Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Aloe - Aloe Vera - Aloe Barbadensis (Medicinal Herbs)

Aloe Vera (syn. A. barbadensis Mill., A. vulgaris Lam.) is a species of Aloe, a genus containing about four hundred species of flowering succulent plants and native to northern Africa. It is a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 80-100 cm tall, spreading by offsets and root sprouts. The leaves are lanceolate, thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with a serrated margin. The flowers are produced on a spike up to 90 cm tall, each flower pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2-3 cm long.

Aloe Vera has been used externally to treat various skin conditions such as cuts, burns and eczema. It is alleged that sap from Aloe Vera eases pain and reduces inflammation. Evidence on the effects of Aloe Vera sap on wound healing, however, is contradictory (Vogler and Ernst, 1999). A study performed in the 1990s showed that the healing time of a moderate to severe burn was reduced when the wound was treated on a regular basis with Aloe Vera gel, compared to the healing of the wound covered in a gauze bandage (Farrar, 2005). In contrast, another study suggested wounds to which Aloe Vera gel was applied were significantly slower to heal (Schmidt and Greenspoon, 1991).

Aloe Vera's beneficial properties may be attributed to mucopolysaccharides present in the inner gel of the leaf, especially acemannan (acetylated mannans). An injectable form of acemannan manufactured and marketed by Carrington Laboratories as Acemannan Immunostimulant™ has been approved in the USA for treatment of fibrosarcoma (a type of cancer) in dogs and cats after clinical trials. It has not been approved for use by humans, and, although it is not a drug, its sale is controlled and it can only be obtained through a veterinary doctor.

Cosmetic companies add sap or other derivatives from Aloe Vera to products such as makeup,tissues, moisturisers, soaps, sunscreens, shampoos and lotions, though the effectiveness of Aloe Vera in these products remains unknown. Aloe Vera gel is also alleged to be useful for dry skin conditions, especially eczema around the eyes and sensitive facial skin.

An article published in the British Journal of General Practice suggests that Aloe Vera is effective at treating athlete's foot.

Whether or not it promotes wound healing is unknown, and even though there are some promising results, clinical effectiveness of oral or topical Aloe Vera remains unclear at present.

Aloe Vera juice may help some people with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. Side effects can occur and consulting a doctor before ingesting any form of Aloe Vera, including Aloe Vera juice, is highly recommended.

Technorati Tags: Aloe, Aloe Vera, Medicinal Herbs

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Alfalfa - Medicago sativa (Medicinal Herbs)

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), also known as Lucerne, Purple Medic and Trefoil (from Spanish Alfalfa, ultimately Arabic: البرسيم الحجازي; al-fasfasa), is a perennial flowering plant cultivated as an important forage crop. In the UK, where it is not all that widely grown, it tends to be known as lucerne.

Alfalfa is one of the most important legumes used in agriculture. The US is the largest alfalfa producer in the world, but considerable acreage is found in Argentina (primarily grazed), Australia, South Africa, and the Middle East. Alfalfa has a wide range of adaptation and can be grown from very cold northern plains to high mountain valleys, from rich temperate agricultural regions to Mediterranean climates and searing hot deserts.

Alfalfa lives from three to twelve years, depending on variety and climate. It is a cool season perennial legume, sometimes growing to a height of 1 meter. It resembles clover with clusters of small purple flowers. It also has a deep root system sometimes stretching to 4.5 metres. This makes it very resilient, especially to droughts. It has a tetraploid genome.

Alfalfa is native to Iran and neighboring regions, where it was probably domesticated during the Bronze Age to feed horses being brought from Central Asia. It came to Greece around 490 B.C. being used as a horse feed for Persian army. It was introduced from Chile to the United States around 1860. It is widely grown throughout the world as forage for cattle, and is most often harvested as hay, but can be made into silage, grazed, or fed as greenchop. Alfalfa has the highest feeding value of all common hay crops, being used less frequently as pasture. Like other legumes, its root nodules contain bacteria, Sinorhizobium meliloti, with the ability to fix nitrogen, producing a high-protein feed regardless of available nitrogen in the soil.

Its wide cultivation beginning in the seventeenth century was an important advance in European agriculture. Its symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and use as animal feed greatly improved agricultural efficiency. When grown on soils where it is well-adapted, alfalfa is the highest yielding forage plant.

Alfalfa is a plant that exhibits autotoxicity, which means that it is difficult for alfalfa seed to grow in existing stands of alfalfa. Therefore, it is recommended that alfalfa fields be rotated with other species (e.g. corn, wheat) before reseeding.

Its primary use is for dairy production, followed by beef, horses, sheep, and goats, but it is sometimes used for human consumption. Alfalfa sprouts are used as a salad ingredient in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Tender shoots are eaten in some places as a leaf vegetable. Human consumption of older plant parts is limited primarily by very high fiber content. Dehydrated alfalfa leaf is commercially available as a dietary supplement in several forms, such as tablets, powders and tea. Alfalfa is believed to be a galactagogue.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfalfa

Technorati Tags: Alfalfa, Medicago sativa, Medicinal Herbs

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