milligrams (mg) at bedtime.

The dosage may also depend on how much valeric acid the supplement contains. Valerenic acid is considered to be one valerian’s most powerful sedative components.

Herbalists advise only using valerian for 2-3 weeks and then taking a break for an equal length of time before starting up again. Herbalists recommend this break because some people who have used valerian for extended periods have reported adverse side effects, such as headaches, depression, or withdrawal after stopping.

Risks

The FDA (or other regulating agencies) do not monitor herbs and supplements for quality or purity. So, it is important to choose products from reliable sources. While further studies are needed to evaluate any potential long-term side effects, there have been very few reports of serious adverse events in connection to valerian.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the side effects most commonly reported by people involved in valerian clinical trials are:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • itchiness
  • gastrointestinal disturbances

However, these side effects cannot be directly attributed to valerian, as some of the people who were taking placebo supplements also reported side effects.

Despite valerian’s observed gentleness, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to avoid it because no studies have been carried out on the potential risks of valerian to a fetus or an infant.

Children under 3 years old should not be given valerian either as its effects on early development have not been evaluated.

Finally, a person must consult a doctor before using valerian if they are already taking:

  • benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Valium, or Ativan
  • central nervous system depressants, such as phenobarbital or morphine
  • other sleep-aiding dietary supplements, such as kava or melatonin

The sedative and depressant properties of these drugs and supplements might combine with those of valerian, resulting in grogginess or more severe adverse effects.

Even if one is not taking any other medications, it is always a good idea to talk to a doctor before taking any supplements, including valerian.

African Plant Extract Offers New Hope for Alzheimer’s

A plant extract used for centuries in traditional medicine in Nigeria could form the basis of a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at The University of Nottingham have found.

Their study, published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology, has shown that the extract taken from the leaves, stem, and roots of Carpolobia lutea, could help to protect chemical messengers in the brain which play a vital role in functions including memory and learning.

The tree extract could pave the way for new drugs to tackle patient symptoms but without the unwanted side-effects associated with some current treatments.

The study was led by Dr. Wayne Carter in the University’s Division of Medical Sciences and Graduate Entry Medicine, based at Royal Derby Hospital. He said: “As a population, we are living longer, and the number of people with dementia is growing at an alarming rate. Our findings suggest that traditional medicines will provide new chemicals able to temper Alzheimer’s disease progression.”

Neurodegenerative diseases represent a huge health burden globally, placing pressure on health services and having a negative impact on the lives of patients and their families.

Researchers and drug companies are racing to discover new treatments for these disorders and have begun looking to plant extracts as a potential source of novel drugs.

In patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and myasthenia gravis, the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, is reduced, leading to problems with memory and attention.

Current drugs – called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors – reduce the normal breakdown of acetylcholine. Extensive research is underway to find new versions of these drugs but with additional beneficial properties.

Carpolobia lutea, known more commonly as cattle stick, is a small shrub or tree found native to Central and West Africa. Herbalists in Nigerian tribes use the essence of the root as an aphrodisiac and the treatment of genitourinary infections, gingivitis, and waist pains.

It has also been reported to possess other anti-inflammatories, anti-arthritic, antimicrobial, antimalarial, and analgesic properties. This could be particularly important in Alzheimer’s disease as there is more evidence emerging that Alzheimer’s patients have inflammation in the brain.

The Nottingham study found that the plant was highly effective in preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine but had other beneficial antioxidant properties in fighting free radicals – unstable atoms that can cause damage to cells and contribute to aging and disease – damage that may be exacerbated in Alzheimer’s disease.

Article: Anti-acetylcholinesterase activity and antioxidant properties of extracts and fractions of Carpolobia lutea, Pharmaceutical Biology, doi: 10.1080/13880209.2017.1339283, published online 19 June 2017.

How to Brew Herbal Sun Tea

Cool down with delicious, thirst-quenching herbal sun tea. Follow a few simple steps to enjoy a variety of refreshing flavors that are perfect for front porch sipping. Solar tea has never tasted so good.

Fresh organic herbs produce healthier, more refreshing teas, so pick your ingredients straight from the garden or buy from a local grower. All you need to make solar tea is a quart canning jar (good for preserving the herbs’ fragrant oils and properties), water, coarsely cut herbs of choice and sunshine.

To start, toss a half cup to 1 cup of fresh herbs into the canning jar. With practice, adjust this amount to suit your taste and the plants’ nature. Add water, a lid, and a few shakes. Place the jar where it will receive full sunlight, such as on a rooftop, open field or driveway. If possible, give the mixture a couple more shakes throughout the day. You will learn how long to brew certain teas for the desired taste.

Two-ingredient blends

  • Alfalfa leaf with lemon verbena or red clover blossoms
  • Chamomile with hibiscus flowers
  • Elderflowers with peppermint or yarrow
  • Fenugreek with alfalfa or mint
  • Hibiscus flowers with rose hips
  • Marigold petals with mint
  • Mullein with sage, chamomile or marjoram
  • Pennyroyal with any of the other mints
  • Peppermint with spearmint
  • Rosemary with hibiscus flowers
  • Sage with lemon verbena
  • Strawberry leaves with Woodruff
  • Yarrow with peppermint

July Evening Tea

1 large fresh monarda flower

A dozen fresh lavender flower heads. Compatible additions include lemon balm leaves, lemon verbena leaves, and chamomile flowers.

Lemon Blend Tea

Mix equal parts fresh lemon balm leaves and fresh lemon verbena leaves. Add grated lemon peel (about 1 tablespoon per cup of lemon herbs). Optional lemon herbs may be added, such as lemon-scented geranium leaves and lemon thyme. Add some calendula petals for color.

Orange Mint Tea 

Use a citrus-flavored mint, such as orange bergamot, or any mint herb. Add grated lemon and orange rind, cloves, cinnamon, and calendula petals or? Lemon Gem’ marigold leaves.

Sun Tea: Brewing Tips and Herbal Tea Recipes

Ashley November Jones shares her method to making healthful sun tea, and her herbal-infused sun tea recipes for peppermint-flower tea, peppermint-rosemary-pennyroyal tea, fenugreek-peppermint tea and licorice-flax tea.

Here for the hot weather ahead is a perfect alternative to the usual summer soda pop orgy: a healthful drink made by a simple and inexpensive process, in limitless variety and with very satisfying results. I call it sun tea.

How to Brew Sun Tea

The secret of this summer specialty is that any herbal infusion you can make with the help of a tea kettle can also be made in the sun. All you need is:

[1] A wide-mouthed, clear glass jar with a watertight lid or another secure seal
[2] Water
[3] The herb of your choice (cut coarsely)
[4] A sunny day

First, measure out the herb into the jar. A rough guide to quantity is 1/4 to 1/2 cup of dried plant material to 4 or 5 cups of water or 1 to 1-1/2 cups to the gallon, but these proportions can be adjusted to suit your own taste and the nature of the ingredients. Roots and seeds tend to make stronger infusions than do leaves and flowers and are generally used in smaller amounts. If you cut your herbs fresh, you’ll need about twice as much as you would if the makings were dried.

Pour the appropriate amount of water over the herb in the jar, screw on the lid, give the container a few shakes, and set it where it will receive full sunlight all day long. A rooftop, open field, driveway or similar shade-free area is ideal, but if none is available, keep an eye on the “teapot” and move it on out into the sun as any shadow approaches. Give the mixture a shake whenever you think of it.

As the day ends, bring in your tea. It will be warm and should look rich and clear in color. Open the jar and take a sniff. The aroma should be full and tantalizing.

While the brew is still warm from the sun, shake it up and dump the whole contents of the jar into a strainer placed in a bowl large enough to hold the liquid with room to spare. (Use the dregs to mulch house plants.) Before the infusion cools, add enough honey — say 1/4 cup or so per quart — to flavor the drink to your liking. Stir the mixture well with a spoon, wire whisk or your clean hands to make sure all the sweetening dissolves. Lemon or other fruit juices may be included at your discretion or can be substituted for the honey. (Next time around you may want to drop a few raisins or bits of dried or fresh fruit into the tea — for extra tang and sweetness — before you set it out to brew .)

Finally, rinse out the “teapot” to remove the dregs and funnel the finished drink from the bowl back into the jar, making allowance for whatever extra liquid you’ve added. I always drink any tea that won’t fit back in the jar as a kind of celebration and to check out the flavor. Some of the combinations you’ll come up with will be heady indeed! (Remember, though, that the beverage always seems more potent warm than chilled.)

Your solar tea can then be refrigerated, or, if you’d like a little carbonation, leave the brew tightly capped at room temperature for a while — two hours at the most — and then chill it. The result is a bubbly, slightly intoxicating beverage. This fermentation may not occur in all teas but is worth trying for.

Although I’ve never attempted to make herb mead, wine or beer by the above method, I’m sure the process would work. Warning: If you try such an experiment, be careful to use all the precautions that go with the preparation of any fermented drink. A capped thermos of ours burst its inner container one summer when we accidentally left it out on the kitchen counter overnight with only about a tablespoon of honeyed solar tea inside.

The following are some of our favorite concoctions. (You’ll notice, incidentally, that the first recipe calls for a brewing time of longer than one day. This is occasionally desirable to increase the tea’s strength, but at some point, the drink will degenerate — we’ve found three days of steeping to be the limit.)

Experiment!

Peppermint Flower Tea Recipe

Mix together the following dried materials:

3 parts by weight of peppermint leaves
2 parts each by weight of rose hips, orange flowers and red hibiscus flowers

Use 1/4 to 1/3 cup of this mixture to every quart of water, and add 3 or 4 whole cloves per quart (optional).
Set the tea to brew in the sun for 1 to 3 days. Strain it and add 1/4 to 1/3 cup, honey.

This mixture is especially good when allowed to carbonate. For variety you could add to the jar — before brewing — a few raisins, a slice or two of orange or lemon, the peel of the same citrus fruits, etc.

Peppermint-Rosemary Tea Recipe

For each quart of tea, use the following dried herbs:

2 to 3 tablespoons peppermint leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons rosemary leaves (and flowers)
Sunbrew, strain, and sweeten the tea. This beverage is very relaxing.

Fenugreek-Peppermint Tea Recipe

For each quart of tea, use the following dried herbs:

2 or 3 tablespoons fenugreek seeds
1/4 to 1/3 cup peppermint leaves
Proceed as above. The resulting brew is good for a cold, and tasty too.

Licorice-Flax Tea Recipe

For each quart of tea, use the following:

1/4 cup licorice root
2 to 3 tablespoons flaxseeds

Proceed as above (brew the mixture for one day only). Sweeten the tea with honey and add fresh lemon juice. The resulting beverage is demulcent and helpful in soothing sore throats and easing coughs. It’s the best drunk at room temperature for medicinal purposes.

The quantities given are for dried herbs used singly and should be adjusted if you’re making a blend. Measure the ingredients without packing them down in the cup.

Herbal Mixology Fall 2017 – Traditional Roots Institute

With Glen Nagel ND, herbal mixologist Back by popular demand! A three-part series focusing on blending botanicals into tasty tonics. Register on this page for the series, or follow links to register for classes a la carte. Blending the ancient world of botanical medicine with that of the modern bar mixologist, this class develops a flavorful …

Source: Herbal Mixology Fall 2017 – Traditional Roots Institute

Lemon Balm Extract Reported Safe in Providing Beneficial Effects for Glycation-Associated Tissue Damage, Arterial Stiffness, and Skin Elasticity

  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis, Lamiaceae)
  • Glycation-associated Tissue Damage
  • Arterial Stiffness
  • Skin Elasticity

Advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) are generated by the nonenzymatic glycosylation of proteins, or glycation, and are associated with increased oxidative stress and inflammation. In patients with diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, or Alzheimer’s disease, the tissue content of AGEs is much higher than in healthy individuals. The AGE pentosidine increases with age and correlates with the degree of skin and artery stiffness; yellowing skin associated with aging also may be due partly to glycation. Seeking to find a potent antiglycation food material, these authors studied plant extracts that inhibited the formation of pentosidine, selecting lemon balm (LB; Melissa officinalis, Lamiaceae) extract (LBE) and identifying its active components. In an open-label, parallel group, comparative trial, they examined the beneficial effects of LB on arterial stiffness, skin elasticity, and blood hematological and biochemical parameters.

A total of 681 plant extracts were screened and evaluated for antiglycation activity. Among the 22 possible candidate plants, 4 species were of the Lamiaceae family; 17 species exhibited higher activity against pentosidine than the antiglycation agent aminoguanidine. LB was selected from those plants because of its safety, taste, stable supply, and adaptability to beverage form.

Twenty-eight healthy Japanese subjects (14 males and 14 females) were enrolled in the trial, conducted at Yakult Central Institute in Tokyo, Japan, from late October 2010 to early December 2010. The subjects were instructed to continue their usual exercise regimens and diet, excluding herbal teas. The trial included a 1-week pre-intake phase and a 6-week intake phase. Measurements conducted during the pre-intake phase (baseline) and on the day after the last day of intake included brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity (baPWV) as a marker of arterial stiffness, blood pressure, skin elasticity of the left cheek, skin color, and hematological and biochemical parameters.

The subjects were randomly assigned to the LBE group or the control group, with 14 in each group. The beverages were prepared daily by the subjects for 6 weeks as follows: bags containing 3.3 g dried LB leaves (Charis Seijyo Co., Ltd.; Tokyo, Japan) in the LBE group or barley (Hordeum vulgare, Poaceae) tea grains (Nihon Seibaku Co., Ltd.; Kanagawa, Japan) in the control group were extracted for 5 minutes in 200 mL hot water before drinking. Fractionation of the LBE revealed that the polyphenol rosmarinic acid (RA) was the most abundant active component. The subjects recorded their daily intake of the beverages and any adverse effects.

Of the 14 subjects in the LBE group, 2 were excluded from the analysis because they had health problems, unrelated to the tea, for more than 10 days during the study period. Compliance rates were 100% in the control group and 99.5% in the LBE group.

Evaluations of the glycation-induced coloration of collagen fiber sheets and glycation-induced changes in the fibrous structure of elastin fiber sheets revealed that “LBE or RA dose-dependently suppressed glycation-associated reactions such as increased fluorescence, yellowing of collagen fiber sheets, and degeneration of the fibrous structure of elastin fiber sheets,” report the authors.

After 6 weeks of treatment, baPWV was reduced in the LBE group and unchanged in the control group, with a significant between-group difference in the change (P = 0.007). No significant between-group differences were observed for changes in systolic or diastolic blood pressure. Age of the subjects correlated strongly with baPWV at baseline (P < 0.001).

No significant between-group differences were observed in the changes in cheek skin elasticity during the trial. However, comparing the changes in male skin with female skin of both groups, the authors report that the only gender difference detected was a significant between-group difference in R7 value (total deformation) in only the female subjects; in females in the control group, the R7 value decreased by 0.044 ± 0.025 and in those in the LBE group, by 0.012 ± 0.018 (P = 0.027). The authors suggest that timing may have attributed to this finding, stating that because the trial was conducted during the autumn and winter, with frequent changes in humidity and temperature, and because female skin is thinner and drier than male skin, “the seasonal effects might be more severe in female subjects.”

In the LBE group compared with the control group, significant reductions were observed in both a* (red [asterisk is part of value name]; P = 0.017) and b* (yellow; P = 0.008) color values in forearm skin; the values did not change in the control group. Previously reported anti-inflammatory activity of RA1 may reduce a* value, say the authors. In one prior study, b* values increased through glycation in mouse skin,2 and such increases reportedly reflect the accumulation of AGEs.3,4 “Therefore, the decrease in b* values is presumed to be due to the anti-glycation effects of the daily intake of LB tea,” write the authors.

No significant between-group changes were observed for L* values (brightness of skin), which in earlier studies were found to be linked to antioxidation.5,6 “This observation indicates that the involvement of anti-oxidation in the anti-glycation effect of LB tea may be small,” state the authors.

No significant differences were seen in reported adverse effects between the 2 groups. Among the hematological and biochemical parameters, the serum glucose and uric acid levels after 6 weeks were significantly lower in the control group compared with baseline (P < 0.05 for both). Serum creatinine levels decreased significantly in both groups (P < 0.01 for the control group and P < 0.05 for the LBE group).

This study is limited by its small sample size; its lack of detection of AGE content in arteries and skin to clarify whether LB tea affects that content; and the study design, which did not include a placebo.

The authors conclude, “The hot water extract of LB leaves is considered a safe and potent food material to provide health benefits with regard to glycation-associated tissue damage and symptoms such as increased arterial stiffness and decreased skin elasticity.”

References

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2Yokota M, Tokudome Y. Permeation of hydrophilic molecules across the glycated skin is differentially regulated by the stratum corneum and epidermis-dermis. Biol Pharm Bull. 2015;38(9):1383-1388.

3Monnier VM, Cerami A. Nonenzymatic browning in vivo: a possible process for the aging of long-lived proteins. Science. 1981;211(4481):491-493.

4Ohshima H, Oyobikawa M, Tada A, et al. Melanin and facial skin fluorescence as markers of yellowish discoloration with aging. Skin Res Technol. 2009;15(4):496-502.

5Kim SB, Jo YH, Liu Q, et al. Optimization of extraction condition of bee pollen using response surface methodology: correlation between anti-melanogenesis, antioxidant activity, and phenolic content. Molecules. 2015;20(11):19764-19774.

6Ya W, Chun-Meng Z, Tao G, Yi-Lin Z, Ping Z. Preliminary screening of 44 plant extracts for anti-tyrosinase and antioxidant activities. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2015;28(5):1737-1744.

Yui S, Fujiwara S, Harada K, et al. Beneficial effects of lemon balm leaf extract on in vitro glycation of proteins, arterial stiffness, and skin elasticity in healthy adults. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2017;63(1):59-68.