Thursday, September 5, 2013

FOOD FOREST MEDICINE Monograph #3: Black Walnut

Black Walnut  
LATIN NAME:  Juglans nigra (Juglans cinerea)
BRIEF DESCRIPTION: Juglans nigra and Juglans cinerea (Black Walnut and Butternut) are traditionally known to have great medicinal properties, similar to their European cousin (Juglans regia). However, there are very few studies that illuminate the qualities of Juglans nigra specifically.  Most of the scientific understanding of Juglans nigra is inferred from the study of Juglans cinerea/regia.

The green hull of Black Walnut, along with the bark, has traditionally been used to treat parasites, specifically worms.  Its action as an anti-parasitic drug can easily be remembered by the natural history of the walnut family.  The roots of the walnut tree secrete a substance that is toxic to other plant life (juglone).  That is why many plants cannot grow beneath a walnut tree. It keeps the ground clear of other plants that might compete with it for growth, in the same way that it kills parasites that compete for nutrients in the human body.

Walnut hulls are also a “cathartic” medicine, known for their purging qualities, and can been used to treat constipation.  It does this by acting on the liver, gallbladder, muscle fibers and mucous membranes of the bowels.  Lower doses are thought to effectively tonify the mucous membranes of the bowels.

It is thought that the anti-parasitic and bowel-tonifying action of walnut can help promote skin health too (when skin lesions are related to constipation or parasites).

The nuts are a dietary source of healthy fatty acids. Traditionally recommended that pregnant women consume the nut (NOT the leaves or the hulls), in order to encourage the healthy development of the baby’s brain and other organs.  This is consistent with what we know today about the positive relationship between healthy fatty acids (omega 3 and 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids) and their role in the cognitive development of children.

The good-fat content of walnuts also makes them great food for the heart.
Walnuts can help lower cholesterol and prevent plaques from forming in the arteries.  In 2003, The FDA stated that eating 1.5 oz. per day of walnuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.  Walnuts contain heart healthy nutrients such as unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, potassium and folate.  They are also high in vitamin E and the potent antioxidant, ellagic acid.  Preliminary animal studies show that ellagic acid has potential anti-cancer action.

*note that this monograph does not include ALL potential interactions or safety concerns.  Please consult your healthcare professional before using any plant substances listed herein.

PARTS USED: nut, hull, husk, leaves, bark

ACTIONS:  anti-parasitic, purgative, cardio protective (fats), nutritive

INDICATIONS:  parasites, eczema, constipation, pregnancy (nuts)
BODY SYSTEMS TREATED: cardiovascular, skin, digestive
PREPARATIONS: tincture, tea, powdered, whole food
TRADITIONAL USES: parasites, lice, scabies, bowel tonification, food-source,
colour dye.
SAFETY/CAUTIONS/INTERACTIONS: do not use while pregnant or breast-feeding. Cross reactivity with other nut allergies.
2)  Hutchens, Alma.    Indian Herbology of North America.
3)  Mitchell, William.  Plant Medicine in Practice: Using the Teachings of John Bastyr.


1) Feldman EB. The scientific evidence for a beneficial health relationship between walnuts and coronary heart disease. J Nutr 2002;132:1062S-101S.

2) Zambon D, Sabate J, Munoz S, et al. Substituting walnuts for monounsaturated fat improves the serum lipid profile of hypercholesterolemic men and women. Ann Intern Med 2000;132:538-46.

3) Chisholm A, Mann J, Skeaff M, et al. A diet rich in walnuts favourably influences plasma fatty acid profile in moderately hyperlipidaemic subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr 1998;52:12-6.

4) Sabate J, Fraser GE, Burke K, et al. Effects of walnuts on serum lipid levels and blood pressure in normal men. N Engl J Med 1993;328:603-7

5) J Nutr. 2001 Nov;131(11):2837-42.Walnut polyphenolics inhibit in vitro human plasma and LDL oxidation.These results demonstrate that walnut polyphenolics are effective inhibitors of in vitro plasma and LDL oxidation. The polyphenolic content of walnuts should be considered when evaluating their antiatherogenic potential.

6) Narayanan BA, Geoffroy O, Willingham MC, Re GG, Nixon DW (March 1999). "p53/p21(WAF1/CIP1) expression and its possible role in G1 arrest and apoptosis in ellagic acid treated cancer cells". Cancer Lett. 136 (2): 215–21. doi:10.1016/S0304-3835(98)00323-1. PMID 10355751.

7) Madal, Shivappurkar, Galati, and Stoner (1988). "Inhibition of N-nitrosobenzymethylamine metabolism and DNA binding in cultured rat esophagus by ellagic acid". Carcinogenesis 9 (7): 1313–1316. doi:10.1093/carcin/9.7.1313. PMID 3383347.

8) Mandal and Stoner; Stoner, GD (1990). "Inhibition of N-nitrosobenzymethylamine-induced esophageal tumorigenesis in rats by ellagic acid". Carcinogenesis 11 (1): 55–61. doi:10.1093/carcin/11.1.55. PMID 2295128.


*note that this monograph does not include ALL potential interactions or safety concerns.  Please consult your healthcare professional before using any plant substances listed herein.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

FOOD FOREST MEDICINE Monograph #2: Linden Tree

Basswood, Linden, Lime Flower

LATIN NAME: Tilia cordata, Tilia europaea, Tilia vulgaris, Tilia parvifolia, Tilia ulmifolia, Tilia tomentosa,  Tilia argentea, Tilia platyphyllos, Tilia grandifolia, Tilia rubra
BRIEF DESCRIPTION:  There are nearly as many medicinal uses for this grand tree as there are names and varieties of it (see names above). 

Traditionally, the magic of Tilia europa was its ability to ‘dispel evil spirits’, or to quell ‘hysteria’.  In traditional speak, this often (but not always) means that a plant was used to treat anxiety, nervousness or depression.  While there is no suggestion of its use in the treatment of depression, Tilia species are well indicated in the treatment of anxiety, nervous tension, restlessness and insomnia. One animal study suggests that Tilia species contain GABA-like substances (GABA is one of the main inhibitory/relaxing neurotransmitters in the brain), while other studies point to plant fats, such as beta-sitosterol, as playing a role in the anti-anxiety effects of  Linden(2,3). 

It is also through the relationship between nervous tension and the circulatory system that Tilia species are used to treat complaints of the heart.  It is well indicated in the treatment of high blood pressure and palpitations that are of an emotional, or anxious nature.   Its use in the treatment of heart complaints is beautifully reflected in the heart shaped leaf of the tree.  Continuing the link between Tilia and the heart, many of the myths surrounding the Linden tree describe it as a “sacred tree” for people in love.  It was thought to ensure fertility and prosperity (1).  The flower essence is also described as helping people to anchor universal love in their hearts (1).

Tilia species are also thought to have antimicrobial properties (4).  It is these properties that likely make Linden flowers part of many effective cough-relieving tea blends (5).  Part of its usefulness in treating coughs, colds and mild infections would be its diaphoretic action (4).  Diaphoretic herbs are those that help to optimize fever, so that fevers can run their course naturally, and therefore kill microbes in the body.

Lastly, due to its texture (and easy workability) and its neutrality (in regards to resins and oils in its wood), linden trees offer some of the best material for the construction of medical grade infra-red saunas.

PARTS USED: leaf, flower blossom
ACTIONS:  anti-anxiety, anti-hypertensive, diaphoretic
INDICATIONS:  anxiety, hypertension, cough
BODY SYSTEMS TREATED: cardiovascular, nervous system, lungs
HARVESTING NOTES:  June, July, when flowers are in full bloom.
PREPARATIONS:  The medicinal properties of Tilia species are typically extracted in teas and infusions, but there is also a long history of the production of Linden blossom honey in Europe.  This is a purely natural phenomenon, since bees are highly attracted to the wonderfully strong fragrance of this flower when it is in full bloom.  
TRADITIONAL USES: “hysteria” (anxiety, depression), cough
SAFETY/CAUTIONS/INTERACTIONS:  may potentiate antihypertensive drugs.  May cause palpitations in some people. 
*note that this monograph does not include ALL potential interaction or safety concerns.  Please consult your healthcare profession before using plant substances.

3)     Aguirre-Hernández E, Rosas-Acevedo H, Soto-Hernández M, Martínez AL, Moreno J, González-Trujano ME Bioactivity-guided isolation of beta-sitosterol and some fatty acids as active compounds in the anxiolytic and sedative effects of Tilia americana var. mexicana.Planta Med. 2007 Sep;73(11):1148-55. Epub 2007 Sep 7.
4)     Brantner, Adelheid, and Edith Grein. Antibacterial activity of plant extracts used externally in traditional medicine Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1994, Vol. 44:35-40.
5)     Puodziūniene G, Janulis V, Milasius A, Budnikas V. [Development of cough-relieving herbal teas] Medicina (Kaunas). 2005;41(6):500-5. Lithuanian.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

FOOD FOREST MEDICINE Monograph #1: Nettles

Stinging Nettle

LATIN NAME: Urtica dioica, Urtica urens

Generally regarded as a weed in modern times, Nettle has been used extensively throughout history.  The stalks contain fibres that have been used to make rope and cloth of very fine quality.  In fact, ancient burial sites in China and northern Europe have also yielded cloth, rope and netting made from nettle fibre (5,8).  The leaves were also used to feed livestock and the oil from the seed was used as a burning oil in Egypt (8). 
Of the variety of plants in the Food Forest, Nettle likely contains the highest amount of protein of any native plant (5).  It also contains high amounts of mineral salts (mainly calcium and calcium salts), iron, fat and chlorophyll (5,6,8).
It makes a wonderful spinach substitute and can be used to make soups, omelettes and teas that are not only therapeutic, but also delicious.
Nettle infusions (strong teas) are one of the best ways to help maintain health.   Traditionally, Nettle infusions have been used as a “blood builder” because of its ability to increase iron levels in people with anemia (5). 
Studies have shown that Stinging Nettle root can take the sting out of prostate issues in men.  One of the main areas of scientific study is the use of Nettle in the treatment of enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy- BPH).  Combinations including nettle have shown promising results with respect to alleviating the symptoms of BPH.
Nettle root has also shown promise in the treatment of seasonal allergies, although the mechanism is unclear (6).  It is thought to have an anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory effect (6). 
Nettle is also a wonderful diuretic and kidney remedy.  It can help to flush the system of toxins, such as uric acid, while supplying the body with minerals that are essential for good acid-base balance in the body.


PARTS USED:  leaf, root

ACTIONS:  nutritive, tonic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory
INDICATIONS:  health maintenance, BPH, allergies, arthritis, hair loss,  iron deficiency anemia


PREPARATIONS:  Infusion (strong tea), decoction (root), powdered (root, leaf), omelette!,  steamed and drizzled in olive oil
TRADITIONAL USES: material fibre, blood builder, food, arthritis (topical), migraines, asthma, kidney tonic.
SAFETY/CAUTIONS/INTERACTIONS:  contact skin irritation (careful during plant harvest), diuretic drugs

  *note that this monograph does not include ALL potential interactions or safety concerns.  Please consult your healthcare professional before using plant substances.

1.     5) Wood, Matthew.  The Book of Herbal Wisdom
2.     7) Mitchell, William.  Plant Medicine in Practice Using the Teachings of John Bastyr.  Elsvier    Science: Seattle, 2003.

3.     6)Mittman, P.  Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis.  Planta Med. 1990 Feb;56(1):44-7.
4.    8) Bones Kerry & Mills, Simon.  Priniciples and Practice of Phytotherapy.  Churchill Livingstone: Toronto, 2000.