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© Kat Morgenstern
April 2003

Vol.II Issue: 1

This Issue: (5K)

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This newsletter has been a long time coming, and you have all been very patient about it, thank you. Well, the reason for this long delay is that I have been extremely busy reorganizing the entire website over the past 3 month. At long last it is approaching the final stages of this process, PHEW! I had to hold off with the newsletter, because I reshuffled everything and turned it upside down - in an effort to make the site not only more interesting but also more easy to navigate. The newsletter is now 'on top' meaning the current issue opens as the front page along with navigation tools that give access to the rest of the site. For those of you who know html, this site now uses frames to make the navigation easier. Unfortunately this means that people with extremely old browsers will not be able to access the site, but I am currently working to find a reasonable solution to this problem. However, for the moment my best advise is: get a new browser! They are freely available and will enhance your internet experience tremendously.

Ok, ok, I hear you, enough of that boring computer talk, lets talk about plants!…but before I let you go to discover what's new in this issue of the newsletter, I would like to encourage you to take a good look around the website. All sections have been vastly improved (at least that is my humble opinion) and expanded. The Ethnobotany section has been broken into different aspects of plant uses (food, medicinal, material resources, stimulants, sacred) with numerous links to external and internal resources and articles; the travel section features many new exciting destinations and travel adventures; the News section has also been broken up into different categories and new articles are constantly being added, and the Ezine archive for last years newsletters is also still available. I am still working on overhauling the links and the bookshop, so for the time being these sections will link to the old pages, and some of the external links may not work. My apologies, but I am working on it and will be updating these sections also, as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I hope you'll enjoy this newsletter and your ramble through the site. Do let me know your thoughts - feedback is not only welcome, but essential in making it all work as best as possible- for you.

Kat Morgenstern, April 2003

For questions or comments email:


foragefood.gif (2K)This winter seems to have lasted forever. It feels like spring arrived at least four weeks later than last year, and of course all good foraging souls have been itching to get out there and dig for fresh spring greens. Well, at long last, just in time for the spring equinox, spring has finally sprung and things have started to pop up, at least in my neck of the woods. Last year this section took a kind of flighty ramble through the seasons, touching, but not really exploring the wonderful treasures that mother earth offers us throughout the year. This year I want to go a little deeper and explore some favourites green friends in more detail.

But before we get into it I'd like to remind you all that the earth is fragile and that we must not take from her beyond what she can sustain. Overharvesting, particularly due to commercial collection of medicinal plants has brought many once plentiful blessings to the brink of extinction. As 'plant people', we should adopt the attitude of green guardians for our mother earth, who so plentifully provides for us.

Here are the rules that every forager should live and breath by:

Get to know the plants that grow around you on a personal, first name basis: familiarize yourself with the herbs, bushes and trees, try to learn as much as possible about the ecosystem you are a part of and the plant members of your 'extended family'. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate all their uses, this will give you a much deeper insight into the nature of a plant, than merely learning its name.

It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, so as to be sure you will avoid picking them when you gather your meal. The importance of this point is completely obvious, but cannot be stressed enough. When you think you know a plant, think again and see what other, non-edible look-alikes might be fooling you. This is even more important when it comes to collecting mushrooms, as there are many more poisonous mushrooms than there are poisonous plants you are likely to mistake for anything edible.

Don't be greedy!

Only pick as much as you need and never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to the same patch. Be especially conscienscious when it comes to harvesting roots and barks. Remember that often this means the death of the plant, so before you start digging ask yourself if this plant is really plentiful and if it can sustain a harvest of its roots. If in doubt, don't collect. Consider growing some in your garden rather than depleting natural stands. Collecting barks can also be fatal to a tree. If you must collect this part, try to collect it from smaller branches rather than the stem, from branches that have fallen, or trees that are due to be cut for other purposes.

However tempting it may look, never pick in places that are subjected to pollution from roads, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.). And don't collect from nature reserves either - these are areas set up to protect wild species, so give them their space and let them be!

Cast seeds of native species to the earth and to the winds once in a while - as a way of giving something back. Consider adopting a little patch that you are particularly fond of. When you are out and about, never leave any litter behind, but try to bring some back with you - I always carry two bags, one for foraging and one for litter picking. Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.


If you live in the NY City area join Leda starting April 26th at the New York Botanical Garden for three Saturdays of Wild Edible Plants teachings. Each class will include an opportunity to ID plants in the field, practise harvesting and preparation techniques, and last but definitely not least, cook with and sample the wild edibles. Discussions will cover foraging ethics and sustainable harvesting, urban foraging, food preservation for winter, and survival foraging vs. gourmet cooking with wild edibles. Discounts for members of the Wildforager list and members of the NYBG (please inquire).

...or scroll down through the course descriptions at the New York Botanical Garden's online Continuing Education site:

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Dandelion3.JPG (12K)Everybody knows Dandelions! They are such a truly plentiful spring delight that there is hardly a lawn where they cannot be found. But, sad to say, familiarity breeds contempt. Just because it wants to bless us with its abundance, people have started to contemptuously call it 'a weed'; worse still, they launch chemical warfare on them in an effort to eradicate them from their boring suburban lawns. Fools! They should praise the Dandelion and be grateful for its gifts, for it is surely one of the most beneficial plants available - what a blessing that it is so resilient and grows so abundantly!

It is also one of the first plants that come to life in the early days of spring, dotting the grass with their bright yellow flowers heads, which is one of the many reasons why foragers greet it with such joy.

Every part of this plant is useful for both food and medicine. Even the seeds have their uses, as every child knows: not only do they tell the future, but on their little helicopter wings one can blow one's wishes and prayers to the wind.

The old herbalists saw the signature of Jupiter in this herb. Just considering its abundant nature one can see their point, for Jupiter is larger than life and does nothing by small measure. But the old herbalists also considered the essential nature of an herb when they assigned the planetary ruler: bitter herbs, especially yellow ones, were often ascribed to Jupiter, and often, as in this case, such herbs had an affinity with the liver, the part of the body, which according to the ancients, is also ruled by Jupiter. Liver herbs are almost always bitter, as the bitter principles stimulate the action of the liver, breaking down fats and cleansing the body of toxins. The liver also has an important part to play in hormone regulation and liver herbs can have a significant impact on one's general sense of well-being, combating such common conditions as the 'winter blahs' and other hormonal ups and downs, as those associated with the female menstrual cycle or the menopause. Here too, the nature of the plant fits its Jupiterian signature, for Jupiter is the eternal optimist and Dandelion, as one of the earliest spring flowers, with its cheery, bright yellow blossom can cheer that winter blues away just by looking at it, let alone eating it!

This is one of the reasons why Dandelion was such a welcome spring cleansing herb: during the winter we tend to be sedentary, eat too much and move too little, indulge in heavy, fatty foods and eat too few greens - this was particularly true in the old days, when what was available was seasonally limited and there were no such things as greenhouse grown vegetables. So, traditionally, during the time of lent, people would fast or do a spring cleanse to shake off the winter sluggishness and get their bodies ready for the spring. Dandelion is one of the best herbs to support such a spring cleansing diet. It acts on both the liver and the kidneys, helping to 'purify ' the blood and flush out the uric acid crystals that accumulate in the tissues from eating a diet too rich in animal proteins.

PH01189J.JPG (7K)Dandelion roots are particularly beneficial on the liver, while the leaves have a more pronounced effect on the kidneys. The French name for this herb 'pis en lit' (piss in the bed) testifies to its effect on the urinary system. The unique benefit of Dandelion's diuretic action is the fact that it does not deplete potassium, as many other diuretics do. On the contrary, it adds potassium to the body. Potassium of course, is not the only nutrient this wonderful plant has to offer: it is also rich in a host of other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and A, calcium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. It also contains choline, the substance that helps the liver to metabolise fat. Thus, Dandelion is truly one of the most healthful plants one can possibly add to one's diet and it can be used freely without fear of any ill effects (except perhaps bedwetting).

Now, for the foraging gourmet, the medicinal uses of this plant are all very well, but better still are the myriad ways in which this wonderful herb can be prepared as culinary delicacies:

Happily, for the forager, all parts of the Dandelion are edible and this is one plant where collecting the roots actually does not have a lasting harmful effect, as in fact, it encourages it to grow. Every small bit of Dandelion root left in the soil will grow more Dandelions.

For culinary purposes it is best to collect older roots as the younger ones are just too small. Dandelion roots are bitter, which is one of the reasons why they make such a good coffee substitute. To make Dandelion coffee, gather the roots either early in the spring or late autumn (they tend to be sweeter in the autumn), scrub them well to clean off all the dirt and let them dry before roasting them in the oven at a low temperature. People have different methods for doing this, some prefer to grind the roots first and then roasting them, others roast them whole. I prefer the whole root method as I feel that greater surface exposure during the roasting also looses more of the nutritional benefits. The roasting takes about 4 hours. To tell if they are ready, try to break a root. When it is ready it will break with a snap and the interior will be dark brown. Now you can grind it and store it in a jar. Take about a teaspoon per cup of water to make a cup of Dandelion coffee and serve black or with milk and sugar, like regular coffee.

Coffee is not the only thing that can be made with Dandelion roots; they can also be sliced and cooked in stir-fries or added to fillings or vegetable sides.

The very early Dandelion rosettes can be prepared as what in certain parts is known as 'yard squid':
Cut the Dandelion rosettes just below the ground with enough of the root to hold the leaves in place. Wash well, making sure all the grit and dirt are removed. To reduce the bitterness one can simmer them in saltwater for about five minutes. Dip in a thin egg/milk mixture and roll them in coarse corn flour or breadcrumbs, or a mixture of both, and fry them in oil. Culinary adventurers might like to season the crumbs/flour as well. Meat eaters can add bits of fried bacon or minced meat. Vegetarians can add toasted sunflower seeds sprinkled with Tamari or Soya sauce if desired.

The young tender, leaves make excellent salad greens. They are best mixed with other spring greens, but those who don't mind a slight bitter tang can try a Dandelion Salad all by itself. Dandelion complements boiled eggs and cress-type herbs especially well. As a dressing try fruity vinaigrette (e.g. with raspberry vinegar) or a sweet and sour dressing made with yoghurt, lemon juice, pepper, salt, garlic and a little sugar (and chillies for those who like it hot).

The leaves can also be cooked as a side green: Simmer in saltwater for five minutes, remove from the heat and stir in butter or crème fraiche and seasonings.

Some people like to make it the consistency of a fine spinach, chopping the leaves really fine or putting them through the food processor, perhaps along with other herbs that may also be available, e.g. nettles or garlic mustard for example. Sautée an onion, stir in the minced herbs, season with garlic, salt, pepper or chillies, cook for about 7 minutes, take off the heat and stir in some crème or crème fraîche for a more delicate flavour.

The tiny, tightly packed, unopened flower buds that are still hiding in the rosette can be marinated and used as capers. Prepare a cooked marinade with 1l vinegar, 50g sugar, 50g salt, pepper and spices (e.g. Bay leaf, thyme, coriander seed, chillies, whatever else takes your fancy), pour enough of the marinade over the Dandelion flowerbuds to cover them and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes. Store the rest of the marinade for another time. Fill the marinated flower buds into a sterilized jar and store in the fridge.

Alternatively you can just sautée the little buds very briefly and serve with melted butter, salt and pepper. You need a lot of them though, to make this more than a 'one teaspoon experience'.

Once the flowers develop, many people stop eating Dandelion leaves, as these tend to become too bitter. Personally I don't find this a problem, so long as one picks the young tender leaves, and not the old ones. At any rate, the flowering signals a new season's arrival, for the flowers too can be prepared as delicious treats. One of my favourites is deep fried Dandelion flowerheads: Prepare a light batter with egg, water or milk and a little flour, season to taste. (e.g. coriander seed or cinnamon work well). Dip each fully opened flowerhead in the batter and deep fry quickly. Serve with Maple syrup and lemon juice. Yum!

Dandelion flower heads are also an essential ingredient for delicious spring wines. There are numerous wonderful recipes - far to many to mention here. Here are just a couple:

Gather 1 gallon of Dandelion flowers on a dry, sunny day. Put these in a 2 gallon crock pot and pour 1 gallon of boiling water over them. Cover the jar and allow the flowers to steep for three days. Strain through a jelly cloth so you can squeeze all the liquid from the flowers. Put the liquid in a kettle; add 1 small ginger root, the thinly pared peels and juice of 3 oranges and 1 lemon. Stir in 3 pounds of sugar and allow it to cool until barely lukewarm. Spread ½ cake of yeast on a piece of toasted rye bread and float on top. Cover the crock with a cloth and keep in a warm room for 6 days. Then, strain off the wine into a gallon jug, corking it loosely with a wad of cotton. Keep in a dark place for 3 weeks, then carefully decant into a bottle and cap or cork tightly. Don't touch it until Christmas or later.

from 'Stalking the wild Asparagus', Euell Gibbons

For a Dandelion Desert Wine, try this recipe:

On a warm, sunny day gather a large bag (shopping bag)of fully opened Dandelion flower heads. Place into a large pot, pour 4 liters of water over them and add the zest of one organic, untreated lemon as well as the zest of one organic, untreated orange. Simmer gently for about 20 min. Allow to cool to body temperature and strain. Add five chunks of fresh yeast dissolved in a little warm water. Add other flavouring items according to taste, perhaps an orange, some cloves, cinnamon or ginger...and 2 kilos of sugar (rock sugar or unrefined cane sugar is best). Leave to ferment for about 6 days. Fill into bottles with the kind of stoppers you would use for making elderflower champagne. They need to fit tight so that there is no danger of explosion. Flip lids, as can be found on old fashioned beer and lemonade bottles work great. Allow the wine to mature for a few weeks until the liquid is crystal clear. Only then give into the temptation to try it.

Adapted from 'Holunder, Dost und Gänseblümchen', Heide Haßkerl

For those who like it sweet, you can try making Dandelion flower syrup:

Briefly simmer the flowers in the water (no more than 5 minutes), cover and leave to infuse for 24 hours. The next day strain and simmer the resulting liquid over a low heat, constantly stirring and adding sugar until it thickens and turns to a syrup consistency. Don't add too much sugar or simmer this liquid for too long though, otherwise it gets too thick and the sugar will soon crystallize. This recipe can be varied according to taste: try adding a little ginger, orange juice and peel (only organic, untreated) or cinnamon, or perhaps some peppermint.

Bon appetite!

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In Association with
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Check out the 10th Annual National Dandelion Cook Off
2 & 3 May, 2003

Visit the this site all things Dandy and to view the entry rules for the Dandelion Cook off competition.
There are not only delicious Dandy-dishes to be had, but even prices to be won for the best recipes!

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In the last issue of this newsletter I reflected on the impending war and the dangers it may pose to world peace. Now, three months on, at the time of the spring equinox, as life is awakening from its winter slumber, the war has become a reality. In Iraq the children don't rejoice in spring's arrival this year - instead, death and devastation greet them all around.

There is a lot that can be said about this war: what some see as a just cause, others regard as blatant aggression. What about the mishaps, the bombs that land on civilian targets or the soldiers that will return sick with poisoning from depleted uranium and other harmful chemicals? And who will profit from the slaughter in the end? American corporations, some of them well represented on the Defense Policy Board, the government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon, are already rubbing their hands at the prospect of carving up the Iraqi pie - or perhaps the Middle Eastern pie, as they are planning new attacks on other 'enemies' already.

The human misery inflicted by any kind of war is obvious - I cannot even imagine what it must be like to live in a place where at a moments notice bombs start dropping out of the sky and my life is at the mercy of forces that are way beyond my control, where survival depends on luck as much as anything, and 'normal' life includes the reality of bomb shelters and food shortages and the very real possibility that my friends or family may be dead or badly injured before I see them next.

Another aspect of war, which is almost never addressed, is the impact on the environment, which in the overall war tally just falls under the category of colateral damage, along with the innocent civilian victims of war, I suppose,. Black, smoke filled skies, caused by burning oil wells that release god knows how many tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus steadily adding to the greenhouse effect, will bear its consequences long after this war is over. Simultaneously, Oil spills across the desert turn a fragile, arid ecosystem into a barren, toxic wasteland. These are just the most visual and obvious attacks on the environment.

The military prides itself with its smart bombs, which supposedly are targeted at the 'infrastructure' - that does not just mean telecommunication facilities, but also means factories, especially chemical factories, oil refineries, water purification and desalination plants and power plants. During the last gulf war millions of gallons of raw sewage entered the gulf as water treatment facilities were destroyed, and further millions of gallons of poisons and chemicals were released where factories had been bombed. The pollution effects of that previous war are still evident today, and now, the already devastated land is further pounded into toxic dust and rubble. Damaged water wells result in serious pollution of fresh water supplies, and the damage to the sewage system does the rest to spread diseases like wildfire in a country, that thanks to the economic sanctions of the past decade, barely managed to cope with the severe shortages of medicines, even at the best of times.

Depleted Uranium was used during the last gulf war and it is being used now, delivering a lethal package of poison that will reap its consequences for many, many generations to come. Depleted Uranium has a half-life of 4.468 billion years years (info: / During the last Gulf War 320 tons of this poison had been scattered all over Iraq. No significant attempts have been made to clean up this horrendous pollution and now, more is being added to the existing mess. This poison, unlike the black smoke billowing above, is invisible; it permeates everything, and slowly kills those that come into contact with it as they absorb even miniscule amounts of it. Skin sores, kidney damage, general malaise and cancers are some of the immediate effects, but the genetic defects caused to the reproductive organs will affect generations to come. Depleted Uranium does not just affect Iraqi soldiers either, but likewise affects the troops that fire them, as well as their yet to be born children. Is it not ironic that the American and British troops went into Iraq to search and destroy dangerous weapons that could possibly threaten the US or whoever - yet the only dangerous weapons that are being fired issue from the US troops- and will surely be harming US troops. What will be the long-term consequences in terms of genetic mutation, not just on humans exposed to this poison, but on plant and animal life as well? As yet, nobody seems to have bothered to find out or even asked the question.

During the Second World War, for all its horrors, it was still possible for civilians to find food and medicine in nature, but considering the entirely new types of weapons that have been developed since and are now being used in Iraq and elsewhere, nature itself has come under attack. In a country where there is a chronic shortage of food and medicines, this added dimension of ecological damage unleashed onto the environment is devastating to the civilian victims of the war - who cares for the plants and animals that will be affected? How will they survive? Considering Iraq is home to a site that bears witness to the oldest testimony of medicinal plant uses by our neolithic ancestors, this is a tragic turn of events.* Today, the people of Iraq can no longer rely on nature's gifts to heal the physical wounds of war, nature itself has become its victim.

As I write this, at the beginning of April 2003, Earth Day is just around the corner. I feel deeply saddened for the earth and for humanity, for what is there to celebrate for the earth today? And what perspective does the future hold? During the past year the US government has repealed numerous laws, which were originally intended to extend environmental protection. Now, wilderness areas from the Arctic to the Southwest are increasingly becoming deregulated and opened up to allow industrial exploitation. Terminator Seed technology is slipping unnoticed through the regulating institutions, and the US, with the help of the WTO, is trying to force GM-Frankenfood crops down other countries' throats. The Pentagon seeks exemption from environmental protection legislation and Kyoto has still not been ratified by the United States. And now, a war is being fought over oil, which not only causes new assaults on the earth at the site of the actual battleground, but also on the air and water, which know no national boundaries and are shared by the whole world. Furthermore, the oil gained in this war will only further fuel environmental destruction and line the pockets of already rich corporations and their political cronies. We would be so much wiser to spend even just half of the amount of money that is currently being blown on this terrible war, on research for environmentally friendly energy production to find solutions that will create a healthier environment and cleaner energy to fill the energy needs of all of humanity - instead of spending more money every minute of every day to add to the environmental devastation in this dirty war and beyond.

It is not a happy picture, but what can we do? For one thing we must stop sticking our heads in the sand and hoping that someone else somewhere else will do something about it to change or stop this madness. It is up to each concerned and aware individual on this planet to do something about it, through lobbying politicians, boycotting companies that are an affront to the environment, spreading the word among our family and friends, and by making consumer choices that are responsible and positive. Nothing will change unless we,- that means you, me and every one of us, - change our behaviour and actions.

So, next time you are out and about, admiring the beauty of spring, take a moment to remember how fragile this life is and how easily this beauty that we take for granted can be destroyed - by our own stupidity and greed.

* A human burial sites, the so-called flower burial of the Shanidar IV adult male skeleton, which dates to somewhere between 50,000 BP, to 60,000 BP, was found at an archeological site in Iraq. Paleoethnobotanists have determined that the body had been embedded among more than a dozen medicinal plant species.

May peace prevail -
Kat Morgenstern, April 2003

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Interesting Sites:

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Fear and depression as symptoms of our troubled times

At this terrible time of war and horror, fears are running high. In fact, fear is a selling factor that helps to force people into submission - but that is another story and shall be told another time. What we want to talk about here, is how to deal with those fears and symptoms that have emerged as the signs of our times.

First of all, if you are feeling depressed or frightened about what is happening in the world right now, rest assured, you are not alone, and you have good reason to be concerned. Taking a happy pill (e.g. prozac) might temporarily change your mood, but the causes will not go away. This is a time when we need to face reality and mentally, physically and spiritually prepare ourselves to deal with it.

Apart from the real dangers that are facing us today, such as SARS, the extremely virulent pneumonia virus that is making its rounds, or possible Anthrax attacks, or a host of other ails, there is also a great amount of what psychologists have termed 'free-floating anxiety', a sense of some immanent danger, or impending disaster, fear of the unknown or apprehension about the future. It is a good idea to confront these feelings and to search for their basis in reality. What exactly are we afraid of? What do we really fear and what chances are there that this awful thing will really happen? While the current times are certainly dark, most of the time these fears turn out to be nightmarish fantasies, which shrivel to little more than the shadows of our imagination once we turn the light of reason on to them. Sure, s*** happens. Sometimes really bad s*** happens, but fear and anguish will not prevent that. Be vigilant, cautious, and sensible and be prepared for anything. Common sense is a better defence than paranoia.

It is also a good idea to take the time for quiet contemplation or meditation each day, to tune into a higher mode of consciousness, which lets us gain a more transpersonal, timeless perspective. This will not make the issues disappear, but it will help us deal with them, … things change through the way we look at them, worrying about them does not change anything by one single iota, it only leaves us feeling disempowered and at the mercy of forces beyond our control.

To deal with emotional stress and worries on a physical level, there are a number of plants that may come to our aid:

Stress always manifests first by way of the nervous system. If you find yourself tensed up and unable to relax or can't get to sleep or suffer from nightmares, you can try Chamomile, an old standby remedy, but nevertheless an effective soothing herb. Or try a mixture of Sage, Peppermint, Yarrow, Linden flowers and Fennel to alleviate fear and anxiety. It will also help to settle a queasy, nervous stomach. Don't use this mixture during pregnancy, though. Valerian (best taken as a tincture), Passionflower, Skullcap and Vervain are also wonderful relaxant herbs.

For raised blood pressure and irregular heartbeat due to stress, Motherwort, Hawthorn or Mistletoe can be used, or you might like to try Olive leaf extract (see herb of the month..

Depression is primarily an emotional problem, but there are herbs that can help: Lemon Balm, St. Johns Wort, and Californian Poppy soothe the emotions and lift the spirit. St. Johns Wort should not be taken in conjunction with certain other medications, especially anti-depressant medications. Please consult your medical practitioner if in doubt.

For those who prefer homeopathy, you can try Pulsatilla D4, or Nux Vomica D4 for anxiety.

Aromatherapy, the therapeutic use of essential oils, is famous for its effectiveness in treating emotionally based symptoms of stress, tension and anxiety. Good oils to experiment with are Rose, Frankincense, Cypress, Lavender, Bergamot, and Lemon Balm. Remember though, that essential oils are highly concentrated substances that should never be used directly on the skin. A good way to benefit from them is to use them in a specially designed diffuser lamp or to mix them with a base oil, such as almond, coconut or olive oil to make relaxing and fragrant massage and bath oils. Investigate all essential oils thoroughly before attempting to use them, as some may cause allergic reactions or could be harmful during pregnancy. Do not not use essential oils internally.

Bach flower remedies are also well known for their effectiveness when it comes to symptoms of emotional stress: Rock Rose, Aspen, Red Chestnut, Vervain, Sweet Chestnut, Star of Bethlehem may be some of the remedies that could prove useful - however, do your own research to determine which remedy is most suited to your particular emotional state.

What may prove most healing and soothing, however, is to spend as much time as possible in nature and to reflect on the things that are truly essential to our well-being.

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machu picchu machu picchu

Feeling fed up, trapped, depressed by the news? Sometimes travel is the best medicine. Get away from the tv propaganda machine and the routines of daily life and embark on a magical journey that will make you feel alive again. Find solace among the mysterious archeological remains of ancient civilizations.

Still the most popular destination in all of South America, the mystery of Machu Picchu echoes from the past and reverberates even into our modern times. Having long resisted to offer tours to this somewhat over-visited destination, we finally found a company that takes its ecological ethics seriously, treating the environment as well as their porter staff with the respect they deserve. As the Inka Trail is not for everyone, being physically a very demanding hike at high altitude, we are offering two trips to Machu Picchu:

Both journeys take you to the legendary Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Anta Valley with its it's magnificent Inca complexes of Pisaq, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero against a stunningly dramatic backdrop of the high Andes before taking you to Machu Picchu - by way of the Inka trail in the 9 day trip, or by means of comfortable transportation in the 6 day version.

Footsteps of the Inka - A 9 Day adventure that includes a visit to the Sacred Valley and the legendary Inka trail. This is an adventure for the fit, adventurous and enduring as hiking and camping at high altitudes can be very demanding.

Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley - A 6 Day adventure, for those who are physically less ambitious who want to take in the splendour of these magnificent sites without the strain of the full hiking trip.

Explore the Eco-travel pages, learn more about Machu Picchu, Peru and all the other wonderful Eco-travel adventures we offer to destinations in South and Central America.

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A strong immune system is your best defence

With fears of terrible and mysterious viruses, biological warfare or terrorist attacks running high, anybody would be well advised to bolster up their immune system, for no matter what bacteria or viruses are floating around, a strong immune systems is one's best defence. To enhance and fortify the body's natural defence system, a good, nutritious diet with plenty of naturally derived vitamins and minerals is a basic essential. Denaturalized foods not only do not feed the body the nutrients it needs, but worse, they deplete and weaken it. Use organic foods if you can, make fresh pressed juices a regular part of your diet, use plenty of fresh vegetables and whole grains - try to ascertain that they are not gene manipulated, and try to eliminate toxins from the diet and waste matter from the body.

In the old days people would take up a special spring cleansing diet for a few weeks each spring, which incorporated many wild herbs such as Dandelions and Nettles, while cutting out meat and animal products for a period of time. We would do well to remember the wisdom of such ancient customs.

Nature provides us with various 'superfoods' that are not just nutritious, but positively healing and which do a great job at fortifying the immune system and killing off germs. Onions, garlic and chillies are the most common of these. Among wild edibles, Dandelion and Nettles rank among the top healthful spring vegetables, offering a plethora of vitamins and minerals that vitalize and cleanse the body.

There are also several others foods that deserve attention:

Shitake mushrooms:
In Japan medicinal mushrooms such as Shitake or Reishi as well as several other species are well known and commonly used for both food and medicine. Shitake is said to stimulate the immune system, enhance vitality and lower the blood pressure. It is also said to have anti-tumour properties.
Reishi mushrooms:
This mushroom is not yet as well-known in western countries as the Shitake mushroom, but in China it is hailed as an "Elixir of immortality". Like the Shitake, it is said to help prevent heart disease, counteract hypertension and lower cholesterol levels. It is also said to boost vitality and stimulate the immune system and has both, anti-viral and anti-tumour properties.
Alfalfa sprouts:
Alfalfa does not just make a great hay for farm animals, it also provides excellent nutritional benefits to humans: it contains all known vitamins: vitamin A, the B complex, C, D, E, K, and U. as well as biotin, calcium, choline, inositol, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, sodium, sulfur, and tryptophan, and it is a rich source of chlorophyll. Try to make your own sprouts at home. Sprouting containers can be bought at the health-food store or improvised. The important thing is that there is some drainage and that the seeds can be spread out. The sprouts are easy to add to the diet and they are tasty too: just sprinkle a handful on salads and sandwiches or add to the main meal to provide a delicious and nutritious little green crunchiness.
White flour has been carefully 'cleansed' of any amazing natural nutritional substances. Instead it is 'fortified' with added minerals and vitamins, to give it some kind of nutritional value other than calories. Luckily, the naturally occurring 'good bits' are saved and sold separately. Wheatgerm is nutritionally the richest part of wheat, containing high concentrations of vitamin E, an important antioxidant. Antioxidants support the body's immune system by removing harmful free radicals. It is also a rich source of folic acid (important in pregnancy), certain B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid) and essential amino acids, in particular lysine. Wheatgerm offers one of the best overall combinations of amino acids available in any vegetable substance. It is also rich in polyunsaturated fats,in particular linoleic fatty acid, which are vital for the body's self-repair mechanisms, e.g. when restoring membranes, hormones and cellular structures. As if that were not enough, it also boasts a number of essential minerals, among them zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, copper, calcium and selenium. Wheatgerm is available from health-food stores and can easily be incorporated in the diet: just add to cereals, juices, soups or salads.
This is basically wheat in its very early growing stages, when it almost looks like grass and has a sweet taste. It is rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, D, E, K (specific in the treatment of pneumonia), the B complex, including vitamin B12, as well as Folic Acid. It also contains important minerals such as Iron, Calcium, Phosphorus, Selenium, an antioxidant enzyme, Chlorophyll, and essential amino acids. Wheatgrass is great in juices, but can also be added to salads and sandwiches.


People with wheat allergies should avoid both, wheatgrass and wheatgerm.

If you want to experiment with growing your own wheatgrass or wheatsprouts, make sure you are only using organic and non-gene manipulated seeds.

There are also certain nutritional supplements that are worth mentioning. These can be included as a regular part of the diet or used specifically as supportive agents in times of crisis.

Royal Jelly:
Royal jelly is that magical substance that gives such endurance and longevity to queen bees. It is a highly nutritious substance, rich in the B vitamins, as well as A, C, D, and E vitamins, certain enzymes, hormones, and as many as 18 different amino acids. Royal Jelly is a powerful nutritional healer that can have a beneficial affect on a wide range of conditions from respiratory ailments, to liver and kidney disease, pancreatic disorders, stomach ulcers, skin disorders, nervous complaints, stress and hormonal imbalances.
Bee Pollen
There is no other substance that compares with Beepollen in terms of nutritional completeness. Derived from the pollen that honeybees collect as they buzz from flower to flower, collecting nectar, this is the only substance that can sustain the human body with nothing added but water and fibre. It contains all the essential vitamins and minerals, proteins, fats and oils, amino acids, as well as over 5,000 enzymes and coenzymes, hormones, high concentrations of the nucleic acids RNA and DNA, and several antibiotic substances. Bee pollen comes as a sweet grainy substance, which can easily be added to juices, yoghurts or cereal and makes an excellent fortifying addition to the diet. It is also probably one of the best survival foods.
Nutritional Yeast:
Nutritional yeast, which comes as a dry, flaky substance available from health-food stores, is an excellent source of protein. It contains 16 amino acids and provides fully 45-52% protein by weight. It is also an extremely rich source of B vitamins, essential for the nervous system, and of chromium. It also contains a host of other minerals, such as potassium, calcium, manganese, and copper as well as 10 other minerals and trace minerals. Nutritional yeast improves the skin and aids the nervous functions. It is particularly valuable at times of high stress, especially mental stress and aids concentration. It also improves the immune response and enhances vitality. Nutritional yeast not only is a most healthful supplement to add to the diet but also has a pleasant flavour and is great in soups and sprinkled on salads.
Spirulina belongs to an extremely ancient group of organism, known as blue green algae, which grow and are even cultivated on certain lakes. The amazing thing about these simple organisms is their exceedingly rich nutritional value. Spirulina provides high concentrations of amino acids and carontenoids, which are vitally important to the immune system and research has confirmed that even small amounts of Spirulina enhance the immune system response. It also seems to positively interact with vitamin C, extending its action. More studies are needed, but it is thought that Spirulina has good potential as a therapeutic food for certain cancers and as nutritional support during radiation therapy. Chinese doctors use it to reduce cholesterol and to stimulate vitality. It is also thought to act beneficially on the liver and kidney, possibly acting as a protective agent against certain liver toxins. If your immune system response is low and you find yourself easily blown over by passing germs, this substance might significantly improve your power of resistance.
Chlorella is also an algae, though it belongs to the group of green algaes. Like its blue-green cousin it is also a rich source of protein and essential amino acids as well as nucleic acids, which supplement human RNA and DNA and help in tissue growth and repair. It is also a rich source of carotenoids and B vitamins. A special nutrient known as 'Chlorella Growth Factor' stimulates the proliferation of certain beneficial bacteria such as the Lactobacillus Acidophilus, which plays an important part in the digestive processes helping the body to break down and absorb the food. People who have been on courses of antibiotics would do well to include Chlorella in their diet in order to offset the antibiotic's negative effects on the microbacterial balance of the body.

While a strong immune system is invaluable in warding off and overcoming diseases, there are also certain antibacterial and antiseptic substances that are extremely useful in helping to kill germs.

During the horrendous times when the black death ravaged the old world and killed off thousands of people, there were some that mysteriously managed to avoid getting infected. The story goes that 4 brothers or friends had been going around stealing the belongings of those who were on their deathbeds or freshly deceased. At first, people did not pay much attention as they thought the thieves were fools. No doubt the black death would sooner or later get the better of them and make them pay for their sins with their lives. However, weeks went by, but this band of thieves still went about their dirty business seemingly unaffected. One day they were caught and although normally they would have faced the death sentence, they were promised their freedom if they revealed their secret of immunity. It turned out that they had inherited a secret herbal formula that was powerful enough to ward off the deadly disease. This formula has since then become known as 'The Vinegar of the Four Thieves'. By now there are many, slightly differing formulas that are circulating under that name. Here is one that should be quite effective:

Mix all ingredients and fill into a sterilized jar. Cover with cider vinegar and infuse for 4-6 weeks, strain. While this mixture is not poisonous, pregnant women should avoid it as it is very powerful. It is best to use preparation as an external disinfectant spray, do not use internally.

Clove oil is a particularly powerful antiseptic and can be mixed in a base oil to use as an antiseptic lotion. Oregano essential oil is also a powerful antiseptic, and some people like to carry a bottle to sniff at whenever they feel that they might be in a room with too many germs floating about.

Finally, use common sense: if you know that there is an outbreak of an infectious disease in your area, try to stay away from public places, especially enclosed spaces, where there are a lot of people. Wash your hands frequently and don't share water bottles and cutlery etc. If you must be in an enclosed space with many people, prepare a tissue doused in a strongly antiseptic substance (e.g. clove or oregano) and cover your nose and mouth with it.

Prevention is the best medicine!

Be well and stay well


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Olive Tree

(Olea europeae)
olive orchard



Oil tree, Zaytun (arabic), Mãsline (Romanian), Zeytin (turkish), Aceituna (Spanish), Eliá (Greek)

Planetary Ruler:



This small, graceful, evergreen tree, stretching its branches to the heavens as it flickers its silvery-gray leaves in the light sunny breeze, characterizes the cultivated regions of Mediterranean countries like no other plant. Olive trees have a timeless feel to them - young trees can look old, while old trees still express an ageless, graceful beauty. They are among the more long-lived species of trees and can reach a ripe old age of over 500 years. No wonder the ancients regarded the Olive tree as a manifestation of the ever-present life-force: evergreen and long-lived, with a tenacious will to survive against the odds in dry and inhospitable places, or giving rise to saplings shooting from the base, even when they are cut back to a stump.

Olive trees are relatively small and slow growing trees, rarely reaching more than 15 m of height in the wild. Cultivated trees are usually trimmed back each season and rarely exceed 6 m in height. The stem often looks gnarled and twisted, with a rough, fissured gray bark. It has a strong, dense wood with a beautiful, close grain.

The narrow, leathery leaves are dark green on the upper side and silvery gray underneath. They are lanceolate with entire margins and growing in opposite pairs. They are replaced every few years when the tree looses its old leaves and simultaneously replaces them with new ones so that the it is never without leaves.

The tiny, cream colored and fragrant flowers are borne on stalks that arise from the leaf axils in spring. Two types of flowers are produced: some that contain both male and female parts and some that only contain stamens. The trees rely on the wind for pollination. It is beneficial to grow different varieties of olive trees together, as some species are self-incompatible, and cross-pollination improves their fruit.

The trees begin to bear fruit after they reach 4 years of age. The fresh fruits have an intensely bitter taste, which is subsequently extracted by subjecting them to a curing process, involving either lye, salt or brine (see recipes). The size, shape and color of the fruits, which botanically are classified as drupes (a stone fruit, like e.g. plums), vary hugely among different varieties. Some are oval or round, while others are elongated and some even have pointed tips. Most varieties are dark purplish black, or bronze/brown when ripe, though there are a few varieties that stay green even when ripe. Most commercially available green olives though, are picked when they are fully grown yet not fully matured. The ripe, black olives bruise easily and require careful handling. Commercial Californian canned black olives are actually 'faked' as their black color is not the result of ripeness, but rather produced by exposing green olives to air after they have undergone the lye treatment to extract the bitterness. This effect is not considered desirable among European producers or consumers and exposure to air after the lye treatment is carefully avoided.

Olive trees do not breed true from seed, which means that cultivated varieties are always propagated from cuttings, as those grown from seed revert to the small fruited wild varieties. The trees are not too fussy about soil requirements, but prefer a well-drained spot, even if it is in rocky or sandy soil. Olive trees are one of the least sprayed commercial crops as there are few pests and diseases that attack them.


Olive trees are a subtropical species of semi-arid climates. They can cope with several months of little or no rain, but do not tolerate prolonged spells of cold, wet weather. They are ideally adapted to the Mediterranean climate in which they are at home. Even there they can sometimes suffer severely, if the winter is particularly harsh. They do, however, require a cold spell of several months during which temperatures fall to below 7 °C(44 °F), but never below -9 °C(15 °F) in order to set fruit.

Olive trees have long been grown clinging to terraced hillsides, on poor soils and arid climates. Considering the poor growing conditions, its gifts are more than generous, as it will grow where not much else does. The planting of olive trees in such dry, sandy hillsides has a stabilizing effect on erosion.


olive treeWhich of the many Gods of the Olymp might serve the city of Athens best as its protective deity? Not an easy choice to make and one that could well bring peril with the choosing. Faced with this difficult question, the king of Athens wisely decided to put the Gods to the test and told them that whoever made the most useful gift to his people shall become the city's patron God. Neptune/Poseidon came along and struck his trident into the ground and from it sprang a saltwater spring, which flowed and flowed and would not stop flowing, - thus creating the Aegean Sea. However, Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and justice came and planted an Olive tree, right by the Acropolis. The king, being a clever sort of king, happily accepted her gift, for he knew that the Olive tree is one of the most precious and useful plants for mankind. He put his trust into the tree to bestow health, wealth and happiness to his city.

The Olive tree is thought to have originated in Asia Minor, where it was cultivated as early as 6000 years ago. From there it spread to the eastern Mediterranean, where it is known to have been cultivated since 3000 BC. From there it did not take long for it to spread throughout the Mediterranean region, which is still one of the most important region of cultivation today, although other countries with a Mediterranean climate, such as Chile, South Africa and California, New Zealand, Mexico and many others, have also adopted this gift from the Goddess Athena.

The ancient civilizations of Asia Minor certainly valued this precious tree - and not just for culinary purposes, either. The ancient Egyptians used it in their embalming recipes to preserve the mummies of their kings as well as in the preparation of numerous cosmetic lotions and potions, pomades and pastes.

In the times before electricity and paraffin, Olive oil was also widely used as a lamp oil and in the days of antiquity, that meant it kept the sacred flames in the temples burning. Olive oil was considered a numinous substance, which served as a sacred salve or consecration oil to purify the physical body in honor of the Gods. The ancient Greek greeting 'salve' meaning as much as 'may you be oiled' implies this use of Olive oil as a blessing and sanctifying substance. The word 'salvation' takes it's meaning from the same root.

The Bible is full of references to the sacred Olive trees and even the Old Testament bears witness to its importance: Moses exempted from the military service those who devoted their time to Olive cultivation. Elsewhere we hear that Noah received the message that peace and tranquility had returned to earth, by way of a dove that carried a twig of Olive in its beak. It is not surprising that Olive has come to symbolize peace and protection, and some people even argue that the tree of life in the garden of Eden must have been an Olive tree.

Olive oil was also important in personal hygiene, comparable to the role of its modern cousin: soap. Even today some natural product stores offer fine Olive oil soap, containing little more than Olive oil and beeswax (with the addition of lye during the production process ). For those who are not afraid to experiment with a little kitchen chemistry, such soaps can easily be prepared at home. In the old days, the pure oil, or one infused with fragrant herbs was used to thoroughly oil the body and thus to make it 'shiny', which was regarded as an attribute of beauty. Dry skin and hair were considered dirty.

At the original Olympic games athletes were always thoroughly 'oiled' before entering the games and the winner was originally honored with a wreath made of Olive twigs. Later, when Apollo took over the patronage for the games, the wreath was wound from Bay laurel twigs, which are sacred to Apollo.

Olive oil also played an important role in medicine, not just for its own remedial properties, but also as a basis for innumerable healing oils and salves. The fact that Olive oil resists oxidation made it a great medium to preserve foods and medicines, a practice, which is still common today.

The Olive tree has always symbolized good health and longevity - even today the healthfulness of the Mediterranean diet is largely ascribed to the beneficial properties of Olive oil and, to a lesser part, the olives themselves. In fact, Mediterranean cuisine is unthinkable without Olive oil and Olives, though the latter, while still a common and important aspects of the daily diet, are much less important today than they used to be. Today, 860,000 tons of table Olives are produced annually, which by weight amounts to about half the quantity of Olive oil, which reaches 1,662,000 tons a year.

The fresh fruits of the Olive tree, the raw Olives, are very bitter. To make them palatable Olives are cured to extract the bitterness. Traditionally the green or black olives are either pickled in brine or cured in salt for several weeks. Another process, which dates back to Roman times and is still commonly employed today, involves treatment with lye prior to pickling the Olives in brine. Their healthful qualities are largely attributed to the remainder of a substance present in their bitter juice: oleuropein.

Once the bitterness is extracted, Olives are prepared in a myriad of different ways, and every village seems to have its own recipe. One can commonly find them marinated with herbs, and/ or garlic, stuffed with almonds, roasted pepper or anchovies, or, more exotically, with lemon and chillies. The variations are endless and market stalls in Mediterranean countries offer at least a dozen different varieties of both black and green olives.

Olive oil, the favorite kitchen oil of almost any chef, comes in various grades of quality, depending on the method of extraction. The finest quality, known as 'extra virgin olive oil' or 'native olive oil extra' is extracted by low-pressure cold pressing of the fruit, which yields a light colored greenish-yellow and highly aromatic oil. The second pressing is done at higher pressure and higher temperatures. It is a little less fragrant and is usually referred to as 'Virgin Olive Oil' or 'Native Olive Oil'. Subsequent pressings yield a low quality oil which needs further processing before it is fit for human consumption. This oil is labeled 'refined olive oil'.

Mediterranean people have also long valued the medicinal properties of the Olive tree. Both the bark and the leaves were commonly used to treat feverish infections, and not just the common cold, or the flu but even malaria. The leaves, like the raw fruit, are very bitter, due to the presence of the same bitter substance known as oleuropein, which modern research has shown to have some amazing healthful properties.

Although this compound was first isolated and identified in 1900, it was not until 1962 that an Italian researcher recorded its hypotensive action on animals. Further studies not only verified the findings of the Italian scientist, but also found that Oleuropein increases blood flow to the coronary arteries, regulates irregular heartbeat and prevents intestinal muscle spasms. A Dutch scientist identified a further constituent of Oleuropein, known as 'elenolic acid', which he found to have an inhibiting effect on the growth of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. In 1970 a safety study was conducted, which showed that calcium elenolate did not seem to have any undesired side effects, even when administered in extra-large quantities.

Yet, there was a problem. While experiments showed 100% effectiveness against all the viruses the leaf extract had been tested for in vitro,* it was found that in the human body the healing compounds were binding to the proteins in the blood serum, which reduced their efficacy. While research interest among the major drug companies diminished, further research carried on quietly. Eventually the binding problem of elenolic acid was overcome and the full healing potential of Olive leaves had become accessible. The new research also cast some light onto the mechanism in which this compound works:

Apparently elenolic acid destroys the outer lining of microbes, which effectively kills them. Scientists at the University of Milan also confirmed the antioxidant properties of oleuropein as they found that it inhibited the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol), thus explaining Olive oil's apparent beneficial effect on the heart. Futhermore, researchers at Spain's University of Granada found oleuropein to be a vasodilator, (relaxing arterial walls), which verifies earlier findings that Olive products increase blood supply to the coronary arteries and having a regulating effect on high blood pressure. Finally, Tunisian pharmacists found that an aqueous extract of Olive leaf reduces hypertension, blood sugar levels and the levels of uric acid in rodents, which again confirms potential use in the treatment of high blood pressure, as well as diabetes and heart disease. Elevated uric acid levels may be a risk factor for heart disease.

Since 1995 natural product companies have started to produce Olive leaf extracts that are formulated to overcome the binding problem to the serum proteins. These leaf extracts usually come in capsule form, which may also make them easier to take, considering the bitter taste of the tea. The high concentration of the extract also ensures that the healing components are taken in sufficiently high quantities to be effective even against highly persistent viruses and bacteria. Some of the reports of their effectiveness have been remarkable, even in the treatment of severely immune-system compromising conditions such as Lupus and Lymes disease, as well as HIV and other retroviruses, and in the treatment of opportunistic infections concurrent with AIDS. The compounds of the Olive leaf extract not only have the ability to interfere with the virus's ability to reproduce, but they also stimulate the immune system response. Olive leaf extract maybe one of the most powerful herbal defence preparations available to combat a whole series of modern ailments, yet, so far, few people are aware of the potential. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the extract undergoes a chemical process before it becomes the powerful healing agent it promises to be. Yet, even for those who prefer more 'natural' remedies, Olives, Olive oil and Olive leaf decoction all make valuable contributions to health and well-being. Even if one never does anything more than change one's dietary habits to replace all fats with Olive oil, one will likely reap at least some of the benefits of this healthful plant, most notably with regard to one's heart. Heart disease is one of the major killers in so-called 'civilized' countries, yet in places like Greece for example, where 90% of the fat consumed is derived from Olives, heart disease is virtually non-existent.

The age old gifts of this tree, peace and plenty, seem well worth remembering in this day and age.

* viruses the leaf extract was tested for with excellent results: herpes, vaccinia, pseudorabies, Newcastle, Coxsacloe A 21, encepthlomyocarditis, polio 1, 2, and 3, vesicular stomititus, sindbis, reovirus, Moloney Murine leukemia, Rauscher Murine leukemia, Moloney sarcoma, and many influenza and parainfluenza type viruses.

*Bacteria and parasitic protozoans, the leaf extract was tested for with equally positive results: lactobacillus plantarum W50, brevis 50, pediococcus cerevisiae 39, leuconostoc mesenteroides 42, staphylococcus aureus, bacillus subtilis, enterobacteraerogenes NRRL B-199, E. cloacae NRRL B-414, E. coli, salamonella tyhimurium, pseudomonas fluorescens, P. solanacearum, P. lachrymans, erwinia carotovora, E. tracheiphila, xanthomonas vesicatoria, corynesbacterium Michiganese, plasmodium falciparum, virax and malaria.)

Further information:



Leaves - fresh or as extract
Bark - decoction
Oil - pressed from the fruit
Gum - resinous exudate collected from the stem


Leaves - year round,
fruit - autumn



oleuropein, apegenin, calcium, cinchonine, choline, luteoline,


oleuropein, momsaturated fatty acids, beta-carotene, caffeic acid, calcium, verbascocide, uvaol, minerals including Calcium, Magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and to a lesser extend, Iron, Zink, and Copper. Vitamins: carotenes, riboflavin, and thiamin, squaline, rutin, protocatechuic-acid, oleic acid,


66% oleic acid, 12% linoleic acid, 9% palmitic acid, 5% eicosenoic acid and 5% palmitoleic acid. Olive oil may contain up to 1.5% of an acyclic triterpene hydrocarbon, carotenoids, chlorophyll, squalene

Gomme d'olivier:

benzoic acid and olivile




febrifuge, immune system stimulant, hypotensive, astringent, antiseptic


antiseptic, astringent


A decoction of the fresh leaves (a handful of fresh leaves simmered in two cups of water till the quatity of liquid is reduced to one cup) has traditionally been used to treat feverish infections such as the flu and the common cold, but also more serious infections such as malaria and dengue fever. It has also been used to treat sore throats as well as urinary inflammations and to provide a general boost to the immune system. Externally, the decoction can be employed as a wash to clean wounds and treat inflammatory skin conditions, rashes, boils and ulcers. The fresh leaves can be chewed for inflammations of the gums or ulcers of the mucous membranes of the mouth. The juice, expressed with wine or water, or a decoction of the leaves have the same effect. They can also be made into suppositories to treat candida and 'the white flux' as the ancients would have said. Dioscorides holds the healing power of the wild Olive tree superior to that of the cultivated varieties.

Recently a leaf-extract has been studied, with excellent results for the treatment of viral and bacterial infections as well as parasitic infections such fungal conditions. The leaf extract has a marked positive effect on the heart, increasing coronary bloodflow and lowering blood pressure, while also inhibiting the oxidation of 'bad cholesterol'. It also reduces uric acid concentration, which can be a contributing factor in heart disease as well as arthritic and rheumatoid conditions. It is also said to reduce the blood sugar levels, making it a valuable supportive remedy for diabetes sufferers. The leaf extract has produced excellent results in boosting immune system response to viral conditions such as the flu, pneumonia and the common cold as well as in the treatment of serious immune system debilitating conditions, such a lupus, lyme disease, Eppstein Barr virus (chronic fatigue), fibromyalgia and a host of others. The potential health benefits of the leaf extract are too numerous to mention here, Follow this link to further interesting information :


Olive leaf tea can produce an upset stomach when taken on an empty stomach. Large doses of the leaf extract occasionally give rise to a 'die-off' effect, characterized by headaches and gastro-intestinal disturbance, due to the fact that high doses of Olive leaf extract can 'kill-off' large numbers of pathogens, which can produce a temporary feeling of unwellness. This is due to the fact that the body can't cope with eliminating the dead pathogens quickly enough. If this happens, simply reduce the dosage. There is no toxicity associated with Plive leaf extract.



cholagogue, a nourishing demulcent, emollient and laxative


Olive oil is a superb medium for the infusion of healing herbs and the preparation of salves. Its antioxidant properties resist the natural process of decay of such preparations, even without adding other preserving agents. Olive oil is also demulcent, emollient and mildly laxative. Internally it can be used as a mild but effective laxative that will lubricate and soften hard stools. It is also sometimes used in combination with lemon juice to soften and expel gallbladder stones, though this procedure is not without certain risks and should not be attempted without the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner. Olive oil reduces the secretion of hydrochloric acid, thus being beneficial for people who suffer from an over acidic stomach. Like the leaves and fruit, the oil also contains oleuropein, and shares the health benefits on the heart. It is a healthful oil to use for food as it is rich in monosaturated fatty acids, and has a certain vasodilatory effect on the arterial walls, helping to reduce blood pressure and increasing the blood supply to the heart. Externally olive oil is used to soothe inflamed skin or cosmetically, to preserve its smoothness and the luster of the hair. It is also said to be useful for dandruff. Its emollient qualities can be employed to treat calluses and hardened skin and is sometimes also used as a soothing enema for an ulcerated intestinal tract or hemorrhoids.



astringent, vulnerary


The fruit as such are not commonly used for medicinal purposes anymore, though the oil expressed from them has many useful health benefits (see above). Dioscorides is the only one who mentions the use of the cured Olives:

"mashed (cured) Olives applied as a poultice to scalds and burns prevent the formation of blisters and cleanse dirty wounds. The Olive juice from the pickling brine astringes the gums and tightens loose teeth. The yellowish olives are hard to digest, but strengthen the stomach. The black, ripe olives decay easily and are bad for the stomach. Prepared as a poultice they open up boils and inhibit gangrene."



astringent, bitter, febrifuge


The bark is no longer commonly used for healing purposes today, though in the Mediterranean region it is an ancient folk remedy for feverish conditions such as malaria, dengue fever as well as the symptoms of the common cold and flu.


In the olden days the resinous exudates of the stem (gomme d'olivier') was used as a vulnerary to treat infectious skin conditions, ulcers and gangrene.

Bach Flower Remedy:

The keywords for the olive remedy are 'Complete exhaustion' and 'Mental fatigue'.


Olive wood is hard and dense as well as beautifully grained thus making it a wonderful wood for carving and cabinet work. In times gone by it was much sought after for the carving of religious statues. The wood also has a characteristic fragrance.
Olive oil is used for soap making. It is also a nourishing skin and hair tonic and has a reputation as a treatment for dandruff. Wonderful soothing and healing massage or bath oils can be made by infusing olive oil with healing herbs or essential oils (see recipes).
The fresh ripe fruits produce Maroon and purple dyes, the skins of the ripe fruit only, produce blue and black dyes. The leaves yield a yellow/green dye.
Other uses:
Oil used as a lamp oil and lubricant.

Culinary uses:

To make pickled olives from the fresh fruit (traditional methods)


Wash the ripe, black olives and place them in a wicker basket. Cover well with coarse sea salt. Place the basket in the sun and cover with a muslin cloth. Twice a day for at least a week stir the olives around. Keep this up until the bitter flavour has been extracted. At night bring the basket indoors to prevent mould. You need to place a dish underneath container, as the extracted liquid will escape through the holes in the basket.


Place the washed ripe (black) olives in a sterilized crock or glass jar. Cover with a strong solution of salt water: 1 cup of sea salt to each quart water - making sure all the olives are submerged. Cover with a round of pickling paper and place a sterilized weight, such as a small rock on top to keep the olives submerged in the water. The Olives may remain in this brine for months, but should at least be kept in it for a minimum of 2 months before tasting them. Marinate with herbs, garlic and olive oil before serving.

Green olives are usually subjected to a treatment involving lye prior to pickling. This method goes back to Roman times. Various herbs and spices can be added to the brine to refine the flavour of the resulting olives.

Olive oil is not just delicious; due to its high percentage of mono-saturated oils it is also healthy. Unlike many other fats it is low in cholesterol and even has a beneficial effect on the heart. It is excellent cooking oil. Its characteristic flavour adds an unmistakable dimension to any food, but is particularly noteworthy in salad dressings. The oil derived from the second pressing lends itself better for cooking purposes, as its smoke point is higher. To further increase the smoke point one can use half butter / half Olive oil e.g. for frying.

recipes (1K)


Olive oil lends itself perfectly for infusing herbs to create either flavoured oils for cooking, aromatic oils as massage and bath oils, or healing oils and salves. The basic procedure is the same. Take dried herbs, fill into a sterilized container and cover with olive oil. Leave to infuse in a warm place for several weeks. Strain out the herbs and pour the liquid into a sterilized bottle.

There have been warnings about infusing garlic in olive oil, the scare being that it would breed harmful micro-organism. The thing to consider is that oils without any preservatives do have a limited shelf life before they go rancid. However, when the oil is prepared in a clean environment using sterilized equipment, the risks are minimal and the shelf life can be up to 6 months in a tightly closed jar. Also, the risk of the oil going off is increased when materials are used that are not dry, e.g. fresh garlic. It will still be fine for a minimum of a week or two if kept in the fridge, but the oil should be monitored. If a slimy film develops, throw it away.

Many people like using fresh or only slightly wilted herbs for infusion, steaming of the excess water component of the herbs by infusing the oil at a low heat in a double boiler. However, I have found oils prepared by this method much more liable to deteriorate than those infused with dry plant material.

For cooking purposes, herbs such as Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Estragon, Basil, Bay leaves and Chilie pepper, Juniper berries, Fennel Seeds, Coriander seeds, and Pepper corns lend themselves well for making aromatic oils.

Rosemary Chilie Oil

Dry the Rosemary for a couple of days, place all ingredients in a sterilized bottle and cover with 700ml of oil. Leave to infuse in a warm place for two weeks. Strain and return to the bottle, or use a new, sterilized bottle. Close tightly. Should keep for approximately 5 weeks.

Chillie Oil

Proceed as above. The longer the Chillies are allowed to infuse the spicier the resulting oil will become.

Aromatic/ infused healing oils

Aromatic massage or bath oils can be prepared by filling a jar with dried plant material to the top. Cover with olive oil and mix well, allowing air bubbles to escape. Use a lower quality, less fragrant olive oil, otherwise it will overpower the aromas of the infused herbs. Also, the lower quality olive oils are lighter and less greasy on the skin. Cover tight and allow to stand in a warm place for a week. Strain. If a stronger oil is desired, repeat the process reusing the already infused oil to increase its potency. The same process is used for healing oils, e.g. calendula or comfrey oil. To make a quick salve, melt some beeswax and warm the oil you want to use. When the wax is melted, slowly add the oil and stir continuously. You can test the hardness of the salve letting a few drops of the mixture harden on a cold surface. Don't use too much beeswax or the ointment will be too solid and hard to spread. If you encounter this problem you can always reheat the ointment and add a bit more oil.

A quick and easy method to make aromatic oils for massage is to simply add essential oils to a quantity of olive oil. Never use more than 2% essential oil in a base oil, though, and inform yourself thoroughly on the properties of the essential oils you intend to use, as some oils can cause allergic reactions. Remember, essential oils are extremely concentrated and a little goes a long way!

Cooking pastes

Olive oil is an ideal medium to preserve aromatic herbs as herb pastes that can be used for cooking. Pesto is perhaps the best known herbal cooking paste, but there are many others.

Here is a basic recipe for a delicious pesto:

Take two bunches of basil, cut them up roughly and place in a food processor; add the garlic, and a little olive oil. Blend until smooth. Carefully add the grated parmesan cheese and the chillies. (The amount of chillies is variable. If you like it hot, by all means add more, if you don't, perhaps one will be sufficient.) If the paste becomes too dry, add a little more olive oil until you get a nice smooth, not too runny, not too stodgy consistency. Stir in the pinon nuts and some salt to taste, and your basic pesto is ready.

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Terminator Technology: Five Years Later

The ETC Group (formerly known as RAFI) today releases "Terminator Technology: Five Years Later," a report on new issues and controversies surrounding the ongoing development of genetic seed sterilization - plants genetically engineered to render sterile seeds. Terminator technology is being developed as a biological mechanism to extinguish the right of farmers to save and re-plant seeds from their harvest, thus creating greater dependence on the commercial seed market.


Sharing the Crumbs with the San

The CSIR signed a groundbreaking agreement with the San this week that might earn the impoverished group hundreds of millions of rands for the commercialisation of an ancient folk remedy as a blockbuster anti-obesity drug. Ben Ngubane, Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, announced the agreement at a celebration in the Kalahari on Monday. The deal is one of the first attempts to give holders of traditional knowledge a share of royalties from drug sales. But what does it really mean for the San and indigenous peoples worldwide: business as usual or a fundamentally new way of introducing equity into the marketplace?


The European Union caught in blatant contradictions

Last month, GRAIN issued an open letter to Pascal Lamy, the chief of trade policy at the European Commission. In it, we disputed Mr Lamy's public relations efforts aimed at trying to convince the world that the EU champions the rights of Third World farmers to save seeds. Lamy never responded. But never mind. This month, a new bilateral agreement between the EU and Lebanon entered into force. Under this treaty, Lebanon must join UPOV within the next four years. If this is championing farmers' rights to save seeds, then something is really messed up. Quite hidden from its media charms, the European Union is aggressively forcing developing countries to adopt the strictest intellectual property rules on seeds that are possible. We see it in Algeria. We see it in Tunisia. We see it in South Africa, Morocco, Lebanon and Bangladesh. And we even see it poking its head through the clouds of diplomatic language in the EU's policy towards more than 70 poor countries forming the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) grouping. We have to stop this 'TRIPS-plus' parade of industrial powers asking developing countries to overshoot their commitments to the WTO through bilateral wheeling and dealing. The EU is not the only guilty party. The US is doing the same from its side, even more aggressively.



A capacity building project was undertaken by six partner organisations, to support the long term conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants in Ghana.

A broad approach was followed, involving: development of medicinal plant gardens at two Botanic Gardens; an ethnobotanical survey undertaken at six villages; production of a manual for the propagation and cultivation of medicinal plants; development of computerised information systems at the Ghana Herbarium and Aburi Botanic Garden to allow analyses to be undertaken illustrating the status of medicinal plants in Ghana in the wild, particularly in relation to land use and protected areas.

This report provides details on the methodology followed and the status of each of these outputs and preliminary analyses of the computerised collection data. These analyses illustrate the importance of computerising plant record data held at biological institutions. They demonstrate the use to which the resulting information can be put in terms of generating material that is readily accessible and easily understood by those responsible for making decisions concerning the long term survival of one of the world's natural resources of key importance for human health.

Full details of the project, copies of project outputs and all species maps are available on CD-ROM.

More at:

Global summit on Medicinal Plants

from September 25th - 30th, 2003 in Mauritius

Nearly all centuries from ancient times have used plants as a source of medicine. Many people in the modern world are turning to Herbal medicine. The use of Traditional medicine and other Alternative Therapies for the maintenance of good Health has been widely observed in most countries. Traditional medicine is rich in domestic recipes and communal practices. The recent upsurge in the use of Herbal Medicines has led to enormous commercial possibilities, but many issues remain unresolved. Today, many medicinal plant species face extinction or severe genetic loss, but detailed information is lacking. For most of the endangered species, no conservation action has taken place. In the present context, an International Summit on Medicinal Plants will be a forum for scientists, researchers and policy makers to meet and discuss the key areas of conservation of medicinal plants, health care and Ethnomedicine etc.

Century Foundation and Bangalore University have great pleasure to host the Global Summit on Medicinal Plants in Mauritius Island with the support of Mauritius Research Council and the University of Mauritius, WHO, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of Mauritius, Air Mauritius etc. from September 25th - 30th , 2003.

The main Theme of the Conference is 'Recent Trends in Phytomedicine and Other Alternative Therapies for Human Welfare'.

The Island of Mauritius, which is the venue of the conference, is unique in its Flora and Fauna. The flora is composed of 700 species of indigenous plants, of which about 300 are endemic to the region. Several endemic and indigenous species are used in the Traditional medicines. Traditional Knowledge in Mauritius is an Important source of income, food and health care locally. However many endemic plants in Mauritius are on the verge of extinction. Hence there is a need to promote the Revitalization and use of local health Traditions of ethnomedicine in the region and share the benefits derived from traditional knowledge with the Global community.

Mauritius with its multicultural population, suitable tropical climate, beautiful sandy beaches and green vegetation is a paradise island and its efficient communication infrastructure and regular airline connections with Asia, Europe, Africa and Australasia is an ideal location for this Global Summit.

This conference will draw attention to the vital importance of medicinal Plants and Other Therapies in Health care. There will be exciting programmes of plenary lectures, oral and Poster presentations and round table discussions. In addition to the scientific events, there will be opportunities for social interactions at the welcome reception and cultural events and programme of local visits.

We, on behalf of the Organizing Committee, welcome you to participate in this eventful Global summit on Medicinal Plants from September 25th - 30th, 2003 in Mauritius. Also, you are requested to nominate suitable officers from your institution /department so as to enable them to disseminate latest information on the sustainable utilization and cultivation of Medicinal plants.

For Registration and preliminary information on the summit please visit our website:

Dr V Sivaram, President
Global Summit on Medicinal Plants
Department of Botany
Post - Graduate Centre
Bangalore University
Phone: + 91-80-3650312
Telefax: 91-80-5244592

India: Traditional Knowledge Digital Library

From: Dr. M.V. Viswanathan, NISCOM (

The National Insitute of Science Communication (NISCOM) of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, New Delhi (India) is developing a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), in collaboration with the Department of Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy, Government of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, in order to protect India's Traditional Knowledge from biopiracy.

The TKDL proposes to digitize, in phases, information available in the public domain on Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Naturopathy and Folklore. The first phase will cover Ayurveda. An interdisciplinary team comprising Ayurveda experts, computer programmers, scientists, patent examiners and technicians have been working on the project since October 2001.

The TKDL has been patterned on the International Patent Classifications and has been ratified by the WIPO. Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification, an innovative structured classification system for the purpose of systematic arrangement, dissemination and retrieval has been evolved by Mr. V.K. Gupta, Director of NISCOM, for about 5 000 sub-groups against one group in international patent application, i.e. AK61K35/78 related to medicinal plants.

The TKDL will be available in different foreign languages (e.g. English, French, German, Spanish), as well as Indian languages, which will make it accessible to patent examiners globally. It will be made mandatory for patent examiners to refer to TKDL before granting patents on non-original inventions.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. V.K. Gupta
Chairman, TKDL Task Force and Director NISCOM
Dr. K.S. Krishnan Marg (Near Pusa Gate)
New Delhi 110 012
Fax: +91-11-5787062
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