Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dangerous Plant: Pokeweed

I recently discovered that our garden contains the pokeweed. Not that I didn't know it was there but rather that we (my family hand I) thought that it was a mole/castor bean plant. The more I researched the mole/castor bean plant for my previous article, the more I realized that the plant we that we thought we had in our yard, was NOT the Castor Bean plant but rather the Pokeweed.

The Pokeweed is a poisonous weed that grows a bit like a tree with one central root that branches off into branches which can grow from 4 to 12 feet tall, with white flowers, and grows purple berry bunches shaped like mini grapes, will stain clothing forever (supposedly), and are deadly to eat. The pokeweed favors rich, gravelly, lightly tilled soil, and will flourish even in droughts. Is native to the eastern half of the United States.

Root and berries are poisonous however, both are used in the preparation of certain medicines. The young shoots are edible if fully cooked. To prepare for food, boil once and discard the water. Boil again in fresh water and drain off the water again, then eat.
Muenscher, Walter Conrad. Weeds, Second Edition. United Kingdom: Cornell University Press, 1955. p. 197. ISBN: 0-8014-1266-8

The poke weed has several medical uses:
"Very good in enlargement of the glands, particularly the thyroid gland. Very good for hard liver, biliousness, inflammation of the kidneys, syphilis, gonorrhea, rheumatism, tonsillitis, canker sores, enlarged lymphatic glands. It is effective in goiter, either taken internally or applied as a poultice or liniment. Excellent in skin diseases, old wounds, old ulcers, sores, boils, relieves difficult urination, scrofula, and eczema. If a tea is made of the root and applied to the skin, it will cure itching. Poke weed is most commonly used as a laxative." 

Pokeweed tincture has been used to relieve breast tenderness, uterine fibroids, endometriosis. The root can also be infused in oil and then rubbed on the afflicted area.

If using a tincture begin with one to two drops. Dosage can slowly increase but should never exceed more than 10 drops a day.

If improperly prepared, pokeweed poisoning symptoms include burning sensation in the mouth, salivation, gastrointestinal cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Recovery is one to two days. However, if larger amounts are comsumed, much more severe symtoms will be present such as anemia, altered heart rate and/or respiration leading to convulsions and death. 

For general uses, the berries were commonly used as a textile dye. It was also once used to dye cheap red wine.


Do not drink juice
Do not eat raw

Do not eat berry seeds
Overdose can cause vomiting, convulsions, and death

Other Names:

Phytolacca decandra, American cancer, American nightshade, American spinach, bear's grape, cancer-root, coakum, garget, inkberry, inkweed, pigeonberry, poke, pokeberry, pokeroot, pokeweed, red-ink plant, skoke berry, Virginia poke.

Resourced Articles for Further Reading:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Peachy Sweet Summer!

Protein Smoothie

Today I want to share my basic recipe for protein shakes (or smoothies, whatever you want to call it!) I use this recipe for all my protein shakes and just choose the flavors that I want each day! As you will see, each smoothie's sweetness comes from fruit and/or stevia.

I personally go between being high raw vegan to moderate raw non-vegan-- I can't seem to give up my greek yogurt- it is sooo good! Anyhow, this basic recipe can be adapted for those who are active vegans by adding half of a large banana or a whole small one to maintain the creamy texture.

I personally have to pay close attention to my carbohydrate intake and I found a great protein powder that has met my needs. It's NutriBiotic Vegan Rice Protein- Vanilla.

Basic Base

6oz    Plain Greek Yogurt
4        Packets of Stevia or to taste
1        Heaped teaspoon protein powder
1        Teaspoon inulin fiber
1/2C Unsweetend almond milk-- more as needed for blending
6-7    Ice cubes

           Raspberry Peach

1 C    Fresh or Canned Peaches

2 C    Frozen Raspberries
6oz    Plain Greek Yogurt
6        Packets of Stevia or to taste (yes I added a couple more- the raspberries are tart!)
1        Heaped teaspoon protein powder
1/2C Unsweetend almond milk-- more as needed for blending
5        Ice cubes

Put all ingredients into your blender in the order above and blend until smooth and have a peachy sweet summer!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Toxic & Deadly or Useful?

Castor Bean Plant
Ricinus communis, Euphorbiacae family

Some people would classify a toxic and potentioally deadly plant as useful, I say proceed with caution.  
The Castor Bean plant is of the Euphorbiaceae family whose relatives are the poinsetta and rubber tree, all three are known for their irritating milky white sap.

The Castor plant is a well known garden weed that can grow up to 10 ft tall in the right climate. It has seen a resurgence in gardens as a decorative folliage as it is an impressive looking plant that does well in droughts. It has deeply lobed leaves and prickly seed pods.

All parts of the 
plant that is toxic- 3 or 4 well chewed beans are enough to cause death. They contain the poison ricinus communis or ricin and are deadly if injested, however, few actually die by chewing the beans as the body immediately rejects the toxin with vomit purging. If ingested- DO go to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY!! Death by castor bean is slow and very painful. Symptoms of burning of throat and mouth, abdominal pain, purging, and bloody diarrhea,  generally begin within 2-4 hours but can be delayed as much as 36. "Within several days there is severe dehydration, a drop in blood pressure and a decrease in urine." If treated, full recovery is possible. If left untreated, death will occur in 3-5 days.

Uses of the Castor Bean 

Surprisingly the castor bean is used in a number of different products and is grown in India, China, Brazil, and Ethiopia. Castor oil being the primary derivative, (the oil is cold pressed and the ricin is not present) it is used in jet and racing car lubricants  plastics manufacture, lacquers, paint thinners, cosmetics- 50% of lipstick is castor oil by weight. It is also used in nail polishes to prevent cracking when dry.

New uses have been discovered for caster oil, giving the plant a new purpose. A few years ago, in 2006, a Japanese company, Fujitsu announced that they were going to be using castor bean oil to produce a bio-based polymer that would be used for "
small components of notebook PCs and mobile phones, such as connector covers." The material's superior  flexibility will allow it to be used in more products.

"Castor oil in a processed form, called Polyglycerol polyricinoleate--or PGPR, is currently being used in chocolate bar manufacture as a less expensive substitute for cocoa butter."

Castor oil is the base of many commercial mole repellents for lawn care. The Castor Bean plant has a relative, the Mole Bean plant or caper spurge, Euphorbia lathyris, whose toxic sap is a great repellent to moles. 

The castor bean oil is also used medically- generally as a laxative, where it is normally considered safe for constipation relief unless too much is ingested and then diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting may occur. However, some say that it can be used in wart removal. It is also being studied for use in battling cancer.

The castor bean is also used as a form of contraception in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. It is said that swallowing 3-5 whole beans with water at the beginning of menstruation will prevent conception for up to 12 months.

“The results obtained confirmed that the variety minor seed and the other seed varieties are potential oral contraceptives, since all of them demonstrated anti-fertility activity.

“The methanol extracts of the seed varieties gave positive tests for both steroid(s) and alkaloids. Sex hormones are known to exert both a positive and a negative feedback effects on the release of gonadotrophins from the pituitary gland. In the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, the combined effect of oestrogen and progesterone will be to block the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary.

“This situation helps inhibit maturation of the follicle in the ovary and prevent ovulation. Since extracts gave positive tests for steroids, and sex hormones being steroidal compounds, the plants’ sterols (phytosterols) may be suspected to be responsible for the anti-fertility effects of the seeds of Ricinus communis.”
In another interesting twist, the leaves are used by the same women of Nigeria, if eaten to provoke menstruation and as a poultice to increase breast milk flow. In the Ivory Coast- Upper Volta the leaves are pounded and are used as a poultice for swellings, and a leaf is tied to the forehead for headaches. "They are a treatment for haemorrhoids in Ethiopia. In India they are used for rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica, etc, and in Somalia for rheumatism."

Resourced Articles for Further Reading:

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart-- a fun, easy read on all sorts of deadly plants accompanied by interesting stories featuring the plant. ISBN: 978-1-56512-683-1

Friday, August 3, 2012

Book Review: Little Women

by Louisa May Alcott

I just finished reading this wonderful classic and in every way does it live up to expectations and out shine any movie version created. I highly recommend reading this book. While the audience is mainly intended for women it is a wonderful book that men will enjoy and learn something from as well, following the growth of Laurence.

I personally relate to Jo the most, as I have a wild ambition and at times, a terrible temper that I am still working on taming. And like Jo, I have been slow to grow into the woman that God would have me to be. 

Marmee is possibly the most wonderful character in the entire book however, as a model mother, she is an example to us all in how to live, what to strive for  as a woman, how to best run one's house, and life- even how to vacation properly!

Little Women shows us how through life's trials we suffer and grow and are better for that suffering. While not an entirely Christian book as it refers to Aristotle and Socrates for morals at times, it does exemplify the morals/guidelines for life that the Lord has set down for us- especially "Love thy neighbor as thyself".

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul,
and all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22: 36-40

I think all young women should read this book as it is a wonderful guide, a how to, that parallels the lessons that women still need to learn today. Each character adds it's own lessons:
      Meg is a wonderful example of how to be a good wife and mother.
      Amy shows us how to be creative, feminine, and a charming woman.
      Beth shows us how to love, and how that brings us the greatest joy.
      Jo shows us how embracing the stuggles, trials, and adventers in ones life allows us to grow to our greatest potential.

Everyone can learn something from this wonderful story- you will laugh and cry. In my opinion Little Women is definitely in the top 5 books of all time.