Perilla and the Treatment of Allergy

Perilla (Perilla frutescens Britt.), a traditional Chinese herb, has recently received special attention because of its beneficial effects in the treatment of some kinds of allergic reactions without the side effects associated with some other used antiallergy medicines. In this chapter, the authors present a review of the problem of allergy and the current favorable evidence for the use of Perilla products towards its resolution. The Allergy Problem Allergy is an abnormal immune reaction of the body to allergens such as pollen, dust, certain foods, drugs, animal fur, animal pets, animal excretions, feathers, microorganisms, cosmetics, textiles, dyes, smoke, chemical pollutants and insect stings. Certain conditions such as cold, heat, or light may also cause allergic symptoms in some susceptible people. Some allergens are just specific to some individuals but not to others. Allergens may act via inhalation, ingestion, injection or by contact with the skin. The resulting allergy may cause the victim to have a medical problem such as hay fever (allergicrhinitis), or atopic dermatitis (eczema), or allergic asthma, with symptoms ranging from sneezing, rhinorrhea, nasal itch, obstruction to nasal air-flow, loss of sense Read more […]

Saffron: Principal Agricultural Practices

Soil Preparation Preceding the planting of corms, the soil is ploughed to a depth of about 30 cm and left to rest for a period from a few weeks to the whole winter. The cultivated area is divided up into plots of about 1000 square metres (20×40–50 m). A ridging hoe is used to prepare the bed; four parallel furrows, 2 by 2, are cut to a depth of about 10 cm for a length of 10–15 cm. The corms are placed or lightly driven into place with the apex uppermost, generally in contact with one another (for more details see the section Planting out, below). They are then covered with the soil from the next furrow in line, to form a mound of about 10 cm in height. Four furrows make up a bed, locally called a patch. Each patch is about 80 cm wide, slightly raised to a height of 10– 15 cm and about 50 cm long. The patches are separated from each other by a furrow, about 30 cm wide, which serves to give access for cultivation and above all acts as a drainage ditch. Fertilizing The soil in Navelli is fertilized with mature horse or cow manure (about 30 tons/ha). Contrary to cultivation practices in Spain and Greece, no mineral fertilizers whatsoever are used in Navelli. In Borgo Val di Taro (Parma), small saffron plantations Read more […]

Traditional Uses of Neem

The therapeutic efficacy of neem must have been known to man since antiquity as a result of constant experimentation with nature. Ancient man observed the unique features of this tree: a bitter taste, non-poisonous to man, but deleterious to lower forms of life. This might have resulted in its use as a medicine in various cultures, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and later on in other parts of the world. Ayurveda The word neem is derived from Sanskrit Nimba, which means “to bestow health”; the various Sanskrit synonyms of neem signify the pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the tree. It has been nicknamed Neta — a leader of medicinal plants, Pichumarda — antileprotic, Ravisambba — sun ray-like effects in providing health, Arishta — resistant to insects, Sbeetal — cooling (cools the human system by giving relief in diseases caused by hotness, such as skin diseases and fevers), and Krimighana — anthelmintic. It was considered light in digestion, hot in effect, cold in property. In earlier times, patients with incurable diseases were advised to make neem their way of life. They were to spend most of the day under the shade of this tree. They were to drink infusions of various parts of Read more […]

Turmeric as Spice and Flavorant

  Spices are the plant products or a mixture thereof free from extraneous matter, cultivated, and processed for their aroma, pungency, flavor and fragrance, natural color, and medicinal qualities or otherwise desirable properties. They consist of rhizomes, bulbs, barks, flower buds, stigmata, fruits, seeds, and leaves of plant origin. Spices are food adjuncts, which have been in use for thousands of years, to impart flavor and aroma or piquancy to foods. They are used to prepare culinary dishes and have little or no nutritive value, but they stimulate the appetite, add zest for food, enhance the taste, and delight the gourmet. As there is a need to reduce the fat, salt, and sugar used in food preparation for health reasons, it becomes critical to pay attention to alternative ways to enhance the natural flavors of foods. Value can also be added to meals by enhancing and improving presentation and by using appropriate garnishes. The primary function of a spice in food is to improve its sensory appeal to the consumer. Food presentation is the arrangement of food on a plate, tray, or steam line in a simple appetizing way. This is generally accomplished by imparting its own characteristic color, flavor, aroma, and Read more […]

Uses and Economic Importance of Vetiver

For centuries vetiver has been used in India both as an aromatic plant and for medicinal purposes, and as a plant used for soil conservation. The scented roots are used directly in the making of mats, baskets, fans, bags, curtains, etc., or indirectly by extraction for the distillation of the essential oil. From India the vetiver spread throughout the Tropics. One particular impetus for the spreading of the plant proved to be the Colonial Period, during which it spread both as an aromatic plant and as a hedge plant. After the Second World War and the subsequent end of colonialism, vetiver declined in importance in many countries. Erosion control Recently, many projects have been launched with the aim of increasing the use of vetiver in erosion control. Given its morphological, physiological, and ecological characteristics, as discussed in the previous chapters, it is particularly suited to the formation of hedges with a deep root system. In these countries vetiver is used to slow the run-off of the torrential rains (monsoons) and to slow and stop topsoil erosion, but only in the last decade have such farming practices been seriously considered to the point of study and a clearer definition of both the botanical and Read more […]

Canavalia ensiformis L. DC (Jackbean)

Canavalia ensiformis (L.) DC commonly known as jackbean is a legume native to Central and South America from Mexico south to Brazil and Peru, and to the West Indies. The earliest known record of its existence is from about 900 ad., from Oaxaca in central Mexico. It is cultivated on a small scale throughout the tropics, but is of relatively little economic importance in world trade). C. ensiformis is an annual plant, growing bushy and erect from 0.6-1.6 m in height, becoming woody with age. It can also grow as a climber, especially if shaded. Branches are normally found singly at the lower nodes. However, as many as three can develop at one node. Leaves arise alternately and are trifoliate. Leaflets, commonly up to 12 cm long, are ovate-elliptic. The center leaflet is slightly elongated. Petioles are as long as the leaflets. The flowers are typically papillionaceous, rose to purple in color, rounded, about 2 cm long; up to 20 may develop in groups of 2-3 on each peduncle. Pods are linear, slightly curved, and commonly 30 x 2.5 cm in size. Seeds are white or ivory with a brownish mark near the grayish hilum, about 2.1 x 1.5 x 1 cm in size; 12-20 develop in each pod. The jackbean has been more or less employed as Read more […]

Coix lacryma-jobi L. (Jobstears)

Geographic Distribution and Importance Jobstears (Coix lacryma-jobi) belongs to the Gramineae and is a diploid species (2n = 20). It is widely distributed in the temperate zones in the world, especially in humid areas of low latitude. In China, it is mainly distributed in the south provinces and there are wild and cultivated types of jobstears. Jobstears is a perennial root species and has strong root system with thick fibrous roots (3 mm in diameter). The stem is straight, 1 -1.5 m high and has ten nodes and some branches. The leaf is conifer-shaped and 30 cm in length and 1.5-3 cm in width, midrib thick and prominent. Unisexual flower, monoexism and axillary or top-growing raceme. Female spikelets are at the base of inflorescence and male spikelets at the top of the inflorescence. The blooming period is July-September and in September-October the grains ripen. The fruit of jobstears is oval with a hard outer shell. The endosperm and embryo of the fruit is called “Job’s tears” and are utilized for both food and medicine. The nutritive value of Jobstears is primarily as a cereal crop and the kernel is reputed to be “the king of cereals”. Jobstears is also a highly waterlogging-, drought- and salt-tolerant and high-productive Read more […]

Citrus spp.

Distribution and Importance of Citrus Citrus is cultivated in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Those areas with the highest level of production include parts of the United States (Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona), Asia (Japan, China, India, and other areas), Central America (Mexico), South America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Trinidad, and Tobago), the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and other areas), South Africa, and Australia. These regions help define a “citrus belt” which is contained between 35°N and 35°S. Some of these areas produce citrus on a large scale and export fruit, while others produce fruit mainly for local consumption. Basically, there are four major commercial species of Citrus, each of which contains different cultivars which are grown in different areas of the world depending upon the climate. Citrus sinensis includes the sweet oranges, and the major cultivars include Hamlin, Navel, Valencia, and Pineapple oranges. The major cultivars of C. paradisi (grapefruit) are Duncan, Marsh, Thompson Pink, and Ruby. The most common lemons (C. limori) include the Bearss, Meyer, and Ponderosa cultivars, while the most common C. aurantifolia variety is the Tahiti Read more […]

Claviceps purpurea (Ergot):

Ergot (Claviceps purpurea), best known as a disease of rye and some other grasses, is probably the most widely cultivated fungus and has now become an important field crop. The main reason for its importance is the presence of ergot alkaloids, extensively used in medicine. Currently, ergot alkaloids cover a large field of therapeutic uses as drugs of high potency in the treatment of uterine atonia, postpartum bleeding, migraine, orthostatic circulatory disturbances, senile cerebral insufficiency, hypertension, hyperprolactinemia, acromegaly, and parkinsonism. Recently, new therapeutic uses have emerged, such as, e.g., against schizophrenia, applications based on newly discovered antibacterial and cytostatic effects, immunomodulatory and hypolipemic activity. Of the naturally occurring ergot alkaloids only two are used in the therapy: ergotamine and ergometrine. The rest of the therapeutically important ergot compounds are semisynthetic compounds. Ergot alkaloids are traditionally obtained by extraction of ergot sclerotia artificially cultivated on cereals. The parasitic cultures are not able to produce all alkaloids, e.g., clavine, necessary for most semisynthetic drugs. Crop fluctuations and market demand have Read more […]

Althaea officinalis L. (Marshmallow)

Habit and Distribution of the Plant The genus Althaea belongs to the family Malvaceae and includes 12 species, which are located mainly in Europe, with the exception of the Scandinavian countries, and the Near East (western and north Asia). They are cultivated mainly in Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Russia, and have been introduced in North and South America. The most important species of the genus is Althaea officinalis L. (marshmallow), densely gray-pubescent perennial up to 1.5-2 m, with stellate hairs. Leaves triangularovate, acute, crenate-serrate, undivided or palmately 3-5-lobed, often somewhat plicate. Flowers solitary or clustered in axillary inflorescences shorter than the substanding leaf. Epicalix segments linear-lanceolate. Sepals ovate, acute, curved over the fruit. Petals, 15-20 mm, very pale, lilac-pink, rarely deeper pink. Anthers are purplish red. Mericarps more or less densely covered with stellate hairs. The chromosome number is 2n = 42. The plant has a woody rootstock from which numerous roots arise, up to 30 cm in length. The roots (Radix Althaea naturalis and mundata); the leaves (Folia Althaeae), and the flowers (Flores Althaeae) are used in medicine. Marshmallow Read more […]