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© Kat Morgenstern
March 2004
Vol.III Issue:2

This Issue:

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hepaticas.jpg (94K)With equinox approaching fast, it must be time for another newsletter. And for this issue we have exciting news: for the first time ever we have a guest contributor! Please welcome Ivor Hughes, director of Herbdata NZ, an excellent educational resource on matters of herbology, alchemy and philosophy of healing. He offers a very thought-provoking article on the evils of pharmageddon.

Also new at the Sacred Earth website is the installation of a donation box (on the left hand panel), in case you are feeling generous and want to support the continuation of this website. Donations are purely optional but greatly appreciated as they will help to keep this service freely available for all. I wish everybody a healthy and happy spring.
Kat Morgenstern, March 2004

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Nettles (Urtica dioica)

Nettles2.JPG (27K) Few herbs are more generous than the humble nettle. Inconspicuously, it assumes a modest corner in the garden: untended areas, half in the shade, perhaps near the compost, where the soil is rich in nitrogen. Inconspicuous that is, until one happens to brush by it carelessly - then we suddenly become painfully aware of it.

Nettle is a warrior plant, armed with tiny needles that cover him from top to toe, leaves, stems and all. The lightest touch will break off the needle's tops and release formic acid, which is responsible for creating that familiar sensation of having been stung by a hundred little syringes.

Nettles don't so much protect themselves with this weaponry - they are extremely hardy and notoriously difficult to exterminate. Even concerted efforts will have a hard time eradicating an established nettle patch. No, nettles are warriors for the earth, they protect disturbed land and assimilate nutrients in the soil. They cleanse and heal the soil and ward off intruders with their stinging needles as best they can.

Gardeners often consider them a nuisance, for nettles can spread like wildfire and their rhizomes are seemingly endless. A small part left behind in the soil soon gives birth to a new colony. Nettles don't have pretty flowers and hurt unaware, innocent by-passers, so gardeners tend to want to get rid of them - by any means they can. They hack and hoe the ground to pull them out, leaving the soil bare and exposed to the elements. If that does not work, they launch chemical warfare on their garden ecology with round-up and other 'herbicides' to kill all the innocent herbs and weeds that nature supplies for our well-being. Only specially bred 'hybrids' stand a chance to survive.

Appearance can be so deceptive, and plants are no different in that respect. While nettles themselves neither smell nor look very attractive, they make excellent companion plants in the garden. They increase the essential oil content of plants that grow nearby, particularly those of the mint family, while also making them more resilient.

The humblest plants conceal the greatest treasures. Nettles may sting, but even this unpleasant effect is not necessarily a bad thing. The Romans respected nettles highly, precisely for this very quality. They used them for flagellation as a treatment for chronic arthritis and rheumatism. We don't tend to appreciate such heroic therapies anymore, though reportedly this particular one was quite effective. Nowadays we want all our medicine to be sugar coated and looking like sweets, never mind their effectiveness, or, for that matter, their side effects….

Nettles are one of the earliest plants to come up in the spring. Their healing and cleansing qualities don't just apply to the soil, they also purify the body, helping it to discharge metabolic wastes, such as uric acid crystals. A by-product of protein metabolism, these crystals lodge in the joints, where they can become extremely painful. Nettles are diuretic; they flush toxins out and wash the system from the inside. In the olden days each year around February/ March people would undergo a body-cleansing period- the lent, when they abstained from meat and heavy foods. They would eat spring herbs, gentle tonics and bitters that would rid the body from the residues of several months of sedentary winter habits - heavy foods and too little exercise - to 'cleanse the blood' and make it 'thin'.

Nettles are one of the most useful tonic herbs available to this end. They are rich in iron, calcium and vitamin A and C. They gently stimulate and tone the body, affecting purification without catharsis. They remove waste matter and replenish the body with nutrients. Therapeutically a tea of nettle tops can be used as a blood cleansing diuretic that also stimulates the formation of red blood cells. This tea can be taken safely by anybody, though it may be particularly supportive for women during puberty, menopause or pregnancy. Nettles also lower the blood sugar level and are thus indicated for diabetes 2 sufferers.

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The forager will not just appreciate their excellent therapeutic qualities, though, but also the fact that they make an abundant and nutritious spring vegetable, which can be used like spinach and other leafy greens. It is best to mix them with other spring herbs such a dandelion or chickweed, or mash them with potatoes and onions. They have a pleasant earthy flavour, adaptable to many dishes. Their versatility is limited only by chef's imagination.. In the 17th century nettle pudding (not the sweet sort), porridge and soup were all common:

Nettle Pudding:
Wash 1lb of nettles, pour boiling water over them and leave them covered and submerged for about an hour. Drain and cut the nettles. Cream 100g of butter with a little salt and pepper, 4 egg yolks, one onion cut fine and two cups of breadcrumbs. Add the nettles to this creamy mass. Beat the egg whites stiff and carefully lift it under the doughy nettle mass. Pour into a buttered dish and cook in a double boiler for one hour.
Scottish Nettle Pudding
To 1 gallon of young Nettle tops, thoroughly washed, add 2 good-sized leeks or onions, 2 heads of broccoli or small cabbage, or Brussels sprouts, and 1/4 lb. of rice. Clean the vegetables well; chop the broccoli and leeks and mix with the Nettles. Place all together in a muslin bag, alternately with the rice, and tie tightly. Boil in salted water, long enough to cook the vegetables, the time varying according to the tenderness or other vise of the greens. Serve with gravy or melted butter. These quantities are sufficient for six persons.
Mrs Grieves, A Modern Herbal

Country people would also make nettle beer, which was not only quite tasty and refreshing, but also wholesome as a remedy for arthritic and gouty pains.

"…a pleasant country drink made of nettle-tops, dandelions, goosegrass and ginger, boiled and strained. Brown sugar was added, and while still warm a slice of toasted bread, spread with yeast, was placed on top, and the whole kept warm for six or seven hours. Finally, the scum was removed, a teaspoon of cream of tartar was added and the beer was bottled."
Lesley Gordon, A Country Herbal
Nettle Beer
The Nettle Beer made by cottagers is often given to their old folk as a remedy for gouty and rheumatic pains, but apart from this purpose it forms a pleasant drink. It may be made as follows: Take 2 gallons of cold water and a good pailful of washed young Nettle tops, add 3 or 4 large handsful of Dandelion, the same of Clivers (Goosegrass) and 2 OZ. of bruised, whole ginger. Boil gently for 40 minutes, then strain and stir in 2 teacupsful of brown sugar. When lukewarm place on the top a slice of toasted bread, spread with 1 OZ. of compressed yeast, stirred till liquid with a teaspoonful of sugar. Keep it fairly warm for 6 or 7 hours, then remove the scum and stir in a tablespoonful of cream of tartar. Bottle and tie the corks securely. The result is a specially wholesome sort of ginger beer. The juice of 2 lemons may be substituted for the Dandelion and Clivers. Other herbs are often added to Nettles in the making of Herb Beer, such as Burdock, Meadowsweet, Avens Horehound, the combination making a refreshing summer drink.
Mrs. Grieves, A Modern Herbal

So, what is the trick to picking nettles without being stung to bits? Well, the easiest way is to wear rubber gloves while picking and preparing nettles. Some people develop a skill at plucking nettles without getting stung. Children sometimes play 'initiation games', daring one another to pick a nettle with bare hands. The trick is to grab the nettle with care and determination and avoid accidental brushing. It does require some practice, but it works. While the stinging at first can be quite annoying, once it starts subsiding the affected parts seem to become sensitised to subtle energies. Dowsers sometimes use nettles to sensitise perception in their hands. Personally I always pick my nettles with bare hands and quite like the tingling effect and the way it makes my hands more sensitive to the plants and the soil with which I am working. However, people who have a tendency for allergies should be careful and avoid direct exposure to nettles since their 'venom' also contains histamine, which can cause allergic reactions. Just as important, nettles intended for internal use should only be picked in spring as they develop an abundance of little crystals later in the season, which can be harmful.

Once the nettles are brought home and cleansed under running water they can be put in a bowl and covered with hot water for about twenty minutes, which greatly reduces their stinging power. Don't discard the water though, you can use it as tea or simply add it to your soup instead of regular water. Or, try it as a hair rinse. Nettles have long been rumoured useful for promoting hair growth. Though some may think this a mere remnant of the old doctrine of signatures ('what is hairy must be good for the hair'), it does actually seem effective not only in making hair grow more prolifically, but also to strengthen it.

Nettle Rinse and Conditioner

Take a big handful of nettles and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and allow to cool. Bottle and keep the liquid in a cool place (e.g. in the fridge). Use this liquid as a final rinse after washing your hair. Don't wash out, but rather comb it out once the hair is dry.

Nettle is a very fibrous plant and once upon a time it was actually planted as a crop for making fabric, rope and paper. Its fibres were separated and softened so they could be spun into a yarn and woven into any kind of cloth, which was equalled only by hemp and flax. Nettles have a stronger fibre than flax, yet are not as harsh as hemp.

Some people claim that nettles act as an aphrodisiac and 'aid the venery'. For this use the seeds are especially in demand.

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That all 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 plant species to the brink of extinction. As 'plant people', we should adopt an attitude of green guardianship for 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 in your neighborhood, try to learn as much as possible about the ecosystem of which you are a part and the plant members of your 'extended family'. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate all their uses. Try to understand it as part of a larger ecosystem. Which animals like it or dislike it? With which other plants does it form communities? Is it native or invasive? Does it protect the ground or deplete it of any of its nutrients? How does it 'fit' into its environment? What can you learn from its chemistry? Building this kind of holistic knowledge base will give you a much deeper insight into the nature of a plant and its role within the ecosystem. Its a lengthy process, but vital if you want to truly get to know your plant friends and the habitat you share.

It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, lest they inadvertantly end up on your dinner plate, which could be most unpleasant or in the worst case scenario, even lethal. The importance of this point is completely obvious, but cannot be stressed enough. Some people hold the false and dangerous belief that what can be found in nature cannot harm them. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT POSITIVELY IDENTIFY AND DEEM SAFE. 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 poisonous mushrooms out there that have evolved to be masters at fooling unsuspecting mushroom hunters. There are also many more potentially deadly mushrooms with edible look-alikes than there are deadly plants with edible look-alikes.

Don't be greedy!

Familiarize yourself with the plants that are listed on the endangered species list for your area. Apart from being unethical, it is also highly illegal to pick endangered plant species. Instead of taking rare plants, consider sowing their seeds in the wild.

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 harvesting roots 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 from 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.

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In Association with
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acupunct.jpg (6K)Chinese medicine has the honrourable reputation of being the oldest medical system in the world. The first-ever book of herbal medicine, the 'Shen-nung pen ts'ao ching, is credited to emperor Shen Nung (2696 BC). This remarkably early date only allows speculation at the far more ancient oral traditions that preceded it.

Chinese medicine is complex and at first sight appears alien to the western mind: Acupuncture needles don't look very appealing, nor does moxibustion, the practice of burning herbs directly on the skin, or the many bizarre looking remedies that stock a Chinese pharmacy. Dried parts of weird and wild animals, boy's urine and other unsavoury items line the shelves next to every conceivable sort of herb, root or resin found in China. It is easy to see why critics of Chinese medicine compare it with the filthy practices once common in Europe before the age of enlightenment and rationalism swept the apothecary-kitchens clean.

The philosophy underlying Chinese medicine is no more comprehensible: there is talk of yin and yang, the principles of male and female powers that hold the universe in balance, and of a mysterious energy known as 'chi', which permeates everything in the universe. There are references to 'elements', wood, fire, water, metal, and earth, none of which actually refer to physical substances as such, but rather to the expression of symbolic qualities, which are used to categorize the phenomena of the manifest world. These qualities have their correspondences e.g. in the heavenly directions, the planets, flavours, colours or the physical organs and functions of the body.

Common to all eastern medical practices is the idea that physical well-being is a sign of mental, physical and spiritual equilibrium. To this effect exercises for example are practiced not so much to keep the body flexible, but rather to nourish it with subtle 'chi' energy. Chinese philosophy asserts that 'chi' energy is vitally important. Excessive living habits or extreme environmental conditions cause it to become imbalanced or stagnant, which causes one of the bodily organs to start manifesting symptoms of excessive or insufficient yin or yang energy. To understand this philosophy a little better we need to examine the system of correspondences on which it is based:

yinyang.gif (4K)According to Chinese philosophy yin is the female energy in nature. It is yielding, receptive, cool, and dark, introvert and feminine, while yang, its male counterpart is active, hot, light, extravert and moving. The harmony between these powers creates a balanced dynamic, but when one becomes too strong it is to the detriment of the other.

The organs are categorized into five yin and five yang organs. Yang organs are the gallbladder, the large and small intestine, the bladder and the stomach. Yin organs are the liver, heart, lungs, kidneys and pancreas. Each of these corresponds to one of the elements and together they form a dynamic system in which every part influences all others. Elements are not regarded as separate, static entities, but as a cycle or flow of a constantly transforming energy that takes on different qualities as it changes from one state to the next, just as the seasons follow a natural cycle in which summer follows spring and autumn arises from summer. Thus: wood creates fire, fire becomes earth (ash), earth gives birth to metal (found in the earth) and metal becomes water (liquid) and water nourishes wood. There is no beginning and no end to this cycle. Correspondingly the organs of the body follow each other in succession of their associated elements. Thus, the kidneys (water) give rise to the liver (wood), which in turn gives rise to the heart (fire) etc.

This may seem rather complex - and it is, but it explains why in Chinese medicine someone who has heart problems will receive treatment for the liver. Instead of remedying the organ that manifests the symptoms, the problem is addressed at its root cause, which is perceived to lie in the organ that precedes the ailing part and the part where the chi energy has become stagnant.

Here is a simplified table of correspondences:

Yin organLiverHeartPancreasLungsKidneys
Yang organGallbladderSmall IntestineStomachLarge IntestineBladder
Body TissuesTendonsBlood vesselsMusclesSkin/hairBones
Flavour Sour Bitter Sweet Spicy Salty
Planet Jupiter Mars Saturn Venus Mercury
Direction East South Centre West North
Weather Windy Hot Moist Dry Cold

One of the most common treatment methods in Chinese medicine is acupuncture, the application of needles to certain points on the body that correspond with the organs. These points are very specific for each organ and are mapped on a kind of grid-system known as 'meridians', a system which is still completely incomprehensible to western science. Meridians are invisible energy lines that span the whole body, top to toe, like the geographical meridians that span the globe. In order to facilitate the unhindered flow of chi these energy-lines must be unobstructed. Blockages are removed by applying acupuncture needles to stimulate certain points along the corresponding meridian. There are yin needles and yang needles and depending on the nature of obstruction the needles are turned either clockwise (yang) to stimulate or counter-clockwise (yin) to relax the associated organ. Western science has not been able to correlate the meridians to any physical aspect of our anatomy, though attempts have been made to relate them to the nerves, lymph and blood vessels.

Although rational models of science and medicine is still puzzled by the question of 'how', Chinese medicine evidently works. This should give us pause for reflection, not just in terms of the merits of this ancient medical system, but on the nature of health and disease and our own materialistic approach to medicine, which tends to view the human body as a piece of biochemical machinery. Malfunctioning parts are remedied by jolting them back into action, or, if the worst comes to the worst, they are simply removed or replaced. Even hearts and kidneys are now routinely replaced and soon we will be able to grow spare parts from our very own cells. By contrast, Chinese medicine considers the universe as a whole and the patient in relation to its cosmic environment; the yin and yang forces must be re-balanced, so that the chi energy can flow freely and the individual can return to a healthful balanced state of physical/emotional equilibrium. It is a holistic system that considers the dynamics of the interactions between macrocosm and microcosm.

Nothing occurs in isolation. The symptoms of an individual are but the reflection of a macroscopic imbalance. I once asked an old Chinese practitioner what he thought about the phenomenal increase of immune deficiency diseases such as Eppstein Barr virus and auto-immune responses, especially among children. 'Its not surprising people are becoming weak and their immune systems are compromised' he told me, 'the earth herself is sick! We must apply acupuncture principles to the healing of the earth.' Then he talked about feng shui and the fact that the meridian system does not just apply to the human body, but that it likewise spans the body of the earth. It opened my eyes to the scope of this holistic philosophy. To heal the people we must also heal the earth - yet unfortunately, while it is the philosophical precept, it is not always the reality of Chinese medicine.

In recent years Chinese medicine has come under fire from conservationists who protest the use of endangered plant and animal parts. An ethical reform to take into consideration the endangered status of certain species is not something a living tradition should shy away from. But traditional practices are like habits - they are hard to break. Sustainability has only become a problem in recent years, since human populations and consumerism have started to explode, but they must urgently be addressed if there is to be a future for our traditions at all.


Health World Online: Chinese Medicine
The Flora of China
History of Chinese Medicine: ChiMed
Chinese Medicine exhibit

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karajia.jpg (18K)Peru is an amazingly diverse country that comprises within its borders some of the highest mountains, deepest gorges, lushest rain forest and driest deserts found on the planet. Most people flock only to the well-known tourist destinations: Iquitos and the Amazon basin, Cuzco and Machu Picchu and perhaps the Sacred Valley, leaving the rest of Peru largely undisturbed. Those who are brave enough to venture off the beaten path will be amazed at the incredible natural and historic treasures that are waiting to be discovered in the lesser known places. It is still possible to have a real adventure in this incredible country...

One of the most amazing places, which has remained virtually untouched, is the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru. Breathtaking scenery of lush forests and high mountains where the condors fly, ancient ruins of long forgotten civilizations and the Inca highway that winds its way along the whole length of the ancient Inca empire. There are not many tourist facilities here and not too many tour operators who organize expeditions into this pristine wilderness. Sacred Earth has partnered with a company who organizes hiking treks with an archeological emphasis, both long and short, into the mountains of northern Peru. Most of these tours require a certain degree of physical fitness. Conditions can be demanding, but the rewards will awesome. These trips are for people looking for an expedition type of adventure with a perfect balance of nature and ancient culture.

For those who are not looking for a trekking adventure but would still like to enjoy the archeological richness of this region we offer shorter tours with extensive hikes and 4-wheel drive support. Nights are spent at comfortable hotels rather than camping or at rustic lodges. The 'Discover Chachapoyas' trips offer a good opportunity to explore the highlights of this amazing area in comfort.

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"Explore the splendour of the Chachapoyas kingdom in style. A private vehicle brings you to the zone's highlights - from Kuelap to Leymebamba - and your stay at the Gran Hotel Vilaya every night guarantees a comfortable night's sleep."

A 'soft adventure' to one of the less travelled parts of Peru, which explores the most significant archaeological sites of Chachapoyas in comfort. Private transport makes getting around easy, though some hiking is also on the agenda.
Next departure date for this exciting 8 days /7 nights tour is:
17th- 24th April. (Other departure dates this year are: 15 - 22 May, 5 - 12 June, 4 - 11 September)
For full details click here

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World Conference of Ethnomedicine

Once again the German organization ETHNOMED is organizing an international conference of Ethnomedicine to be held in Munich, Germany, from 8 - 10 October this year. Healers, shamans and scientists from all over the world are expected to attend and share their wisdom.

Excerpt from the programme:

The conference intends to establish an exchange between authentic, traditional healers, shamans, open-minded scientists and practitioners of contemporary therapies. Don't miss this opportunity to learn about numerous Ethnotherapies and to experience and investigate them in depth - a forward-looking experiment in theory and practice.

Many traditional healers, shamans and tribal elders have registered to present talks, perform rituals and healing ceremonies so that this symposium will probably demand great flexibility from all participants. Comparable with a ritual, like the dance of the dervishes, these three days will engage both, body and senses.

Our indigenous guests, e.g. Old Lady White Thunder Bird Woman (Assiniboine-Cree, USA), Aida Kakosyan and David Khatchaturyan (Armenia), Odongo Ogembo (Kenya), Guo Shuyun (China), Tarun Prajapati (India) , Grandfather Little Crow (Crow, USA), Hariramamurthi (India), Maile Ngema Lama & Parbati Rai (Nepal) altogether 46 representatives of the most varied cultural backgrounds from 15 different countries will converge in Munich. It will be an exciting encounter to which the representatives of these respective cultures will each bring an important message.

The representatives of the Native American tribes are embarking on a journey to meet us 'Whites' in order to transmit to us their laws and paths to health and healing and to avert the looming destruction of the earth. The Indian teachers will show us ways of overcoming the mechanistic, body-centred mode of thinking and lead us toward holistic health under spiritual guidance.

Our guests seek the connection, the synthesis between their traditional approaches to healing and our modern medicine. It is time to listen to these peoples and to learn from their messages. It is time for our science and economy to change perspective and to offer their services to the survival of native peoples instead of endangering the old cultures and destroying nature.

Scientists and therapists from the fields of medicine, psychotherapy and education are working towards the integration of intercultural knowledge in their professional practices, centres and clinics and towards a holistic treatment and methodology as they broaden their perspectives to perceive the human being as a whole. Only by means of an intense exchange, by experiencing other cultures and approaches to healing is it possible to develop an understanding and create a fruitful synthesis.

Conference Programme (english version)

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Visit Ethnomed

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Herb profile


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Panax Ginseng (Asian species) Panax quinquefolius (North American Species)
Synonyms: Yen-Shen, Manroot, red-berry and five fingers, garantoquen


Though everybody knows the name, few people know what the plant looks like. Ginseng is a member of the ivy family and one of those herbs that serves as a classic example of the workings of the doctrine of signatures. The shape of the root is said to resembles that of a human body - the signature clearly indicates that it will benefit not one part, but act as a tonic for the whole body. Its 5 fingered leaves are supposed to be reminiscent of a human hand, (or the five elements), while its long life span is thought to transfer longevity to those who partake of it. Indeed, some claim that this herb can grow to 100 years of age. To determine the age of a particular root one can count its growth rings. The root develops very slowly, producing only one aerial shoot per year, which leaves a scar (growth ring) on the upper part of the rhizome. The root is fleshy, but rarely exceeds 3 inches in length and about ½ -1 inch in thickness. It is often bifurcate and of a yellowish-brownish colour, hence the comparison to a human body. It has a faint aromatic smell with a flavour reminiscent of ginger or liquorice, that soon changes to mild aromatic bitterness. The single aerial shoot grows to a height of about 60 - 80 cm and is deep red in colour. The Chinese species grows somewhat bigger. The leaves are palmate with five narrow, finely serrated leaflets; the two lateral ones being shorter than the others. The flowers of the Chinese species are greenish white, those of the American one pink. The berry is red. Given the right growing conditions Ginseng grows relatively easily from seed, but takes a long time to develop to maturity. It does not develop seed until the third year, the earliest age at which roots are harvested.


Ginseng is a native to the forests of northern China and north Korea. The American species grows in the woodlands of the eastern United States. It requires a rich humus soil and shade, a factor that makes cultivation tricky, though there is a ready market for the root, which is unlikely to ever diminish.


Victim of its own popularity, Ginseng, though once abundant in Asia and North America, has long since become rare in the wild - to the point that it is now protected and heavy fines are imposed on the gathering of wild roots. In China the root has been celebrated for several thousand years as the most important medicinal plant of all. Subsequently, it has been cultivated there commercially for a long time, but not enough to satisfy demand, which is why it imports large amounts from North America. North America became aware of the great value Asians placed on this plant by way of missionaries stationed in China, who had learned about the amazing properties of this plant. Although American Ginseng is not exactly the same as the Asian species, the two are pretty close and exports began in the 1700s. But as the roots are slow to grow, supplies soon dwindled from over 500 000 tons a year to just over 100 000 tons. Now commercial growing is also promoted in the US, but so far only few agriculturists pursue this crop. Though profitable in the long run it requires much effort and specialist knowledge to handle such a plant and the pay-off is not immediate.

Ginseng is a forest species and it requires shade to grow, thus open field cultivation is not possible. Woodland conditions must be simulated. Native North Americans, who have also long valued this plant, called it garantoquen, which means 'root shaped like a man'. Being well aware of the slow growing cycles of this precious root they made sure to reseed and help existing plants to propagate and spread to ensure continued supplies. Commercial gatherers sadly often don't possess such foresight and instead are only interested in the penny they can make today.

While ginseng appears to be an ideal herb for many ailments that afflict modern US citizens, its main market there is for export. Recently it has gained popularity as an herbal remedy and additive in the nutraceutical market, but it has been slow to catch on. The American Pharmacopeia does not list it. The reason is that no conclusive studies have been produced. In fact the studies that are undertaken come up with vague and somewhat subjective observations, such as 'improved enjoyment or quality of life, aphrodisiac, increased energy and power of concentration and similar effects that sound interesting, but are hard to quantify.

The root contains more than 25 saponin triterpenoid glycosides called "ginsenosides" many of which appear to counteract each other. This has puzzled western scientists, but Chinese doctors regard it as prove of Ginseng's effectiveness. They consider it a panacea, an all-heal or universal remedy that improves all ailments, even though it cannot be proven to affect any one in particular. The reason is that it is a tonic and adaptogen. Chinese medicine claims that it improves the overall circulation of Chi and thus acts as a tonic for the whole body. Almost all Chinese herbal compounds contain ginseng. Experts indulge in a veritable 'science of ginsengology' claiming different uses and actions for each part of the root and method of preparation, of which there are many: dried, sugared, boiled, steamed, extracted with alcohol or even added to soups, to name but a few. Its value also depends on its age and on how closely its shape resembles that of a human body.

At one point the Chinese valued ginseng more than gold, but really there is no price that can be put on radiant health and well-being and so Ginseng's gifts are priceless. To show this herb the honour and respect it deserves, we must make sure that wild populations are protected and only use Ginseng from cultivated sources.

Magical Uses:

As a 'man-shaped' panacea ginseng is also used magically as an amulet for good fortune, prosperity, longevity and fertility.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used: Root
Harvest time: mostly in the autumn. Minimum age at which roots can be harvested is 3 years. The older they are the higher is their potency.
Chemical consitutents:Vitamins A, B-6 and Zinc, which help to support the immune system. Ginseng contains more than 25 saponin triterpenoid glycosides called "ginsenosides" with apparently opposing actions. These are believed responsible for the adaptogenic effects, which allow the body to utilize those properties it needs in order to regain its balance. The glycosides appear to restore adrenal balance when adrenal glands are over-stimulated or exhausted due to stress.
Actions: adaptogen, tonic, circulatory stimulant, nervous tonic


Ginseng is regarded as a tonic. It is not only used to improve a wide variety of health conditions, but also as a preventative. Chinese medicine includes Ginseng in numerous formulas for its overall balancing effects. Western science has not yet been able to clearly establish the working mechanisms of this herb, though its beneficial effects are beyond doubt. Ginseng is used whenever the body is exposed to environmental, emotional or mental stress. Stress has many negative effects on the body, but one of the worst and most insidious ones is the over-stimulation and subsequent exhaustion of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce adrenaline, the so called 'fight or flight' hormone, in response to stress situations. When stress exerts its negative effects for too long the hormone becomes depleted and the glands ability to produce it is also diminished. As a result the body lacks the energy it needs to face even ordinary stress situations, becomes fatigued, unable to concentrate, emotionally unstable and easily depressed and the immune system is also weakened. The normal sex drive is reduced and there is neither lust nor lustre in the individual. Ginseng improves the function of the adrenal gland and thus helps the body to cope with these manifold symptoms of stress. Ginseng also improves the circulation and strengthens the heart. Improved circulation means improved blood supply and better functioning of the organs. All of these properties show that Ginseng's reputation as an overall tonic is more than justified. In Chinese medicine it is often given in compound mixtures that address a particular part or function of the body, e.g. ginseng and ginkgo are said to be an ideal combination for mental stress, memory improvement and to improve concentration.

Ginseng is especially recommended to ally ailments associated with old age, but in this day and age where stress has become a way of life, it would make a good choice for anybody that wants to offset the negative effects of the rat-race before serious long-term consequences have actually started to manifest as chronic conditions. It can be taken on a daily basis and tolerance is generally considered very good. Though there are some cautionary advice against its use for individuals with high blood pressure and during pregnancy.

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Here are a couple of recipes for healing foods offered by the Ginseng board of Wisconsin, a great resource for sourcing ginseng producers in the US.

Sex Muffins



Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, spices and ginseng powder in bowl. Meanwhile, slowly melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler until smooth. Add melted chocolate to dry ingredients. Add honey, milk and egg whites and stir just enough to blend. Pour into greased muffin tins and bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Cool two minutes before removing from pan.

Tossed Ginseng Salad



Combine all ingredients and toss well. Serve with oil and vinegar or your favorite dressing. Flavor with condiments of your choice.

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By Ivor Hughes

Freedom or PharageddonTraditional or ethnic knowledge has a very long taproot. It is wisdom knowledge. Each one of us irrespective of race, colour or spiritual belief may claim it as their rightful heritage, the legacy of our forebears. Long live that noble tradition, for without our roots we wither and die, and most assuredly will be a horrible death ...from cold fish medical science, speculative knowledge and commerce.

I would ask you to consider that the planetary support systems have been badly damaged. Our food supply has been severely compromised by Chemical and Veterinary Farming, and now the further threat of Genetic Modification. The biosphere is contaminated from pole to pole with nervous system toxins and hormone disrupters. Our children are being born genetically damaged. The immunity conferred by nature across untold millennia has been destroyed by this science commerce driven activity.

In that respect Academia performs the same function for commerce that the Arms dealer performs for petty dictators, they are well paid for their services. Perhaps the Mandarins of these establishments feel an overwhelming desire to protect their position of power and privilege, which has obscured reality? This to the detriment of us all. It is a hubris that needs to be challenged and the perpetrators punished.

Academia demands intellectual and scientific freedom. Yet gives the barest nod to social responsibility in return for public support. Academia is still into the medieval practice of book burning and the stifling of dissent. This whilst garnering many billions of dollars on an annual basis from the Pharmaceutical Cartel.

Given the current condition of the planet and everything that she has given birth to, including us, the behavior of science-led public and environmental agencies is inexplicable. Perhaps without the poisons they do not know what to do?

In this age of 'user pays', how could it be any other way? It is the way of the world. In such a mental climate, human decency is running last in the race to Pharmageddon.

It is writ large and clear... in plain view for everyone to see. A Faustian bargain sealed with corruption in every shape and form. So much so, that a few prominent members of science and academia have been led to protest developments. In other words they have placed their careers on the line. Integrity is worthy of example. Unfortunately integrity is in short supply in the professions.

Anyone remember the story of Burke and Hare, the medical body snatchers? If B and H were alive today they would drool and slobber at the sheer size of the market. Whole bodies, dead bodies, live bodies, body organs, tissue cultures and genetic material from every conceivable source. And, a well trodden path to the patent office.

The following statistics were taken from a press release, issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office dated 9th February 2004.

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It would be interesting to know what proportion of patents relate to biological material. This unseemly scramble to patent looks rather like the old Californian gold rush days. It has many profound ramifications for the health and freedom of all nations of the world.

The following small extract is taken from an article by Gwen L. Williams.

Intellectual Property and Biological Knowledge
by Gwen L. Williams

Gwen L. Williams is currently enrolled in the Master's program at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Biological Objects: Discovery or Invention?

The definition of biological objects is important for whether an intellectual resource falls under copyright protection or is eligible for industrial property protection. In other words, is the biological object a discovery or an invention? This definitional distinction is important because it affects whether the biological object is patentable and thus eligible for industrial property protection. That is, if the biological object is considered a discovery, then the biological object is not the scientist's creation. The creation of the scientist is the publication disclosing the discovery. Hence, copyright applies to the published findings and the protection of intellectual property rights is protection of the copyright. This protection is particularly important in biology where a person's name is associated as the authority for the first published treatment of a new species.

On the other hand, if the biological object itself is considered a creation of the scientist, then the biological object is an invention and is a potentially patentable object. Whereas the scientist's publication disclosing the invention would fall under copyright protection, the issuance and protection of patents fall under the industrial property branch of intellectual property rights: the protection of intellectual property rights is protection of the industrial property, the invention.

The classification of the biological object is not simply a matter of differing epistemological positions. A May 2002 Science article, "DuPont Ups the Ante on Use of Harvard's OncoMouse," details a recent intellectual property debate between private enterprise and academic scientific research where the biological object itself is a patented "mouse engineered to develop cancers." Another Science article, "Patents, Secrecy, and DNA," published in 2001, indicates "more than 25,000 DNA-based patents were issued by the end of 2000" on various genomics inventions, including patents for gene fragments and sequences.

"It is, as it were, a matter of the relations between publicly supported scientific research and commercial for-profit ventures in free-market capitalist economies."

It is my emphasis on the last paragraph of the abstract. Gwen L. Williams has provided a succinct analysis of the situation from the librarian angle. First it was the spice and medicinal species from the farflung corners of the globe ...vast fortunes made with, dynasties founded. Wars fought and Empires and Colonies raised. The people that paid were the indigenous peoples of those lands that were occupied and subjugated. One may play with the words but the story cannot be changed. The only thing changed is the costumes. Once again the rain forests are being plundered for their medicinal materials. The people are plundered for their knowledge, and their genes.

Tragic as this is, the only thing we can offer is legislation... You know how it goes … the same old boring routine of penal punishment … the same old boring social patch, to patch the patch of the last patch that went wrong.

I ask you to ponder this road upon which society is being herded, read the signpost and see. After all the ethics of deciding whether you live or die under such a system have already been mapped out.

The Cosmic joker played his hand ... And there upon the blue of earth ... lay a card that said..... Global Warming!

At this point in time heated debate ensues in scientific forums ... Global warming ... whose fault is it? Who cares! It IS happening ! An estimated 10% of the biosphere is going to disappear .. fall off the edge of the world ... in great clouds of galactic dust .. What are we doing about it ? Have we understood the implications? Have we understood that our common mother is a living organism?

Legislation will not cure a cancer in the Global Brain … In the business of pharmaceutics and medicine the corruption is widespread with mycelium penetrating into State regulatory bodies whose mandate is to protect the people. Rest assured that legislation drafted will allow those establishments to stall indefinitely … as they siphon off the health and wealth of many nations.

Legislation is an increase in the ranks of lawyers who will wax fat from the proceeds. Legislation is the thin end of the wedge ... methodically hammered in until the door is sprung, and the State rushes in like a wave of bad breath... For example this current scenario commenced circa 1750.

The British Parliament first stole the land and forced the peasants into the 'Dark Satanic Mills'. This was done at the behest of wealthy land owners and the aspiring industrialists at the dawning of the Industrial Era.

Consequently 22% of the land was taken and enclosed by an Act of Parliament. Nearly 7 million acres, of which, 5 million acres was arable land with the remainder designated as commons.

There were over 5000 pieces of legislation passed by British Parliament to legitimize the theft of the common peoples heritage and rights. Landowners were able to enclose land without reference to parliament, with the proviso that the majority of landowners agreed to the enclosure.

The wide spread suffering, starvation and the forced transportation by convict ships to the colonies were commonplace. The awful genocidal disaster of the Irish Potato Famine; the sacrifice of the common peoples in the self interest of the privileged is rarely acknowledged.

Today the term 'Luddite' is used as a pejorative to designate anyone who is seen as anti progress. This says more about those that use the term, than about those who suffered the consequence, and currently suffer the consequence of that so-called progress of the Pasteur and Dr Frankenstein mind set.

Today that same situation has surfaced in a more subtle guise. This time it is not the land, but rather what comes out of it.

Today that scenario has taken on a sociopathic form. Your right to control your own body and think your own thoughts is being usurped.

Today in a modern form of body snatching they have access to millions of samples of DNA from the Police departments and hospitals. They have an unlimited supply of body organs taken without permission. They have the third world to experiment on with the dripping needle and lethal pills.

Today your heritage is being legislated away, your right to use the herbs of the land by practicing health freedom is being taken from you.

Today we have a whole industry spawning legislation at a global level, which in theory is designed to protect peoples and individuals from the predatory behavior of commerce, science and academia.Yet give thought to legislation, and the inevitable repression and loss of freedom, which ensues perhaps a Western Cultural Revolution is the answer. If not then it is difficult to see how we can change the current cold fish academic and scientific mindset. Mainstream life sciences have no soul. No respect for life. No sense of awe or wonder at the incredible complexity of it all.

Human experimentation from cradle to grave … At the turn of the 20th century and well into the 1950,s the young thrilled to stories of Cannibals … today the grass skirt and cauldron have been replaced by white coats and patents.

There are far better roads for us to travel. Our history is a chain of thought. Our development as a specie has been through many levels of consciousness … perhaps it is time for us to move on. Perhaps we are on the verge of Spiritual break through?

"The aspiration to be 'Scientific' is such and idol of the tribe to the present generation, is so sucked in with his mothers milk by every one of us, that we find it hard to conceive of a creature who should not feel it, and harder still to treat it freely as the altogether peculiar and one sided objective interest that it is".
William James, Principles of Psychology 1890

Ivor Hughes
15th Feb 2004
Northland New Zealand

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Book Review:

Mood Enhancing Plants
Chrissie Wildwood

Paperback: 306 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 9.60 x 6.70
Publisher: The CW Daniel Company, Ltd.; (March 15, 2004)
ISBN: 0852073585

With this volume Chrissy Wildwood has made a truly unique contribution to the plethora of books on herbs and aromatherapy already on the market. Her approach is holistic and wide-ranging: it includes discussions on the nature of emotional well-being and dis-ease within a greater philosophical and ecological context as well as discussing eco-spirituality and conservation issues alongside much practical information on utilising herbs to improve emotional well-being in a variety of ways, both remedial and for pleasure - for emotional well-being is a path of beauty and appreciation of beauty. But above all it is her thoughtful address of conservation issues that really made the book special for me. All too often this issue ignored by authors, merchants and users of herbal medicine alike.

The recent boom in aromatherapy and herbal medicine has had serious consequences on wild plant populations that are mercilessly exploited to satisfy an ever-growing market demands. Consumers meanwhile, like to think of themselves as 'green', simply because they utilize herbs instead of chemicals, never considering the fact that rare plant species are becoming ever more endangered due to over exploitation by the herbal medicine trade. Golden Seal, Ginseng, Rosewood and Sandalwood are just a few of the plants that have suffered from their own popularity. Her argument is very timely - healing cannot, by definition, be holistic if plants or animals have to suffer for our well-being. That does not mean we should not use herbs, but it does mean we must be conscious of our consumer choices and the effects they may have on the broader ecology. This book brings these issues into a sharp focus, but does not just paint the bleak picture, it also shows ways in which people can take responsibility and make a difference by making conscious choices.

Another aspect addressed here, also unusual for a book on herbal medicine, is the relatively new field of eco-psychology and the idea of reconnecting our bodies and souls to mother earth in order to regain a sense of emotional balance and ecological awareness.

The book is structured in two parts. The first part starts by dealing with the philosophical considerations of emotional well-being and ways to regain balance, including dietary considerations and engaging the senses to gain a richer appreciation of plants and nature. It continues with an exploration of the chemistry of plants and the ways in which they affect mind and body. The third chapter explores the wider issues of ecology and herbal medicine while the following chapters are full of practical suggestions on how to use plants for mood improvement, including many recipes for teas, incense blends and aromatherapy uses. Her recipes not only focus on moods, but also on celebrating the sacredness of all life. Her approach to emotional well-being also addresses some of the most common physical conditions associated with imbalance, such as PMS or menopause and stress. The second part of the book is an encyclopaedia of herbs that affect the nervous system and emotional balance. While much of this information can be found elsewhere, it is rare to find such a compilation in one book. There is also much up-to-date research information not just on the safety and actions of plants but also their regarding their conservation status. The information presented here is truly excellent and well researched and adds a unique dimension to the herbal library, not already covered by dozens of other books.

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RAFFLE in aid of South American Explorers Club and the Inka Porter Project

The south american explorers club is wonderful not-for-profit organization that supports independent travellers in South America. Their Aims and Purposes are:

The Inka Porter Project (Porteadores Inka Ñan to give it its local Quechua title) is dedicated to improving working conditions and practices of all porters and muleteers (arrieros), and helping to protect the environment in Peru and the Andes. Our projects are based on porters' own input, which helps them build a more powerful self-image through participating in practical, health and environmental projects.

Please support them by buying a raffle ticket (the grand prize is a painting of Machu Picchu by Diane Dandeneau)

The winner will be drawn on the 30 April.

For more information go:

Earth Talk Forum launched

A new and innovative environmental advocacy discussion community and learning network called "Earth Talk" has been launched. The site seeks to contribute to global ecological sustainability by enabling communication connections between those working on behalf of forests, water and climate. Environmentalists interested in these important issues are urged to join in the discussion at .

Earth Talk is the latest offering from, Inc. and has been developed in conjunction with Ecological Internet, Inc., an information technology consultancy. The site makes use of the latest threaded discussion board technologies to facilitate information exchange, including asking questions, sharing ideas, and learning and working together. and Ecological Internet are leaders in the development of environmental Internet sites. In addition to the Eco-Portal, the Forest Conservation Portal at, ClimateArk at and Water Conserve at bring networked information technologies to bear upon environmental conservation in a new and powerful fashion. The sites contain environmental portal search engines, massive link collections, frequently updated action alerts, the most comprehensive news tracking on the Internet (, and contain hard-hitting blogs that provide a "dark green" perspective on current environmental issues (i.e.

March 3, 2004

The Sixth Great Extinction: A Status Report


Humanity is moving toward a massive extinction event, uniquely caused by the activities of a single species. The attached "Extinction Status Report" by the Earth Policy Institute provides a marvelous overview to these issues; as well as justification for the existence of's network, and its commitment to ecological science based forest conservation advocacy in defense of the Earth and all its life.

Each year the earth's forest cover shrinks by 16 million hectares (40 million acres), with most of the loss occurring in tropical forests, where levels of biodiversity are high. The average extinction rate is now some 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the rate that prevailed over the past 60 million years. The greatest threat to the world's living creatures is the degradation and destruction of habitat, affecting 9 out of 10 threatened species. Humans have transformed nearly half of the planet's ice-free land areas, seriously impacting the rest of nature.
Read more:

Latest issue of Indigenous Knowledge World Wide - IKWW (March 2004) is now online:


* Editorial on the transfer of our Indigenous Knowledge publishing activities

* News from the field
- Indigenous strategies for keeping goats from damaging maize crops in the dry season
- Indigenous approach to the sustainable conservation of agro-biodiversity: learning from the Bhar community
* Calls & Conferences
- Call for papers; Indilinga
- Call for information: Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia
- Local knowledge in development: problems and prospects
- South African colloquium on Indigenous Knowledge Systems
* Publications
- AAAS Handbook on Intellectual Property and Traditional Knowledge
- Trading in Knowledge: Development Perspectives on TRIPS, Trade and Sustainability
- The environmental workbook
* Organizations and networks
- Healthy diversity through Indigenous Vegetables

SciDev.Net launches new biodiversity dossier:

As the UN Convention on Biological Diversity comes to a close, SciDev.Net explores how concerns over biodiversity can be reconciled with the needs of the developing world.

A new dossier on the SciDev.Net website has evolved from the previous quick guide on biodiversity with the addition of four specially commissioned policy briefs, along with new opinion pieces and features. It also has the latest news, links, definitions and details of future events.

The new dossier's specially commissioned policy briefings summarise key aspects of the issue in an informative and accessible style:

- The UN Convention on Biological Diversity
Policy analyst, Stas Burgiel, charts the progress of the biodiversity convention, and discusses the relative successes and many difficulties it has had to weather.
- Modern agriculture and biodiversity
In recent times, agriculture and biodiversity have coexisted uneasily. Barbara Gemmill and Ana Milena Varela describe how the future of each is intimately bound up in the other.
- How biodiversity loss affects ecosystems
Some environmental researchers take the view that species-rich ecosystems function better than those that are species-poor. Others disagree. Shahid Naeem assesses the arguments.
- Biodiversity and climate change
Hannah Reid, Balakrishna Pisupati and Helen Baulch explore the inextricable links between biodiversity and climate, and explain why an integrated policy approach is required.

In addition, Mark Malloch Brown (director of the United Nations Development Programme) and Reginald Victor (Sultan Qaboos University, Oman), provide sharply conflicting views on whether sustainable development policies can meet conservation goals.

News From the 'Institute Science in Society'
Approving GM Crops is Abusing Science

Scientific evidence has gone decisively against GM crops. So why is commercial growing allowed? Scientists from the Independent Science Panel are calling for an enquiry Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, 1st February 2004

Independent Science Panel Challenges Approval of GM Maize

Dr. Brian John of GM-Free Cymru and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Director of the Institute of Science in Society, both members of the Independent Science Panel on GM launched 10 May 2003, have written a strongly worded letter to Margaret Beckett to challenge the approval of Chardon LL GM maize for Britain Dr. Brian John and Mae-Wan Ho, 6th March 2004