Rosemary – not so rosy or merry after the winter of 2014

5.23.2014 After this past winter of relentless temperatures below freezing, we witnessed the majority of our beloved rosemary’s (Rosmarinus officinalis) leaves turn from green to brown. We had, as in previous years, wrapped our huge rosemary in insulation and burlap the week after Thanksgiving to protect this Mediterranean native from the Howard County Maryland wet and cold winters. Our rosemary had made it through all the winters since the inception of the garden in 1998 and even bloomed continuously during the mild winter of 2013. During a recent trip to the National Arboretum a couple weeks ago, I noted all of their rosemary plants looked equally dismal, if not worse off, than ours. Yes, misery loves company. We had a tour of gardeners this week, who informed me all of their rosemary plants had died, and one person even reported every rosemary died at the National Cathedral garden, which is protected from the prevailing winter winds and several to ten degrees warmer in the city’s heat sink than it is here in the garden. I have had many visitors this year also remark that their rosemary plants did not survive. A Mediterranean native plant just can’t survive in a “polar vortex.” Or can it? This past week, our rosemary put out a half dozen flowers and is showing fresh buds on about 10% of the plant.  With the recent warm weather and wishful thinking, I believe our rosemary will survive the Winter of 2014! We are keeping our fingers crossed for a rosemary recovery.

IMG_1961 rosemary 2014 - Version 2
Rosemary (center of photo) in the Alzheimer’s plot tattered from the winter but also showing a bit of new spring growth.
 
Rosemary is in the Green Farmacy Garden’s Alzheimer’s plot not only for its well known reputation as Shakespeare’s “Herb of Remembrance” but also for its constituents which are “acetylcholine sparring.” Research on the causes of Alzheimer’s is changing and no longer solely favoring the acetylcholine retaining theories that dominated when the garden was conceived, but focusing more on beta amyloid forming plaque in the brain for triggering the disease. Recent research investigated the neuroprotective effects of antioxidants found in rosemary such as Carnosic acid, and although the studies are done on animal models or on cultured cells, the conclusion was that rosemary’s antioxidant properties could be promising.* 

*Cell J. 2011 Spring; 13(1): 39–44. Published online Apr 21, 2011. PMCID: PMC3652539 Neuroprotective Effects of Carnosic Acid in an Experimental Model of Alzheimer’s Disease in Rats

*Carnosic acid suppresses the production of amyloid-β 1-42 by inducing the metalloprotease gene TACE/ADAM17 in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells. Meng P, et al.  Neurosci Res. 2013 Feb;75(2):94-102. doi: 10.1016/j.neures.2012.11.007. Epub 2012 Dec 17. PMID 24295810

6.1.2014 –  Rosemary was pruned back 85% of its original size and shows signs of fresh verdant growth.  Other plants suffering a set back in growth from the winter are the fig and pomegranate, with their aerial parts appearing to have died all the way down to surface level. Signs of hope came this week as a solo small white bud appeared at the base of the fig and shiny new growth at ground level for the pomegranate. I’ll probably be cutting down the above ground stems of these plants after I wait for more signs of life to emerge.

The native plant species from temperate regions of Europe, China, and Japan are back on track as expected and the garden is flourishing with unabated growth and vigor…finally!!! Weeds are exploding too. We are in the process of putting out the tropicals such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cardamon, coffee, tea, mate, peppers etc. into their plots throughout the garden.

Jim is still compiling away and writing new herbal songs just as May slipped into June.  The cold hard winter is the distant past and the time is now to move on but not forget. With a sniff of rosemary, I hope to always remember the winter of 2014 as the year that almost did our beloved plant in – but didn’t.

ROSEMARY SHAMPOO by Jim Duke
    (Parody on Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Thru the Night)
TAKE A BREAK WITH HERB SHAMPOO, MAKES ME WANNA WASH WITH YOU,
SMELLING FLESH THAT BREATHES SO FRESH, MAKES ME THINK IN SYNC WITH YOU.
LEMON BALM, ROSEMARY, SAGE, THEY CAN PUT THE BRAKES ON AGE,
SAVE THE CHOLINE IN MY BRAIN, LEAVE ME DANCING IN THE RAIN.
FEELING I’M MORE RIGHT THAN WRONG, AS I SING THIS HOMEY SONG;
ROSEMARY HELPS RETAIN, ALL THOSE MEMORIES REMAIN.
YESTERDAY, JUST LIKE TODAY, FULL OF MEM’RIES, ALL THE WAY,
AND THE MINT SCENT OF SHAMPOO, ONE MORE MEMORY OF YOU.
SO SHE SAID SHE HAD THE YEAST, CINEOLE CAN TAME THAT BEAST.
BETA-PINENE HELPS THE SCENE, SYNERGIZE WITH LIMONENE.
CARNOSOL AND CARVACROL, THYMOL, GERANIOL,
SYNERGIZE TO LICK THE BEAST, LICK THE BEAST THAT WE CALL YEAST.
WILL ROSEMARY SAVE THE DAY, KEEP THAT BEASTY YEAST AWAY?
ANTISEPSIS AT ITS BEST, OLE ROSEMARY PASSED THE TEST
LET ME LOVE ANOTHER DAY, IN THAT SPECIAL HERBAL WAY,
THANK THIS SCINTILLATING MINT, I STILL SENSE A SEXY SCENT.
YES, I LOVE THE SCENTS OF MINTS,
THEY STILL STING ME TO MY SENSE.

A quick glimpse of what’s been growing on at the Green Farmacy Garden:

Tussilago farfara Colt's foot in seed

Tussilago farfara – Coltsfoot in seed

 

Primula vernalis  - Primrose in flower

Primula vernalis – Primrose in flower

 

Hydrastis canadensis - Goldenseal in flower

Hydrastis canadensis – Goldenseal in flower

 

Hillary in buttercups

Hillary in buttercups – Ranunculus bulbosus

Iris versicolor - Blue flag Iris

Iris versicolor – Blue flag iris

Symphytum officinale - Comfrey - in bloom

Symphytum officinale – Comfrey in bloom

Hillary and garden - east side looking west

Hillary and garden – east side looking west

Urtica dioica - Stinging nettles

Urtica dioica – Stinging nettles with their “hypodermic needle” stinging hairs.

Matteuccia struthiopteris -ostrich fern

Matteuccia struthiopteris – Ostrich fern

Epimedium sp. Horny Goat weed - yin yang huo

Epimedium sp. – Horny Goat weed – yin yang huo

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Epimedium sp. – Horny Goat weed – yin yang huo

Panax trifolius - dwarf ginseng growing wild in the Aphrodisia Plot...

Panax trifolius – Dwarf ginseng growing wild in the Aphrodisia Plot…

Anemone pulsatilla in bloom

Anemone pulsatilla in bloom

Caulophyllum thalictroides - blue cohosh - in bloom

Caulophyllum thalictroides – Blue cohosh  in bloom

garden crew setting the thyme on the floral clock

garden crew setting the thyme right in the floral clock

bamboo sprout

bamboo sprout – eventually made into our trellises

Vicia fava - faba bean flower

Vicia fava – Faba bean flower

 

 

Papaver bracteatum - Iranian poppy - after the hail storm

Papaver bracteatum – Iranian poppy after the hail storm

Papaver bracteatum -Iranian poppy

Papaver bracteatum -Iranian poppy

Dioscorea sp. Wild yam gone wild

Dioscorea sp. – Wild yam gone wild

Smilax herbacea - Carrion flower - intertwined with the wild yam.

Smilax herbacea – Carrion flower intertwined with the wild yam.

Baptisia australis - Blue false indigo in bud

Baptisia australis – Blue false indigo in bud

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Silybum marianum – Milk thistle in bud/flower

American toad in the stone wall

Bufo americanus – American toad in the stone wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arctic Air, Snow White, and Wintergreen

Plant Rant: Wintergreen by Jim Duke (from the archives):

My Handbook of Medicinal Northeastern Indian Plants lists over 700 species of plants for which I found published Amerindian uses as medicine. The waning wintergreen is just one of them.  Although it had several medicinal applications among various Indian tribes, these may be more or less grouped into those uses that required a painkiller like aspirin, a counterirritant like mustard, and an antiseptic germ killer like thymol. Looking at the literature, we find that wintergreen does have the forerunner of aspirin, salicylic acid, which has confirmed analgesic, antipyretic, and antirheumatic properties. Translating that, it has properties, which make it useful for pain, fever, and rheumatism, three ailments for which the Indians reportedly used them. But the salicylic acid is a minor component of the wintergreen, the major component being methyl salicylate, which, in addition to the above properties, also has anti-inflammatory properties. The penetrating nature of this strong counter irritant is what has led to its presence in many of the topical rubs that mother used to rub on our chests for colds or aching muscles to reduce both inflammation and pain. What about the antibiotic? Wintergreen contains the compound arbutin, which is both bactericidal and diuretic. So Father Nature’s wintergreen combines three ingredients, all of which can be useful when the aches and pains of winter colds and flu set in, lowering the fever, killing the germs, reducing the inflammation and pains of swellings and aches and pains. Children who chew the roots for six weeks each spring reportedly suffer less tooth decay. Wintergreen leaves and/or fruits were used by North American Indians to keep their breath when portaging heavy loads. Algonquin guides chewed the leaves to improve their breathing (and I expect their breath as well) during hunting. Amerindians smoked and chewed the dried leaves. Quebec Indians rolled the leaves around aching teeth

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Wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens, in flower.      Helen Lowe Metzman

The Iroquois even took wintergreen for kidney aches. Once a major drug for cystitis and other infections, arbutin, like wintergreen, has dropped off main stage. For a while arbutin was important, but the pure arbutin was not as important as the plant extract, according to the Merck Index. Not necessarily speaking of wintergreen, Merck probably referred to some other member of the heather family when it said, “Gallotannin prevents enzymes such as beta-glucosidase from splitting arbutin, which explains why crude plant extracts are more effective medicinally than pure arbutin.” (emphasis mine). No longer do we get arbutin, not aspirin, nor methyl salicylate, nor even oil of wintergreen from wintergreen, but should I have a cold or urinary tract infection, I would not hesitate to drink wintergreen tea, and were I suffering a chest cold or a muscle ache, I would not hesitate to rub it down with wintergreen extracted into bear grease or hog-lard or even mentholatum. Many of the famous  feline balms of the orient owe part of their aroma and effectiveness to methyl salicylate, which, like oil of wintergreen, can  be fatally toxic in large doses. But then, all good medicines are toxic in large doses.

I find the aroma of the methyl salicylate, the active main ingredient in wintergreen, very pleasant. I frequently use a boswellin cream with wintergreen when my knee acts up. In Maine, we make wintergreen tea, drinking it and applying it topically for chronic or temporary pain. There are many analgesics in wintergreen. Wintergreen often complements red pepper’s capsaicin, and peppermint’s menthol in several OTC pain relievers, either these herbs alone, or any one of their constituents, or in various combinations. Methyl salicylate, like wintergreen, has long  been employed in baths, liniments, and ointments, for pain relief, e.g. in gout, lumbago, rheumatism, and sciatica.

Strange how wintergreen, like so many powerful aromas, can be a fountain of youth. If the namesake of the song wintergreen were to massage my aching aging back with wintergreen, I’d forget my aches and age. Yes the beautiful wintergreen persists on some few forest floors where many a moccasin trod centuries ago and where today too many off-road-recreational vehicles vehemently violate the environment, endangering the environmental treasures like wintergreen. I am, thankful more ways than one for wintergreen. I hope it outlives the all-terrain-vehicles that endanger it.

 IMG_8363 wintergreen copy

WINTERGREEN’S A BREATH OF SPRING
ON THE WINTRY FOREST FLOOR
AND IT MAKES A BODY SING
WHEN THE SONGS DON’T COME NO MORE.

TRAILING NIMBLY ON THE GROUND
WHERE THE SUNSHINE’S RARELY SEEN;
WHAT A BREATH OF SPRING I FOUND,
TASTE OF APRIL, WINTERGREEN.

WINTERGREEN, WHERE YOU BEEN?
YOU’RE THE PRETTIEST THING I’VE SEEN!
BREATH OF SPRING, THRUOUT THE YEAR,
SUMMER’S SMILE, CHRISTMAS’ CHEER.

THERE ARE OTHERS MAY OUTSHINE YOU;
THEY’RE MORE SHOWY FOR AWHILE.
BUT THE WINTERTIME DON’T SNOW YOU,
YOU STILL HAVE THAT SPRINGTIME SMILE.

BREATH OF SPRING THRUOUT THE YEAR
LIKE THE MOUNTAIN AIR SO CLEAN.
WEAR THE SNOWDROP LIKE A TEAR
CONSTANT LOVER, WINTERGREEN.

WINTERGREEN, WHERE YOU BEEN?
YOU’RE THE PRETTIEST THING I’VE SEEN!
BREATH OF SPRING, THRUOUT THE YEAR,
SUMMER’S SMILE, CHRISTMAS’ CHEER.

IMG_0886 wintergreen snow leaf - Version 2

Wintergreen leaf found under snow 3.4.2014.    Helen Lowe Metzman

From my spice book, here’s my multiple activity menu for wintergreen showing which compounds in it can be helpful in flu. When you give your body an herbal tea, you are giving it a veritable menu of genetically familiar phytochemicals. Your body knows better than your herbalist, pharmacist or physician  which, if any, of these phytochemicals the body needs. Through homeostasis,the body selects some of those needed, selectively mining the menu.  That’s what I mean when I say I prefer the herbal shotgun, with a wide array of medicines, versus the synthetic silver bullet, where the body has no choice. Here’s the multiple activity menu (MAM) for wintergreen and cold/flu. Wham bam, thank you M.A.M, may be the title of my next book. If I can find a publisher as crazy as I. My computer can now make M.A.M’s for any major herb and any major disease.

M.A.M.

WINTERGREEN FOR COLD/FLU:

Analgesic: caffeic-acid ; ferulic-acid ; gallic-acid ; gentisic-acid ; methyl-salicylate ; salicylic-acid ; ursolic-acid
Antiallergic: ferulic-acid
Antibacterial: arbutin ; caffeic-acid ; ferulic-acid ; gallic-acid ; gentisic-acid ; p-coumaric-acid ; p-hydroxy-benzoic-acid ; tannic-acid ; vanillic-acid
Antibronchitic: gallic-acid
Antiflu: caffeic-acid ; gallic-acid ; lupeol
Antihistaminic: caffeic-acid ; ursolic-acid
Antiinflammatory: alpha-amyrin ; caffeic-acid ; ferulic-acid ; gallic-acid ; gaultherin ; gentisic-acid ; lupeol ; methyl-salicylate ; ursolic-acid ; vanillic-acid
Antioxidant: caffeic-acid ; ferulic-acid ; gallic-acid ; lupeol ; p-coumaric-acid ; p-hydroxy-benzoic-acid ; tannic-acid ; ursolic-acid ; vanillic-acid
Antipharyngitic: tannic-acid
Antipyretic: methyl-salicylate
Antiseptic: arbutin ; caffeic-acid ; ericolin ; gallic-acid ; methyl-salicylate ; tannic-acid
Antitussive: arbutin
Antiviral: caffeic-acid ; ferulic-acid ; gallic-acid ; gentisic-acid ; lupeol ; tannic-acid ; ursolic-acid
COX-2-Inhibitor: ursolic-acid
Cyclooxygenase-Inhibitor: gallic-acid ; ursolic-acid
Immunostimulant: caffeic-acid ; ferulic-acid ; gallic-acid ; tannic-acid
Phagocytotic: ferulic-acid

M.A.M WINTERGREEN FOR RHEUMATISM:

Analgesic: caffeic-acid ; ferulic-acid ; gallic-acid ; gentisic-acid ; methyl-salicylate ; ursolic-acid
Antiarthritic: ursolic-acid
Antiedemic: alpha-amyrin ; beta-amyrin ; caffeic-acid ; lupeol ; ursolic-acid
Antiinflammatory: alpha-amyrin ; caffeic-acid ; ferulic-acid ; gallic-acid ; gaultherin ; gentisic-acid ; lupeol ; methyl-salicylate ; ursolic-acid ; vanillic-acid
Antiprostaglandin: caffeic-acid
Antirheumatic: gentisic-acid ; lupeol ; methyl-salicylate
Antispasmodic: caffeic-acid ; ferulic-acid ; p-coumaric-acid
COX-2-Inhibitor: ursolic-acid
Counterirritant: methyl-salicylate
Cyclooxygenase-Inhibitor: gallic-acid ; ursolic-acid
Elastase-Inhibitor: ursolic-acid
Lipoxygenase-Inhibitor: caffeic-acid ; p-coumaric-acid ; ursolic-acid
Myorelaxant: gallic-acid 

Garden notes: March 3, 2014 by Helen Lowe Metzman

Time to get back to the garden and typically at this time of year, the garden crew is sharpening tools in attempt to cut down and prune out last year’s herbaceous plant skeletons.  Although once picturesque, these skeletons are now passé – bent, broken, and blowing. Time to rid of old winter in anticipation of fresh spring.  This year is not typical – so tidying up the garden is way behind schedule and will just have to wait for snow to melt and temperatures to rise.

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garden gazebo and winter skeletons.     Helen Lowe Metzman

After many years of balmy winters and virtually no snow, the garden, along with the whole mid-Atlantic, finally got hit hard. The garden received not only repeated snowfalls but also a walloping dose of below normal temperatures off and on since the first of January.  It is not the insulating blanket of snow that has wreaked havoc with my sleep but rather nights like tonight that are scheduled to dip down to 1˚F.  Since I’ve been working at the garden, it’s never been this cold for such an extended time.

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GFG old barn.      Helen Lowe Metzman

Personally, I don’t mind the cold like everyone around here and welcome the excuse to cuddle up by the woodstove with a book or sketchpad. However, the garden is home to Mediterranean and tropical plants desperately struggling to survive outside of their optimum climates.

IMG_0019 panoramic greenhouse - Version 2

Panoramic view of greenhouse

The enormous rosemary, which has been growing in the Alzheimer’s plot of the garden since its inception and bloomed the entire winter last year, looks barely alive. Sigh. I am cautiously optimistic it will make it this year. If rosemary does indeed succumb and surrender to the cold, I can replace it but would need to wait many years for a new specimen to achieve the height, girth and beauty of its predecessor.

IMG_0913

Rosemary – a Mediterranean plant – we hope will survive the winter of 2014’s Arctic air.

The tiny and squished greenhouse is literally running on front and back burners with fingers crossed for heat. We lost all three coffee plants while I was out of town in early January, and ever since, I’ve been struggling to keep the greenhouse warm enough on cold nights and not too hot on the few days of average temperatures. Goldilocks meet the greenhouse. I bought several of the rarer tropical plants into the Duke’s basement, and tonight I have to remain at peace (and get some sleep) with whatever happens to the plants in the greenhouse.

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Peggy Duke and I applied bubble wrapped to the glass on greenhouse and kept the space heaters on high for the majority of the nights from January and February and now into the first week of March.

March 4, 2014 Relief to learn after record-breaking lows in Baltimore today there were no casualties in the greenhouse. Seeds were sowed with hope. The snowdrops pushed up through the snowfall, the marcescent beech leaves shimmered in the valley, and the distant konk-a-ree of blackbirds sang a song of late winter. Soon enough the garden will be teeming with new growth, visitors, and warmth.

Check back soon for a calendar of events and activities or email greenfarmacygarden@gmail.com to volunteer or to schedule a tour.

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snow drops pushing up through the snow fall 3.4.2014                         Helen Lowe Metzman

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Grandpa Creek in the yin/yang valley with marcescent beech leaves hanging on 3.4.2014.      Helen Lowe Metzman

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Winter silhouettes with late winter sun in the GFG yin/yang valley.

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Jim Duke’s songbook for the 2013 ACEER Legacy Award

On September 29th, Jim Duke received the 2013 ACEER (Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research) Legacy Award. To mark the occasion, we put together a songbook consisting mostly of Jim’s parodies and a few songs by others. We share the songbook with you:

A Flower Child’s Garden of Verses

  2013 ACEER Legacy Award

JIM DUKE

 

The budding ethnobotanist, Jim Duke, with Choco Indians in Darien, Panama circa 1966.
Photo by Dr, Joe Kirkbride

PARADISE LOST- Key of D

Words by Jim Duke sung to the tune of John Prine’s “Paradise”

I PRAISE YOU JOHN PRINE, AND I HOPE YOU DON’T MIND,
IF I MIMIC YOUR SONG, TO HELP THE FOREST ALONG.- CORPORATE US, LIKE YOUR “PARADISE” TELLS
FRIGS UP OUR RIVERS, AND FRACKS UP OUR WELLS

MEANWHILE DOWN IN PERU, THE RAPE IS THERE TOO
POIS’NING THE AMAZON, FOR A NUGGET OR TWO.-
EVEN WHILE I AM SINGING, THE AXEMAN IS SWINGING,
CHOPPIN’ DOWN ALL THAT GREEN, TO PLANT CORN, SQUASH AND BEAN.

DADDY WON’T YOU TAKE ME TO THE PRIMARY FOREST
BY THE AMAZON RIVER WHERE PARADISE LIES? (LAY)
I’M SORRY MY SON, BUT THE FOREST IS GONE!
I’LL SHOW YOU SOME SLIDES, THAT’LL HAVE TO SUFFICE!

OH AXEMAN UNKIND, YOU ARE BLOWING MY MIND!
CAMU-CAMU AND BRAZILNUT, THEY CAN HELP FILL YOUR GUT.
BUT YEAR AFTER YEAR, ONCE THE FOREST IS CLEAR,
YOU’LL HAVE LESS AND LESS FOOD, AND YOU’LL RUN OUT OF WOOD.

NEVER THOUGHT ECOTOURS, COULD BE ONE OF THE CURES;
TAKING “GREEN” BUCKS FROM GRINGOES, GETTING MUD ON THEIR TOES.
IF THE ECOTOURS THRIVE, INDIAN CULTURES SURVIVE,
AND THE CHILDREN WILL STRIVE, TO KEEP TRADITION ALIVE.

MOMMA WON’T YOU TAKE ME TO THE PRIMARY FOREST
ON THE AMAZON RIVER WHERE PARADISE LIES?
I’M SORRY MY DAUGHTER, BUT I DON’T THINK I OUGHTA‘
WE’VE WAITED TOO LONG, NOW THE FOREST IS GONE!

NO PLACE I’D RATHER GO, THAN TO CRUISE ON THE NAPO;
HOPING SOME OF MY PLEAS, KINDA’ HELP SAVE THE TREES.
I’D RATHER YOU’D FIND ME, SUNNIN’ WITH THE TREE HUGGERS
THAN BACK IN DC, ALL ARUNNIN’ FROM MUGGERS!

IT’S QUITE ELEMENT’RY, OUR PRAISE FOR AL GENTRY,
WHOSE CONSERVING CAREER REALLY HELPED AT ACEER.
THE BEST BOTANY BRAIN, WENT DOWN WITH AL’S PLANE,
AND ALTHOUGH HE IS GONE, WE MUST STILL CARRY ON

FROM CUZCO TO JUPITER AND EVEN AT MALIBU
TWO JOHNS BECAME ONE, WHERE ONCE THERE WERE TWO
JOHN WAS THE BRIDEGROOM, OLIVIA THE BRIDE.
WHAT A BEAUTIFUL COUPLE, WHAT AMAZON PRIDE.

Jim Duke receives the award from John Easterling and Olivia Newton John

Jim Duke receives the ACEER award from John Easterling and Olivia Newton John

____________________________________________

La Soga
(parody on Kris Kristofferson’s The Pilgrim: Chapter 33)

He had tasted good and evil in both bedroom and bordello
Trading all of his tomorrows for todays
Pondering where to go, he tripped down to old Loreto
Contemplating those ayahuasca ways.

It was really quite a far cry from New York to old Nanay
From the asphalt that he knew down to Peru
In his search for the divine, he designed to mine the vine
And the throwing up was worth the comin’ down

Yes the throwing up was worth the comin’ down
He’s a poet (he’s a poet), he’s a prophet (he’s a prophet)
He’s a walking contradiction, kinda low when flying high
He’s a brujo,(he’s a brujo) a soguero (a soguero)

With celestial connections, he now navigates the sky. And the throwing up was worth the coming down; And the going up is coming back around!

Handsome, tall and lanky, never crass or cranky,
Coolest greenest man i ever seen.
Had a ball and frankly, lotta grass and hanky panky,
Eating and sipping jungle green

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Brugmansia sp. ~ Toé ~ Angel’s Trumpet is mixed in the brew.

Mixed um all one day, the soga and yage
Boiled um `most ‘away, with three leaves of to-e
Entonces el tome, and he softly flew away,
And the throwing up, was worth the comin down
But the chucking up, relit a brighter day!

He’s a poet (he’s a poet), he’s a prophet (he’s a prophet)
He’s a walking contradiction, kinda low when flying high
He’s a brujo,(he’s a brujo) a soguero (a soguero)
With celestial connections, he now navigates the sky.
And the throwing up was worth the coming down;
And the going up is coming back around!

Jim, the late Frank Cook, who the song was written in memory of, and La Soga

Jim, the late Frank Cook (for whom La Soga was written in memory of) and the vine.

GINSENG (E, with E bass)
Written in China in1978 by Jim Duke

From the bluegrass of Carolina
To the hills of northeast China
I’ve been and I’m going back again
Did I really find the truth
Chinese fountain of youth
The herb that the Chinese call renshen

Makes an older man cocksure
And a younger man endure;
Makes an older woman younger
And a younger woman hunger.
Ginseng, sing gin!
Sing a little thing and swing!
Sing a little thing, ginseng!

Searching for the holy grail
On the Appalachian trail
When I found the herb they call ginseng
Growing deep down in the woods
That’s where I got the goods
The herb that turns the autumn into spring.

Panax-quiquefolius - American ginseng

Panax-quiquefolius – American ginseng

Panax-quiquefolius-American ginseng

Panax-quiquefolius-American ginseng

_________________________________________________________

HICKORY WIND written by Gram Parsons and Bob Buchanan

In South Carolina there are many tall pines
I remember the oak tree that we used to climb
But now when I’m lonesome, I always pretend
That I’m getting the feel of hickory wind
I started out younger at most everything
All the riches and pleasures, what else could life bring?
But it makes me feel better each time it begins
Callin’ me home, hickory wind

It’s hard to find out that trouble is real
In a far away city, with a far away feel
But it makes me feel better each time it begins
Callin’ me home, hickory wind
Keeps callin’ me home, hickory wind

Jim jams with son John

Jim jams with son John

GET ALONG HOME CINDY traditional
“Not mine at all, but some of my verses, and my changes to chorus” ~Jim Duke
CINDY HAD A GREEN EYE, THE OTHER EYE WAS BROWN
GREEN EYE SEEN THE COUNTRY SIDE, THE OTHER EYE SEEN THE TOWN

GET ALONG HOME HOME CINDY GET ALONG HOME
GET ALONG HOME HOME CINDY SING A SWINGING SONG

CINDY HAS A LONG LEG, THE OTHER LEG WAS SHORT
THE LONG LEG HELD A GALLON, THE OTHER LEG A QUART

CINDY HAD A LITTLE BROWN JUG, THE OTHER JUG WAS WHITE
DRINK THE BROWN JUG BY DAY, THE WHITE JUG BY NIGHT

CINDY HAD A GOOD EAR, THE OTHER EAR WAS TIN,
THE GOOD EAR HEARD DIVINITY, THE BAD ONE ONLY SIN

WISH I HAD A NEEDLE AND THREAD, WISH THAT I COULD SEW
I’D SEW MYSELF TO HER SHIRTTAIL AND DOWN THE ROAD WE’D GO

WISH I WAS AN APPLE, HANGING ON THE TREE
EVER TIME THAT CINDY PASS, SHE’D TAKE A BITE OF ME

I WISH SHE WERE A HORSEFLY AND ME A YOUNG GRAY STUD
I’D LET THAT CINDY BITE ME, AND NIP MY GROWING BUD

THE FIVE-LINED SKINK
(Parody on Burl Ives Blue Tail Fly)

I’LL BETCHA THAT YOU’D NEVER THINK
TODAY YOU`D MEET THE BLUE-TAIL SKINK
BUT I AM TELLIN, I’LL BETCHA HELEN
WILL WINK AND BLINK AND FIND YOUR SKINK.

CHORUS:: Ha, ha, ha; here we be
the blue tail skink and you and me
I’m singing corn, but I don’t care
The skink done gone away

THE SKINK IS AN INSECTIVORE
EATING BUGS AND LITTLE MORE
SHE HELPS KEEP DOWN OUR FLIES AND FLEAS
HELPS CONTROL A LOT OF THESE

BLUE TAIL SKINK HIDIN’ IN THE ROCK
SHE DON’T NEED NO LOLLYPOP
EATING BUGS AND FLEAS AND FLIES
QUICKER’N YOU CAN BAT YOUR EYES

DO YOU THINK A SKINK CAN THINK?
THEN THINK ABOUT THAT TAIL OF BLUE!
SHOULD OUR SNAKE GRAB THAT TAIL OF BLUE
THE SKINK SHEDS IT: “I FOOLED YOU”

DON’T THINK THEY STINK, THE BLUE-TAIL SKINK
CAN CATCH A FLY IN JUST A WINK
MORE THAN MOST FOLK REALLY THINK
WE’D BETTER THANK THE BLUE TAIL SKINK

five-lined skink

five-lined skink

GREEN GARDEN SONG
PARODY ON JAMES TAYLOR’S FIRE AND RAIN lyrics by Jim Duke

The garden’s seen the sun and the garden’s seen the rain
Garden’s lotta fun, sometimes a little pain;
The garden is a soulmate, got a soul unto itself
Can help you resonate, help you get back to health

The garden always smiles but sometimes some plant dies
Some plants last awhile, and some too quickly die
Some flower in the spring, some flower in the fall
Each does its magic thing, to make us all recall

Wrote this song out on the green Don’t know who to send it too
So knowing what I meant to mean Looked up and sang it to the blue
The garden sometimes sings, a million or more things
And the blue sky smiling down, makes a smile out of a frown

We saw you yesterday, but you left us all today
Crying here alone, with you so damn far gone
Your soul still carries on for those of us you’ve known
A big bag of rain, not to see you again.

And our eyes spout the rain, not to hear you again
Chorus: Lord, we’ve known some hard times too
Lots of bad and good, that we’ve been thru
Yes we’ve shared the sunshine and the rain
But I feared I’d not see spring again
Spring always comes again, to dancers in the rain

GREEN IS MY TEMPLE

Went down to the creek,

Acorus calamus - sweetflag in flower

Acorus calamus – sweetflag in flower

Looking for the mystique
grandpa knew
The creek done run dry
And the weeds were knee high
It’s true
that I know;
The sweetflag was green
Jus’ like my daddy seen
years ago.
The goldenseal grew
With a bloodroot or two,
up the slope!
And the ginseng displayed
All its medicine made,
there’s still hope!

OUR WAYS HAVE GONE ‘WAY!

Sanguinaria canadensis - bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis – bloodroot

WHAT PRAYER DO WE PRAY?
IT’S SAD WHAT I SAY!
OUR WAYS HAVE GONE ‘WAY!

THE GREEN IS STILL THERE,
LET GREEN BE OUR PRAYER;
WITH GREEN EVERYWHERE,
`TWILL CLEAN UP THE AIR.

Lobelia cardinalis - Cardinal flower

Lobelia cardinalis – Cardinal flower

Where cattails were borders
For crystal clear waters
so blue
And the pretty wild flowers
Sorta recharged our powers
renew
Where the cardinal flowers
In hummingbird showers,
so bold
Where the ginsengs conceal
The good goldenseal
so gold

When my thoughts were garbled
The wood thrush sadly warbled
his song.
“Better ponder their plight,
Whippoorwill and bob white,
they’re long gone

Hydrastis canadensis - goldenseal

Hydrastis canadensis – goldenseal

In spite of my prayer,
the hawkmoth gets rarer
each year
Seeking the powers of the nocturnal flowers
so dear
Like ginseng and woodbine,
they’re on the decline.

“It’s really quite simple,
The forest’s our temple
And if you don’t care
That the forest is there,
It will end!”

Jim in the woods of Grandpa Creek

Jim down in the woods of Grandpa Creek

Went down to the river
To cry for my liver,
gone bad!
Just don’t serve a man’s needs;
it’s so sad!

There’s no use to yearnin’
There’ll be no returnin’
unless
We get the big meaning
And start out to cleaning
this mess.

Best we all do our share,

Matteuccia struthiopteris - ostrich fern fiddlehead down by Grandpa's creek

Matteuccia struthiopteris – ostrich fern fiddlehead down by Grandpa’s creek

Show that we really care
For the wood.
Come on my brothers,
Let’s change all the others
For good.

OUR WAYS HAVE GONE ‘WAY!
WHAT PRAYER DO WE PRAY?
IT’S SAD WHAT I SAY!
OUR WAYS HAVE GONE ‘WAY!

THE GREEN IS STILL THERE,
LET GREEN BE OUR PRAYER;
WITH GREEN EVERYWHERE,
TO CLEAN UP OUR AIR.

JACKASS BITTERS (Neurolaena lobata)
(Parody on Columbus Stockade; key of D) (anonpoet, 2,000)

Way down in South Belize
Montezuma brought me to my knees
Way down In Belize city
Germs done got the best of me.

CHORUS: Jackass Bitters to the Rescue
How I really count on you
In my heart, I know you’ll heal me
Modulate my misery

You can try a Bitters Binge,
When Montezuma seeks revenge.
If you sip it like vermouth,
Cures diabetes, that’s the truth

Yeast and lice and all them critters
Kill-em all with Jackass Bitters
And if you are, the feast of yeast,
Jackass bitters kills the beast

If you get lice, in paradise
Old jackass is kinda nice.
Should malaria get you down
Old jackass will bring you ‘round
. . . .Belize, ca 2000

Jackass bitters - Neurolaena lobata

Jackass bitters – Neurolaena lobata

MOUNTAIN DEW
song composed by Bascom Lamar Lunsford.
DOWN THE ROAD HERE FROM ME THERE’S AN OLD HOLLOW TREE, WHERE YOU LAY DOWN A DOLLER OR TWO
GO ROUND THE BEND AND YOU COME BACK AGAIN, FOR A JUG FULL OF MOUNTAIN DEW.
THY CALL IT THE OLD MOUNTAIN DEW, AND THEM THAT REFUSE IT OR FEW,
I’LL HUSH UP MY MUG IF YOU FILL UP MY JUG, WITH THAT GOOD OLD MOUNTAIN DEW
MY UNCLE NORT, HE’S SAWED OFF AND SHORT, MEASURES ABOUT FOUR FOOT TWO
BUT HE ACTS LIKE A GIANT WHEN YOU GIVE HIM A PINT, OF THAT GOOD OLD MOUNTAIN DEW
MY AUNT JUNE BROUGHT SOME BRAND NEW PERFUME, WHICH HAD SUCH A SWEET SMELLING PHEW
TO HER SURPRISE WHEN SHE HAD IT ANALYZED, WEREN’T NOTHING BUT MOUNTAIN DEW

GFG mountain dew prepared by Marc Williams

OLD BAY by an old salt

 the old salt and old bay

the old salt and old bay

HEY HEY; OLD BAY;
CAN YOU REALLY KEEP ARTHRITIS AWAY?
THE SPICES THAT YOU USE ; CAN CURB ALL MY COX’2S
GOOD OLE BOYS, WE CAN REJOICE, IN GOOD OLD BAY.

THE FIRST THING THAT YOU NEED,
IS SOME SALTED CEL’RY SEED.
THEN THE MUSTARD`S CURCUMIN
WITH RED PEPPER’S CAPSAICIN.
CAPSAICIN REALLY ROCKS,
EQUIPOTENT WITH VIOXX,
AND BLACK PEPPER’S PIPERINE
HELPS THE UPTAKE OF CURCUMIN.

AND THE LAUREL IN THE MIX (BAY LEAF THAT IS)

Curcuma longa - turmeric roots

Curcuma longa – turmeric roots

OF COX-2’Is , COUNT THEM, SIX!!!!!!
CLOVES CAN JOIN THEM ALL,
WITH CLOVE OIL OR EUGENOL.
AND THEN THERE’S THE ALLSPICE,
SORTA’ LIKE THE OLD SPICE;
AND GINGER TOPS ‘EM ALL
FOR GINGEROLS AND SHOGAOL.

AND MACE HAS KAEMPFEROL
ALONG WITH EUGENOL;
CARDAMOM AND CINNAMON
CAN STOP THE PAIN AGAIN.
A BIT MILDER AND MEEKER
IS MY FAV’RITE PAPRIKA;
SOME PEOPLE SAY CAYENNE
MIGHT EVEN KEEP YOU THIN.

OLD BAY; PRAY SAY!
CAN YOU REALLY KEEP ARTHRITIS AWAY?
THE SPICES THAT YOU USE CAN CURB ALL MY COX’2S;
GOOD OLE BOYS, WE CAN REJOICE, IN GOOD OLD BAY.

HEY, HEY; OLD BAY
YOU ENRICH MY EVERY LIVIN’ DAY
YOU’RE THE SPICE I ALWAYS USE, IN ALL MY SOUPS AND STEWS
OLD BAY, LET US PRAY, SAVE CHESAPEAKE BAY

 CHESAPEAKE HIDEAWAY
by Jim Duke
IF YOU LIVE DOWN CLOSE TO SHORE

Chesapeake bay

Chesapeake Bay

YOU KNOW ‘BOUT THEM CRABS GALORE
AND YOU PROB’LY HEARD US BOAST
BOUT OUR CHES’PEAKE OYSTER ROAST
AND YOU HAVEN’T HAD A FEAST
‘TIL YOU’VE EATEN CHRISTMAS GEESE
OR ROAST DUCK FOR YOUR THANKSGIVING
WITH OLDBAY FOR CHES’PEAKE LIVING

MOVED AWAY FROM CHES’PEAKE BAY
STILL REGRET IT TO THIS DAY
OLDBAY CRABSOUP RECIPES
OTHER CHES’PEAKE MEMORIES
AND IT HURTS ME EVEN MORE
TO RECALL THE EASTERN SHORE
HUNTIN’ DUCKS WITH GOOD OLE BOYS
WHO HAD CARVED THEIR OWN DECOYS

WHEN I FEEL LIKE I AM LOSIN’

Rudbeckia hirta - black-eyed susan

Rudbeckia hirta – black-eyed susan

I THINK BACK ON BLACK EYED SUSAN
SHE BELONGS, IT’S CLEAR TO SEE
BOTH TO MARYLAND AND ME
BLACK EYED SUSAN’S FLASH OF GOLD
BRINGS BACK TALES I NEVER TOLD
LAZY DAYS IN SUNSHINE WRAPPED
COUNTING CRABS THAT WE HAD TRAPPED

THAT BLACK EYE IN THE MIDDLE
MAKES A GUITAR WANT TO FIDDLE
AND THE GLINT OF GOLD OUTSIDE
FILLS A MAR’LAND MAN WITH PRIDE
WHEN THE ROCKRISH HIT THE RIVER
MAKES A FISHERMAN TO QUIVER
WHEN THE CROPPIES SCOUT THE SHOAL
MAR’LAND MAN, HE LOSE CONTROL

CHORUS: I THANK GOD MOST EV’RY DAY
FOR MY CHES’PEAKE HIDEAWAY
YOU CAN STASH MY MONEY ‘WAY
BUT DON’T TRASH MY CHES’PEAKE BAY.

VITAPHILIA (LOVIN’ LONGEVITY?)

Photo by Dr, Joe Kirkbride, USDA, who crossed from the Atlantic (Boacas del Toro) to the Pacific (Chiriqui) in Panama, with Jim cirra 1966. Joe and Jim survived but a Panama mule carrying part of the collecting gear failed to survive. Many rare specimens were collected and are now preserved at the herbarium at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Photo by Dr, Joe Kirkbride, USDA, who crossed from the Atlantic (Boacas del Toro) to the Pacific (Chiriqui) in Panama, with Jim circa 1966. Joe and Jim survived but a Panama mule carrying part of the collecting gear failed to survive. Many rare specimens were collected and are now preserved at the herbarium at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

I STARTED MY CHARMED LIFE IN ALABAM,
THEN CAROLINA, THEN THE WORLD, NOW MARYLAND
FEW OTHERS ARE AS LUCKY AS I AM.
MY THANKS, I’VE BEEN A LUCKY MAN,

CHORUS: COUNTRY, CLASSIC ALL BELONG
MAKIN MUSIC MANY YEARS
JUST CAN’T SING THIS REAL SAD SONG
MAKES MY EYES CHOKE UP WITH TEARS

MY MOM WAS KINDA SCHIZOPHRENIC
WORRY-WORTING ALL THE DAY
WORRY CAN BE SCHIZOGENIC
BEST TO HIDE YOUR WORRY’S ’WAY

MY CHARMED EXISTENCE ALL THE WAY
THANK HEAVEN’S ALL I WANT TO SAY
FEAR I’VE FORGOTTEN HOW TO PRAY
THANKS TO THOSE ALONG MY WAYWARD WAY

MOM AND GRANMA, THEY LIVED A HUNDRED YEARS
NOT SURE I WANNA LIVE THAT LONG
NOW MY MEM’RIE’S WRESTLIN’ WITH MY TEARS
SADLY SINGING MY SENILE SENIOR SONG

CHORUS: COUNTRY, CLASSIC ALL BELONGcanopy trail explorama
MAKIN MUSIC MANY YEARS
JUST CAN’T SING THIS REAL SAD SONG
MAKES ME SHED TOO DAMNED MANY TEARS

AMAZONIA’S SUCH A SWINGING TURN ON
THANK GOD I TOOK MY GENE POOL THERE
I THANK ACEER, ABC, AND EVERYONE
WITH MY ARDENT AMAZON PRAYER

“MAY AMAZONIA OUTLIVE THE GFG “(GREEN FARMACY GARDEN)
“ MAY ACEER LIVE ON LIKE ABC”
“SAVIN’ AMAZONIA AND ITS MAJESTRY

IMG_0404 rosemary gladstar creme de mentia

Rosemary Gladstar sips on Creme de’ Mentia made with many of the mints  picked out of the Green Farmacy  Garden

CREME DE’ MENTIA
by Jim Duke

NOT SURE I CAN ENDURE IT
ALZHEIMER’S WHAT I GOT
I’D TELL YOU HOW TO CURE IT
BUT YOU GOT IT, I FORGOT

I CANNOT STOOP TO CENSURE
ALCOHOLIC ADVENTURE
CAN IT CLEAN MY DENTURE
AS IT CREAMS MY DEMENTIA

I’VE LONG HAD A ROMANCE, WITH THE HERB OF REMEMBRANCE;
ROSEMARY HELPS OLD TIMERS SLOW ALZHEIMER’S.
JUST SMELLED OR JUST INHALED, IN THE TUB OR IN A RUB,
HELPS THE CHOLINE TO DO IT’S MEM’RY THING.

ANOTHER HERB YOU MUST SEE, IS THE AYURVEDIC TULSI (HOLY BASIL)
IT SMELLS BEST, MUCH BETTER THAN THE REST.
IT PROB’LY WON’T SURPRISE YOU BUT IT’S SACRED TO THE HINDU;
HELPS AMNESIA AND DEMENTIA, ‘TIS QUITE TRUE!

IF YOU WANT YOUR STORMS TO CALM, SNIFF GOOD OLE LEMON BALM
IT SURE BEATS COUNTIN SHEEP TO HELP YOU FALL ASLEEP
CAN INCREASE CEREBRAL CHOLINE, DOIN’ NOTHIN” BUT’ INHALING
CULINARY ADVENTURE, CAN HELP DERAIL DEMENTIA

THE SAGE WILL USE THE SAGE, TO DECELERATE THEIR AGE

Salvia officinalis - sage

Salvia officinalis – sage

AND IT CAN NUMB THE JAWS OF PAINFUL MENOPAUSE
AND HELP TO DRY THE SMILES, OF SALIVATING SENILES
BUT HELPS OLD TIMERS WITH ADVANCING ALZHEIMERS

AND WHILE WE SING OF MINT, LETS PONDER PEPPERMINT
OR WE COULD SEEK THE SCENT, COL. SANDER’S SPEARMINT
MINT JULEP OR MOJITOS, CAN KEEP AWAY MOSQUITOES
THEY TOO HELP TO CHASE, THE CHOLINESTERASE,

LIKE MOST ITALIANOS, I LOVE MY OREGANOS,
THE OIL IT WILL TREAT MOST EVERYTHING
MAKES A PIZZA TASTE MUCH BETTER, MAKES A DRY DREAM SOMEWHAT WETTER
MARJORAM’S BEST IN FACT, TO CURB abETA PLAQUE

IF YOU”RE ROLLIN’ OFF YOUR ROCKER; BEST SEEK abETA-BLOCKERIMG_0831 easiest to read
THEY CAN FIGHT BACK BETA AMYLOID PLAQUE
GINGER, MARJORAM, CURCUMIN, CAN DO AMYLOID IN
GET YOU BACK ON TRACK; TO SURVIVE THE PLAQUE ATTACK

XXX But now my dementia is deflated, alcohol’s contraindicated XXX !!!.

I COME TO THE GARDEN ALONE
Text by: Charles Austin Miles –1913 Public Domain

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear falling on my ear,
the Son of God discloses.

Refrain:
And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tary there,
none other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of his voice
is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
and the melody that he gave to me
within my heart is ringing.
(Refrain)

IMG_2459 jim alone____________________________________________________________________

Jim is roasted, toasted, serenaded and serenades:IMG_7839 mark blumenthal cropped

Dr. Roger Mustalish, President of ACEER

Dr. Roger Mustalish, President of ACEER

Howard County Dump with Marcus, Mike, Jim, John, Julia, Josh, Sara and Eric

Howard County Dump with Marcus, Mike, Jim, John, Julia, Josh, Sara and Eric
Jim's brother Dan gives Jim "hell"

Jim’s brother Dan gives Jim “hell”

IMG_7848 peggy susan eric jim ACEER award

Peggy Duke (center) along with Susan (left) enjoy brother Dan’s roast

Celia Larson, Jim's daughter, who traveled three times with Jim to the Amazon.

Celia Larsen, Jim’s daughter, traveled three times with Jim to the Amazon.

Mariashi Band serenades with Jim on bass and Olivia Newton John as the paparazzi

Mariashi Band serenades with Jim on bass and Olivia Newton John as the paparazzi

0059280-R1-041-19

OH AXEMAN UNKIND, YOU ARE BLOWING MY MIND!
CAMU-CAMU AND BRAZILNUT, THEY CAN HELP FILL YOUR GUT.
BUT YEAR AFTER YEAR, ONCE THE FOREST IS CLEAR,
YOU’LL HAVE LESS AND LESS FOOD, AND YOU’LL RUN OUT OF WOOD.

0059280-R4-042-19A

Victoria amazonica, Giant Amazon Water Lily

0059280-R4-054-25A

MOMMA WON’T YOU TAKE ME TO THE PRIMARY FOREST
ON THE AMAZON RIVER WHERE PARADISE LIES?
I’M SORRY MY DAUGHTER, BUT I DON’T THINK I OUGHTA‘
WE’VE WAITED TOO LONG, NOW THE FOREST IS GONE!

Thanks to Jim Duke and organizations such as ACEER, many of us have been educated on the necessity to keep the Amazon rainforest alive, and it is our hope that the forest will always remain Paradise Found.

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Things Go Better With Bitters

Article published in Pathways Magazine Winter 2012-13 issue:

By Jim Duke and Helen Lowe Metzman

Jim’s Rant on Bitters:

Where once the green trees were kissed by the sunrise
There’s a highrise ‘tween the sunrise and the smog in your eyes.
All the other flow’rs got twisted by the herbicide squirt;
The last dandelion’s laughing, deserved bitter dessert. (HerbAlBum, 1985)

IMG_0303 taraxacum officinale dandelionPerhaps one of the healthiest recommendations in the Bible is to “eat with bitter herbs,” anticipating by a couple millennia the tardy appeal by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to eat your leafy veggies. Helen and I are going to make that suggestion also. The bitter herbs of the Bible have variously been interpreted to include chicory, dandelion, endive, lettuce, sheep sorrel, watercress, and possibly fenugreek. Some have even suggested rocket, which I find more bitter than the endive, lettuce, and watercress.

In the Green Farmacy Garden, we have a more exhaustive list of bitters—some weak, some strong, and many of them invasive weeds, but free to us for the harvesting. They are: air potato, alfalfa, aloe, American and Asian ginseng, angelica, artichoke, asparagus, baical skullcap, balmony, barberry, bayleaf, bearberry, blackberry lily, black cohosh, blessed thistle, blue cohosh, boneset, bottle gourd, burdock, cascara sagrada, chickweed, chicory, Chinese foxglove, corydalis, cranberry, creat, dandelion, dogwood, dong quai, Dutchman’s breeches, Echinacea, eclipta, eleuthero, ephedra, fennel, feverfew, forsythia, fo ti, fringetree, gotu kola, goldenseal, goldthread, hawthorn, hops, horehound, horseradish, horsetail, huang qi, Indian valerian, juniper, lesser periwinkle, licorice, magnolia vine, mate, mayapple, milkthistle, mugwort, nandina, neem, nettle, Oregon grape, pawpaw, phyllanthus, pot marigold, redroot sage, rhubarb, rose-of-Sharon, rue, saw palmetto, self-heal, shatavari, sida, skullcap, southernwood, sweet annie, tansy, tulip tree, tulsi, turmeric, vervain, watercress, wild yam, willow, wolfberry, woodruff, wormwood, yellow dock, yellowroot, yerbasanta, and yucca.

All of these bitter herbs contain many important nutraceuticals, which primitive and modern agriculture tend to select against, as seeds of more palatable variants are saved and more bitter ones discarded. In other words, modern agriculture selectively breeds to diminish the bitter nutraceuticals, making them less bitter and tastier, but thereby also reducing their medicinal value. I suspect that a half cup a day each of seven of these bitter herbs would lower the incidence of many diseases of modern man, some by as much as seven-fold. Instead of following the NIH directive, maybe you should strive for seven veggies a day, maybe even seven bitter herbs.

For example, among the many diseases for which the maligned dandelion is useful are some of the most advertised ailments of Americans. I will wager that if you have the much-touted acid-indigestion, dyspepsia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and heartburn and/or indigestion, dandelion can help. But I will also wager that if you go to your doctor, he or she is more liable to prescribe such things as (alphabetically from A to Z): Alka-Seltzer™, Axid®, Bromo-Seltzer, Duracid™, Gaviscon®, Maalox®, Mylanta®, Nexium®, Pepcid®, protein-pump-inhibitors (PPIs), Prevacid®, Prilosec®, Rolaids®, Tagamet®, Tums®, and Zantac®.

These medicines are all mentioned in a great book I am tardily reviewing, Why Stomach Acid is Good for You, by Jonathan V. Wright, MD, and Lane Lanard, PhD (2001). Most of them are also mentioned in Consumer Reports on Health (CRH) (24, No. 7, 2012). The CRH is usually a bit more conventional than Jonathan Wright, a great holistic physician, and me, a mediocre botanist. Under the title, Soothe the Fire in Your Belly, CRH has a picture that looks like a hot dog on fire (one item on Wright’s list responsible for firing up acid indigestion). CRH tells us that the average person with GERD spends an estimated $3,355 a year on medications, etc., to help control symptoms—that’s nearly ten dollars a day! And more than 50 million U.S. citizens experience heartburn every month, with about 15 million enduring daily flare-ups.

One prescription drug proton-pump-inhibitor (PPI), Nexium®, earned more than $6 billion in 2011. CRH admits that PPIs are overused, overly hyped by Big Pharma. According to CRH, “studies have found that up to 70% of people who take a PPI may not have GERD and may not need such a potent, expensive medication” (CRH, p. 5). CRH enumerates some serious side effects of PPI’s, including bone fractures, Clostridium, diarrhea, gastrointestinal problems, muscle spasms, osteoporosis, and pneumonia.

Unlike CHR, Wright and Lane, Helen and I suggest cheap bitters might do more good for the average American, especially older Americans. In their book, Wright and Lane list barberry, caraway, dandelion, fennel, gentian, ginger, globe artichoke, milk thistle, peppermint, the famous wormwood, and yellow dock as the most common bitters used in western medicine. We have them all in the Green Farmacy Garden, except the gentian. We have always fared badly with gentian, even when we started with nursery-bought plants. But we have the king of the bitters, creat (Andrographis paniculata). It is time we harvested it before frost and get our bitters ready for the window, and for those days when it is too cold to harvest the ubiquitous dandelion. Either dandelion or creat could keep our digestive juices flowing.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Andrographis paniculata, Creat, flower

In Wright’s Takoma clinic, over 90% of the people over 40 complaining of gas, heartburn, and indigestion were carefully tested for acid and were found low, not high, in stomach acid. On p. 124, Wright rephrases that as “more than 9 out of ten of us who suffer from so-called ‘acid indigestion’ actually have lack of acid indigestion.” Yet Americans and their allopaths foolishly treat lack of acid with antacids.

Hyperacidity, or High Acid, is much overhyped in the press; hypoacidity, or Low Acid, which probably more of us have, is scarcely mentioned. Dandelion as a bitter can help in many cases of hypoacidity, more often the culprit in older Americans. The allopaths do not know, as do I, that dandelion has level 2 evidence for many indications, not just indigestion (dyspepsia), the subject of today’s rant. (Note: Jim Duke assigns a rating score of level 2, “if the aqueous extract, ethanolic extract, or decoction or tea derived from the plant has been shown to have the activity, or to support the indication in clinical trials.”) Dandelion is probably most familiar of the many bitters that can help in indigestion. It is approved in Europe also for bladder stones, bronchitis, gas, hepatitis, kidney stones, urinary difficulties, and lack of appetite.

My friends Simon Mill and Kerry Bone have a detailed account of bitters in their excellent book, Principles of Herbal Pharmacology (2000), which notes, “Bitter drinks taken before meals are still called apertifs.” Many Europeans believe, with good reason, that bitters are a cheap and safe corrective for indigestion. Here in the Green Farmacy Garden, I myself had not gotten into the European school of thought. But Helen, having been exposed to British Simon Mills and Australian Kerry Bones, and now me through osmosis here in the garden, would recommend a dash of bitters with every meal to prevent dyspepsia. I have on my desk as I write this half a jar of Angostura bitters. My wife Peggy’s mother, Hazel Wetmore Kessler, had a strongly British air about her. Hazel lived with us her last years, and while she was alive, instead of having a dash of bitters with each meal, she had a dash of angosturas with her whiskey sour. That was at our Happy Hour preceding dinner. I now have a dash of Angostura with my gin and ginger ale. (Ginger is also viewed as a bitter.)

The Benefits of Bitters: A Look at the Literature

Many Europeans believe that bitters work by stimulating the digestive juices—bile, gastrin, HCl, pepsin, pancreatic enzymes, even saliva—and not by turning them off as most over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs do. Unlike the OTC’s, you do not even have to consume the bitter to have this effect. Science has proven that in some people, some bitters need only to be tasted to get those juices flowing.

The more I looked into the literature, searching for solutions to my own litany of conditions, the more I have finally become convinced. I have been a high fiber freak for decades, participating in at least five dietary fibers studies at the USDA in Beltsville. Two of the study leaders warned me that I might be stripping myself of minerals. Wright and Lane specifically mention yet another USDA researcher, Elaine T Champagne, PhD, stressing the dangers of hypoacidity, inadequate pepsin production, and poor protein metabolism. Champagne adds that taking most of those commercial antacids named earlier in this rant ultimately generates the same problem. The bitter truth is bitters can prevent many if not all of those problems from which I am probably suffering.

Historically, many American Indians, e.g. Apache, Cherokee, Iroquois, Kiowa, Malecite, Menominee, Meskwaki, Micmac, Mohegan, Ojibwa, etc., ate dandelion, often boiled as a potherb. The Winnebago make wine from the flowers when someone marries. The tender leaves are valued worldwide as a potherb. Dandelion is sometimes eaten raw in salads, but often blanched like endive and used as a green; it is frequently cooked with salt pork or bacon to enhance the flavor. Roots are sometimes pickled. Ground roasted roots are used for dandelion coffee, and sometimes are mixed with real coffee. Redneck me, I like the Potawatomi recipe, i.e., cooked with vinegar and maybe with a little pork or venison.

I also like the title “Dyspepsi Kola” used in my best book The Green Pharmacy (Rodale Press, 1997), which consists of one dash each, as available, of angelica, anise, chamomile, coriander, fennel, ginger, rosemary and turmeric, and two dashes marjoram and peppermint. Today I would add licorice, having relieved my dyspepsia several times with DGL (deglycyrrhinated licorice). But when I wrote that book, I was not aware of the multitude of health benefits of the classical bitters.

In Herbal Drugstore (Rodale Press; White, et. al., 2000) Linda White, MD, says, “You have to eat the bitter to get the digestive effect.” Not everyone would agree with this; some say all you need do is taste. However, Dr. White, like most Europeans, suggests a bitter containing gentian, mugwort or wormwood 3 times a day before meals, 1/8-1/2 teaspoon or a full dropper. She also suggests bitters to boost overall energy, improve endocrine function, and improve digestive functioning, even hypothyroidism.

In Clinical Botanical Medicine (2003), authors Yarnell, Abascal and Hooper recommend bitters for depression among the elderly. Gut function declines with age. Many over 50 have low levels of gastric acidity. They quote famed German physician, Rudolph Weiss, who found the effects of bitters increases with prolonged usage. Weiss claimed that bitters would neutralize the negative influence of chronic stress on digestion partially by stimulating the liver. Their table for choosing a bitter herb lists gentian first, then dandelion, followed by (in order) wormwood, Oregon grape, swertia, yarrow, ginger, and horehound.

I suspect if you ask 100 herbalists for their favorite bitters, you will end up with an even longer list. I shall resume chewing my simple mugwort as another approach to bitters; or sip on Helen’s very interesting complex of yellowroot, goldenseal, wormwood, dandelion leaf, dandelion root, chicory, boneset, feverfew, skullcap, fennel seed, anise hyssop, sweet cicely, hops, and brandy.

Chicory, Cichorium intybus

Chicory, Cichorium intybus

Another great book I should mention is Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health (2010), written by a friend I admire, Aviva Romm, MD. She also happens to be, first, an herbalist, second, a midwife, and finally, a physician. Dr. Romm cites the usual bitters yarrow, wormwood, mugwort, barberry, centaury, boneset, gentian, goldenseal, horehound, chamomile, rue, tansy and last dandelion (They were ordinated by scientific names and dandelion was alphabetically last, not necessarily last.) Perhaps all of these share the beneficial activities she (and many other authors, including us) cites for bitters:

• Stimulate appetite;

• Stimulate release of digestive juices from pancreas, duodenum, and liver;

• Stimulate flow of bile, aiding in liver detox;

• Help regulate pancreatic secretions that regulate blood sugar, insulin and glucagon; and

• Help the gut wall repair damage.

Having accentuated the positives, Aviva also wisely discusses the cautions of counter indications, including gallbladder disease, gastritis, GERD (with which I have been diagnosed, rightly or wrongly), hiatal hernia, kidney stones, peptic ulcer, and pregnancy.goldenseal bloom

Hydrastis canadensis, Goldenseal roots

Hydrastis canadensis, Goldenseal flower above, roots below

Before Beginning With Bitters…

Because of the possibility of counter indications, I appreciate Wright’s cautious approach (p. 155) to identify first the cause of the problem before beginning with bitters. He tabulates some common causes, listed here, and to which I’ve added a few also suggested by the 2012 issue of the CRH as no-no’s. They are: alcohol; allergens; carbonated beverages; chocolate; citrus fruits and juices; coffee; fats; fried food (from CRH); garlic (CRH); mints (although I disagree; I think peppermint settles my upset stomach); onions (which I love); pizza (which I love; CRH); salsa (another love; CRH); spicy foods (more favorites) and tomato based foods (uh oh, my absolute favorites). There are so many things on this hit list that I love, I will try to moderate them and move on to bitters therapy without giving up my favorite foods.

If, after identifying the cause of your problem, eliminating potential causes does not do the trick, Wright and Lane suggest trying bitters, saying, “It is always preferable to try bitters before moving on to acid replacement therapy with HCL and pepsin.” If the bitters do not help, you could also try 1-2 tsp cider vinegar or lemon juice, perhaps with a little water, near the beginning of a meal. Then they suggest proteolytic enzymes. If you are still failing to help yourself, try to get an accurate measurement of your gastric acidity levels, which is, admittedly, easier said than done. A simple test with bicarbonate of soda, repeated three mornings in a row, suggested I was hypoacidic, just because I did not burp.

Ultimately failing with these gentle herbal approaches, it is best to see a gastroenterologist to check for serious esophageal or gastric problems. I suppose that even at age 83, I’ll do that if the bitters have not done the tricks I need. Nutritionists have advised me that for my rare and serious GERD attacks, I need proteolytic digestive enzymes like bromelain from pineapple, papain from papaya, and zingibain from ginger—a pleasant tropical, proteolytic, anti-GERD vegetarian fruit cocktail. Dr. Wright recommends non-vegetarian pancreatin after, not before, meals. All can help break the proteins down into needed amino acids.

A final rant! Those “ambulance-chasing” lawyers one sees advertising these days on TV always amuse me. Something like, “If you have taken drug X, recently reported to cause disease Y, call us right way if you have been hurt by disease Y. You may be entitled to compensation.”  And the same or another hungry law firm might say, drawing on the CRH report (p. 5), “If you have taken a PPI and experienced one or more of the following problems (bone fractures, Clostridium, diarrhea, enterosis, muscle spasms, osteoporosis, and/or pneumonia), call us right away! You may be entitled to compensation.”

Those lawyers ought to love Wright & Lane’s book, which indirectly accuses all the antacid drugs so widely advertised on TV as possibly being partially responsible for a host of conditions, including acne rosacea, Addison’s disease, aging, allergic reactions, bacterial infections, celiac disease, childhood asthma, cholera, chronic autoimmune hepatitis, depression, dermatitis, diabetes (type 1), eczema, gallbladder disease, gallstones, gastric cancer, graves disease (hyperthyroid), hepatosis, lupus erythematosus, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis,  osteoporosis, pernicious anemia, polymyalgia rheumatica, Reynaud’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, ulcerative colitis, urticaria, and vitiligo (p. 41, p. 103). Conversely, and still somewhat facetiously, dandelions (and/or other bitters) may help prevent such, trivially or significantly.

Bitters taken three times a day
Might keep your heartburn away
Cheaper than OTCs and PPIs

Taraxacum officinalis, Dandelion seed head

Taraxacum officinalis, Dandelion seed head

Bitters better than you realize.
A bitter a day
Keeps the doctor away,
A PPI a day

May put you away.

Dandelion

Twice or thrice a day
It’s worth the trying
Keep heartburn away.
~Anon. poet (the bitter end)

Additional Sound Bites On Bitters.  By Helen Lowe Metzman

Bitters are difficult to take—a bitter sorrow, a bitter winter, the bitter Jim Duke, the bitter election, the bitter pill, the bitter truth. But, as Jim Duke rants above, when it comes to stimulating digestion, bitter herbs are exactly what to take. I concur with Jim but also want to dig deeper to understand. Why are plants bitter? How do bitters work in our bodies to promote digestion? Are we in the midst of a bitter revival?

Due to their immobility, some plants protect themselves from predation by secreting unpalatable natural anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, anti-microbial and pesticidal compounds known as secondary constituents. Some of these secondary metabolites that help to deter herbivory are of a bitter flavor and classified as monoterpene iridoids, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenes, alkaloids, and phenols. Several members of the Gentian family (Gentianaceae) and the aster family (Asteraceae) contain many of these bitter constituents. Gentian (Gentiana lutea), one of the most bitter and widely used plants in digestive bitters, contains monoterpene secoiridoid glycosides. The bitter qualities in wormwood (Artemesia absinthium), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and artichoke (Cynara scolymus) are from sesquiterpene lactones. Bitter alkaloids such as berberine and hydrastine are found in goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Hops obtain their bitterness from resin glands containing alpha acids such as humulone on the female flowers called strobiles.

As two-legged hungry omnivorous mammals, we evolved in a world filled with tempting plants. By necessity, our early ancestors discerned by trial and error what to and what not to eat. There were no field guides to edible and medicinal plants, simply self-discovery or knowledge passed from tribe to tribe. While some people learned to plump up on sweets from fruit or from proteins from nuts and seeds, some perished by ingesting harmful quantities of extremely fatal plants like poison hemlock, castor beans, or jimsonweed. But centuries ago, others learned that in the right dose and by regulation of intake, plants with bitter tastes not only warn of potential toxicity but also aid with belly aches. Thanks to Jim Duke and Steven Foster for writing the Peterson Guide to Medicinal Plants of Eastern and Central North America, so people like me, whose parents never taught us how to use plants as medicine, could learn how to differentiate between the look alike poisonous hemlock and the edible carrot.

It has been a longstanding belief that bitters must be tasted before meals to activate the salivary glands, increase appetite, and stimulate digestion. I was fortunate to receive an email from Kerry Bone containing a 2011 paper by Marco Valussi, “Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties,” in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition (PubMed: 22010973), which shed new light on the physiology of bitters and our guts. The paper points out that when we eat plants containing bitter compounds, taste buds on the tongue and throughout the gut are notified of the potential toxins. Signals from the tongue’s bitter receptors are sent directly to the central nervous system (CNS) alerting the brain to fire the vagus nerve that innervates the gut to promote gastric secretions.

Another signal originates from human taste receptor cells, G-protein-coupled receptors, the T2Rs, located on the tongue and throughout the gut. These T2R’s, when activated, trigger enteroendocrine cells to secrete gut peptides, particularly cholecystokinin (CCK). With the release of CCK, the gut gets the message for bile secretion, gastric motility and secretion, pancreatic digestive enzymes, and a reduction of gastric emptying. The action, originating from the release of CCK, is to maximize the digestion of complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and vitamins, and minimize the absorption of bitter compounds. The paper suggests that since there are bitter receptors located throughout the gut lining, bitters may not need to be tasted on the tongue in order to be effective and could possibly be administered in the form of a tablet or capsule and delivered directly into the gut.

Although Jim Duke often speaks of his yin/yang valley with its yang south facing slope and its yin north facing slope, this intelligent western trained 83-year old botanist has never fully embraced the notion of plant energetics. (I must confess that I have a far greater grasp of plant energetics than Jim, but at times am still baffled by the application of the terms and usage.) Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbalists and many trained in the use of North American herbs view plants energetically as either yin, yang, hot, cold, dry, moist, neutral, and with tastes of salty, sweet, bitter, acrid, and sour.

Bitters are energetically considered cold, drying and yin. Simon Mills, in Out of the Earth: The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine (Viking, 1991), writes that bitters are directed by the spleen to the heart and flow downwards in the body, and help to treat “deep-seated clinical problems.” He also expresses that bitters are to “sedate, dry and to harden.” Bitters “sedate” a hot temperament as in a fiery individual or in an inflammatory health condition; bitters “dry” damp-heat in a boggy condition (think of a long lasting congestion with lots of mucus); and bitters can “harden” or “consolidate” by “improving assimilation and nourishment.” Cooling and drying bitters such as goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), barberry (Berberis spp.) and Oregon grape (Mahonia spp.) with their alkaloids stimulate and help sluggish digestion and the healing of mucous membranes and chronic damp infections. Keep in mind that since bitters are cool energetically, in situations where the person may be cold, it is important to add warming herbs like Angelica (Angelica archangelica) and ginger (Zingiber officinale)to debilitating illnesses and digestion.

History is still in the making, and a bitter revival continues—bitters not just as a digestive aid, but also with the young and hip connoisseurs of food and beverages. Van Gogh’s famous drink of absinthe made with the bitter wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is not only a main ingredient in vermouth and drank as an aperitif, but was also used in ancient Egypt and included in Ebers Papyrus (ca. 1550 BC) as a medicinal. As far back as two thousand years ago, Mithridates and his herbalist companion, Crateuas, are thought to have included the bitter gentian and possibly thistles in their formulas that served as antidotes for poisons. Dr. Phillipus Paracelsus first formulated the time-tested Swedish Bitters, containing up to 14 herbs, in the 1500’s. The formula was lost but eventually resurfaced in the 1800’s by the Swedish Claus Samst. The bitters went through yet a third revision in the 20th century by Austrian herbalist Maria Treben and her book, Health Through God’s Pharmacy, which highly promoted and touted them as panacea for many ailments.

The misunderstood bitter dandelion greens, despised by suburban homeowners and caricatured on TV while being sprayed with pesticides like Roundup, are now being sold at exorbitant prices in health food stores and local chain groceries. Chicory (Cichorium intybus) roots roasted and ground make a delicious alternative to coffee (minus the caffeine) and are used as a bitter beverage after meals. Coffee (Coffea arabica) is not just a wake-up beverage, but also a digestive aid for foods and a primary medicinal in the Middle East and throughout the world. Europeans have had longstanding culinary practice of eating a salad with endive or arugula and taking a little squirt of bitters with their cocktails before meals to stimulate digestion.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Humulus lupulus, Hops strobiles

Hops (Humulus lupulus) are a bitter relaxant found in beer and also in sleep formulas. Gentian (Gentiana lutea), found in the high Alps, is one of the most popular of classic bitter remedies and an essential ingredient found in many bitter formulas like Angostura. Urban Moonshine, made in Vermont, has produced delicious bitter digestive aids made with the addition of citrus and maple syrup. Boston Bittahs – Bittermens are formulated with citrus, chamomile and more citrus. Dr. Adam’s Boker’s Bitters, originally created in 1828, has been reformulated and released in August 2009. Bitter Truth Bitters, with their myriad flavors, are a retro apothecary of cocktail tonics. Herb Pharm’s Digestive Bitters dependably are found on the shelves of most health food stores. Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery in Maine sells Bitter Blueberry to accompany bitter drinks, bitter humor and bitter cold.

We, at the Green Farmacy Garden, have gotten onto the bitters’ bandwagon. This past autumn, in anticipation of a class focusing on this subject, we made a brew of “Dr. Duke’s Bitters” to serve to the students and to take before our noontime soup. The brew’s ingredients include goldenseal root, yellowroot, dandelion root, chicory root, wormwood leaf, dandelion leaf, hop strobiles, boneset leaf, feverfew leaf, skullcap leaf, fennel seed, anise hyssop leaf, sweet cicely root and brandy. Come by the garden, visit these bitter herbs, and take a sip of this concoction. We guarantee this is a very easy bitter to swallow.

IMG_1881 jim duke bitter

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The HerbalBum, HerbAlbum, and Basilio Day

From the HerbAlbum:

Basilio Day

A memorable Basilio Day. Oct. 10, 2012, has come and gone. I already miss the warm feelings, on our first day of frost. Only a handful of my Amazonian friends will know what the blazes is Basilio Day. Basilio Day commemorates Basilio Sahuarico, one of the many excellent guides who has led thousands of American ecotourists thru the forests surrounding four remarkable camps near Iquitos Peru; Ceiba Tops, Explorama, Explornapo (where they have a labeled medicinal plants garden called the ReNuPeru Garden) and the most remote camp, near the very impressive Canopy Walkway.

Basilio in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Anna Wallis 2012

Since 1991, I have spent more that 50 weeks visiting these camps with somewhere between 7 and 108 tourists thirsty for knowledge about the flora and fauna of Amazonias. I was there to help them sort out identifications and uses, especially medicinal uses of the flora . Most of my tours specifically requested Basilio as our guide, not only because of his knowledge of the Flora and Fauna, but because of his musical and organizational talent, rounding up local musicians playing and singing various Andean and Amazonian and some North American tunes. His singing is phenomenal and brightened many of the nights at the remote camps, where some novice tourists may have felt a little homesickness. Not me. Since my first trip in 1991, when I discarded the cervical collar (for cervical problems, alias slipped disks), I have always felt at home on these camps, more so than anywhere else in the world, except my current home of 42 years, at the Green Farmacy Garden in Fulton.

Basilio in the Amazon at Explorama. Photo by Jess Holt. 2012.

Surely thousands of gringo tourists have thousands of photos and recordings of Basilio and his great tenor voice. Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Andrea Ottesen, now with the FDA, Basilio was able to come to the Green Farmacy Garden and reciprocate, filming the quaint culture of the gringos, their music, their flora and fauna. But thanks to my love for Mexican mariachi music, we got him to two excellent local Mexican restaurants. First we took him to La Palapa , only one mile from here as the crow flies. On the 5th of every month, they have a full fledged mariachi band to celebrate the famed cinco de Mayo festival, independence day of the Mexicans. They had the usual small Mexican guitar, a regular guitar, the overgrown guitarron (almost a hybrid between the upright bass and the guitar,) and the trumpet. Basilio filmed the whole show, concentrating on the guitarron. Years ago, Helen Lowe Metzman, director of the Green Farmacy Garden, had mailed Basilio with specification details of a guitarron. Basilio’s uncle in Lima fashioned and made a guitarron, which I played more than once on ecotours after Basilio’s uncle completed it. That guitarron on which the specifications were measured belonged to my good friend Bruce Casteel, a great classical artist himself. He plays every Sunday night at a local Tapas Restaurant, Rana Azul, like the famed blue frogs of Latin America. That puts Peggy and me in a quandary every Sunday night when we have to choose between dining tapas-style to Bruce’s classical guitar of going mariachi at La Azteca. But this Sunday with Basilio here, we opted for La Azteca, where Basilio not only filmed the mariachi duo, Los Trovadores (Salvador Rivas Najera from Salvador and Rogelio Valdes from Mexico). Yes, Sunday Oct. 7, Andrea and Peggy and I took Basilio to hear Los Trovadores.. They were as always good; but they benevolently and generously acceded to Basilio’s request. They let Basilio sing along with them as a group we jokingly called El Trio Los Panchos (suggestive of another long famous Latino trio). But the Trovadores, and patrons of the restaurant, specially with my table, the management and waiters and waitresses, were all delighted with the trio. The management agreed to cater food for 30 for Oct. 10, Basilio Day. Coincidentally, Helen Lowe and Eric Metzman, himself also a good guitarist, came from another room in the Restaurant, to listen to Basilio singing with the Trovadores. Helen and Eric were there with both their mothers and fathers, and Helen’s daughter, Elana, who flew to Thailand on Oct. 9. Also Helen’s niece Elise. We captured some of that Sunday Night mariachi music on film which Basilio can take back to Peru..

For Basilio Day, proper, we had Bruce Casteel playing classical guitar on the patio, all the while being filmed by the 3-person videographer team Stephen Dignan drove down from New York City. Stephen plans to publish on-demand with Apple applications a mini book we are working on, an illustrated booklet on wild flowers of Catoctin State Park. Turns out Peggy and I helped my son John Carl and his wife Sandy buy a home near the park about twenty years back.  John and his son, John James, came over to help clean up the garden for Basilio Day and to jam with Basilio when we moved into country music. Bruce played classical 8-string guitar from 3-4 PM. Beautiful and often tear jerking for me. Later I joined Bruce, me trying to play tremelo bass for my favorite of his songs, Recuerdos del Alhambra, always lachrymatory.

Bruce Casteel playing Recuerdos del Alhambra for Jim

I was pleased to see the Trovadores, the aforementioned mariachis from Restaurante La Azteca, arrive on time at 4:00 dressed up like mariachis and with Rogelio’s own camera. Helen was pleased to shoot material of their performance on Rogelio’s camera. I backed them up on the bass fiddle on about half of their more familiar numbers. (I have been listening to Salvador’s duo, in three or four pre-Rogelio versions, all good, for about five years. So I am pretty used to their repertoires and renditions. Towards the end they did my favorite mariachi song,  the Antonio Aguilar song Albur de Amor. As they filmed that, we had a Cuna Indian mola depicting Antonio Aguilar. I brought this very elegant mola from the Cuna Indians of Panama back in the 1960’s, more than 50 years ago.  The few times I looked at their screen (depicting what their cameras were seeing), I felt that they were getting some good video footage. Hope they the NY videographers and Rogelio will share some good clips with us for the website.

Jim playing bass, The Los Trovodores playing guitars, and Basilio (in all white) singing

By five o’clock, with Los Trovadores still playing great mariachi music, the new Howard County Dumpsters country musicians started dribbling in. Howard County Dump was a name we selected maybe 40 years ago when there was a bumper sticker out saying Dump the Howard County Dump. Mike Schenk, our usual regular banjo picker and his wife Ann and friendly dog Shadow, were here. Shadow posed well later when I howled with the SJW song. My son John Carl Duke, and my grandson, John James Duke had been here all along, enjoying the classical and mariachi music, but they were getting anxious to play themselves. Then young Jared Guilford, an excellent mandolinist, dropped in, making critical mass for country and bluegrass. Like my son John, Jared is a good upright bass player as well. And our intern Sara Saurus has picked up picking the bass pretty well herself this summer. She is more picturesque than I, and always happy to spare me on the bass fiddle. Last guest to arrive was Brian Dorothy , expert fiddler with whom I once played professionally, ca 3 decades ago. (You can see Brian, John, Mike and Sara backing me up on the Sogera song the following youtube site and read the words at the bottom of this blog.)

Jared, Yukon John, Mike, Little John, Jim and Victoria

You’ll even see a snippet of Anna Wallis, another of our garden interns playing guitar on the El Sogero song out by the ayahuasca vine in the garden. Anna was here for Basilio Day. So was Holly Chittum, another intern who replaced Anna. Holly brought one of my favorite foods, cornbread. Victoria Aurich, fresh back from a great diving trip to Bonaire, as always brought organic goodies and served as my music stand, holding up my words for me. A shame when I do not even know my own songs!. Victoria had been on a U. Md trip to the Amazon with Andrea and me about five year ago. Also in attendance was Dr. Gail Moreschi, MD, with the FDA. Gail had been on one of our Amazon trips and accompanied Helen and me to Cuba in March of 2012. That’s why I was pleased when the Trovadores plated Guantanamera for Basilio Day.

The filming crew

Basilio seemed to enjoy the catered Mexican foods, and the potluck items brought by his American friends and students, the wine and the beer in moderation, but most of all he enjoyed singing along with the eclectic Mexican music and North American bluegrass and country. He had taken a lot of pictures himself, a fair turnaround. Thousands of American visitors touring the Explorama lodges have taken thousands of pictures on Basilio, playing Amazon and Andean and North America music. On this trip Basilio took thousands of pics of mariachis and gringos playing Mexican and North American songs. Last Saturday, 6 Oct., an aromatherapist, Eileen Cristina, and her husband Eric, who had traveled to south France with Peggy and me on an aromatherapy symposium, took a lot of pictures of Basilio. They now plan to go to Explorama, having seen and heard Basilio.  But she forgot her camera when she left. We could mail her camera to her. But on the morning of Basilio’s  flight out of Dulles, Oct 12, I got a frantic call from Andrea at 6:50 AM. who had gotten himo to Dulles Airport for the first leg of his trip home to Panama, thence to Iquitos. But without his camera, full of his week’s footage. Basilio was devastated, he feared correctly that he had left his camera on our living room table. I verified. We cannot trust the mail to get his camera from here to Iquitos. Peggy just called down that someone in a red shirt had come by and picked up Basilio’s camera. That was probably Elmer, Andrea’s friend from Guatemala. I hope they got it to Dulles International before Basilio’s flight took off. He really treasured all the footage he himself had taken.  I hope they got it to Basilio by flight time If not, we may have to wait until we can get a reliable courier, someone we know and trust to handcarry it to Basilio. Or maybe Andrea can somehow open his camera, and copy on to something else what will be just as useful to Basilio. And hopefully with some of the shots Stephen’s crew took of Basilio Day and maybe even some of Rogelio’s footage from Basilio Day. Basilio had some of the travel problems that we elderly gringoes often experience. I hope he is waking up this AM in the warmth of Panama, where I have spent an aggregate of some 4 years. This morning, Oct 13 we had our first frost. I am glad Basilio missed the first frost, always depressing to me. And as I close this rant, my stomach still churns. It is 6:00 PM on our first day of frost. And I am not sure his camera caught up with Basilio. We all hope so and will somehow replace or overwhelm him with our own film of basilio Day. Basilio, thanks for enduring this; friends of Basilio, hope you treasured and enjoyed Basilo Day as much as I did.

Basilio at the White House. Photo by Andrea Ottesen 2012.

We will include some of the words to a few of my songs that we used below: I post my revised words to Guantamera, revised when I disappointingly realized that the real Guantanamera was a male peasant from Guantanamo, not a county girl from Guantanamo.

SOME PERTINENT DOGGEREL

GUANTANESPANTA (my parody on Guantanamera)
Yo soy un gringo sincero
Estudio hierbas entero
Y es claro que quiero
Vivo Guantanamero
Guantanamera, me busca Guantanamera,
Siempre creiendo, que es mujer, la Guantanamera.
Yo soy un gringo llorando;
No hay la Guantanamera
Mi miente mi engaño
Hay Guantanespanta

Paradise Lost
(Parodyzing Paradise)
words by jim duke

(Can be sung to the tune of John Prine’s paradise)

I praise you John Prine, and I hope you don’t mind,
If I mimic your song, to help the forest along.
Even while I am singing, the axeman is swinging,
Choppin’ down all that green, to plant corn, squash and bean.

Chorus(male): Daddy won’t you take me to the primary forest
By the Amazon river where Paradise lies?
I’m sorry my son, but the forest is gone!
I’ll show you some slides, that’ll have to suffice!

If you’ll not name me, there’s something I’ll mention
And where credit is due, I’ll quote Peter Jenson.
There may be stronger reasons, but I can’t think of any,
We may lose the forest “because we’re too many”!
Basilio would sing us a John Denver song
And the gringos enchanted would sing right along;
And two decades later still singing away
He will be singing for Basilio Day
Oh axeman unkind, you are blowing my mind!
Camu-camu and brazilnut, they can help fill your gut.
But year after year, once the forest is clear,
You’ll have less and less food, and you’ll run out of wood.
The Jason tv, caught the shaman and me;
The kids could all see, he could talk to a tree.
Must’a been quite a scare, for the mahuna there;
For them the tv’s, like a spaceship to me
Never thought ecotours, could be one of the cures;
Taking “green” bucks from gringos, getting mud on their toes.
If the ecotours thrive, indian cultures survive,
And the children will strive, to keep tradition alive.

Chorus (female) Momma won’t you take me to the primary forest
On the Amazon river where Paradise lies?
I’m sorry my daughter, but I don’t think I oughta‘
We’ve waited too long, now the forest is gone!

No place I’d rather go, than to cruise on the Napo;
Hoping some of my pleas, kinda’ help save the trees.
I’d rather you’d find me, sunnin’ with the tree huggers
Than back in DC, arunnin’ from muggers!

It’s quite element’ry, our praise for Al Gentry,
Whose conserving career really helped at ACEER.
The best botany brain, went down with Al’s plane,
And although he is gone, we must still carry on.
Cacao, camu camu, cat’s claw, and dragon’s blood
The forest’s the best, for your medicine chest.
Aware of these goods, you still chop down the woods.
You’d best spare that tree, cause it might help spare thee.
DNA helices, ayahuasca the species
It’s the true vine divine. and a good friend of mine
Wondrous visions are seen, thru its telepathine
Like I’ve been told, ‘tis the vine of the soul

Jim telling stories of La Soga, Banisteriopsis caapi.  2007

EL SOGERO

(Parody on The Pilgrim [aka Going Up was Worth the Coming Down]-Kris Kristopherson)

HE HAD TASTED GOOD AND EVIL IN BOTH BEDROOM AND BORDELLO
TRADING ALL OF HIS TOMORROWS FOR TODAYS
PONDERING WHERE TO GO, HE TRIPPED DOWN TO OLD LORETO
CONTEMPLATING THE AYAHUASCA WAYS.
IT WAS REALLY QUITE A FAR CRY FROM NEW YORK TO OLD NANAY
FROM THE ASPHALT THAT HE KNEW DOWN TO PERU
IN HIS SEARCH FOR THE DIVINE, HE DESIGNED TO MINE THE VINE
AND THE THROWING UP WAS WORTH THE COMIN’ DOWN
YES THE THROWING UP WAS WORTH THE COMIN’ DOWN
HE’S A POET, HE’S A PROPHET
HE’S A WALKING CONTRADICTION, KINDA LOW WHEN FLYING HIGH
HE’S A BRUJO, A SOGERO
VOLANDERO, CURANDERO;
WITH CELESTIAL CONNECTIONS, HE NOW NAVIGATES THE SKY.
AND THE THROWING UP WAS WORTH THE COMING DOWN;
AND THE GOING UP IS COMING BACK AROUND!
HANDSOME, TALL AND LANKY, NEVER CRASS OR CRANKY,
COOLEST GREENEST MAN I EVER SEEN.
HAD A BALL AND FRANKLY, LOTTA GRASS AND HANKY PANKY,
EATING AND SIPPING JUNGLE GREEN
MIXED UM ALL UP ONE DAY, SOGA AND YAGE
BOILED UM `MOST ‘AWAY, WITH SOME TO-E
ENTONCES EL TOME, AND HE SOFTLY FLEW AWAY,
WITH THE JAGUA AND THE BOA ALL AT PLAY
AND THE THROWING UP, WAS WORTH THE GOIN’ WAY
IT REALLY AIN’T MY THESIS, BUT PROPULSIVE EMESIS
CLEARS THE VIEW OF ENTHEISM
CLEARING ALL DECISIONS, CLEANSING ALL THE VISIONS,
TUNING TO THOSE NEW GODS DEEP WITHIN!
THE SIGHTS THEY STILL REMIND US, THAT THE PURGIN’ IS BEHIND US,
ARRANGING INSTEAD NEW VIEWS AHEAD.
GODS KEEP RECURRING, BLACK JAGUARS KEEP A’PURRING;
AS WE GO TO CLIMB THE ROYAL RAINBOW;

[[EXTRA LINES: JICAROS URGING, THE END OF THE PURGING

THE SHAMAN SHE NODS, WE’RE ONE WITH THE GODS.
AND THE BOAS, EVER WISE, CLIMB UP TO THE SKIES
AND THE THROWING UP WAS WORTH THE GOING UP
AND THE GOING UP IS COMING BACK AROUND]]

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Plant Rant: An Elder Spokesman on Elders

Our elder, Jim Duke, waxes poetic on the lovely elderberry in the below ditty:

Elders for the Elders  (ca 2009) Parody on Bobby McGee

Elderberry, like black cherry, it’s extraordinary, very good for you, and tastes good too.
My elders kinda think, that an elderberry drink, might even help to stop the avian  flu
Can an elderberry tune, strengthen your immune, if you sing as you sip that brew divine
Good medicine for sure, the elderberry cure, as a jam or juice or wine, it works out fine.

Elderberry’s best, for the herbal  med’cine chest, and might frighten the avian flu to flight.
It has a killer factor for Helicobacter, untweaks your twisted tummy ‘til it’s right
Like an elderberry pill, I really think it will, cool the tummy and tame an ulcer down
And elder flower brew, is a good cosmetic too, and whitens skin that’s turning brown.

I remember from my scouthood, the flowers taste real good, when baked into pancakes, round and brown.
Elder syrup from last year, beats that elder beer, to top off that precious pancake, best around
What a breakfast, what a treat, kinda hard to beat, and you don’t really have to have no meat.
Elder syrup tops the cake, best cake that you can make, almost too beautiful to eat

Elder flowers in June

Selections from: Sambucus: Herb of the Year 2013 (American and European Elderberry) Family: Adoxaceae  By James A. Duke

“Are Europeans more interested in their elderberry than we are in our American elderberry? Last time I checked, early in 2012, there were 536 PubMed citations for the European, only 12 for the American. This is clearly a well-studied species. But I still seem to dig up more new activities and indications from the earlier literature I had ignored than from the recent PubMed citations.”

“Optimistically I submit a tentative key to the European nigra and the American nigra canadensis. It will help sometimes but definitely not always.

Leaflets mostly 5…….. S. nigra nigra (European)

Leaflets mostly 7…….. S. nigra ssp. canadensis (American)”

Peggy Duke’s illustration of elder – now classified as Sambucus nigra spp. canadensis

“Steven Foster and I are updating the Foster/Duke Peterson Eastern Medicinal Plants Field Guide which should see light late this year or early next year. Foster and I agree that the European and American taxa differ in leaflet number (almost always five in S. nigra, almost always seven in S. canadensis), fruit color, and pubescence. “There seems little justification for uniting them.” (S. Foster, personal communication, 2012). I agree! Both good medicinal species!!”

“Both cultivated S. nigra and wild S. canadensis fruits demonstrated significant anticancer chemopreventive potential as inducers of quinone reductase and inhibitors of COX-2, with anti-initiation and antipromotion implications, respectively. American elderberry extracts also inhibited ornithine decarboxylase.”

“Some Local Folk Usages:

  •  Algonquins use the bark infusion (scraped upward) as emetic, (scraped downward) as purgative (DEM)
  • Carrier, Cherokee, Gitskan, Iroqiois and Ojibwa use bark or root as emetic (DEM; HNI)
  • Cherokee used berry tea for rheumatism, the floral tea as diaphoretic, and other parts in decoctions and salves for dermatosis, dropsy, infection, fever, nephrosis (DEM)
  • Menominee use dried flowers for fever (AUS)
  • Meskwaki use inner bark of young stalks as a purgative, bark infusion as diuretic, expectorant, and for difficult childbirth, and as a fly and insect repellent
  • Micmac use bark, berries, and flowers as emetic, purgative and soporific
  • Penobscot Indians reportedly use the elder for cancer, Georgians using the branches (JLH)
  • Seminole use root bark decoction as emetic and purgative, for stomachache (DEM)”

Keep an eye out for Elder flowers in late May to early June to know where to gather the berries mid-summer

For a demonstration on how to make homemade elderberry syrup and other herbal remedies, come to our “Growing Your Immunity” workshop in the garden on Saturday October 6 from 1-4 pm. Email helometz@hotmail.com if you interested.

3 sept 2012 ~ Garden Director’s notes on respecting her Elders:

Sitting here on this end of Labor Day evening with the late summer sounds of katydids, snowy tree crickets, and a distant great horned owl wafting in my window. I had hoped to write this blog earlier in the week, but instead have been harboring a late summer illness. Fluctuating flu like symptoms, laryngitis, intense pressure headaches, nausea, cough, and aches have been with me almost a week.  Since I spend so much time outdoors and have been bitten repeatedly by mosquitoes, these symptoms could be caused by the West Nile virus, an influenza virus, the common cold virus, or worse yet, the spirochetes of Lyme’s Disease. Regardless the source of my illness, I have been reaching for Elder flower tea, elderberry syrup, and elderberry sub lingual lozenges to help combat these ails. Recent research suggests that elderberries help curtail the influenza virus from adhering to cells. Herbals also recommend Elder flowers for fevers and colds. I figure that I made it to this place in human history not only by procreation, good decision making and smarts, adequate food and shelter, the virtue of my ancestors’ ability to withstand and evolve with microbes, but also from plant medicines of the earth. My plant medicine arsenal of elderberries and Elder flowers is based on modern science and thousands of years of human experience.

Hippocrates is considered the “father of modern medicine” as he taught that diseases naturally occur in response to food, lifestyle, and environment. It is written that he called Elder “the medicine chest of the people.” Hippocrates worked as a physician, and his beliefs’ on medicine were in opposition to the prevailing thought of his time during the 4th and 5th century BC that promoted a mindset of disease as a punishment from the gods and evil spirits.

“Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.” ~Hippocrates

Hippocrates’ philosophy on medicine did not travel to all corners of human society.   Centuries of folklore and superstition of healing from spirits remained until recent times in many cultures regarding Elder. Elder was so revered that it was planted near homes for protection from bad luck, illness, and against getting struck by lightning. Elder was never cut by European farmers for fear that a tree dryad or goddess residing in the soul of the tree would impose evil spirits and bad luck upon them. Only with permission from the dryad, one could cut part of the Elder for protection or for medicine.  The spirit Hylde Mkoer, the “Elder tree mother,” was thought to haunt anyone who cut down an Elder.  Amulets containing Elder branches were believed to aid in rheumatism. Some cultures felt that lying down by an Elder would help cure epilepsy. Others rubbed warts with Elder leaves, buried the leaf, and believed that when the leaf would rot, it would remove the wart. If one’s dream contained Elder, it was considered an omen that illness was imminent. Elder was gathered at the end of April to ward off witches, but others thought Elder would attract witches and avoided going near the plant after dark. Some folks placed pieces of Elder into wedding ceremonies for good luck. As Christianity spread through Europe, the worship of trees, such as Elder, was prohibited. However, to aid in the conversion of pagans to the new religion, many of the pagan beliefs were integrated and blended into Christianity. Elder was said to be the tree of sorrow that Judas hung himself on after betraying Jesus. It is even thought that the wood of Jesus’ cross was made of Elder.

Elder – Magic, folklore, religion, science or a bit of it all?

From the time of the Roman Empire to the present, Elder found its way into nature’s medicine chest by virtue of the following attributes: Elder leaves were combined with other herbs and made into ointments for piles; leaves and bark were purgatives and emetics; teas were made of the flowers as a diaphoretic and sudorific to promote sweating for fevers and colds; the flowers were also used as a diuretic and considered important to rid the body of waste in the case of arthritis; flowers were used for allergies, ear infections and improve  immunity; elderberries not only make a fine wine but also are high in flavonols, anthocyanins, vitamin A and C. These days one can also find fine brews made with elderberries.

Magic Hat’s Elderberry brew – Elder Betty…Brews, Breasts and Berries!

Elder was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1831 to 1905. Recent research on elderberry extracts have been conducted on the ability to inhibit flu viruses and cancer. Such papers include: Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections (pubmed 15080016);  Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro (pubmed 19682714);  Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses (pubmed  PMC3056848).

Scientists have been focusing their research mainly on the elderberries – but not on the other parts of the plant. One should avoid eating unripe berries, as well as using branches, leaves and roots of Elder for medicine since they contain cyanogenic glucosides. Consumption of these parts of the plant may cause nausea, diarrhea and disorientation. !!!!!*!!

Elder (Sambucus spp.) got its common name from the Anglo Saxon word Aeld, which means fire. Clip a branch and you will notice that it is hollow inside. These hollow stems have been made into pipes and to blow air into smoldering flame as well as whistles and flutes.  The Latin Sambucus is reported to possibly be derived from Sambuke, a musical instrument thought to be made from Elder wood.

Elder wood has a hollow pith that can be cleaned out for pipes and flutes

one of the Elder sticks hollowed out for a primitive flute

By mid-summer, Elders demand respect as they hang their heavy heads of deep purple berries in the warm steamy air. These berries are a distant reminder of the white, lacy flower inflorescences of late May and early June. Elderberries can be made into wines, immune syrups, and lozenges for the cold season ahead. Consider finding an Elder growing  near the water’s edge or in low lying areas and pick of its berries as others before you have done for centuries. Perhaps even meet one of the dryads hanging out within. (just checking to make sure you readers haven’t fallen asleep yet). Make a syrup to store in the refrigerator, and at the onset of a cold or flu, take one tablespoon 2 – 3 times a day or even one tablespoon an hour.

Show respect to our Elders, and may their spirits be good.

Elderberry syrup made with cloves, cinnamon sticks and ginger

For a demonstration on how to make homemade elderberry syrup and other herbal remedies, come to our “Growing Your Immunity” workshop in the garden on Saturday, October 6 from 1-4 pm. Email helometz@hotmail.com if you interested.

 

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Plant Rant: Jim Duke’s Herb a Day on St. John’s-[Wort] Day

Celebrating Saint John, June 24 (adapted, edited and updated from Jim’s “electronic online newsletter” archives from 2001 and 1989)

The week spanning Father’s Day (June 17, 2001) to St. John’s Day (June 24, 2001), stresses a saintly plant, St. John’s-wort, Hypericum perforatum, and its relatives St. Andrew’s Cross and St. Peter’s-wort, a real saintly combination. As best I can determine, Hypericum was not mentioned in the Bible, though St. John’s-wort does grow in the Holy Land now as a weed. And I have seen it there, cultivated as a medicinal. Poor Israel, with little forest and little fresh water, is better off with a sun-loving weed, like Hypericum perforatum, than a moist forest species like Hypericum punctatum.

Overgrowth of introduced forest-tolerant weeds, like bittersweet, honeysuckle and multiflora rose, are choking out important forest medicinal plants like black cohosh and wild yam, and the subject of today’s rant, Hypericum punctatum. The latter does better in forest, and has more active ingredients (I think), than does the introduced European weed, Hypericum perforatum. Hence, methinks, the forest species may be potentially more medicinally important than the Klamath Weed, another name for Hypericum perforatum, which once had a price on its head in California.

Native Hypericum punctatum, Spotted St. Johnswort, with larger leaves and smaller flowers

Along Highway 29, Howard County, Maryland, and probably along most highways in the U.S., in full sun, you’ll find the introduced weed, Hypericum perforatum. But drop out of the heat of the highway into the cool of the eastern deciduous forest, and you’ll find the shade-tolerant native American medicinal plant, also known as St. John’s-wort, Hypericum punctatum, with bigger leaves and smaller flowers than the European weed. More importantly, analyses provided me more than a decade ago (see below) that my Hypericum punctatum contained more of the active ingredient, hypericin and related compounds, than the weed. This tells me, if not the FDA, and the merchants of Hypericum perforatum, that our Native American species would be more medicinal for those activities based on hypericin than the better studied weed.

Non-native Hypericum perforatum, Common St. Johnswort, smaller leaves and larger flowers

From my database at the USDA (http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke), here are the biological activities for hypericin:  *HYPERICIN: Antiadenomic IC>80= >5 uM BO2; Antianemic IC50= 5 ug/ml FT66(1):66; Anticytomegalic FT66(1):65; Antidepressant 411/; Antiflu PM56(6):651; Antigliomic IC50=<10 uM/l HG40:23; Antiherpetic FT66(1):65; AntiHIV PM56(6):651; Antiinflammatory HG40:24; Antileukemic HG19:19; Antileukotrienic HG40:24; Antiproliferant IC50= 1.7 ug/ml FT66(1):66; IC74=10uM BO2; Antiretroviral 50 ug mus iv EMP5:221; Antistomatitic PM56(6):651; Antitumor (Brain) IC74=10uM BO2; Antiviral 5 ug/ml (with UV) FT66(1):66; Anxiolytic 411/; Apoptotic HG40:23; Bactericide; Cytotoxic CD50=1.2ug/ml; Herbicide; Insecticide; Larvicide 438/; MAO-Inhibitor 411/; Melatoninergic QRNM 1997:292; Photodermatotic JBH; Phototoxic 30-40 mg ivn man SHT56; Phototoxic 3g/kg HG19:30; Protein-Kinase-Inhibitor IC50= 1.7 ug/ml FT66(1):66; 10-100uM BOI; IC50=4-12 uM BO2; IC72=2.5 uM (under light) IC50=0.02uM (w high light) BO2; PTK-Inhibitor 10-100uM BOI IC50=0.02-0.4 uM BO2 (w high light); Tonic CAN; Tranquilizer CAN; Tr! emorigenic AFR27:212; Viricide EC50=0.8 PM56(6):651;

And those are just the data accrued for hypericin, one of dozens of biologically active compounds in Hypericum punctatum and the better studied H. perforatum. Yes, I am suggesting that from a commercial view, Hypericum punctatum might be a poor man’s generic equivalent, cheaper and more potent, than the processed standardized Hypericum perforatum extract. But yes, I also believe that those who can afford the processed standardized St. John’s-wort are more likely to get the a specified dosage of hypericin. Remember these secondary metabolites like hypericin often vary 10-fold, sometimes more than 100-fold. So without analyzing my Hypericum perforatum anew I don’t know how much hypericin it contains. Nor would I know how much the weedy species along Highway 29 contained, without analysis.

Hypericum, mixed with my Father’s Day flowering evening primrose; serotoninergic tryptophan rich, Oenothera biennis, would seem to me to be the herbal mixture of choice for PMS and PMDD, after reading Brown (2001). Of course, allopathic Dr. Brown in a mass distribution medium, sponsored by Eli Lilly, dismisses the hypericum and doesn’t even mention the evening primrose, herb of choice for PMS (premenstrual syndrome) if not PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).  “The only pathophysiologic factor that has been demonstrated to be associated with premenstrual symptoms in clinical trials is a serotonin deficiency. .” But Brown adds that healthy diet and regular exercise have benefits with low risk of adverse events (and should be recommended to virtually all women). Pharmacologic therapies carry a greater risk. Options are available: dietary modifications, vitamin and mineral supplementation, exercise, psychotherapy and relaxation [diet with ca 60% complex carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 20% fat. Limit intake of sodium and caffeine. Eat smaller and more frequent meals.] Supplements include vitamin E, vitamin B6, and calcium. Vitamin E, at 400 IU daily ameliorates breast tenderness. Vitamin B6 is required for the synthesis of serotonin. Increased B6 intake may increase serotonin concentrations. Dosages of vitamin B6 should not exceed 300 mg. Calcium relieves physical and emotional symptoms (1200 mg daily) (GI tract cannot absorb more than! 500 mg at one time). “Several herbal remedies, including St. John’s-wort, have also been suggested for the treatment of PMS and PMDD, but published data to support these uses are scarce. [Here she recites the pharmacy Party Line]… Psychotropic agents used include anxiolytics, tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotoninreuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (in women who experience severe emotional symptoms). Then Brown names the pharmaceutical alternatives, e.g. alprazolam 0.25 to 0.5 mg tid; buspirone 10 mg tid; nortriptyline, 50 to 125 mg daily, and clomipramine, 25 to 75 mg daily and some of their side effects: cardiotoxicity, seizures, anticholinergic effects, weight gain, and possibly more serious effects in overdose. SSRIs are her choice for PMDD. Fluoxetine (SarafemÔ), the most extensively studied for PMDD, and is the only SSRI approved by the FDA for PMDD. A meta-analysis found treatment with SSRIs was favored over placebo for PMDD. That’s the pharmacy party line. Here’s! my party line. I’d recommend to my daughter instead, St. John’s-wort and evening primrose seed (oil approved in Great Britain for PMS). St. John’s-wort, has been compared favorably with many of these pharmaceuticals, and tends to have fewer side effects. Evening primrose oil is a major source of GLA, also useful for the symptoms of PMS and the seeds after extraction of the oil are rich in tryptophan, dietary precursor of the serotonin which Brown mentions is deficient in most PMS and PMDD females. [Brown, C. 2001. Helping Women Cope with Premenstrual Symptoms. Highlights Newsletter 4(2):1-6.]

The FDA  announced that St. John’s-wort was a detoxifier, as herbalists have long maintained. And they were right when they said grapefruit juice could potentiate many medicines. As a matter of fact, grapefruit can potentiate Viagra enough that you could halve your dose, saving $5.00 a pop. But St. John’s-wort reportedly detoxifies the same drugs that grapefruit potentiates. So if you are taking some pharamceutical poisons, you may not wish to use St. John’s-wort, either the weedy species or the woodland species. (Or as Herbal Ed Smith quipped, when he heard about the depotentiation of potent pharmaceutical poisons, he was going to give up the poisonous pharmaceuticals instead of the St. John’s-wort.). It may detoxify that medicine, nullifying or reducing the intended medical effect.  Here are some things I published a decade ago relating to the same subject, but long before it was proven than hypericum was a detoxifier. And before JAMA “proved” (according to their questionable standards) that St. John’s-wort was no better than placebo for serious depression. Respectable herbalists who have published on the subject, almost unanimously have qualified that St. John’s-wort is for mild to moderate, not serious, depression. The JAMA article tended to denigrate the numerous clinical trials that showed that St. John’s-wort was as effective as many of the more often prescribed pharmaceuticals for mild to moderate depression, cheaper and with fewer side effects. Small wonder that St. John’s-wort outsells Prozac and other prescription antidepressants in Germany. I think America will be a happier and healthier country when the natural outsells the synthetic antidepressant in our country too. ~Jim Duke

Jim Duke singing “Hush Puppy” with Jerry Cott discussing his study:

Evening Primrose opening at dusk:

From the 1989 Archives:

St. Peter’s Cross. The Bu$iness of Herbs 7(4):6-7, September/October. Hypericum (A decade ago)  With Gordon Cragg, National Cancer Institute (NCI), and his associates, I collected several vouchered specimens of Hypericum, including Hypericum hypericoides, the St. Andrew’s Cross, a.k.a. St. Peter’s-wort. Evenly divided samples were submitted independently to Drs. Neil Towers and Leon Zalkow for hypericin  analysis. Their analyses, while varying quantitatively, showed  reasonably good qualitative agreement, with H. punctatum being highest and H. hypericoides being lowest by both analyses. Strangely and unexpectedly, Gordon Cragg (personal communication) wrote that only the H. hypericoides showed any activity in the NCI  AIDS screen. Dr. Cragg even reported that synthetic hypericin showed no activity. This goes against what we had expected from the National Academy of Science (85:5230?4, 1988): “Hypericin and pseudohypericin display an extremely effective antiviral activity when administered to mice after retroviral infection.” In view of the unexpected inactivity of Hypericum perforatum and H. punctatum collected after flowering in 1988 and the surprising activity of H. hypericoides, Dr. Cragg has requested flowering specimens this year. Perhaps the folklore regarding phenology (the timing of biological phenomena) is correct. Maybe these plants are more active when flowering. Around St. John’s Day, June 24, I obtained flowering material of Hypericum perforatum for analysis. Parallel flowering material of H. hypericoides will perforce come later since it is phenologically different. H. perforatum, supposed to peak flowering around the summer solstice and St. John’s Day, is reported to possess more biological activity and antiretroviral hypericin at flowering time. H. punctatum, at least at Herbal Vineyard, starts flowering a bit later than H. perforatum, but well before H. hypericoides. The St. Andrew’s Cross flowers later. St. Andrew’s Day is much later than St. John’s Day, too, falling on November 30, well past the flowering time of H. hypericoides, mostly July and August here in Maryland. While pondering phenology of various Hypericums, it is appropriate to quote from Chris Hobbs’ excellent review of the St. John’s Wort, “Some early Christian authors claimed that red spots, symbolic of the blood of St. John, appeared on leaves of Hypericum spp. on August 29, the anniversary of the saint’s beheading, while others considered that the best day to pick the plant was on June 24, the day of the St. John’s feast.” (HerbalGram No. 18/19). Farther south, Hypericum hypericoides can be found in flower on St. Andrew’s Day (November 30) or St. Peter’s Feast (January 18), so I’ll appeal to my Florida colleagues to collect a kilo of flowering St. Andrew’s Cross on specified days. In Hartwell’s Plants Used Against Cancer the St. Andrew’s Cross, under the name Peter’s Wort, is mentioned as a South Carolina “remedy” for tumors. According to Moerman (Medicinal Plants of Native America, 1986) the Alabama Indians used the whole plant infusion as a collyrium (eye medication) and for dysentery, the decoction for children who were too weak to walk. Choctaw took the root decoction for colic, also using the infusion as a collyrium. Houma packed the bark into aching caries, using the scraped root decoction for fever and for pain. Other references suggest folk astringent, hemostat, lithontriptic (dissolving deposits such as gallstones and kidney stones), purgative, resolvent and tonic activities.  It’s clear that phytochemical profiles and bioactivities of plants and people vary phenologically, ecologically, and even show diurnal (day to night) and possibly lunar variations. Poppy alkaloid profiles are different by night and by day. Certainly, photoactive compounds like hypericin must show diurnal variations as well. Is it possible that photoactive plants collected at midnight might have different activities than the same plant collected at noon? Stay tuned until St. Andrew’s Day. We may have some answers. Hopefully, the Peter’s Wort will show anti-AIDS activity, sparing us from the anaphrodisiac “safe sex” syndrome.  ALL-SAINT’S TEA (alias SynergisTea) Jim Duke  Perhaps we should call it Dispari-Tea because it was contrived for a desperate man, dying of AIDS. His money was almost exhausted and a friend had come to me. What can we do? We’ve tried everything! And his T-cell count was still going down. I gave him my standard answer. I am a botanist. I do not prescribe!  “But Jim, what would you do if you were dying of AIDS? There must be something you’ve learned after nearly a decade of watching the AIDS literature and collaborating with the National Cancer Institute.” Well, I said, if I were dying of AIDS, I would try a mixture I would call the All-Saints-Tea which would contain St. Andrew’s Cross (alias St. Peter’s-wort) (Hypericum hypericoides) and St. John’s-wort (Hypericum perforatum and Hypericum punctatum), generously mixed with all-heal or heal-all (Prunella vulgaris). Matter of fact, I’d mix in any species of Hypericum I came across. I’d sweeten my All-Saint’s Tea with licorice, (watching my blood pressure and potassium levels.) I’d add in some hyssop which has shown some antaAIDs activity. I’d take the better proven immune boosters (like coneflower, Echinacea spp, and Huang Qi, Astragalus spp) and I ask Subhuti Dharmananda for his latest immune-boosting Chinese traditional concoctions, which would probably contain the latter.  Further I get a juicer or blender and indulge in a wide variety of vegetable juices and fruit juices. My vegetable juices would have a lot of garlic/onion in them for flavoring and immunoregulation as well. Additionally I have some one growing some bitter melon (Momordica charantia) and eat it every day. I’d eat a pear and an apple a day, or consume the juice of several pears, if they were cheap. Pears are one of the better sources of caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid.  If I were taking AZT I would also consume a few legume nodules (reported to be the best vegetable source of heme). Heme is reportedly synergistic with AZT. My hog peanut is loaded with nodules and almost a weed in my valley.   And I would call every dermatologist familiar with photopheresis for lymphoma or with the PUVA (psoralen plus untraviolet A) treatment for psoriasis, an autoimmune disease. I’d ask them if any AID’s patients had been through their treatment and I would tell them that I wanted to go through the PUVA or Photopheresis, if they knew of no reason why an AIDS patient should not undergo the treatment. If anyone even hinted that photopheresis or PUVA might be helpful, I would go to the Deep Sea area, ingesting seeds of the Bishop’s Weed (Ammi majus) and exposing myself to the sun, getting vigorously massaged with evening primrose oil extracts of Hypericum flowers, collected on St. John’s Day. Israeli scientists tell me that there are synergies of the hypericin compounds. I would have many species of Hypericum in my Hypericum oil, hoping to get several hypericin-like compounds which are synergistically more potent than an equivalent amount of any one or two of them. Even if they didn’t! kill the virus, they might curb my depression, thereby enhancing my immune system.  I’d grow and multiply the endangered Venus-fly-trap, not convinced that the “carnivora” treatment for AIDS was anything more than a scam. But I’d steep a leaf or two of the Venus-fly trap in my tea and I would  contemplate the wonders of this insectivorous plants and God’s (and/or Nature’s) other wonders.

St. Johnswort infused oil

The garden curator’s side note: The red staining pigment found in St. John’s-wort flowers is referred to as hypericin or the “blood of St. John.”  If you observe the flowers growing along the side of the road or in a field, take one and rub it between your fingers and the red pigment, hypericin, will become apparent. One can also use the flowers of St. John’s-wort to make an infused oil for neuralgia, sore muscles, burns, sunburns, strains, sciatica and bruises.  To make the oil, take fresh flowers and buds, place in a quart jar, and cover the flowers with oil. It is often to an advantage to slightly crush the flowers, but not always necessary. Keep the jar covered with a tight lid or with cheese cloth, place it in a warm sunny spot for a couple of weeks – shaking or stirring it daily. You will notice the oil turn deep red. After two weeks or so, strain the flowers out and keep in a cool, dry, dark area. Use topically or make a salve with the oil.

For mild to moderate depression, Jim and I also make a vinaigrette containing the infused oil of St. John’ s-wort, walnut oil for its omega -3’s, seven stigma of saffron due to an Iranian study: Comparison of Crocus sativus L. and imipramine in the treatment of
mild to moderate depression: A pilot double-blind randomized trial
[ISRCTN45683816] Shahin Akhondzadeh*1, Hasan Fallah-Pour1, Khosro Afkham1, Amir-
Hossein Jamshidi2 and Farahnaz Khalighi-Cigaroudi2http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC517724/pdf/1472-6882-4-12.pdf

Saffron consists of the stigma of the Crocus sativus

___________________________________________________________________

Garden report from 7/1/2012:

I just returned from the garden and must report that the derecho of Friday night dumped a huge litter of leaves, branches, large limbs etc. all over the Duke’s yard, but fortunately, nothing was hurt in the storm. The power remains out at the Duke’s, and Jim and Peggy are without air conditioner, water, and obviously anything electric. Fortunately, their neighbor has been bringing over morning coffee for Peggy, and Sara has been out picking and raking up and keeping on top of things.

Tonight, while stopping by for a visit to the garden and to check on Jim and Peggy, we were greeted by the opening of the night blooming cactus, Selenicereus grandiflora or Queen of the Night! Emerging out of the side of the thin and rambling cactus has been an ever evolving shape. This shape initially started out as a bump of a wooly and downy feather looking mass and eventually grew into a bud with the appearance of a long tapering profile resembling a swan neck, head and beak. During the week, the neck portion of the bud grew to almost six inches and the outer rays surrounding the tight large bud started to expand. Just as dusk approached, the bud started to become “Queen of the Night.” The beak point of the bud opened to a small one inch diameter revealing the numerous inner stamens and stellar stigma inside. Within the next fifteen minutes, the bud became a crepuscular star with a huge ivory white corolla and yellow and mauve rays expanding out as the evening drew darker. This beautiful sight helped to usher in the almost full and waxing gibbous moon. As a matter of note, the flower was illuminated and faced the direction of the moon as it rose in the eastern sky. We did not detect any pollinators to the flower, but I have read that in their native environment of Central America, West Indies and Mexico, night-blooming cacti depend on bats for pollination.

According to Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D. (1922), Selenicerus grandiflora  is used medicinally as a cardiotonic  and to increase renal secretions for individuals with palpitations and angina acting as a sedative and a diuretic. (http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/felter/selenicereus-gran.html)

When I plan to return to the garden in the morning, I know the flower will be limp and exhausted, hanging its spent corolla downward. She is a Queen of the Night for only one night. There is a second bud in queue and yet to be determined as to when it will elongate, expand and open wide. Perhaps during this full moon cycle, perhaps on July 4th. Hard to say. C’est la vie.

to see what else was blooming during June, come visit us on our facebook photo album.

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