Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Fall Walk in the Hoyt Arboretum

Today, Aldebaran and I took a walk in the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland.

It was a beautiful sunny day and there weren't many people on the trails. We saw some interesting plants. It's a good time for Fall wildcrafting! Here is a list of what we saw today on the trail.

Mullein is one of the easiest and most useful herbs to identify. It's an excellent beginner's herb. Also known as "cowboy toilet paper," mullein is soft, velvet like, and can grow very tall.

Let me repeat this, because there are a couple of plants that are similar to mullein in LOOKS. However, mullein is soft and velvet like to the touch. The leaves are fat and succulent, and feel like fat furry tongues.

This plant produces a rosette of leaves in the first year and the second year it sends up a single unbranched stem. The tall pole-like stem ends in a dense spike of bright yellow flowers. It is a very common plant that spreads by seed, but rarely becomes invasive. The common name, mullein, comes from the German and means "king's candle" because of its scepter-like growth.

Depending on the summer weather, it may or may not produce an abundance of flowers.

Habitat: Mullein can be found growing in open fields, waste places, disturbed areas, railway embankments and similar dry sunny localities.

Edible parts: Leaves and flowers. Although the leaves and flowers are edible, enjoying a cup of tea made from these parts is generally preferable. Leaves and flowers can be used in a salad.

More on medicinal and practical uses for mullein in another blog post.

California Fever Bush (Garrya fremontii)

Known as a cure for chills and fever, this is a good plant to have in your repertoire. For a lot of good information on Garrya fremontii, go to the following link:

More Information on Garrya fremontii

Oregon Grape

Oregon grape and its cousin goldenseal act very similarly. But since Oregon grape is easy to grow and is not threatened with extinction, more and more herbal practitioners are switching from goldenseal to Oregon grape to treat a range of conditions. Here's how this alternative medicine works:

Healing Properties

Oregon grape root has a distinctly bitter taste due to the presence of alkaloids, including berberine, the most notable. Though initially disagreeable to people not familiar with bitter herbs, these substances have a beneficial effect on the digestive tract. They stimulate the flow of bile, which loosens the stools and helps prevent and sometimes relieves constipation, diverticulosis, gallbladder disease, and hemorrhoids. They may also help people with constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Oregon grape also has antibiotic and anticancer properties that are receiving more and more attention by researchers and clinicians. Berberine and other alkaloids have been shown to kill a wide range of microbes and have been effective in human studies for speeding recovery from giardia, candida, viral diarrhea, and cholera.

Studies in China show that an alkaloid it contains, called berbamine, helps protect the bone marrow and promotes its recovery from chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer. Combined with its bitter digestive-strengthening properties, Oregon grape has an interesting and distinctive combination of properties.

Preparation and Dosage. Oregon grape root is taken either as a tea or tincture. To make tea, simmer 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried, coarsely chopped root in 1 cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain out the leftover root (or eat it, if you prefer), and sip the remaining liquid just before eating each substantial meal.

A tincture is an alcohol extract of the root. Mix 1/2 to 1 teaspoon in 2 to 4 ounces of water and sip before each meal. The amount of alcohol in tinctures at this dose is very low and presents no significant problem.

Keep dried Oregon grape root away from light and heat. Do not keep longer than one year. Tincture will keep indefinitely if stored away from light and heat.

When I was a child, we picked horsetail when we were camping and used it to scrub out our cooking pots. It is also a great medicinal herb. Here is a link with some very good information:

Horsetail Properties and Medicinal Uses
Pine (Pinus pinaster)

The bark on this pine was beautiful in the sunlight today.

Pinus pinaster is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a fast rate.

It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in April. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile.

Pine bark extract, also known as Pycnogenol, is derived from the Pinus pinaster plant and contains potent antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, which are responsible for most of its effects. Research suggests that supplementing with pine bark extract can provide an abundance of benefits that enhance overall health.

Here is a page on Pine bark extract: Pycnogenol

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