HSA Webinar: A History of Chocolate

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Jen Munson, HSA Education Chair

20190613_150017Chocolate: food or medicine? For centuries, chocolate was consumed primarily as medicine. Cacao, from which chocolate is derived, was the basis for prescriptions promising relief from such ailments as anemia, alopecia, fever, gout, heart disease, kidney and liver disease, along with tuberculosis. Prescriptions from the 16th and 17th centuries would combine cacao with cinnamon, sugar, pepper, cloves, vanilla, and/or anise to ease common complaints. Certainly modern day amoxicillin could benefit from such a delicious concoction.  

It was only in the 19th century that chocolate became more of a food staple and less of a medicine. This was in part because of the expansion of where cacao could be grown. Cacao is a New World food, but the Portuguese brought the cacao tree to the African tropics. The development of machinery made it easier to separate cacao butter from the seeds, and so the making…

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Parsley – Herb of the Month and Herb of the Year

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Maryann Readal

The spotlight is shining on parsley this month. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is The Herb Society of America’s Herb of the Month for January and the International Herb Association’s Herb of the Year for 2021. The three most common varieties of parsley are P. crispum or curly-leaf parsley,  P. crispum var. neapolitanum or flat-leaf Italian parsley, and P. crispum var. tuberosum or turnip-root parsley which is grown for its root and is used in soups and stews.

Parsley has an interesting history dating back to Greek and Roman times. To the Greeks, parsley symbolized death and was not used in cooking. However, according to Homer, the Greeks fed parsley to their chariot horses as they thought it gave them strength. The Greeks believed that parsley sprang from the blood of one of their mythical heroes, Archemorus, whose name means “the beginning of bad…

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Readers Choice: Ringing in the Best of Blog Castanea

As we spin forward into 2021 (are we there yet, mom?!?), it’s exciting to reflect on what you—our friends, fans, and phenomenal plant family—went herb-wild for through the seasons.Did you know we serve up a splendid spread of free herbal content on our blog?In 2020, we decked the halls of Blog Castanea with garlands of new articles, and re-polished our most popular blogs from seasons past. We brought in new contributors and the blog officially became a team sport. Are you curious which topics were herbally admired and adored this year? And which plants people felt positively passionate about? Get caught up with our Best of 2020 Roll Call:
Continue reading “Readers Choice: Ringing in the Best of Blog Castanea”

Cinnamon – Herb of the Month

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Maryann Readal

Cinnamon is the name for several plant species in the laurel family (Lauraceae). It is a small tropical evergreen tree with aromatic leaves and bark. The spice, cinnamon, is the bark of the tree which has been shaved, rolled, and dried into the familiar tubes called “quills.”  

cinnamon_1 Creative CommonsThe two most common cinnamon species are “true” or Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) and cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum). “True” cinnamon is grown in Sri Lanka. Cassia cinnamon is grown in Southeast Asia and is the one found in the spice section of your grocery store. The two cinnamons differ in taste and color, with the “true” cinnamon having a more subtle, delicate flavor and a lighter color. It is also more expensive. The picture is a good illustration of the difference between the two cinnamons. The cinnamon on the left is the coarser cassia cinnamon. The…

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HSA Webinar: Enhancing Brain Health using Natural Botanicals

The Herb Society of America Blog

Sponsored by The Herb Society of America’s Long Island Unit

by Jen Munson, Education Chair

Nootropics is a trending topic. Nootropics (pronounced noh-a-trop-iks) includes drugs, supplements, and plants that may improve brain function. According to Allied Market Research, a market research and advisory company, brain enhancing supplements made up $3.50 billion in sales in 2017 and is projected to grow to $5.81 billion by 2023. Unfortunately, it’s an industry that is rife with misleading ingredients and marketing.

True nootropics should aid natural cognitive function, support and protect brain function, and be non-toxic to the user. The properties and constituents of nootropic herbs have demonstrated numerous benefits. Using medicinal herbs to enhance brain health is nothing new; in fact, many have been used safely and effectively for thousands of years. 

Some brain boosting herbs can be readily found in the garden. Although rosemary has been symbolically used to represent remembrance, it…

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Tamarind – Herb of the Month

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Maryann Readal

The tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica) is one of many tropical herbal trees. Its leaves, bark, wood, roots, and fruits have many uses. The tamarind tree Tamarindus indicais also an evergreen, long-lived landscape tree, reaching a height of 40 to 60 feet tall and a width of up to 25 feet wide. Its pinnate leaves close up at night. The branches droop to the ground, making it a graceful shade tree. A mature tree can produce up to 350-500 pounds of fruit each year. It is native to tropical Africa and is in the Fabaceae family. 

One of the earliest documented uses of tamarind was found in the Ganges Valley of India, where wood charcoal dating back to 1300 BCE was discovered. Tamarind was mentioned in ancient Indian scriptures as early as 1200 BCE. Arab physicians were reported to be the first to use the fruit pulp…

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The Healing Properties of Baneful Herbs | Coby Michael Ward — Good Witches Homestead

Baneful herbs, herbs that are toxic or potentially deadly have been and continue to be some of mankind’s most important medicines, while their applications have evolved, drugs like atropine, scopolamine and digoxin have botanical origins.  It is because of these plant’s chemical potency that they are so important.  These herbs also have very powerful spirits […]

The Healing Properties of Baneful Herbs | Coby Michael Ward — Good Witches Homestead

Rose Hips – Herb of the Month

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Maryann Readal

If you grow roses, plan now for rose hips. Simply leave the spent flowers on your rose bushes after their last bloom of the season. Do NOT cut them off. Allow the fruits of the rose, which are the rose “hips,” to ripen on the bush. The hips will turn red or orange depending on the rose variety. When the sides of the hips are soft to the touch, they are ready to harvest. Waiting to harvest until after the first light frost increases the flavor of the hips.

Now, you may be wondering why you should allow your roses to form hips. Here are some good reasons:

  • Ounce for ounce, rose hips contain eight times more vitamin C than oranges, according to the US Department of Agriculture Food Data Central.
  • They are also rich in vitamins A, B, E, and K, as well as other nutrients.

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Don’t Throw That Away!

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Angela Magnan

A former roommate once picked on me because I saved the crumbs from the bottom of cracker, chip, and pretzel bags. A few years later, he admitted he was rather impressed with all the different uses I found for them, from incorporating them into quiche crusts and coating fish, to topping casseroles and mixing them into meatballs. So it is not surprising that I am often astounded by the bags of trash that get brought to the curb after my neighbors host summer barbecues. I can’t help but wonder: how much of my neighbors’ food waste could be used for something else?

corn silkOne of the great pleasures of summer is fresh corn on the cob, and one of my least favorite things is the silk that often interferes with that pleasure. But these silky strands can be dried and used as a tea. Corn silk was used…

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American Botanical Council and Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs Warns Consumers about High Toxicity of Oleander

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Herbal science group emphasizes that consumers should NOT attempt to produce oleander-based home-remedies or self-medicate with the dangerous poisonous plant.

AUSTIN, Texas (August 18, 2020) — The nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) today warned the public about the substantial toxicity associated with all parts of the oleander (Nerium oleander) plant. ABC warns consumers not to ingest any parts of the plant, or capsules, tablets, teas, or extract preparations made from leaves or other parts of the oleander plant because it contains chemicals that can cause serious effects to the human heart, including death.

The ABC warning came as a result of recent media reports that President Trump may be considering asking (or may have asked) the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the drug product called oleandrin as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Oleandrin, as a purified pharmaceutical investigative drug product, has been researched for its potential…

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