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© Kat Morgenstern
January 2002

VOL.1 no.1

CONTENTS:

Greetings,
and welcome to the first ever Sacred Earth Newsletter. Like the rest of this site, this is a growing and evolving feature. The newsletter is a free subscription service which will arrive in your mail box approximately every 6 weeks. The email version is abbreviated, providing short abstracts of each article with a direct link to the full version on-line. This prevents unnecessary clutter in your emailbox. It also means that you don't get overwhelmed by huge unwieldy html documents and images which take ages to download. If you wish to contribute to this newsletter, have your book reviewed, or make an important announcement relevant to ethnobotany or herbalism please get in touch with us directly. Please note that all materials presented in this newsletter are copyrighted. You may forward the newsletter to your friends or anybody you think might be interested, but please send it in its entirety. Reuse of the content is only permitted with expressed permission of the author.

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January and February are among the sparsest months for those of us who like to go out there to pick wild greens for soups and salads and other delicious wild food dishes. Of course much depends on just where we live. Milder climes have a little more to offer with regard to early spring edibles than the colder northern regions where the snow gives no sign of melting and the earth is still frozen solid. Even in the more temperate regions, where snow rarely falls or if it does, hardly stays for any lengths of time, foraging can still be quite a challenge at this time of year.

One of the earliest harvestable plants are the Nettles (Urtica dioica). They are a hardy lot at any rate and if you have cropped your patch regularly there is almost always fresh young growth that will yield a few handfuls of tops for a soup. Even if you haven't, the early spring is the best season to pick the tender young leaves. Pick them with your gloves on if you are scared of the stings. At home wash them thoroughly and cut small. They can be prepared as spinach or added to a soup a few minutes before it is done. Once they are cooked they don't sting anymore. Nettles are especially rich in iron and thus make a great spring cleansing food, that will help to dispel the 'Fruhjahrsmudigkeit', the sense of sluggishness and tiredness often encountered at this time of year, which is usually due to too little exercise and 'thick blood' from a winter diet.

For salad greens scan the ground for the very early growth of Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Chickweed (Stellaria media) and Daisies (Bellis perennis). Dandelion leaves are especially healthful, being rich in potassium, and since they grow abundantly almost everywhere there is no danger of eradication. The older leaves become too bitter and tough to enjoy but the young tender leaves have a pleasant slightly bitter bite that goes well in salads. They make a great spring cleansing remedy. Once it starts flowering the season for the leaves is over, but the flowers can be used to make a delicious herbal wine. The roots too are used for food and medicine. They can be roasted and ground to make a healthful coffee substitute that is especially beneficial for the liver. Many of its closest relatives, such as Hawkbit, Catsear or Nipplewort are also edible, which is just as well as their leaves are often hard to distinguish before their flowers appear. Yarrow leaves are also best in the very early spring when they are still soft and tender. Their fernlike appearance is easy to identify even long before the flowers develop. Once they get older they tend to get a little tough and prickly and the taste is nowhere near as good. Chickweed can be harvested almost all year round, though the little leaves give neither much bulk nor flavour. However, those who encounter it as a weed in their gardens will be pleased to know that instead of throwing it on the compost it could be added to a soup or salad instead. Richard Maybe recommends it cooked:

'Wash the sprigs well and put into a saucepan with no additional water. Add a little butter and some chopped spring onions. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes turning all the time, Finish off with a dash of lemon juice or a sprinkling of grated nutmeg. Cooked this way Chickweed is especially good with rich meat.'

Richard Maybe, Food for Free

Daisies usually grow abundantly almost throughout the year. The young leaves and flowerbuds before they become hairy can be used in salads. Though not much used by modern herbalists, this is another wonderful 'spring cleansing' herb, which stimulates the metabolism and cleanses the blood.

Other likely candidates are the mustard greens, Wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris), Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) and White Mustard (Sinapis alba). Mustard greens can be cooked with other greens or added to a salad mixture. They add a deftly bite to any dish, cooked or raw.

Watercress usually grows abundantly in most streams, but should never be picked from stagnant water or where there is agricultural run-off from pastures to avoid any danger of infection from liver fluke. Watercress is an exception to the rule of picking young fresh leaves - the older ones have far more flavour. Wash well before adding them to the salad - they go best with a fruity salad, e.g. mixed with apples or oranges, and nuts. Horseradish (Amoracia rusticana) too might be worth a dig once the ground is no longer frozen. Grated Horseradish mixed with sour crème, double cream, or crème fresh makes a bitey condiment for meats and fish. Those who like it hot might try the Universal Devils Mixture:

"…To devil the same (anything), rub each piece with the following mixture, having made a deep incision in any article of food that may be subjected to this Mephistophelian process. Put in a bowl a good tablespoonful of mustard, which mix with four tablespoonful of Chilli vinegar. Add to it a tablespoonful of grated Horseradish, two bruised shallots, a teaspoonful of salt, half ditto of salt, ditto of black pepper, and one of pounded sugar, two teaspoonful of chopped Chillies, if handy. Add the yolks of two raw eggs. Take a paste brush, and after having slightly seasoned each piece with salt, rub over each piece with the same, probing some into the incisions. First broil slowly and then the last few minutes as near as possible to the Pandemonium fire."

From 'The Culinary Campaign', Alexis Soyer, 1857

Or try it grated as a salad, along with grated apples and a little grated carrot, mixed with sour crème or crème fresh, season with a little salt and sugar.

Garlic Hedge Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), which can be found abundantly growing in hedges, combines a garlicky and mustard taste and is especially good early in the year before the leaves become too bitter. Shamrock or Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosa) is also an early spring herb which can be found in woodlands. The tender leaves have a refreshingly sour bite that can go well mixed among other salad herbs. However, the leaves contain oxalates, which can be irritating to the kidneys and thus should not be consumed in large quantities and should be avoided by those who suffer from any kind of kidney problems.

Another early harbinger of spring is the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) and both the leaves and rhizomes are edible. The leaves are rich in Vitamin C and the roots are starchy, though quite small and not especially tasty. Medicinally they can used to make an ointment for haemorrhoids.

There are many more herbs that could be mentioned here and their local availability largely depends on the climate and habitat. The plants mentioned above are common and can be found in hedges and meadows in the early spring in most temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Though before venturing out to pick any wild plant please take these gathering guidelines to heart:

Gathering Tips

The best way to get started is to get to know the plants that grow around you, familiarize yourself with the weeds, bushes and trees. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate their uses. 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. 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, especially when harvesting roots. 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.).
Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.

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MANDRAKE IN PROFILE
CAUTION: THIS PLANT IS POISONOUS

MANDRAKE

(Mandragora officinarum)

Solanaceae

SYNONYMS:

Alraun, Satan's Apple, Mandragora, Devil's Testicles
The Greek name from which the word 'Mandragora' is derived implies a plant that is harmful to cattle.

DESCRIPTION:

There are 6 species in this genus, the most common of which is Mandragora officinarum. The perennial plants form a leaf-rosette with no stalk. The leaves can grow up to a foot in size and are between 4 - 5 inches wide with a sharply pointed apex. When they first emerge they stand erect, but gradually flatten out. The star like flowers are five pointed and somewhat bell-shaped. The officinarum variety is yellow-greenish; the autumnalis variety is purple. The flowers are born on separate stalks, which emerge from the centre of the leaf-rosette.  They later give rise to the golden yellowish fruits, that are often referred to as 'apples', which they resemble, though their size approximates more that of a crab-apple or mirabelle. The fruit has a pleasant scent. The root can grow to over half a meter (2 feet) in length and is often strangely forked, which has given rise to anthropomorphic associations, likening their appearance to a human male or female body shape. The root has a tough brown rind but is white inside. The leaves emerge directly from the crown of the root.

ECOLOGY:

Mandrake originates in the eastern Mediterranean region and is distributed throughout southern Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa, where it grows in waste places and abandoned fields in sandy and rocky, well draining soil. There is also a species that is endemic to the Himalaya. Nowadays it is cultivated in gardens north of the Alps, but doesn't naturalize there, as it needs a warm and protected setting. It doesn't tolerate frost well and in cultivation needs to be mulched during the winter.

HISTORY, MYTHOLOGY AND FOLKLORE

Once shrouded in much mystery and lore, Mandrake, the most important magical plant of the Middle Ages, today has been all but forgotten. The preachers of the Age of Enlightenment have successfully dispelled all the myths and tales that have spun up around this plant through the Ages. Today it is not even used medicinally anymore. Yet back in the days of ancient Egypt it was well known and respected enough to get a mention in the famous Ebers Papyrus, an ancient document dating back to about 1700 BC, which lists about 700 medicinal plants. Back then it was thought to increase fertility and was valued as an aphrodisiac. Even the Bible attests to its powers - in the story of Rachael, Leah and Jacob, the originators of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis XXX, 14-16), Rachael trusted in the power of the Mandrake to rouse Jacob's interest in her, hoping that the herb would make her fertile so she could bear him a child. However, despite the Mandrake, God thought otherwise… The other mention of it is in the Song of Songs, Salomon VII 11-13, where it is mentioned as an allusion to passionate love-making (how did this piece of poetry ever end up getting into the Bible, I wonder?).

Mandrake was also known to have narcotic properties and in Antiquity was often used as an anaesthetic for surgical procedures. The ancients were well aware of the fact that this powerful little plant could be dangerous if taken in excessive quantities and that the sleep it helped to induce could become a permanent state of being. However, since in those days safe and effective anaesthetics were not so easy to come by they felt compelled to experiment with the most promising plants they knew. Mandrake, along with Poppy, Thornapple, Henbane and Belladonna produced good results if one could get the dosage just right. The preferred method of administration was to make a concoction of some or all of these plants and let the patient inhale the vapours via a sponge, which if done properly, would induce a profound sleep, so the surgeon could go about his business of cutting and sawing off limbs.

Apuleius thought it an effective remedy to counteract possession by evil spirits.

'For witlessness, that is devil sickness or demoniacal possession, take from the body of this said wort Mandrake by the weight of three pennies, administer to drink in warm water as he may find most convenient - soon he will be healed.'

It wasn't until the Middle Ages that Mandrake became popular as a magical plant, and was hailed as a miracle talisman, capable of curing just about anything. It was the root in particular that emanated this mysterious power to fascinate and entrance people - most likely due to its shape, which with a little stretch of the imagination could be seen to resemble a human body. Anthropomorphism (projecting human qualities onto non-human things or beings) was an important aspect of the medieval mindset and the Mandrake root lent itself perfectly to such projections. These magical roots came either as 'Mandrake women' or 'Mandrake men', depending on their shape, but either way they were thought to be powerful allies who could perform true miracles for their masters - anything from attracting love where previously there was none, to getting rich quick and striking unsuspected luck, to warding off misfortunes and evil spells, to becoming invincible in battle.

Such a powerful magical ally was of course not easy to come by. One couldn't just go out, find a plant and start digging - oh no! The Mandrake apparently did not take very kindly to being dug out from its haunt, in fact, it was reported to vanish before an irksome intruder could get to it. That was the best-case scenario. Far worse if it actually stayed in place and the gatherer had to face the task of digging it up, for the Mandrake would give off an ear-piercing scream as it was pulled from the earth, a scream so terrible that it would instantly kill anybody within earshot. Thus it was recommended to plug up one's ears tight and take a dog to carry out the ungrateful task. Before one could start digging one had to draw three magic circles around the plant. Once the root was reasonably free, one was to tie a string to the dogs tail and attach the other end to the root. Then, to avoid the deadly scream, one should speed away from the scene, maybe throwing a tasty piece of meat to the dog, but just out of reach so it would try to jump for it and thus uproot the Mandrake. If one were lucky one would be out of earshot by this time. The dog however, would be dead… or so the story goes.

Bartholemew thought it dangerous to dig for the root in adverse winds and also pronounced it necessary to dig for it all night till sunrise. Other stories insisted that the only Mandrake root powerful enough to perform all these magical tasks was one that was gathered from beneath a gallows at midnight. Apparently, so the story goes, the most potent Mandrake sprouted where the blood or semen of a true criminal had fertilized the earth. A great deal of fuss was made over these gruesome gathering stories and they certainly worked their trick - at least for the crooked vendors, who invented them. Given the ordeal and risked involved in gathering this magickal plant, many a gullible soul preferred to leave the ghastly task to someone else, and rather than going out at night and digging around at the witches hour for this eerie plant, which was at any rate likely to kill either oneself or one's dog or both in the process, they gladly parted with large sums of money to obtain their talisman from a vendor.

The Mandrake roots sold at the market were often 'improved' to enhance their human features by being carved into more recognizable male or female shapes, and fetching up to 30 gold coins a piece. Some of these Charm sellers were quite creative and carved fanciful little figurines from the roots. A particularly prized item was a root, which had not only been carved but made to 'sprout hair' which could be trimmed into a beard or hair-do. This was achieved by inserting millet seeds into the right places of the carved figurine and re-burying it until these sprouted, creating a kind of 'Chia-Mandrake' effect. Capitalizing on people's gullibility, the vendors, usually quite unscrupulous thieves made whatever profit they could from these magical poppets, as Turner observes:

'they are so trymmed of crafty theves to mocke the poore people withall and to rob them both of theyr wit and theyr money.'

Of course, in northern latitudes it was not always easy to find adequate supplies to satisfy the large demand. In this case the charlatans would substitute another root and sell it off for the genuine article. In Europe the preferred substitute was White Bryony, a completely unrelated species, which happens to have a vaguely similar looking root formation. In America there was even less of a chance to come across a genuine article, since Mandragora officinalis does not grow there at all. The most commonly used substitute was 'American Mandrake', or May-Apple, (Podophyllum peltatum) also a completely unrelated species.

Once in possession of the precious root, one's troubles were by no means over, as it was no easy task to satisfy a Mandrakes' whims. It had to be bathed in milk or wine on a regular basis, fed specific kinds of food (its exact dietary requirements were an endless source of debate) and wrapped in the finest red or white silks. Even if all its demands were met it was possible that it would just stop to perform its duties, in which case it was best to get rid of it as quickly as possible. The difficulty was, that it could be hard to find a buyer for a used up talisman like that. One couldn't just give it away either. If no buyer could be found the Mandrake root would have to stay, sometimes to the distinct disadvantage of the owner, for its power could, in some cases, turn against him, causing bad luck to haunt him. Needless to say, such a root was a liability rather than an asset and in the worst case scenario, (if it was impossible to get rid of), it would eventually end up getting buried with its owner and demand its share of rewards at the gate of heaven.

Parallel to this popular 'rub-the-buddha-for-money' type of magic, Mandrake also featured as an important 'Witches Herb', and constituted one of the key ingredients of the fabled Flying Ointment. Considering its chemical composition it was probably a lot more effective in this context than as a good luck charm.

It wasn't until the early 1500s that herbalists tried to dispel the myths surrounding this plant, assuring their readers that most Mandrake roots look very little like human beings, but rather more like parsnips and that nothing should be feared with regard to collecting the root, which in their own experience behaved much like any other when being pulled from the ground. Still, the belief in its magical powers persisted well into the beginning of the last century and in some rural areas people still murmur something about 'he must have his mandrake working' when someone in their midst happens upon unsuspected luck or riches.

Magickal Uses:

As a talisman or amulet; aphrodisiac, love magic, good luck in business or gambling, counter-magic, protector, warding off of evil spirits or spells, invincible against any kind of weapons, flying ointment

MEDICINAL USES

This plant contains powerful toxic substances, which if ingested can be fatal. Do not use internally and apply extreme caution even with external uses.

PARTS USED:

roots, leaves, fruits

ACTIONS:

sedative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory hypnotic and hallucinogenic, emmenagogue, abortive, emetic, anodine

CONSTITUENTS:

tropane alkaloids: scopolamine, hyoscyamine, atropine, mandragorine, (cuscohygrine), (tropane alcaloids have a powerful effect on the central nervous system, extreme caution is advised)

INDICATIONS

Though similar in composition to Belladonna and Datura, Mandrake finds little use in modern medical or herbal practice. However, in ancient times it was regarded as a powerful and important medicine. The roots were pressed for their juice, which was combined with wine and then reduced by boiling. This was taken as an anaesthetic prior to surgery. The dosage was rather crucial, as too much would put the patient to sleep permanently. Dioscurides recommends a concoction of this juice mixed with honey mead as a purgative to eliminate 'mucous and gall', though again, the dosage was crucial. The juice was also added to a suppository, which would act as a powerful emmenagogoue and abortive. Inserted anally it would induce sleep. The leaves were applied as a poultice to swellings, inflammations and hardened glands. The 'apples' are narcotic, milder than the root, but still powerful enough to kill if taken in excessive quantity (its not clear how many that might be). In Disocurides' age, shepherds seemed to have used it as a natural high, though he did not report any casualty statistics, it is likely that fatal incidents occurred as a result of excessive use. The scent of the apples was also regarded as an aphrodisiac and believed to enhance potency and fertility (used as an amulet).

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Herbal Remedies for Coughs and Colds

'Tis the season for coughs and colds, the bane of the winter months. Thankfully, Mother Earth provides numerous herbs to soothe a sore throat, help deal with fevers and cure drippy noses. Of course the best remedy is prevention and if we regularly boost our immune system with plenty of vitamin C and an occasional dose of a hot spicy soup with plenty of garlic, onion and chillie we might never get the bothersome symptoms of a full-blown cold or flu. However, living in crowded environments one can't help but share in other people's germs. Drastic temperature changes, or getting run down and suffering from winter blues all make it difficult to avoid getting sick.

Often the first symptoms are a scratchy throat and a feeling of being beaten up. Most of us have a tendency to ignore these early symptoms and just battle on, hoping they will go away. Unfortunately though, often they don't, but instead just get worse. So the best thing is to take heed, right at the start and do something about it. 

For a scratchy throat one of the best home remedies is to gargle with a strong Sage tea. Ordinary garden Sage (Salvia officinarum) will do the job. If the symptoms are very sever a decoction of Oak bark (Quercus robur) will act even stronger, as it is very astringent and anti-inflammatory.

If you can stomach it, make a soup with plenty of onions, garlic and chillie pepper. The soup should not just be spicy but almost too hot to eat. The idea is to jump start the system with some naturally anti-bacterial and antibiotic fuel to help battle the bacteria and boost the circulatory system. The effect is threefold:

Take a hot bath with essential oils of Pine and/or Lavender and treat yourself to an early night. Pine oil is especially effective as its' action is not only supportive of the respiratory system but also acts soothing and relaxing on stiff joints and muscle aches that so often accompany a flu. 

A strong dose of vitamin C, preferably in a natural form, such as a hot lemon drink with honey and ginger will also be very soothing and supportive. When the throat gets scratchy during the night a spoonful of honey melted in the mouth can be a very effective way to soothe the bothersome tickle.

If a cough develops, but is stuck in the throat and turns into an annoying dry, irritating tickle, a strong tea of Thyme, which can be sweetened with honey is very effective. Hot milk with honey also helps to make the cough more productive, but should be avoided if there is too much mucous already. To help the cough along Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) and Mullein leaves (Verbascum thapsus) are among the best herbs for a demulcent cough mixture. Strain the tea through a fine meshed clothe or tea strainer to strain out the fine hairs which otherwise can become an added source of irritation. Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) or Liquorice root powder (Glycyrrhiza glabra) can be added to improve the flavour and support their action. Mullein leaves macerated in olive oil incidentally is an old remedy for earache. Apply warm with some cotton wool.

If the cold gets worse and blocked sinuses and nostrils are becoming a problem, try a Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) steam bath. To prepare it, all you have to do is put a handful of chamomile flowers into a bowl and add hot water. Cover yourself and the bowl with a big towel and inhale deeply through the nose if possible. This is an old and tried home remedy but it still works magic. If you like you can add a drop of essential oil, such as Lavender or Eucalyptus, but don't overdo it, as 'too much of a good thing' can just be too much…. Endure this facial sauna as long as possible, at least ten minutes, and repeat twice a day for best results. Afterwards take care to dry off and keep yourself wrapped up so you don't get chilled.

If you get a fever with your cold the best thing is to sweat it out. Take a hot bath and drink a diaphoretic tea such as Yarrow (Alchemilla millefolium) or Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) to break the fever, wrap yourself up warm and go to bed.

Another old and tried home remedy for colds and flus is grog, which is usually prepared with black tea, honey and a good measure of rum. You can increase its potency by using hot lemon with honey, lemon, cinnamon and ginger, instead of the black tea, but keep the rum. If you prepared yourself during the late summer and late autumn you might have cooked up a good stock of Elderberry preserve (late summer) and Rosehip syrup (late autumn, after the first frost), both of which are real vitamin bombs and provide a great fortifying tonic to keep you fit through the winter. (More about this in a later edition of this newsletter). If you haven't you'll have to make do with vitamin pills.

A la santé

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One of the nicest things about February is not only the fact that March is just around the corner and therefore spring is on the way, but the fact that the inner tide is turning too, and just as the sap is rising in trees in flowers, the love juices are also flowing within. It is a time to indulge in love and romance, to lavishing buckets of romantic gooeyness on your significant other or engage in some hot and passionate pursuits. The 14th of February is Valentine's Day, a somewhat spurious Christian Saints Day, which has its origin in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a festival of sexual licence. The Church at first denounced this lewd pagan rites, however, they proved too popular to be lastingly suppressed. Thus the old festival of love became thinly veiled under a cloak of Christian piety as the Saints day of St. Valentine, an invented figure who was supposed to have been executed just as his beloved received his 'billet of love' ( a kind of little love letter, which finds its parallel in our modern custom of sending Valentines cards), which was the Roman custom associated with the festival of Lupercalia. Incidentally, the word 'February' is derived from the name of the Goddess 'Juno Februata', to whom this month was sacred. Her name signified 'febris' - fever, which in this case does not refer to the Goddess's severe case of flu, but to her severe case of passion, for her name implies the fever of love. To this day Valentine's Day is celebrated as a festival for lovers. Here is a look at some of those age old customs and their underlying significance, along with some suggestions on how to stoke the fever of love and add a little zest to your celebrations.

Flowers are still the most popular valentines gift, but which ones should you choose? The Victorians developed an elaborate'secret' floral language that expressed not just a general 'I was thinking of you' sort of message, but depending on the flower, could convey a very specific implication about just exactly *what* someone was thinking about when he or she picked that Valentine's bunch. Picking the wrong kind of flowers could mean the opposite of what one had intended. Even Roses were not safe, depending on the variety or colour instead of saying 'I love you', it could mean something like 'you are a pretty ditz', or 'you might be charming, but proud and your beauty will not last. Click here for a whole long list of meanings to help you understand this complex language before you make a fatal mistake!

Might be safer to 'say it with chocolates' after all, the other most popular gift between lovers. Though perhaps a little less romantic, it might be more enticing and less ambiguous. Chocolate has been hailed as an effective aphrodisiac ever since it was first discovered. The Aztecs, who were the first to make ample use of it, revered it as powerful stimulating tonic and aphrodisiac. Moctezuma, the last Aztec emperor was reported to regularly strengthen himself with a goblet full of his favourite foaming 'xocoatl' (=chocolate) brew before entering his harem. Few of us today would find his recipe particularly tempting as it had little in common with our modern concept of chocolate, - nevertheless, it seems to have worked for him. Incidentally modern research has found some basis to this ancient aphrodisiac reputation in the pharmacology of cocoa, which contains a substance that has aptly been termed 'Anandamide' in allusion to the sanscrit word 'ananda', which means bliss. Anandamide is an anti-depressant and induces a feeling of well being and content. Chocolate is also rich in Phenylethylamine, the same compound that is thought to be responsible for that feeling of euphoria so characteristic of the state of 'being in love'.

Love goes through the stomach, so they say, and for those who find chocolates and flowers too ordinary, perhaps an aphrodisiac dish, prepared with love, of course, as well as some special ingredients to spice up the occasion, might just be the right kind of appetizer. Many foods have been deemed to have an aphrodisiac effect. Some undoubtedly acting more as a visual suggestive - (who says placebos don't work?), while others might indeed have a more pertinent physiological effect. Among the visual stimulants are things like carrots, parsnips, asparagus, or bananas. Other aphrodisiac foods, less visually suggestive include, pinon nuts, lady's fingers, truffle mushrooms, oysters and puffer fish to name but a few. Various spices as well as certain herbs have also long been deemed effective. Among these are lovage, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, garlic, chilli, damiana, and yohimbe which vary greatly in efficacy. Here are some recipes you might like to try - though I will neither guarantee nor take any responsibility for any events that might ensue:


Conch with Tropical Salsa In the Caribbean conch is considered an aphrodisiac. However, it might be hard to get hold of. In this case perhaps squid could be substituted. Both have a similar flavour and consistency. Most likely the tropical salsa is the more potent aphrodisiac of the combination, it is so exotic and delicious that it will make anybody go soft at the knees. To prepare it is very easy, just take a nice variety of tropical fruit, such as kiwi, pine-apple, a little orange, mango and papaya and cut up in bite sized chunks. The pine-apple is the key ingredient here. It will also act as a tenderizer for the conch or squid. Add the juice of one lime and its' zest, garlic and several very hot chillies, e.g. habaneros. Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves. If more liquid is needed use a little orange juice, perhaps even a tiny dash of contreau. This is a devine mixture to serve with almost any kind of fish, conch, shellfish and white fish will be especially delicious.
Spicy Pesto Pasta
& Shrimp

2 cups Basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic
¾ cup piñon
1/3 cup parmesan
2 chillies (variable)
olive oil

Pasta
1lb cooked shrimp
(serves 4 people)
Pasta, when eaten in reasonable quantities, does not have to be heavy. Usually the sauce is the culprit when it comes to turning a nice pasta dish into a bloater. Pesto is wonderful, in that in and of itself it does not really add any 'heaviness' to the pasta, but instead it is all flavour and zap! Especially this varietaion on the theme:

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.

For the pasta choose one that is bite sized, like the Farfalla for example and cook according to the directions on the packet, drain and stir in the pesto mixture until all the pasta is well coated, add the cooked shrimp et voilá!
Carrot & Orange Soup

1 onion
2 cloves of Garlic
4 carrots
1 large potato
1 organic orange
ground coriander seed
ground cumin seed
ground ginger
fresh coriander leaves
vegetable stock
Mince the onion and garlic and sautee in olive oil till soft, add the grated carrots and grated potato , stirring in the oil just for a minute, add some vegetable stock (I usually sprinkle in the powder, stir it in and add some liquid after), enough to cover the potatoes and carrots, add some coriander seed powder and some cumin powder (about a teaspoon each) and let it simmer.

When the vegetables begin to get soft add the juice of one orange and the zest (only add the zest if you used an organic orange). Also add about half a teaspoon of ginger powder, chillies are optional. Simmer until very soft, season to taste with salt and pepper, and if necessary just a tiny touch of honey to blend the flavours. Blend the soup, either with a mixer stick or food processor till smooth, add more liquid (e.g. more vegetable stock or a drop of milk) to get a nice soupy, not too stodgy consistency. Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves and serve with fresh granary bread and butter or garlic bread.
Strawberry Dream

1 cup strawberries
500ml mascarpone
lemon juice
vanilla essence
maple syrup
dark chocolate
(mint leaves for decoration)
Blend the mascarpone with a little squeeze of lemon juice to give it some zest (if the lemon is organic you can grate a little bit of the rind into the mixture as well), add a few drops of vanilla essence, not too much, and some maple syrup to sweeten to taste. Blend till smooth, then add the strawberries, quartered, and just give it a little spin in the blender, but be careful not to mush the strawberries to pulp. Fill into glasses and cool. Top with a rasping of dark chocolate and a little sprig of mint leaves if available. For a low fat variation try substituting the mascarpone with fromage frais or joghurt, or go half and half, if you don't want to sacrifice that divine creamy texture completely.
Drinks For a love cup, stay away from too much alcohol. While a little might enhance the experience, too much inevitably ruins it. If you choose alcohol, a light sparkling wine will probably be the most conducive.
Herbs Try a chai tea. This exquisite tasty blend combines a whole array of aphrodisiac spices and gives a wonderfully warm inner glow. This is how it is done. Take a large pot and heat up some milk (about half a pint. Add dried ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and a litlle cardamom and simmer for about half an hour. Make a pot of black tea and add this to the milk. Simmer a little longer until all the flavours are well blended and sweeten with honey to taste.

Another interesting herb is Kava Kava, a plant of the pepper family from Polynesia. It is hailed as an anti-depressive and can now be found in pill form in health food stores. The tea is much more interesting though and has rather nice aphrodisiac qualities, in that it lifts the spirit and mood, spreading a sense of warmth and loving sensuality, which in time becomes replaced with a content sense of sleepiness. Perhaps not the right kind of approach if you are planning on all night action. Anyhow, the thing about Kava Kava is that it has to be mixed with Lecithin granules to become effective. A very nice tea mixture is Damiana leaves, Rose petals, Lemon Verbena, Cinnamon sticks and ground Kava Kava (a small amount is enough e.g. in an ounze of herbs no more than 3g mixed well with an equal amount of lecithin granules before blending with the other herbs). Sweeten with honey.

Warning: Kava Kava is reported to have a damaging effect on the kidneys and liver if taken in excessive quantities. People with any kind of kidney problems should best avoid this herb altogether.<

The art of sensual cooking is masterfully presented in Isabel Allende's wonderful book:


Of course, sensuality plays just as big a part as passion in kindling that inner fire and anything that makes us feel more beautiful and sensual is likely to enhance a romantic encounter. Treat yourself to a relaxing bath for two with some sensuous essential oils, such as Jasmine, Rose, Neroli, Ylang Ylang or Patchouli or treat your loved one to a massage with a divinely scented massage oil containing any of the oils mentioned above, all of which have an aphrodisiac reputation (or better still, coax your loved one into giving you a sensual massage with above mentioned oils ;-) ).

To create your own massage or bath oil just add a few drops of essential oil to a baseoil such as almond or coconut oil, which in themselves are scentless. If you mix oils, start by measuring a small quantity of baseoil into a jar, no more than you expect to use right away, then add the desired essential oils. Be conservative, just combine them a drop at a time. It is easier to 'pull down' a 'high note' scent such as jasmine, than it is to lift a 'heavy, low note' scent such as patchouli. Mix the 'high note' oils first, then carefully add a drop of patchouli, or ylang ylang (which can be very overpowering) and blend by rotating your mixing jar. You can get a rough idea of whether or not certain oils will blend well together by holding the bottles together under your nose and wafting them around a bit. It won't be anything like your end result, but it should give you an idea of how the oils will go together. As the oils settle the scent will change. Also, different skin types react differently with essential oils depending on the pH level of your skin. Essential oils are strong, so don't overdo it, more won't necessarily work any better, if in doubt just use one oil.

Happy Valentine's Day

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Are You Tired Of The Winter Blues?

Escape for a Romantic Vacation in the Tropical Paradise of Panama

Its Valentine's Day, and the winter has been going on quite long enough. Why not escape the grey and take your loved one on a romantic adventure to a tropical paradise. Panama is a fascinating destination: lush tropical forest, beautiful beaches, rugged mountains and volcanoes and an incredible cultural diversity. Read more about Panama at the Panama Pages.

Los Quetzales Cabins

Check out these unique Valentine packages, offering the best of Panama, adventurous activities coupled with a touch of romantic pampering at exotic jungle lodges, with panoramic canopy views, gorgeous gardens, as well as spa facilities. Climb Baru volcano, go white water rafting and explore the exotic flora and fauna of the jungle trails. If you are looking for a unique setting to celebrate your Valentine, honeymoon or engagement, that offers both luxury and adventure, look no further.

Check out the itineraries by following the links below:

Posada la Vieja

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Sixty Medicinal Plants from the Peruvian Amazon
Ecology, Ethnomedicine and Bioactivity

By C. Desmarchelier, F Witting Schaus
270 pages, colour illusrations

CONTENT OVERVIEW

  • Introduction
  • Plant Profiles of 60 Medicinal Plants of the Peruvian Amazon
  • Over 100 illustrations, including colour plates and chemical structures
  • Scientific and common names, botanical and ethnopharmacological information
  • Phytochemical and pharmacological studies
  • Extensive references section at the end of each chapter
  • Glossary

I am always on the lookout for useful books on rainforest plants and their medicinal uses. There are not many of them, although the subject has been quite extensively studied. I guess there just isn't enough money in these types of specialized productions, which is why they often end up as self-publsihed works. What I liked about this particular book, is the fact that it is written in both Spanish and English. Although it doesn't really cover any very novel ground, as the plants mentioned have already been discussed elsewhere, nevertheless it is written clearly and presented in a well structured format that yields the information one might be looking for at a glance. As a reference manual it serves its purpose well.

The book covers the local and scientific names of some 60 plants with notes on their ecology as well as ethnomedical and biochemical information all of which is clearly presented with color photographs of plants and diamgrams of chemical compounds are provided. Though the quality of the photographs is not bad the reproduction is not very clear, due to the technical process used. However, given the price of full plate colour printing, choosing a cheaper process keeps the book affordable. At $19.90 it is certainly a book worth having for anybody interested in rainforest plants and their medicinal uses. Though it barely skims the surface of this vast topic it does touch on all the important aspects, without however, any in depth discussion. It will serve more as a starting point than a comprehensive source book.

For more information you can visit http://comunidad.ciudad.com.ar/argentina/buenos_aires/plants/index.htm
or write to: plants@ciudad.com.ar

Paperback, 2000, 270 pages
ISBN 9972-9186-0-2

USD $19.90

SEARCH FOR RELATED BOOKS AT AMAZON.COM

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notes.GIF (1K)

Announcement

Field Courses in Rainforest and Marine Ecology for Educators/Students

We are a non-profit organization specializing in outstanding and affordable Field Courses in Rainforest and Marine Ecology presently offered in ten countries. All programs are operated by partner organizations that have shown a strong commitment to conservation and education. Ninety-nine percent of all participation fees stay with our partners to assist in local conservation and education projects.

Local Guides and Biologists are featured in the study of natural history, rainforest and coral reef ecology, medicinal uses of native plants, conservation, land management, local cultures, archaeology, geology and much more. In the past our programs have been represented by University, Community College and High School groups, as well as "independent participants", University professors and students, K-12 teachers and scienceprofessionals. Family groups and curious travelers are also welcome. Past participants have come from across the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Europe, Australia and the Far East.

While most of our programs are customized, please visit our website at http://www.rainforestandreef.org for standard Field Course itineraries.

Three Undergraduate or Graduate credits are available for attending through Aquinas College of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Please see http://www.aquinas.edu

For more information, please contact:

Mike Nolan
Rainforest and Reef 501 (c)(3) non-profit
29 Prospect NE Suite #8
Grand Rapids,
Michigan 49503 USA

Phone/Fax: 1-616-776-5928/ Toll Free: 1-877-769-3086
Cell Phone: 1-616-813-9308
E-mail: mnolan@rainforestandreef.org
http://www.rainforestandreef.org

CENTER FOR SPIRITUALITY AND HEALING
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

Established in 1995 at the University of Minnesota, the Center for Spirituality and Healing is a nationally recognized leader in integrative medicine, bringing together biomedical, complementary, cross-cultural and spiritual care. With an eye toward a new model of health care in the 21st century, the Center provides interdisciplinary, education, clinical care and outreach, and facilitates evidence-based research to enhance - and transform - health care practice, health sciences education, and patient care.

A part of the Academic Health Center, the Center builds on the University's strengths of medicine and technology, and draws on the rich expertise of faculty and community practitioners who partner to advance our understanding of diverse cultures, faiths, beliefs, and health practices. From the Graduate Minor in Complementary Therapies to the Mind Body Spirit Clinic, the Center promotes health in a spirit of personal responsibility, offers exploration into the spectrum of wellness and healing options, and serves as a community resource.

There are a lot of very interesting courses offered here and well worth checking out.  In particular this one, taught by Dennis McKenna might be of interest to anybody searching for Ethnobotany courses.  The syllabus looks very good and also the webpage with the class schedule and syllabus on it is very rich, with many freely accessible powerpoint presentations on ethnopharmacy.

PLANTS IN HUMAN AFFAIRS
A summer intensive on the big island of Hawaii

From the beginning of time plants have played a role in human affairs, influencing the evolution of civilizations and cultures, human migration, medicine and health care, wars, art, mythology and religion.  This 3 week two-course intensive introduces students to the science of ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, plants and civilization through lectures. field trips and diverse presentations by local experts.

Plants and Civilizations - Course Instructor:  Kathleen Harrison M.A. (founder of Botanical Dimensions) 3 Credits
People, Plants and Drugs - Course Instructor: Dennis McKenna Ph.D., Senior lecturer at the Center for Spirituality and Healing, University of Minnesota, 3 Credits

Dates: 27 July - 17 Aug, 2002
Location: Kohala Center, Kamuela, Hawaii's Big Island
Registration Deadline: 31 May 2002

This course is offered in partnership by the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and the Kohala Center at Kamuela, Hawaii. For more information or to register visit http://www.csh.umn.edu or contact Nancy Feinthel at feinthel@tc.umn.edu
phone: 612-624-5166

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Alert: Planned flooding of Macal River Valley, Belize

Fortis, a Canadian logging company, is trying to dam and flood 20 miles of the Macal River Valley in Belize. The Macal Valley is truly an amazing place. This project will affect one-of-a-kind ecosystems beyond the river valley and reef, such as the Crooked Tree migratory bird sanctuary, a Belize Audubon Society sanctuary for the endangered Jabiru Stork, among untold
others. Not to mention nearshore manatee habitats and on, and on.
More detailed information can be found at the following URL:

http://www.savebiogems.org/macal/

Please help by submitting letters to Fortis
by following this URL:

http://www.savebiogems.org/macal/takeaction.asp?step=2&item=166

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Symposium 2002:

Are you using sustainably sourced medicinal and aromatic plants for product development?

1. Conference of the Medicinal Plamt Working Group (MPWG)


February 26 and 27, 2002
Sheraton Rittenhouse Square
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

WHAT IS THE MEDICINAL PLANT WORKING GROUP (MPWG)?
The MPWG is part of the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA) -- a consortium of ten federal agencies and more than 145 non-federal cooperators working collectively to prevent plant extinction and to encourage natural habitat restoration. For more information visit: http://www.nps.gov/plants/medicinal/index.htm

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News Release from ETC group:


Fear-Reviewed Science: The Fight Over Mexico's GM Maize Contamination

Contaminated Corn and Tainted Tortillas:
Genetic Pollution in Mexico's Centre of Maize Diversity

This week, Mexico's indigenous farmers and civil society organizations will meet in Mexico City (Jan. 23-24) to decide what to do about GM contamination in one of the world's mega-centres of agricultural biodiversity. Meanwhile, the scientific community is imploding with angst and accusations as the "Peers" of the Plant Realm squabble over the implications for global food security.

Read the full scoop at The Fight Over Mexico's GM Maize Contamination

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